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University of California Berkeley
Regional Oral History Office University of California
The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California
Society of California Pioneers Series
Margaret Barbree Rosenberg
SAN BERNARDO RANCHO AND THE SOUTHERN SALINAS VALLEY,
With an Introduction by
An Interview Conducted by
Copyright fcj 1982 by The Regents of the University of California
MARGARET BARBREE ROSENBERG
TABLE OF CONTENTS Margaret Barbree Rosenberg
PREFACE, by J. Roger Jobson, Society of California Pioneers i
INTRODUCTION, by Reuben Albaugh ii
INTERVIEW HISTORY v
The Barbree and Quinn Families 1
Childhood Recollections 11
John Steinbeck and the Salinas Valley 14
School Years 18
King City and Its Environs . 21
Further Recollections of Childhood, and the 1930s 28
The Brandenstein Family 37
Rancho San Bernardo and San Ardo 39
San Ardo People and Their Activities 54
San Ardo Streets and Structures 59
The Ranch and Its Water Supply 67
The Rosenberg Family and the Ranch 71
Oil and Cattle 74
Walter Rosenberg 81
Public Service and Community Affairs 84
The Rosenberg Family and Relatives 89
TAPE GUIDE 92
APPENDIX I - Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board
Case Report, August 17, 1972 93
APPENDIX II - 1972 Report on the San Ardo Oil Field issued by the
Public Relations Department of fhe General Petroleum
APPENDIX III - "$500,000 Establishes Rosenberg Fund," Spectator,
University of California, Davis, Jan. -Feb. 1981 98
The purpose of The Society of California Pioneers is the collection,
preservation, and proper maintenance of historical material of all kinds
relating to the early days of San Francisco and California. We have since
our founding in 1850 taken upon ourselves the responsibility of preserving
the records and relics that are indispensible as ties binding the past to
the present and future generations. Further contributing to this ambition,
The Society in 1977 initiated an Oral History Series. The intent of the
Series is to preserve the recollections of men and women prominent in their
respective fields whose achievements, knowledge, and expertise form a
significant contribution to the history and progress of California. They
record in permanent form the continuation of the traditions of California s
These memoirs have been created by a grant from the James Irvine
Foundation. James Irvine, 1868-1947, was the son of a forty-niner, a native
of California, and Director and Vice President of The Society of California
Pioneers from 1928 until his death. Through the James Irvine Foundation he
left an enduring legacy to the people of California.
This third Oral History in the Series, related by Margaret Barbree
Rosenberg, is the story of an early Mexican land-grant holding. This
original rancho, for more than a century, has been in the possession of the
December 1982 j. Roger Jobson
The Society of California Pioneers
San Francisco, California
SOCIETY OF CALIFORNIA PIONEERS SERIES
McLaren, Norman Loyall, Jr., Business and Club Life in San
Francisco, Reflections of a Pioneer Scion, 1978.
Shumate, Albert, M.D., San Francisco Physician, Historian , and
Catholic Layman, 1981.
Rosenberg, Margaret Barbree, San Bernardo Rancho and the
Southern Salinas Valley, 1871-1982, 1982.
Cunningham, Sister Catharine Julie, in progress.
Dullea, Charles W. , S.J., in progress.
Rowell, Margaret Avery, in progress.
Extension Animal Scientist, Emeritus
University of California, Davis
It is a great honor and pleasure to write an introduction for Margaret
(Pat) Rosenberg s memoirs. To orally record the life history of two families
of such diverse faiths and cultures was indeed a difficult but a worthwhile
assignment. Anyone who peruses this historical document cannot help but be
impressed with the honesty and accuracy with which Pat answers the numerous
questions about the lifestyle of these two important Southern Monterey County
familiesthe Rosenbergs and the Barbrees. Throughout the pages of these
memoirs, Pat s image of integrity shines forth; her choice of words is beyond
I formally met Pat in her San Ardo home in 1947 after she had married
Walter Rosenberg. She was a splendid hostess. Later, when viewing the horse
show and rodeo at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, her daughter joined in ex
tending their fine hospitality to my wife and me.
Growing up on a cattle ranch during the "bare handed" days was not
always an easy life. However, from this rural living (close to the soil) Pat
acquired important traits such as patience, tolerance, and a concern for the
poor, the weak, and the lonely. These characteristics are emphasized in her
discussion of the Steinbeck books, particularly the Grapes of Wrath.
Of the Barbree family, I was best acquainted with Pat s brother, Jim,
who was one of my best friends. At cattle branding parties, we were often
roping partners. He was a top hand, not only with cattle, but with horses, too,
When we were on the Rosenberg Ranch conducting research work with cattle, Jim
was always on hand to assist with the sorting and weighing.
In 1927, shortly after arriving in Monterey County as a livestock farm
advisor, I was informed that the Rosenberg family of San Ardo had established
an endowment scholarship fund at the University of California. I was instructed
to visit the Rosenbergs to determine if Cooperative Extension could be of assis
tance to them in their ranching operations. After visiting with Joe Rosenberg,
the owner, I invited him to enroll in a beef cattle cost-accounting project. He
accepted the invitation and kept excellent records until he passed away in 1935.
At that time his son, Walter, became manager of the ranch and continued the
recordi ngkeeping program. Walter also participated in other DC Extension re
search projects and in this regard he relied heavily on his cattle foreman, Paul
Strohn, who was an excellent cattleman and cooperator. Walter said many times,
"Anything you and Paul want to do with the cattle herd is all right with me."
In 1941, strain 19 vaccine became available on an experimental basis to
control brucellosis (contagious abortion) in beef cattle. The Rosenberg herd
was enrolled in this program, along with the Ansberry, Trescony, and Etchenique
During the early 40 s, Professor H. R. Guilbert of DC Davis initiated a
loan bull program to establish heritability estimates on rate and economy of
gain in beef cattle. Three high-performing, University Hereford bulls were
allotted to the Rosenberg Ranch. Each bull was bred to 30 cows. The steer off
spring were purchased by the University and fed out at Davis as part of Guil
bert s research studies. The heifer calves were kept by the owner and used for
replacements in the herd. Walter Markham of Salinas and Harry Hunt of the El
Sur Ranch were also cooperators in this program.
Walter Rosenberg was a humorous and generous man. At educational beef
cattle meetings held on his ranch, he always furnished the barbecue, which was
prepared by John Layous and Louis Etchenique.
For more than 50 years the Rosenbergs and Barbrees have been excellent
friends of UC Davis, especially the College of Agriculture. Their financial
support of important applied research projects in the fields of animal science,
agronomy, engineering, vegetable crops, and Cooperative Extension stands out as
the epitome of University donors.
Pat, your deep interest and generous donations to UC Davis are certainly
going to make life on the land more abundant. Thank you for being so kind and
generous, and as our mutual friend, Julius Trescony, used to say, "You made us
December 1982 Rueben Albaugh
The interviewers first meeting with Margaret Barbree Rosenberg took
place on April 1, 1980, when she invited them to her home for lunch and
then drove them around the San Bernardo Ranch and the nearby Oasis district
where she was born, commenting upon the area as she drove. The interviews
themselves, on June 23, 25 and 26, and September 30 of that same year, were
all held at her residence, a gracious home among the fields outlying San
Ardo. The town of San Ardo is the population center of Rancho San Bernardo.
The ranch is one of the few Mexican California land grants to remain almost
intact to this day. It is furthermore remarkable for having remained under
the ownership and operation of the same family since the nineteenth century.
Bought by Meyer Brandenstein and a partner, Lazard Godchaux, in 1871, it
has been entirely owned by the family and descendants of Meyer Brandenstein
Meyer Brandenstein died in 1906. This notice appeared in the San
Francisco Chronicle, March 26, 1906.
Brandenstein In this city, March 25, Meyer, beloved
husband of Fanny Brandenstein, and father of Mrs.
Joseph Rosenberg and Flora Brandenstein, a native of
Germany, aged 72 years, 10 months and 5 days.
Funeral services will be held Tuesday, March 27,
at 10:15 o clock at his late residence, 1305 Van Ness
Avenue. Internment strictly private, Home of Peace
Cemetery. Please omit flowers.
As Margaret B. Rosenberg outlined the subsequent history of the ranch:
"Following Meyer Brandenstein s death, the property passed to his widow,
Fanny Brandenstein. (Their home on Van Ness Avenue was dynamited during
the fire following the earthquake in April.) In 1907, Joseph Rosenberg
began managing the ranch for his mother-in-law. On her death in 1934, the
ownership of the land passed to her daughters Linda Brandenstein Rosenberg
and Flora Brandenstein. After Joseph Rosenberg s death in 1937, they formed
a partnership with Linda Rosenberg s son Walter, who continued to operate
the ranch. Mrs. Joseph Rosenberg died in 1957, Walter Rosenberg in 1968,
and Flora Brandenstein in 1972. The San Bernardo Ranch, through various
wills and trusts, is descending to the children of Walter Rosenberg: Janet
R. Lynch, Gordon W. Rosenberg, Ruth Ann Rosenberg, and Margaret R. Duflock,
who are operating it as a partnership."
In this interview, Margaret B. Rosenberg, Walter Rosenberg s widow,
has recounted the history of the Brandenstein and Rosenberg families, and
her own Salinas Valley and San Francisco family as well. The result is a
valuable addition to our knowledge of an under-recorded section of Monterey
County and the men and women who have developed it.
Mrs. Rosenberg spoke straightforwardly, often with a dry humor that
may not easily be perceived in the typescript. Following the interviews
themselves there were several discussions of the transcript and the photo
graphs that were copied and taken to illustrate it. A number of specific
details, dates and names, were added to the transcript.
In February 1981 Mrs. Rosenberg presented to The Bancroft Library in
the name of the Rosenberg family a collection of San Bernardo Rancho papers :
letterbooks, letters, deeds, rain records, account books, livestock records,
and miscellaneous papers that will be of value to historians.
The interview transcript was edited slightly by the interviewers to
eliminate repetitions and improve continuity, but it remains essentially
as given. Mrs. Rosenberg, in reading over it, made some additions and
clarifications. Although most of the direct questioning was done by Ruth
Teiser, Catherine Harroun participated in the discussion and interview
sessions as well as in the research, editing, and photographing.
15 November 1982
Regional Oral History Office
486 The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
The Barbree and Quinn Families
[Interview 1: June 23, 1980]////
Teiser: May we begin with your grandfather, Joseph M. Barbree? I gave you
earlier a copy of a short biography of him from Guinn s 1903
History of the State of California* that has a section on Monterey
County. Was it correct?
Rosenberg: It was correct. There was very little in it; it was evidently
written to be non-controversial.
Teiser: Is the fact that that was the only place we could find your grand
father in print an indication that he cherished a sense of
Rosenberg: Well, you know, I never saw him; I know that that was written by
some member of his family after he died. I believe it said he
was born in Kentucky, I m not sure. But that is a matter of
record. (I think I showed you that book that had the voters
registration.**) But to my knowledge, he talked quite a bit.
The problem was that by the time we came along, none of his
descendants could agree on what he said about his early life. He
was born in Covington, Kentucky, and he grew up along the Ohio
River; and a*, some time I believe his father had a store in Cairo,
////This symbol indicates that a tape or a segment of a tape has
begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes see page 92.
*See Appendix I.
**In the 1896 Monterey County Precinct Register, Joseph M. Barbree
was listed as a farmer, aged 59, height 5 feet 7 inches, of light
complexion with blue eyes and gray hair, a native of Kentucky,
residing in the San Lucas district, able to read and construe in
the English language.
Also, at some time in his young life, he was in New Orleans for a
while, with an uncle who, so one story goes, was a doctor. He
taught my grandfather the rudiments of pharmacy. But as for
finding out too much about his early life, it s been very difficult
to trace it.
He came to California as a single man, and a hunter, with
a wagon- train, I presume to provide meat to one of the families
that would give him food. I think that was the usual thing, so I
suppose that s what he did.
And he came before the Civil War, but I don t know the year.
And brought with him a freed slave, whom he, naturally, freed as
soon as he got to California. He had been freed, but in the
southern states they weren t very free. A Negro, I will say.
But that is just a story, I have no way of verifying it. He,
naturally, did a little panning for gold, and then the Civil War
started. I assume they had a national guard or militia, or
something like that, which I understood he joined. But he didn t
fight in the Civil War.
And somehow or other he settled around what was then known
as Mission San Jose, now part of Fremont. He married; his wife s
name was Jane Kell.
Did he marry in California?
Yes, in the Mission San Jose. Those records are available. She
was of Canadian descent; her father was an English Canadian, her
mother French Canadian. They had, I believe, eight children. By
the time I was born, only four were living, but those four lived
to complete maturity.
What were their names , can you recall?
Those who lived? Oh, verv well, My oldest aunt was Mrs. Joseph
[Rose] Veach, and her sister, who was ten years younger, was Mrs.
Luke [Belle] Norton; she lived in the state of Washington. And
my father, William Robert Barbree; and his brother, Joseph Barbree.
It was near San Lucas that your father finally settled, was it?
Yes. He was a boy working on the King ranch. King City is named
after the man that owned the San Lorenzo grant, and his name was
Charles King. My father was seventeen years old and working on
the King ranch when the railroad came through. And because he
was working there, he helped burn off I think it was a stubble
field. It was burned off for the site of the town, about 1886.
Their family was living in the district called Santa Rita, near
Salinas; they had originally lived in Blanco. After the mother
died, they moved to Santa Rita, which is north of Salinas.
He was so impressed with the area he went back and tried to
persuade his father to move down. Well, he and his older sister
moved down and farmed on the Trescony ranch for a couple of years.*
Then his father came down. I think I would have a copy of the
deed that might tell me what year he bought the place off the
Oasis road where my sister still lives.**
Where is that?
Five miles out of San Lucas, and ten miles from King City. West
of King City. It s on the west side of the river.
You showed us when you drove us around earlier a place where you
grew up; is that this same ranch?
Yes; it s been added to. I grew up in the Oasis area,
you through there but I didn t take you by the ranch.
About how many acres did your grandfather buy all together, do
Actually, I don t know how much he acquired himself. He continued
to buy land in that area. When he died, he left parts. He had
these four living children, you see, and it was divided amongst
them. He must have had quite an acreage. At the time my father
died, his property amounted to 2,300 acres, but he had added
quite a bit to the original. I would imagine my grandfather must
have had around 3,000 or more acres, I would assume. 1 have lots
of copies of old deeds. I could add it up, I guess.
What did he use it for.
I wasn t even born when he was alive. But I remember my father
farmed wheat and barley, and had cattle and pigs. It was a
working ranch, I guess you d call it, by California standards.
*Rancho San Lucas, purchased by Alberto Trescony in 1872.
**The deed, dated November 8, 1889, records the conveyance of
160 acres from William H. Bullock and his wife to Joseph M.
Barbree for the sum of $3,000.
Rosenberg: There was no irrigation. Well, yes, he did have irrigation; he
had alfalfa once, for the dairy cattle.
Teiser: You had a dairy?
Rosenberg: My father did. But not what you d consider a dairy in the present
sense of the term, you know. Twenty or thirty cows. Nothing
like the 300 that is considered a commercial dairy, and 300 is
Teiser: But he sold his milk and
Rosenberg: They sold cream.
Teiser: What kind of irrigation was it?
Rosenberg: There were six small wells, and one big engine pumped the water
up the hill. Wooden pipes were used, wrapped with some kind of
copper wire I believe.
Teiser: Your grandfather s other children, then, farmed there?
Rosenberg: Two of them, one brother and one sister. One sister moved to
Washington.* She sold her interest to her brothers and moved to
the state of Washington and, I think, invested in an apple
orchard. I still have a first cousin living in Yakima, on the
land that I believe her mother put her money into, and her life.
My background on my father s side was definitely, I think, an
Now I have no idea, but I think my father s Canadian grand
parents were also agricultural people.
You may be familiar with the name Kell, around San Jose?
There was a Margaret Kell who helped the Sisters of Notre Dame
establish the first Notre Dame boarding school in San Jose, who
was an aunt of my grandmother s. She came along about the time
of the Donner party.** Because I know my grandmother, my Canadian
grandmother, went to the Sisters of Notre Dame to school, because
her aunt either had the school in her house or after all, I m
*See p. 2.
**For an account of the Kell family, see Horace S. Foote, ed.,
Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World, Chicago : Lewis
Publishing Co., 1888, pp. 435-6.
talking about 1850 something, and only stories. She was
instrumental, I know, in bringing, I m sure it was the Sisters
of Notre Dame to San Jose.
So you had lots of relatives?
I suppose, to some people, I had.
cousins; two on my mother s side,
Growing up I had nine first
I had seven on my father s
And you had sisters and a brother of your own.
Growing up there were four of us; I had two brothers. One brother,
William R., Jr., died when he was twenty, and the other, James J.
about two years ago .
When you think of childhood, four of us grew up in one house,
with cousins that visited, I guess; but it didn t seem a big
family in terms of present-day families, which are quite large.
These connections of my father s in San Jose I really didn t
know; and my mother was descended from a long line of spinsters!
[laughter] She was one of six children, three girls and three
boys. The youngest girl and her youngest brother both married,
but the others didn t.
What was your mother s name?
Margaret Quinn. She was a teacher, and she was a native of San
You told us earlier about that San Francisco family
Yes, it was very interesting. That grandfather, William Quinn,
somehow helped build the railroad, but we have very little
information as to how he got to California. My mother could
hardly remember him; he was killed in a quarry accident when she
was quite young. In fact, her youngest brother was a posthumous
child. So that she really remembered very little of her own
father, but her mother we all remembered, because I was nine when
she died. And we know that she came on a sailing vessel to Boston
during the Civil War; and he was already here, her future husband.
But they weren t married until she arrived.
They were both from the Aran Isles. And this, to me, was
most interesting, and I wasn t old enough to inquire as to how it
happened. But she came to Boston on a sailing vessel some time
during the Civil War, and had a sister who lived in Boston; an
older sister, who wanted her to stay there til the war was over.
But she didn t. I think she stayed about a year, maybe, and then
Rosenberg: took a boat that ran the southern blockade, during the Civil War,
and walked across the Isthmus of Panama, with either one or two
other sisters. I think there were three that came to California.
She used to tell the story to us so much when we were little,
along with stories about Irish fairies; and you couldn t crush
your eggshells because they were fairy-boats. And the first time
I went on a real ferry boat, I felt very disappointed not to see
any fairies. [laughter]
And this Irishman that had been working on the he was a
bridge-builder for Crocker, on the railroads. He was there on
the dock to meet her, and I didn t know how he found out when she
was getting there after two or three years, or four years, or
however long a time that elapsed. But I ve always wondered.
I don t think they had a telegraph to San Francisco then, did
they? This would have been 1864, maybe. It might well have been
Teiser: The telegraph was completed in 1861.
Rosenberg: Since then, I ve really delved into it, and wondered how he knew
when she would arrive. And wonder if he was really there, or if
she sent word after she got there.
I remember a little French woman who had come on the same
boat with her. They remained friends all their lives, her name
was Pegillion. [Peguillan?] They would talk about their time
on the boat, and my strong impression is that he was there on
the dock, and that he took her to Mrs. Strobridge the wife of
one of the railroad contractors.* (Used to have her picture
around for years.) Anyway, they were married at this lady s
house, who gave her a chest of silver, which my sister still has.
The silver s so old that it s pre-sterling; it s what you call
mint-silver, 1 which is a little softer. That was an interesting
Then they built this very nice, Victorian- type house, which
I think I ve told you is a historic landmark in San Francisco.**
1542 McKinnon Avenue; off Third Street, but it s a very poor
district now. I wouldn t go back there.
Teiser: You said as a child you went there, and you described it for us;
would you describe it on the tape, what kind of a house it was?
*James Harvey Strobridge, superintendent of construction for the
**See Appendix I and photograph page 10.
Rosenberg: It was a two-story, redwood house; and it had four marble fire
places, those I particularly remember. And two marble washstands
in two of the bedrooms. Two fireplaces, upstairs, and two down
It had three chimneys, but the third chimney, I think, was
only for the kitchen stove and flue; I remember the three
Tieser: Did it have a big kitchen?
Rosenberg: It was changed off and on over my lifetime; it was a big kitchen.
And a pantry off what you would call a butler s pantry between
the kitchen and the dining room. The dining room and the living
room each had a fireplace. And the dining room had a bay window;
or the living room had a bay window, but there was sort of a bay
window in the dining room, too. It had four bedrooms upstairs,
and either a bedroom or sewing room, whichever it happened to be
used for, downstairs.
They were large-sized rooms, and of course, the high ceilings,
Teiser: Was it a big family who went on living there?
Rosenberg: Well, it always seemed full of people. Two aunts and an uncle
were there regularly, and my grandmother. They had visitors.
Part of the time they had us. People came and went, I guess.
Teiser: Was there a lot of difference from your home here in the valley?
Rosenberg: Well, it didn t seem different; to a child, it was just another
house. It was dark compared to my house at home; I remember
that, that it seemed dark to me. Though I know now it really
wasn t very dark, but they could have kept the shutters closed,
or the shades down, or something.
I remember there was a very sunny porch off the kitchen,
with a lemon tree in front of it. The lemons were too sour to
eat, but it was a lemon tree. And there was a lawn in front of
it with a palm tree.*
I remember those things, and that my grandmother, when I was
very young, had chickens in the back yard. So it probably didn t
seem as different to us as it might have to somebody else, because
we were so young.
*See also page 28.
Rosenberg: When I think back, I think it was quite different; but after all,
my mother was a member of the same family, and if you mean, did
it seem formal, comparatively, it didn t, to me. But then, it
might have to other people. I think they might have lived more
formally, but from the stories my mother told, I don t think they
ever lived very formally.
Teiser: The 1914 San Francisco city director lists these Quinns living at
1542 McKinnon Ave.:
"Miss Elizabeth, tchr.
"Mary (widow Wm)
"May, tchr, Pub School"
Was William the grandfather, and was John an uncle of yours?
Rosenberg: Elizabeth was the oldest in that generation, my aunt. John, my
uncle, was the oldest brother. Mary, the widow of William, was
my grandmother, and May was the second child in the family and
also my aunt. There were two other brothers. Peter lived in
Washington, D.C., and William was a doctor whose home was on the
corner of Third Street and Newcomb . Peter was in the Spanish-
American war. He received a medal, and he is buried at Arlington.
He didn t marry and we rarely saw him.
Teiser: You said your mother had come down here to reach school?
Rosenberg: Actually, she first taught in a by now you realize they were
Irish Catholics she taught in a sisters convent in San
Bernardino for several years, which I think she liked very much.
This must ve been around 1900. And one of her life-long friends
was another teacher there, who had taught music. I suppose she
taught elementary grades.
Teiser: Had she been to a Catholic school herself?
Rosenberg: No, she hadn t. Her older sister had, but she hadn t.
Teiser: Where did she receive her teacher s training?
Rosenberg: In San Francisco Normal, where everybody did. She graduated from
Girls High School, and went to the San Francisco Normal. I m
sure you re familiar with that, if you ve lived in San Francisco.
Teiser: You had to be both bright and determined to go to those schools.
Rosenberg: Oh, yes; I m sure it wasn t easy. And neither have I ever known
why she decided to go to San Bernardino. Possibly they had
some connections in the area. She had an uncle named Pat Quinn,
and I believe that at some point in time he was down around
Rosenberg: I think there must have been some mining or something down there.
And they had been quarrymen, the Quinns and knew many S.P.
railroad people. Which might have had something to do with her
going to San Bernardino, I don t really know, but I know that s
where she taught for several years.
But in those days, even as now, the convents did not pay
very well; so she later taught in this public- run school out of
San Lucas, known as the Oasis School. And that s where she was
teaching when she got married.
Teiser: Where does the place name come from?
Rosenberg: Oasis? If you had seen this area before irrigation, you would
know why it was called Oasis by the early settlers. And it still
is sort of an oasis, it s a quiet spot. It s not exactly a
little valley, it s just the Oasis district; and that s what the
early settlers called it.
Teiser: There was natural water there?
Rosenberg: No. An occasional spring, but all the water that I know of was
from wells. There wasn t enough water as a rule. They were all
dug wells. It was away from the railroad, at least five miles.
I have no idea why they called it the Oasis. I wasn t there.
There is an old Oasis road. And now when you address a
letter out there, you say, "Oasis Rd., King City." My father
said it was also known as Hards crabble.
When my mother was married most of her friends just said,
because of the area the railroad went through, "Why are you
moving to that desert?" In my old geography book it was referred
to as semi-arid, and it is, a lot of it, reclaimed desert, almost,
Any place that ordinarily doesn t have over ten inches of rain a
year, as an average.
Teiser: When your mother went there to teach what was at Oasis?
Rosenberg: Nothing, it was just a district area. There was a hall, where
they had dances, but that was by the school. I think they used
it for church meetings sometimes.
Teiser: As I have read that the schoolteachers were the people who were
Rosenberg: the only culture, sometimes
Teiser: and knowledge to the valley.
Jane Kell (Mrs. Joseph) Barbree
and her daughter Emily.
The home of Mrs. Mary Quinn and her
family in San Francisco about 1915.
Margaret Barbree (later Mrs. Walter
Rosenberg) is at extreme right, her
sister Geraldine Barbree, second
Joseph M. Barbree
William R.. Barbree,
aged about twelve
Margaret Quinn, later Mrs.
William R. Barbree. The photograph
was taken when she was a young
Rosenberg: I had a friend who said, had it not been for the teachers they
taught them their manners, they taught them hygiene, they taught
them many things that would insult today s teacher to teach.
Teiser: Did your mother continue teaching after she married?
Teiser: That wasn t done, I suppose.
Rosenberg: Well, I guess it was no longer necessary. It would have been
very difficult to teach and raise a family under those circumstances.
And it still is, I think, though I know some who do. Usually, even
now, the women I know who teach who have children, wait til their
last child is in school. There s hardly any other way to do it.
Teiser: What was the household like then?
Rosenberg: I don t remember all this. When my father and mother were first
married I know they lived on a dairy out of King City, and I know
that s where I was born. My father s brother, I think, was-
living in the family house; his younger sister had married. I
really am not sure of any of this.
By the time my sister was born, who s fifteen months younger
than I, they moved to the original ranch house that his father
had had, and my uncle moved to another one. That s all I know.
Teiser: You grew up in the house your grandfather had had?
Rosenberg: No, when I was about seven or eight then they built another two-
story house up on the hill. The house my grandfather, Joseph
Barbree had bought, I m really the only member of the family that
can remember it very well. I know it had (it s very strange, but
fireplaces seem to stick in my mind) it had two fireplaces
[laughter] and it had one in the bedroom, and one in the dining
But the house that they built up on the hill, the two-story,
it really had only one fireplace, and it had four or five bedrooms,
Teiser: And did your family live alone after that, or did you have aunts
and uncles and so forth about?
Rosenberg: No, only to visit. No relatives lived with us. My mother grew
up in a house where there was Uncle Hugh and Cousin Somebody.
But then, her mother was a widow.
Teiser: Is this two-story house on the hill still standing?
Rosenberg: Yes; it s not up on a hill, it s just above it s on the level,
and the other house was down in a little valley, I guess. A very
small canyon. My sister lives there.
Teiser: We should put on the record your sister s name.
Rosenberg: Geraldine Barbree.
Teiser: And your brother, who you said died about two years ago?
Rosenberg: James Barbree. [Mrs. Rosenberg s granddaughter enters and is
Teiser: You went to school at the same school where your mother had taught?
Rosenberg: Actually, I graduated from grammar school in the Oasis district.
Teiser: I think you told us that you had gone to school in San Francisco,
Rosenberg: I was visiting my grandmother; and I had my sixth birthday, and
they, being a family of teachers, automatically sent me to school.
Now, I started there; and I had a teacher, she must have
been a married teacher, or a widow. Her name was Mrs. Curtis; and
I started in the first grade there at the Bernal School. It must
have been the school closest to the district, but I didn t go more
than a few months. I was glad to come home; I was a homesick
I was the oldest of the four, and I was often at my grand
mother s alone, and then later, Gerry and I would go together,
and maybe the two boys would go together.
But the boys were the youngest, and my mother usually didn t
send them for long. Because I was the oldest, I was the logical
one to send but not big enough to be any help.
But I was always homesick the first night I was at my grand
mother s; and I was always very glad to get home. Home was home,
you know; if you ve never been homesick, it s difficult to explain.
Rosenberg: I have had a homesick daughter,* and she has one homesick child.
But she is homesick for mommy. (That s the one that just called.)
And, "I go where mommy goes." She s seven; but she s the baby.
Teiser: When you were home, how did you children amuse yourselves?
Rosenberg: As soon as we could read, all of us had the same vice, and the
house was full of books. I mean, some people think this house
is full of books, but that house was, too. My father was a reader,
and my mother had lots of books.
We read anything, western story magazines my uncle subscribed
to Western Stories, so we read that. We read the Ladies Home
Journal, we fought over the Saturday Evening Post.**
By the time I was ten I d read most of Dickens; that explains
it to you. We were early readers; however, we also had a lot of
chores to do. We all rode horseback. We rode horseback to school
when we first started. And there were chickens to feed, you know,
and eggs to gather. Are you at all familiar with that kind of a
life? Utterly foreign, I m sure. Those are the things you do.
At this point in time, I really find it difficult to remember. I m
sure we all did different things at different times.
Until I was ten or so, my mother always had a cook. It was
a ranch kitchen; you fed the men. There were six in our family, but
when I learned to cook, I learned how to cook for eight; and there
were often nine or ten. During harvest you had harvest crews.
But usually there were two men. And then another thing I remember,
there was always a chores man. He usually had a family, and they
lived in what was known as the bunkhouse. So he ate with his
family. Maybe at noon he ate with us.
A chores man was the one that drove in the horses and milked
the cows, cleaned out the stables, and I suppose many more things
that I can t think of. Those are the things I remember.
The other men would be in the fields, including my father.
But the chores man would usually be out around the barn, and if
you needed something, you ran out and got him, whoever he was,
which might be Charlie, it might be Pete or Manuel and you
always knew who it was. And he would saddle your horse for you
*Margaret Rosenberg, now Mrs. William G. Duflock.
**See also pages 29-30.
Rosenberg: if you needed a horse, and I suppose he did many things, and
maybe he did things in the garden for my mother, I really don t
Teiser: Did you have a kitchen garden?
Rosenberg: Oh, yes. My sister still does.
For years this is another thing that happened in small
communities somebody had to board the teacher. Or otherwise
there was nobody to teach your children.
My aunt had boarded the teacher for many years. But when
her last child got out of school, there was no one else, and my
mother had to take the teacher, which was always interesting, and
I know she did it gracefully, but I often wonder whether she
really liked doing it. However, she d been in the same position
Teiser: She d been boarded, too?
Rosenberg: Yes. So for maybe three or four years, the teacher lived in the
house. Only during school-time, of course.
I would think that my mother might have breathed a sigh of
relief when it was vacation [chuckling]. But I know that she
was very friendly with all of them, and seemed to enjoy them; it
was somebody that she had quite a bit in common with, usually.
And so she must have enjoyed them, to a point.
Teiser: You said your father was a great reader; had he been fairly much
Rosenberg: Not in the sense of today s education; he had two years of high
school. But he was educated in his own way; and most of it
through reading. But really, you think we sat around with our
noses in books, we really didn t have all that much time.
Reading was a joy; that was recreation, I think, when you had
time to read. I know it was to my mother, when she had time to
sit down and read.
John Steinbeck and the Salinas Valley
Teiser: You said that your father was very much interested in John
Steinbeck s books; I m almost through reading East of Eden, which
I think is a marvelous book.
I d hate to tell you how many years it s been since I read it,
probably the year it was published, and I haven t really read it
Do you remember the characters in it?
Oh, yes. I know the Trasks were the fictional family, and the
Hamiltons were the real family. The thing is that I don t know
anything about, but knew many people that did, the stories about
That was not the first book Steinbeck wrote; he wrote Of Mice
and Men before that, and The Long Valley, Tortilla Flat, I believe.
Because those were the books that my father, who died long before
1952 He had never read East of Eden, if that s when it was
The other book that was very famous before that, have you
never read Grapes of Wrath? That s what made his name, you know.
[looking at East of Eden] Copyright 1952, first published
1952. I know he never read this.
Your father must have been a very broad-minded man to have admired
Grapes of Wrath, and Of Mice and Men too; weren t they shocking to
agricultural people, and people who lived in this valley?
Oh, you re just talking about some people in Salinas. I don t
know what that story is about Steinbeck. We read him from the
day he published. And we were normal moral people. The only book
that I really didn t care for was The Wayward Bus , and I didn t
see too much point to that one.
The Wayward Bus was later, too, wasn t it.
of Mrs. Rosenberg s Steinbeck collection]
[pause for a perusal
I wasn t thinking so much of the morals but the social point
of view, particularly in Grapes of Wrath
I was working for the PG&E in King City at the period about which
that book was written. The manager of the PG&E at that time had
a very small revolving fund of $300 which, through the efforts
of the local Rotary and Chamber of Commerce and maybe the churches,
was to help these migrants.
You can t imagine; there s no exaggeration in that book about
the pitiful condition of those people. And King City was a very
small town, and it couldn t accommodate them. They were just
Rosenberg: I saw men and women that looked and a child that couldn t walk,
but it was two years old, because it probably had never had
enough to eat. The nearest I have seen of starving people were
those migrants that were going through California that particular
It must have been worse than the Central Valley, which is
where that book is located, as I recall.
But the people would have an old model T Ford, or a model A,
maybe; usually with very poor tires. And they would come in
there [to the PG&E office], and he was very careful with this
fund, but he was very sympathetic toward the individuals. You
couldn t help but be, if you were human.
And he had the ability. There was a boarding house, that
would take them in for overnight, and you knew that at least they
had a meal. And he could give them five gallons of gas, and get
them a spare tire, and get them on to the next town, which we
hoped would be bigger, and able to take care of them.
I never felt that [book] was exaggerated.
Teiser: You said your father recognized some of the characters in the
Steinbeck books; do you remember what books or what characters?
Rosenberg: No, because I didn t know them, and you know how uninterested you
are, especially at that age. He would sort of say, "Oh, that s
So-and-So," and many of the areas he was very familiar with,
because he d grown up around Salinas. But we weren t.
Teiser: He felt they were accurate portraits, did he; he didn t complain
Rosenberg: No, he just waited for the next book to come out. He thought Of
Mice and Men was awfully good and awfully true. I never heard him
criticize them, but of recent years I think it s said that in
your own country, you re not a hero. I knew a man quite well,
he s long dead, but he was the editor and the publisher of the
Daily Californian at that time, the Salinas daily paper.
He had known John Steinbeck as a boy. He was a
printer s devil for him, and he said the most useless one he ever
had, and he never thought he d amount to anything. He was on a
trip one time, and came back he d been to France, I believe, with
his wife and they came back to New York, and the bookshops were
plastered with copies of Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
Rosenberg: He couldn t believe it. He d been gone almost a year. You know,
in those days they went on a boat, and they d gone to visit the
country where his wife s relatives had come from, they d been
to the Basque country, and had been gone quite a length of time,
some months. And meanwhile, this book had come out.
And he really hadn t known what had happened to Steinbeck
since he d been his printer s devil. And he said, "This says,
John Steinbeck on it." He immediately went in and bought a
copy; because it must be another John Steinbeck.
But he was the one that recognized all the characters
around Salinas; particularly those of ill repute.
Teiser: I m sure I ve heard that the general idea in Salinas was that
they d rather disown Steinbeck than not, for some years.
Rosenberg: No, I ve only heard that recently, and I ve always lived here,
and to me, it is recently that I ve heard that. I ve never lived
in Salinas; and maybe I didn t talk to the people that didn t like
I think some of his descriptions are beautiful; and some
could have been left undescribed, but that s true of everything.
When he described the Gabilans and all this valley, he had
Teiser: The opening chapter of East of Eden is a marvelous description of
this valley; I- think it s a gem, myself.
Rosenberg: But he was talking about after it was no longer a desert.
Teiser: It seemed to me that he wrote well of the yearly round of events,
and of nature.
Rosenberg: He evidently loved nature, and his descriptions of scenes, they re
so vivid to me. And th .t could have been what my father enjoyed
about the books. His earlier books were concentrated around
Salinas, because that was what he knew.
I always felt that his books were not as good when he went
too far afield. The Winter of Our Discontent was not very it
wasn t as good.
Teiser: You yourself then did not feel that he was unjust to this valley
and its people?
Rosenberg: Well, in our family, we thought he was a good writer, and we
enjoyed him, and enjoyed the fact that we knew the area he was
writing about. But we were not critics. I have known very few
people that didn t like Steinbeck. I have known a few, but then
I could see why.
Teiser: His mother taught at the Peach Tree School; where was that?
Rosenberg: You know they ve just been making East of Eden over again; they ve
been filming it here. I mean, they used San Juan. And I believe
I pointed out Wild Horse Canyon to you, which is only three miles
south of King City. Well, the Hamilton ranch was up that canyon,
in a side canyon, known as Hamilton s Canyon. But, to my knowledge
there was no road through there then to Peach Tree. To me, as
the crow files, Peach Tree might have been ten miles from where
Steinbeck s grandfather lived.
Teiser: Did you know any of the Hamiltons?
Rosenberg: Yes, I did, as a child. His uncle, Will Hamilton, had the Ford
agency in King City. It was Hamilton and Gauze. Then I knew a
cousin of his at one time, named George Hamilton. A nice looking
man who was a good dancer is all I particularly remember about
him; and I really don t know whatever happened to him. He may
still live in Paso Robles.
But as far as knowing any of the Steinbecks, no. I saw his
father once; I never knew him. His father was the county treasurer,
tax collector or something. I remember seeing him, but I never,
to my knowledge, saw Steinbeck.
Teiser: When you were growing up, where did you go if you needed something
simple, right away?
Rosenberg: Very simple, you went to San Lucas; a little more complicated,
you went to King City. You had to go to King City to the doctor,
the dentist, to the music teachers.
There s no point in saying we didn t do pretty much as I ve
been doing for years; you go to San Francisco to shop.
Teiser: Did many others in the area do so?
Rosenberg: No. It was unusual then. But we also went to Salinas occasionally;
but that was net easy, to go there and shop.
Rosenberg: We spent our summers in Monterey, and I believe my mother used
to outfit us for school a great deal at Holman s, the old department
store there, which she liked. It s still there, and it s still a
Teiser: Did many people from this end of the county go to Monterey in the
Rosenberg: Not many; my mother liked to go. My aunt liked Pismo; she was
more inclined to take her children to Pismo. My mother inclined
to the Monterey Bay area.
For instance, my mother used to send the children with my
aunt sometimes. Her sister from San Francisco would come and
stay with us, if she could get away. But then my mother would
come for part of it. We could never get my father there very
But it was a women s and children s beach. There were some
people Mrs. Hamilton from King City used to take her children
over there. Mrs. Ma thews, I remember, would be there occasionally,
and sometimes there d be a family visit. You rented a house for
the month or the two months, however it was.
Teiser: Did you enjoy that?
Rosenberg: Yes, children take things for granted, you know. Yes, we did; we
went to the beach, and played in the sand, and took swimming
lessons; usually got sunburned.
And at other times we went to visit my grandmother in the city
during the summer. I suppose it depended on the arrangements that
my mother could make. However, as my grandmother got older, we
didn t go up there so much because she d been sick, and it was
too much to send us up there. So then we only went rarely unless
my mother could go with us and went to see her mother. But we
didn t just go and stay ourselves, for any length of time, after
my grandmother got sick.
Teiser: You had closer ties with San Francisco than most people in the
Rosenberg: Much; we had more reason to go. After my grandmother died, my
aunts and one uncle continued to live in the same house. So the
house was always there.
My first two years in high school I spent in boarding school,
What was the school?
Rosenberg: Again we go back to the Sisters of Notre Dame.
Teiser: Did you enjoy that, or were you homesick.
Rosenberg: Well, it was one of those things; I was very homesick at first,
but I probably cried when I left. I enjoyed it very much; it was
a very good foundation that you would not have found in many
public schools. I think it still is.
Teiser: I imagine a well-read child must have gone to high school very
well equipped, too.
Rosenberg: Not necessarily, because we weren t the least bit discriminatory
about what we were reading. Nobody put textbooks in our hands.
I would say we read western stories and we read mysteries, and
we read whatever was available. Uncle Remus I remember reading
when I was well along in years, and still enjoying it.
You know, we read children s books, like Rebecca, The Little
Colonel, all those books. But not necessarily intellectual books;
unless Dickens was considered intellectual. He gave me a very
warped opinion of English history that it took me a long time to
recover from. [laughter] Did you ever read A Child s History
of England by Dickens? Well, it takes years to eradicate the
Teiser: It wasn t just from your ancestors?
Rosenberg: My Irish ancestors? Oh, well, they were 100 percent Irish and
very argumentive, and one was a Sinn Fein sympathizer, and the
other thought the Germans were the most wonderful cultured people
of the world; and the other one thought that there was nobody like
Queen Victoria, she was so wonderful.
We didn t grow up with that idea that the English were tyrants
or anything. My grandmother had seen Queen Victoria, when she was
a little girl. That s the only time I think Queen Victoria wert
to Ireland, but I don t think she was very nice to the Irish.
My grandmother used to tell us that when we got older she d
take us to London to visit the Queen. So we believed her!
I ve been to London, but I have never been invited to tea at
Teiser: Then you came back to the valley to finish high school?
Rosenberg: I didn t go very far, I only went to Watsonville, you know. Yes,
I finished high school in King City.
Teiser: Was your schooling as good there as in Watsonville?
Rosenberg: I assume it was, I was not a very receptive age.
Teiser: Probably had a good time, or
Rosenberg: No, I really didn t; I was never one of the people that wanted to
repeat my high-school years. I didn t have a bad time, I don t
mean that; but it s I have a niece, and she and her husband
(and they re in their thirties now) date everything from their
class in high school. I ve had none of that feeling. I mean I
know who was in my class. There weren t very many; but if you
ask them if they know somebody, they ll say, "He wasn t in my
class." Meaning a year behind, or a year ahead.
School was so small when I went, you knew everybody; it
didn t really matter if they were in your class. They didn t
have to be a senior when you were a senior for you to speak to
I don t regret it, and it was interesting; I learned a lot
King City and Its Environs
Teiser: How has King City changed in these years since?
Rosenberg: Very little.
Teiser: You pointed out to us buildings, two I think, that were hotels,
railroad hotels, for when there was a passenger train.
Rosenberg: It really doesn t have a great deal more business than it did
when I was growing up. (This could be disputed.) But it has a
very nice residential section, and a large residential section.
The fact that all of California is on wheels now has made it
more of a motel and restaurant and service station town. Nearly
all other new businesses are connected with agriculture. For
instance, crop dusting. Out toward the airport, and on that side,
there s this Basic Vegetables, dehydrated, and it employs many
people. Another smaller place, called Cal Spice, and still
another, but this is all out east of town by the airport. And the
Maggios carrot shed. [Carl Joseph Maggio, Inc.] These are places
that employ a lot of seasonal people. And the grape vineyards.
Rosenberg: Anything that has added to the income of King City, to my knowledge,
is agricultural, or very tied in to agriculture. There isn t a
Ford garage any more. At the minute, they ve closed. Right now,
things are closing right and left, you know.
Teiser: Did it have a social life of its own, that people from the area
took part in?
Rosenberg: Oh, it s hard to describe. It s a pleasant town to live in,
everybody tells me.
I haven t lived in it very much. It isn t the center of the
social life as it was when I was young.
Teiser: It was then, was it?
Rosenberg: Well, it was a state of mind. It was to some people, and wasn t
at all to others.
Teiser: Did it have a newspaper that covered the news of the whole area?
Rosenberg: Oh, yes. It still does. But it s a weekly. When I was growing
up, there were two weeklies, which made it more interesting. They
were always at odds. But now it s just the one paper, The Rustler.
However, the same man owns the Greenfield News and the Soledad
Bee, and the Gonzales Tribune, I think. I m not positive about
Gonzales . And they do have a good printing press, and the paper
has better pictures in it than most newspapers, I can say that.
But it s only a weekly.
Well, I m sure you read the [San Francisco] Chronicle, don t
you? I say the Chronicle is just a blown-up version of the King
City Rustler. I read it every day, but it s a terribly insular
newspaper. It tells you who had lunch with who, and who went to
dinner, and who danced at the debutantes ball.
As addicted as I am to the Chronicle, which I think is an
addiction and the only show in town when you get out of California
and see a newspaper, you re surprised.
I think the Canadian newspapers are good; very interesting
to me, because they re written in English.
Teiser: The Los Angeles Times isn t bad.
Rosenberg: I don t care for it because I can t find anything in it. It s
supposed to be a better newspaper; is there a good newspaper in
Teiser: The Bee.
Teiser: After you finished high school, then what?
Rosenberg: I didn t go on to school after that. I worked in an insurance
and real estate office for a while in King City; and then I
worked in San Francisco for a year, an insurance company, Scottish
Union and National Insurance Company.
Then I worked for the Associated Oil Company for about three
years; two years in San Jose and one year in King City. That was
before it was, what is it, it s Getty now, I guess. At the time
I worked for it, it was the Associated, then it became the
Then I worked the longest for the Pacific Gas and Electric in
King City; and that s where I was working, at that time, when I
saw the remnants of the Grapes of Wrath. I didn t see how they
were living, but I saw how they looked. You can t believe the
impression it made on me at that age; and of course, many of those
same people have prospered, and are among our respected and
reliable citizens. But I must say my mother was sick; my sister
had a girl helping her in the house, and I believe she was from
Arkansas, and my brothers always referred to her as the foreigner.
They were young.
But those people weren t easily accepted in California,
particularly in this valley at first. But this valley has always
had Hispanic people. Now some local people won t accept the fact
of the Mexicans. And they re here. They were here before we
were. Yes, it s not the same one, I must admit; but my father and
uncle did both talk what is now known as field Spanish, because
this county was full of Spanish people. If you read Tortilla Flat
you ll realize that the whole county was full of their descendants,
frankly the people that owned these grounds.
But there is a divisiveness in the valley that I don t like
between what they refer to as the gringos and the Mexicans.
Who worked, for instance, around your father s ranch?
Garcias. They were usually named Garcia, but sometimes they were
named Soberanes; and once in a while, Boronda, and usually, or
quite often, the women that helped my mother in the house were
the same families.
Then these were old Hispanic valley families, is that right?
Yes, they d lost their land to the gringos, as I m sure you ve
read. And often they were the people that worked for us. Also
there were people from neighboring ranches. Plasketts worked for us.
Rosenberg: But when I tell you you often had beans for breakfast, lunch,
and dinner, that was usually because you had quite a few Spanish
people working for you.
Teiser: Did the older Spanish settlers resent the new Mexican arrivals?
Rosenberg: I don t know; I suppose it would depend on who you talked to.
I would think, having the same tongue, they would be more
Teiser: But the "gringos"
Rosenberg: Well, that s just my expression
Teiser: Yes, it s an old expression did they object to the new "wetbacks?"
Rosenberg: Not all of them, not all of them. But this area of California
grew up, and I think all California probably grew up on imported
labor, or a form of slave labor, no matter what you called it.
When I was a child, there was a Chinese store in King City,
run by somebody named Lon Sing, and my mother and father both
traded there. That was a very nice store, and you always had
firecrackers on the fourth of July.
My first recollection of people working on the railroads were
the Hindus with the turbans. There were many Hindus; and Spreckels
Sugar Company has a big ranch, it s out of King City, and they had
Hindus working on the beets. And you don t forget them, because
they had turbans. And then I remember the Filipinos around Salinas,
working in the strawberry fields and the lettuce fields. And the
Of course, this is where I am confused. I usually know
Chinese people, but other Orientals I m not so sure of; and probably
they re not sure of what we are, either.
Rosenberg: The Hindus that I saw were at Spreckels, and on the railroad too.
And then, probably, there was some act that didn t allow them to
come in any more.
Teiser: Where did the Hindus who were here go?
Rosenberg: Some went to the Imperial Valley. I know a man that s half Hindu
and half Mexican, from the Imperial Valley. Very bright man.
His last name is Mohammed. His father was one of the Hindus that
came here. And there are several of them in the Imperial Valley.
His mother was a Mexican from Mexico. I never can remember his
first name. I always can remember his last name; but his first
name is odd, and then they have contracted it to a nickname.
Teiser: Was there Chinese labor too?
Rosenberg: I don t recall them very well; but everybody had a Chinese cook.
I ve heard people talk about it. But the only one I really
remember was a Chinese cook that went around with a cook wagon
for a threshing machine crew for Bill Casey. But I ve heard
that they were quite common, and I heard my father talk about the
Chinese cook he had just before he was married. And about their
queues. And of course, I was in San Francisco, and I was very
familiar with Chinese people. That s why I say I usually know
Chinese and I recognize their voices.
Then I remember the bracero program very well, when I was
first married, and the prisoners-of-war were here, in the fields.
Teiser: From Italy?
Rosenberg: Germany, these were Germans. I think we had both, but those that
were here I particularly remember as being Germans. There were
Italians, too, but we didn t have any contact with them. But I
saw them in the fields.
And now we have the "wetbacks." So which do you think is the
better? People have to live. I don t happen to have any animosity
towards the Mexicans. I ve been to Mexico; I haven t known any
that I haven t liked. But I may not have had any bad experiences
with any, and I grew up with cooks in the house that made tortillas.
I have a feeling of sympathy towards them.
Teiser: Mr. Trescony said in his interview that he thought the bracero
program was good; he liked it.*
Rosenberg: Most of us did. To my knowledge, they didn t cause much trouble.
Mr. Trescony and I are both members of the same church group, but
I think the Catholic church was very opposed to the bracero
program, and I don t know who else was.
Teiser: He said that, at one time, I guess they were picketing at his
ranch, he went out and told them in Spanish
Rosenberg: He is a linguist, you know.
Teiser: I gather so; because what he told them was fairly complex. You d
have to know pretty good Spanish to say something about
Rosenberg: That s his mother tongue.
Teiser: that, rather than spending their time picketing at his ranch, they
should go back and develop their own country; that they had a
country full of natural resources, and they should put that same
amount of energy into that.
* Julius Trescony, An Heir to a Land Grant, University of California,
Davis, Oral History Center, 1978.
I don t think he meant that they shouldn t be here; but that they
shouldn t do mischief.
Well, they shouldn t be picketing. Everybody in agriculture, if
you see those red flags, you literally see red yourself. They
are very inciting, because that s a year s work waiting to be
harvested. And they could negotiate all they please; but to not
get a crop out that s ready, that is unspeakable for a farmer.
It is to me. And I haven t put my own physical effort into it
like these men have that get worked up. But to think you ve put
a year s work into that, and your crop is ready, and if they re
picketing you and not somebody else, the price is high. It s no
wonder violent things happen, because there s a great deal of
money at stake in these vegetable crops. It s your livelihood.
I guess nature gives you one set of problems, and
But you can overcome that; then to have somebody strike your
fields it s infuriating. And as I say, it affects me the same
What s the answer?
Brighter people than I haven t found it.
presumably, devoting their minds to it.
Many people are,
Recently at the University of California someone was saying that,
now that Mexico s oil and other resources seem to be developing,
probably we won t, in time, have access to inexpensive labor,
even if we want inexpensive Mexican labor. Have you heard anything
I ve seen the oil fields on fire in the state of Tabasco, where
they re losing so much energy it was unbelievable. But I think
once they conquer the technology of it
We should be asking favors of Mexico, really; but we don t
seem to be bright enough as a nation to understand that. I m
sure you remember when whoever was our Secretary of State turned
down the natural gas offer from Mexico; very few people have
forgotten that. The mistake of the century.
You said that your brother was particularly good at dry farming;
do I remember that correctly?
He was a good farmer, and he was a good cattleman,
may have liked cattle better.
He, I think,
When you re a dry farmer here, what are your crops?
Rosenberg: You have very little choice: it s usually barley. You could
plant wheat or oats. The saf flower, now, you can do in dry
farming. You could do beans, but I don t think they d be very
profitable; you wouldn t get enough to justify it. There s
very little variety in dry farming.
Teiser: Beans has been a crop here?
Rosenberg: Not dry farmed in my lifetime. Irrigated. On this ranch, the
dry farming is barley.
Teiser: What s the difference between a good dry farmer and a poor dry
Rosenberg: That s sort of a foolish question. Too much depends on the
weather. That is the most peculiar question I ever heard. Maybe
he had good land.
No, there s a great deal of science to it, to know when to
put it in, and what kind. After all, you have a great choice of
barley, there re many varieties. There s feed barley, and then
malting barley and milling barley. And some do better than others;
I think the difference is knowing your soil and getting your crop
in. If you don t put it in, you re not a very good farmer. It s
pretty elementary, is what I mean. There s a certain amount of
guesswork to it all. _I couldn t explain dry farming to anybody.
Teiser: Let me ask you another foolish question, then. When you said
dry farming, do you really mean absolutely no irrigation?
Rosenberg: Yes, you depend on nature. There are other things. You know,
only California and the Southwest need irrigation. They do dry
farming all through the Midwest. The wheat fields of Kansas,
that s dry farming. Cereal crops are often dry farming.
Irrigation is only what they have in deserts. [laughter]
In the state of Washington, they put in tiles to drain off
the excess water so they can farm. The dry farming means you re
dependent on the rainfall, that s all.
Teiser: Here in this valley, in this area, has land gone out of dry
farming and into irrigated? Has there been a big shift over the
years that you ve seen?
Rosenberg: There s usually been irrigation along this river, between the
dairies and the alfalfa. But when you get too far away from the
river you just have difficulty finding water.
Teiser: There are no major government irrigation projects, are there,
Rosenberg: We re not like the San Joaquin or the Imperial Valleys. We do
have two dams; but the first one was built by the county, and the
second one, I think, has state funds. It may have some federal
in the actual building of the dam. But they re none of these
big projects. That is canal irrigation, when they have that. We
have well irrigation. There s a very great difference, and I
didn t realize how much difference there was til I used to go
to the Imperial Valley so much. Many similarities, and many
differences. But it s all irrigated farming.
Now, you couldn t dry farm in the Imperial Valley; you can
dry farm in the San Joaquin.
Teiser: I think we ve asked you enough foolish questions for today; it ll
get worse tomorrow.
Further Recollections of Childhood, and the 1930s
[Interview 2: June 25, 1980 ]#//
This is a picture of my grandmother s house in San Francisco. I
believe that s my sister and I, I m the largest, and two
neighboring children. The bay window was in front, but there was
a bay window on the dining room side that doesn t show. You can
see that s a good example of Victorian.
The Landmark Preservation Advisory Board Report [Appendix I]
says there was no basement.
There was. It must have been a partial basement,
description given there is correct.
My grandmother had six twenty-five foot lots, and the house
occupied approximately half of them.
There was a driveway to the side; which I vaguely remember,
but I ve thought about ii. recently. It went back to a basement
opening, where I can just remember they would haul the coal for
the winter, and they poured it in that basement window.
I always thought of the house as pure Victorian. Actually,
you know, I think it s more Georgian than Victorian. I have
been in Dublin, and there s this area of Georgian houses. Have
*See page 10.
Rosenberg: you been in Dublin? There s a beautiful area of what I refer to
as Georgian houses; and of course the Victorian was a combination
of anything that anybody liked at that day. There was a great
deal of Italian influence.
It was built by Irish people, that s what makes me think
that. Sybil Connelly s store in the Victorian house on a certain
Dublin square (if I said the name you d recognize it) all the
fashion houses are on this square, which happens to be a very
beautiful square in Dublin, and they refer to the houses as
Georgian. Which was after Queen Anne. Queen Anne was more peaked
in my recollection. Were there some other questions you wanted
Teiser: One of the questions that occurred to me was, where did your
family buy books?
Rosenberg: I feel like Queen Mary. We had books. My mother came as a
teacher. We have many teachers books; my aunt was a teacher.
Many of the books I have in this house I have a set of Dickens
that was my mother s. It s in another room. That s another set
of Dickens; one of Walter s aunts had a set. George Elliot came
from Walter s brother, James.
In those days people bought books. They didn t have access
to public libraries. In San Francisco, as far as I know, the
only library that I ever heard of, as a child growing up, (and
I was never in it but my mother remembered when Kathleen Norris
worked in it) was the old Mechanics [Institute] library. So she
must have gone there to get books.
And I think teachers bought their books, and I m sure the
children bought their books. Some of my father s books have his
name in them as a student. You know, they were bought when he
was going to school.
And you remember that we went to San Francisco a great deal.
Now the school that I went to, this was a one-room school that
maybe had twelve students most of the time, had a library that
was part of the county library. And that was where we read the
Five Little Peppers and the Little Colonel stories, and things
Some of the teachers bought books for the school library,
some of the books were circulating from the county library.
Rosenberg: Then, we subscribed to magazines, the family subscribed to
magazines. In those days you read many stories, continued stories,
in the magazines. I don t know whether it was the Woman s Home
Companion or what magazine that used to publish Kathleen Norris
novels; you must know that.
Teiser: Wasn t it the Saturday Evening Post?
Rosenberg: No. They published Clarence Buddington Kelland. This was a
woman s magazine, and every time that next installment came, that
was the day family members sat down and read it. My mother was
never a great admirer of Kathleen Norris; she thought her husband
was a far better writer, but I think she made the money, with her
novels. She had a very interesting life. And I think Mary
Roberts Reinhardt wrote for the Saturday Evening Post.
And then we had many books as gifts. We were nearly always
given books. And because we were in San Francisco, there was
Paul Elder s and there was Newbegin s. We always knew where to
go to get a book if we wanted it. I know I knew where to go when
I was old enough to buy them, so I must have been taken there.
I know my aunt was still teaching as we grew up, and gave us
many beautiful books. Some of them I ve passed on to my daughter,
children s books, you know in the days when they were illustrated.
Like Squirrel Nutkins.
Teiser: Another thing I think we didn t ask you is what San Lucas was like
in earlier days. It s shrunk considerably, I gather
Rosenberg: But I really don t remember. I remember when there were two
stores; and I remember when there was what was called a bandstand
in the center of town, where they had music, and where they also
played baseball. And I remember when there was an ice cream
parlor. But I was very young; I don t think there were two
stores after I was ten years old. But at one time, well, it was
comparable to King City, I guess. There are pictures of it.
And what happened to San Lucas, the story is that before
Prohibition they had something in California known as "local
option." And San Lucas voted to be dry and King City voted to
be wet, and San Lucas immediately went down, so I ve heard. Ten
miles difference, but many people were like we were, five miles
from San Lucas and ten from King City. Which shows that Prohibition
doesn t pay.
And then I also remembered hearing this, again when I was
very young, that there was a blind pig in King City, which was the
name for a bootlegger in those days. This is before the Volstead
act. I took it very literally and expected to see one, I remember.
Teiser: It occured to me that, in East of Eden, there are descriptions
of brothels in Salinas, but the implication was that there was no
brothel in King City. Is that right?
Rosenberg: Well, when I was growing up there were several. Probably Steinbeck
didn t know about them. I can t say how old I was, maybe fifteen.
I know of two. There was the Apple Orchard, and the one by the
Shell Oil Company which was always referred to by the lady s name
whatever that was, Stella or something.
I know there were those two; there may have been others.
After all, I wasn t really patronizing them. And I don t think
Steinbeck ever was around King City very much. As a young boy he
may have been out at his grandfather s ranch; but I never heard
of his living around King City. He could describe the area.
But I guess Salinas was very infamous. This Paul Parker I
mentioned, who said he was so astounded to find Grapes of Wrath in
every bookstore in New York, said that that was very accurate
reporting on that area in Salinas. I m sure he knew, because he
was a newspaper man.
Teiser: Then the other thing that perhaps I should ask you a little about
was part of your youth was during those Depression years. You
mentioned the situation of migrant workers. But I m sure the
Depression affected you as it did everyone else. Was your family
farm affected by it?
Rosenberg: Of course, everybody was affected by it. I lived in the area.
Prices were very depressed. It was in that period that I was
working for the PG&E in King City; and that s when I saw these
people about whom the Grapes of Wrath was written, about an era
about five years previous to its publishing. I think it took a
long time to write it. And I did not see the Central Valley; but
I did see the trickle, and it probably was a great deal more than
a trickle, that came through this area.
Teiser: But as for the people who lived here, did they
Rosenberg: There was a Depression, of course there was, and nobody had very
much money. Some people would think of us as all having been land-
poor; but we didn t think of ourselves as being poor.
We had local dances with what I think the young now call
"country music," but we had little orchestras. Some of the people
from Arkansas came and played.
Rosenberg: One man I remember, a neighbor of ours, used to think, "Why that
girl s on the radio, she sounds just like the voice on my radio!"
When he heard one of those hillbilly song singers in one of these
little orchestras, he thought it was the same girl he had been
hearing on the radio. We were very sociable with our neighbors
in those days.
Teiser: You didn t feel oppressed, as some people did.
Rosenberg: No, we were happy; we had a very happy childhood. And if we were
suffering, we didn t realize it.
Teiser: And your family didn t have to change its ways, or modify living
arrangements because of the Depression?
Rosenberg: I don t like that question: I will say no.
Rosenberg: I m appalled at people that dwell on it, and I suppose my daughter
has a friend that mentions it every other day, as if it happened
day before yesterday. It was a period we lived through. It
wasn t that bad. We didn t have very much money, but neither did
anybody else that we knew.
Teiser: That brings us back to where we left off yesterday, chronologically
I think we must have come up to 39.
The Brandenstein Family
Teiser: Do you call the name Brandenstein "Brandensteen or "Brandenstine"?
Rosenberg: I call it "Brandensteen." I don t know which is correct. I
really don t know very much German. However, they, at times,
avoided German expressions, and I think we have preferred the
Teiser: They were not in the branch of the family that changed the name to
Rosenberg: It was the same family, but a different branch. Those were the
MJB Coffee people who were relatives. It s a difficult relation
ship for me to describe, but I think M.J. Brandenstein was a
cousin of my husband s grandfather, Meyer Brandenstein. I believe
they were cousins, but Jewish people are different; it might have
Rosenberg: been his first, second or third, I don t know. I assumed it was
first, because when I say cousin, I mean first; and if it s
anything else I say distant.
Teiser: Who is the student at Santa Clara University who wrote the
history of this San Bernardo rancho?*
Rosenberg: Susan Rosenberg (now Herzog) . That s my husband s granddaughter.
She lives in Portola Valley.
Teiser: Does Meyer Brandenstein come down in your husband s family s
tradition as a man of invention, or cleverness, or how did he seem
to be characterized?
Rosenberg: As a dreamer. I would say a man of vision, but they considered
him a dreamer. He, I think, for his day, did remarkable things
with this ranch.
It was originally Godchaux and Brandenstein** and they were
do you know this story? they were wholesale butchers in San
In fact, when I was first married, the family still owned some
corrals out on Potrero Hill, that they sold later; and they always
pointed out that was where the corrals were. However, I don t
remember it; but you could see it from the Potrero. I think they
put temporary housing in during the Second World War.
But they were wholesale butchers, and they wanted places to
pasture their cattle until they were ready for slaughter. And of
course they acquired this ranch when they knew the railroad was
going through. You wonder why I don t dislike the railroad, but
I never disliked it. I had no great reason to dislike it, because
they had bought this ranch in the expectation of the railroad
going through. And they also acquired a ranch in Nevada, these
two men. I believe the Nevada ranch was in the Ruby Mountain
area, b>-.t there again, I m not sure of that.
*It is included in Portrait of a Town.
**The partner was Lazard Godchaux. The 1872 San Francisco directory
lists the firm as M. Brandenstein & Co., wholesale butchers at
"First Av., South S.F." with offices at 529 Clay Street. The two
men acquired Rancho San Bernardo in 1871, and in 1898 Brandenstein
took over his partner s interest. The transfer is recorded in the
Monterey County Recorder s office, Deeds Book 57, page 140.
Rosenberg: When they decided to dissolve the partnership, Meyer Brandenstein
got this ranch, and the Godchauxs took the ranch in Nevada. They
were both for holding cattle for slaughter, or for fattening
cattle; it was long before anybody thought of these feedyards that
you see all the time now.
That s why I say, I never saw the man, but he must have been
a man of some vision. It s a story in this area about his having
tried to dam the Salinas River, and the family referred to it as
Grandpa s ditch. There s still some indication of it about
eight or nine miles south of the ranch house. That is pretty much
under irrigation now. He apparently spent quite a bit of money
to dam the river, which has been very difficult to do. To this
day, you can t foretell which way that river s going if it comes
up, though it has been dammed back in the hills. That was one of
his things .
He had an orchard planted, and I think he had Chinese that
ran the orchard. And I know they had a Chinese cook, because
there used to be a room back of the kitchen that was always
referred to as "the Chinaman s room." There hadn t been a Chinaman
in it for at least fifty years, I m sure, but that was where the
Chinese cook had lived.
Then around the time of the early 1900s, I believe, he
became sick, and I think he died in 19 I always connected his
death with the 1906 earthquake. And that, evidently, changed
their lives a great deal, because Walter s mother and aunt, who
lived here from the 30s on, always referred to the Fire as if
there had never been a fire before or since; and it had been 30-odd
years since that fire.
Rosenberg: Meyer Brandenstein s widow [born Fanny Schweitzer] lived for many
years after his death, possibly thirty years. Meanwhile, Walter s
father, Joe Rosenberg, took over the management of the ranch. I
believe he had also been in the wholesale buying of grain previous
I heard it was 1907 that he took over the active management of
the ranch for his mother-in-law, who owned it. While grandfather
lived, he spent quite alot of time here; but his wife never did.
Somewhere I have a copy of the fact that the ranch has been
operated by this same family for over a hundred years, which is a
Teiser: Was Joseph Rosenberg "Joe"?
THIS GROUP OF PHOTOGRAPHS AT SAN BERNARDO RANCH WAS TAKEN IN 1889,
On the Brandenstein porch, left to right: John Martin, Bernhard
Schweitzer, Meyer Brandenstein (in hammock), Mrs. Bernhard Schweitzer,
Emma Patek, John Garrissere, Leon Guggenheim (in hammock), Lazard
Godchaux (?) (seated in chair), and Linda Brandenstein.
Georgia Schweitzer in front of the porch of the Brandenstein home,
with an unidentified individual in a hammock just behind.
Walking in the grape arbor with
strong sun behind them were
Flora Brandenstein, left, and
her sister Linda, later Mrs.
The Meyer Brandenstein home,
with John Martin at the left of
the large tree trunk and Meyer
Brandenstein at the right.
Inside the shrubs in the center
was a fountain; its spout of
water is visible here. It was
still functioning in 1982.
At the left is a grape arbor
which also still existed in 1982,
On the croquet ground in the Brandenstein garden, Jesse Koshland
and Linda Brandenstein,
On the Brandenstein porch, left to right: Georgia Schweitzer,
John Garrissere, Emma Patek, Linda Brandenstein, Lazard Godchaux,
and Myron Goldsmith,
At the ranch picnic grounds, Georgia Schweitzer (left) and Emma Patek.
The irrigation canal built under Meyer Brandenstein s direction came
to be known to later generations as "Grandpa s ditch."
[For a discussion of these photographs, see pages 90-91.]
Rosenberg: It was always written as Joe; his name was Joseph, but it was
always written as Joe. I never met him, though I m old enough
to have met him, but he had died before I was married.*
Teiser: Had he married Meyer Brandenstein s daughter before he came to the
Rosenberg: Oh, yes, long before.
Tieser: Was he from San Francisco, too? I was looking for his name in the
voters records here
Rosenberg: They all lived in San Francisco. But he died in the 30s. I would
have thought you might have found him in the late 30s, I m sure
they voted here, they all voted here after 1935. But they
maintained a home in San Francisco until their mother s death.
Teiser: I did find him in 1924, in the voters list.
Rosenberg: Oh, well, that s earlier than I would have thought, because he was
here a lot. But his wife and sister-in-law, and his mother-in-law
lived in San Francisco. 1924 would have been the time you found
Teiser: Both, I think.
Rosenberg: That was my husband; because that s about the time he would have
been voting here.
Rancho San Bernardo and San Ardo
Teiser: What is the story about Meyer Brandenstein and the Southern
Pacific railroad? Would you tell that?
Rosenberg: I wish I knew it completely. We are negotiating with the railroad
right now to do something about ending that 99-year lease, which
dates from 1886. This is to clear the title.
Nearly everybody else gave the right-of-ways outright, or
sold them outright, and there s a big difference. And, I don t
know whether it was he or Godchaux, because both names are on it,
but I think Godchaux may have negotiated it.
*Joseph Rosenberg died in 1937.
Rosenberg: But we inherited it; it s supposed to be a 99-year lease, and they
were supposed to keep up the rail fences for the length of the
right-of-way, which I think was twevle miles or something. It
ran along the edge of the San Bernardo grant. The fences have
very much fallen into disrepair.
The trains, at that time, I suppose were coal-burning, and
they had to stop in San Ardo for water. Water is very important
in this country. They found good water that they had to bring
across the river to the depot. And the engines had to be watered
in San Ardo before they went on to Santa Margarita, which I
believe, was the next stop. There they had to stop, as you know,
to take on extra engines to go through the tunnels .
The other provision was that every train had to stop here.
Well, of course that s been allowed to die long ago. You couldn t
stop every train here in San Ardo, and just in recent years the
depot was torn down. There s no longer a stationmaster. There s
no longer a telegraph operator.
When I was first married, there was a stationmaster and a
telegraph operator, and the local trains stopped. During the
Second World War, as you may recall, there was an energy shortage.
When I went to San Francisco at that time, there was a troop train
that ran from Camp Roberts to San Francisco. And if I went to
San Francisco alone, I d go up in that troop train. But Walter
would make arrangements with some passenger agent in San Francisco
for the train to stop here, for me to get on and to get off. It
was only about a four-hour trip.
When I got off, it was usually at midnight; and as you can
see, the railroad s right over there. When I got home, he d come
over and pick me up. One train I got on (I remember these
incidents because they were so funny) one conductor was very
concerned at letting a woman off in the middle of nowhere, with
no street lights or anything else, and I said, "No, my husband is
expecting me and he ll pick me up."
They d stop in such strange places down the track, you know,
that they d have to put the steps out for you. And another
conductor came by and said, "Are you the lady that s getting off
in San Ardo?" because I was usually the only lady on the train;
they were all troops. He looked at me, and he said, "Well, I know
you re not Eleanor Roosevelt, but who the hell are you?" I
shouldn t have been riding a troop train.
(And it was the dirtiest train I ever rode on, bar none, and
I ve been on trains in Mexico and many other places, but that was
the dirtiest train. I don t think they washed it from the
beginning of the war til the end.)
Rosenberg: I remember that; it made quite an impression on me. At first I
was a little insulted, being much younger then. Then this
neighbor of ours, who was much older than I, always felt that he
had the right to stop the train; and he would make arrangements
occasionally for it to stop and pick them up on some tour to the
races at Santa Anita, or something like that.
That would be the Daylight. I ve never heard of his trying
to stop Amtrak. But one time we heard the Brinan family was
all going to get on the train and go to the races at Santa Anita.
It had been quite a while since the passenger train had stopped
at San Ardo, so we all went over to see them off and wave. I
think that s about ten years ago, I don t know.
Eight years ago, I know my daughter was here, and a couple
of her children; the oldest is now fourteen. It might have been
eight or ten years ago. It stopped then, and it s stopped a few
times since then; and I suppose, with great effort, we could stop
it now if we wanted to.
Teiser: Are you going to write that into your new lease?
Rosenberg: I don t know. As I say, you know the Southern Pacific is being
sold to Santa Fe.*
Teiser: Well, they need this right-of-way, no matter who
Rosenberg: They need this right-of-way because it s the greatest freight line
between the north and south of California. There is Amtrak. But
it s passenger. But we have no contract with Amtrak. [laughter]
Teiser: You told us a story that Meyer Brandenstein had also brought trees
for the ranch down on the train, was that it?
Rosenberg: Yes. All these trees you see, not around the house, but the
original three lanes. This is the only lane that s kept up.**
Teiser: It s about a half-mile lane, is it
Rosenberg: A little longer. There were three lanes north and south, all
parallel with the river; and three lanes across. Of the lanes
across, there s practically nothing left an occasional tree.
*The plan was abandoned several months later.
**The lane leading to Mrs. Rosenberg s house. See photograph page 64
Rosenberg: But all this was referred to as the park, because he had hoped to
make a park of it. I tell you, he was a man of vision, more than
a dreamer to me; but I didn t meet him. I guess maybe he was
difficult to live with.
Teiser: Maybe his wife was difficult to live with.
Rosenberg: She sounded like it. I didn t meet her either, but
Teiser: Someone was saying that it s unusual for Jews to be agriculturalists,
here anyway. It certainly doesn t look like it in Israel today.
But at that time, and in California, there were few Jewish farmers,
Rosenberg: Well, there s a ranch, you know where Camp Roberts is? That was
owned by a Jewish family in San Francisco, the Hellmans , until
they sold it for Camp Roberts.
Teiser: I didn t mean own land, I meant operate
Rosenberg: Well, they operated that. Let s face it; I think they possibly
are more inclined to be absentee landlords. Well, there are
other places over in the valley. I think there are quite a few
Jewish families from San Francisco that own land.
We used to have race horses many years ago, I used to hear
my father talk about it; well, it was either an Arab or a Jewish
family. The name was strictly Semitic: Ali something. They had
famous race horses around the turn of the century. Whenever I see
the name I remember my father mentioning it, and I think he was
somewhere in the area.
And the people that owned the hardware store in San Francisco
had great holdings over in the other valley. A Jewish family. It
was one of the good stores in San Francisco. Walter Newman. They
had vast land holdings.
Now there s somebody else that s had some holdings, not so
vast, maybe, the Schwabachers . I know a Jack Schwabacher who s
always been interested in farming, and whose family had a ranch
in Wyoming. And as far as I know, he s been in the cattle business.
Now he may have been more in the feed lot business.
When I was growing up, there were always, always Jewish
cattle buyers. Somebody named Jake Wallz [?], I remember him
well. They d come through the country. And maybe it was because
of their father s business, but I used to hear Walter s mother
and Aunt Flora talk a great deal about different people in the
wholesale butcher business, which is connected with agriculture.
In fact that s how this ranch was acquired.
Rosenberg: Now I actually don t know many of these people, but I d hear them
talk about it a lot. So I would never say they weren t interested
in agriculture. Of course, we think of them as retail merchants.
Of course, they did many other things, I guess, like everyone else,
Teiser: Did this ranch work well in conjunction with the wholesale
Rosenberg: I really don t know; I assume it did. Apparently.
I think there was a large Godchaux family of daughters, but
no sons. And the Brandensteins had no sons. So it fell to a
son-in-law to manage it after Mayer Brandenstein s death. Some
times that makes a difference in families, you know. And maybe
when they just dissolved the wholesale butcher business maybe
both the men were elderly. I really don t know that.
Teiser: I read that they actually bought the ranch in 1871. You said it
was in anticipation of the railroad
Rosenberg: That s correct, because I think that s what Susan wrote; she
really researched it.
Teiser: And in 1886 they subdivided the town
Rosenberg: That s the railroad did that; that was when the railroad came
through, 1886. And somehow, I have 1886 in my mind because it s
in 1985 that the 99-year lease will expire. We ve been approached
about every ten years as to what we should do with it; and right
now we are negotiating. We have to do something. My neighbor
suggested, have them sign another 99-year lease and make them keep
up those fences. [laughter]
I don t think they have any control over Amtrak. As a matter
of fact, I doubt who does have much control over it. But it s a
very pleasant train to ride. It doesn t seem to run on time very
well, but it s a nice clean train, and when I took some children
on it a few years ago, it had white table cloths on the table, and
a rose bud; and the colored porters; and the food wasn t bad at
all. Much better than some you ve come across in this day and age.
Teiser: From here, where can you catch it?
Rosenberg: It runs right by here, but we get it (I ve only done it a couple
of times) from Salinas to San Luis [Obispo]; and they re about
Rosenberg: The trouble is, it becomes quite a logistics experiment when
you take several children. You have to have two people with
cars to transport you to San Luis, and then they go home and
somebody else meets you in Salinas. It s all right just for
fun, I guess. It s a good way for children to see a train,
because you go through tunnels, and you go over trestles, and
you eat lunch. And their dressing rooms interest children very
much. They re a far cry from the old train dressing rooms, nice
The nice things about trains and children is, they can walk
around; there s no other mode of transportation, unless a boat,
where children can walk around, and back and forth, and they
don t get so restless. We made all our trips to San Francisco
as children on the train, and I think it s the greatest way in
the world to take the children.
Teiser: You went to King City to catch it?
Rosenberg: San Lucas. San Lucas was really a very large town in its day,
even though I can t remember much of that. The store that is
still operating there was originally Goldwater s. Talk about a
Jewish family; that was a cousin of Barry Goldwater s father.
There were two brothers: Simon Goldwater and Marcus. Now Julius
Trescony can remember them, but I can t.
Teiser: Would you tell the story about the naming of the town?
Rosenberg: I d much rather let you read it out of the place names book.
Margaret doesn t think the book is correct, but I think it is.*
It s the way I heard it.
Teiser: In the state library, there s a card in the reference file that
says the first mention of the name, San Ardo, was found in 1886.
*"The town was laid out in 1886 when the Southern Pacific reached
the place and was named San Bernardo by M.J. Brandenstein
[correctly Meyer Brandenstein, with no middle initial] , who had
bought the San Bernardo Rancho, originally granted June 16, 1841.
When the Post Office Department objected to the name because of
possible confusion with San Bernardino, Brandenstein created a
new saint name by lopping off Bern. "
Erwin G. Gudde, California Place Names.
California Press, 1962.
Rosenberg: The reason was the confusion with San Bernardino, in the mails;
and that book of California place names would have all I d
Teiser: Dr. James D. Hart, the director of The Bancroft Library, said
that they used to tell the story, that it was the only saint who
had ever been created by a Jewish family.
Rosenberg: That s the story I d tell you; they credited a Jewish cattle buyer
with creating a new saint for the Catholic church.
Teiser: Were there other innovations of his?
Rosenberg: He was a very generous man. He gave the land for the cemetery,
and the land for the school, which is now the recreation club
(they bought more land later). And a generous amount of land
to the Catholic church.
And in more recent years (I m not sure whether Walter s
mother was still living or not) the family donated land for the
Episcopal church here in San Ardo. If those are things you mean.
One story is that Meyer Brandenstein built this very steep
and rather dreadful road from Paris Valley to Lockwood, known as
the San Ardo-Lockwood grade (I think he hired Chinese laborers
to build it) so that the people from Lockwood could get their
grain to the railroad. But that is a legend. These are things
so long before my time that I really don t remember.
And also, he really must have been what was known as a
character. If he were sitting on his front porch and the train
didn t stop, I understand he would get in his buggy and get the
next train to San Francisco [to the railroad offices], and then
they all stopped for a while. Occasionally they would try to
run one past him.
He could see from his front porch if they stopped or not,
and whether anybody got on or off. You know, they were supposed
to stop. But that again is a story.
Teiser: Do you think that the town, as it was laid out originally, (and
there s a map in the San Ardo book, Portrait of a Town) was his
Rosenberg: Actually, the railroad did it; they laid out these three towns
that I know of, and I m sure, many more. These were his
specifications of 25-foot lots, however, in the town of San Ardo.
In San Lucas, the lots were bigger, and in King City the lots
Rosenberg: were much bigger. I think the size of the lots was set at that
because it was his land, or Godchaux s land; and they didn t know
about any lots except 25-foot lots.
There s a book by this author, Ruth Brans ten McDougall, have
you read it, What Makes Manny Run? Well, that has some mention
of the Brandenstein family; I think it mentions the Godchauxs, too.
Aunt Flora said it s not very accurate. She didn t care for
that book at all. But the lady that wrote it was a descendant, I
think, of that Brandenstein [M.J. Brandenstein]. I ve met her.
She s a very interesting woman and she seemed to know more about
the Godchauxs and the Brandensteins than we did, really.
Walter s family was not very communicative. They d tell
many stories, but if you showed interest and asked a question, then
they d say, "Oh, I forget that." And they wouldn t tell you any
But I know their house in San Francisco was dynamited during
1906, I know that. And I think that Meyer Brandenstein had died
within the year before it. Their house was on Van Ness*; and then
they moved to a flat,** and stayed, I think, in that flat til the
mother [Fanny] died, which had to be some thirty years, almost.
Twenty-five to thirty years.
And Joe Rosenberg s mother, apparently, had a big house, too,***
which was not dynamited; and Walter always said he remembered going
to Grandma Lena s, and then being sent down here with a nurse as
soon as the railroad was running. But, I don t know if you know,
the trains weren t running for several days.
He was seven years old at the time of the earthquake and
fire. And he did talk about that quite a bit. Not to me so much,
because I wasn t born yet, but to people who would come down that
Naturally, it must have made a terrific impression on a child
that age; and I know his grandfather, Meyer Brandenstein, was dead
by then, because he never mentioned getting his grandfather out of
*1305 Van Ness
**at 2442 Clay Street
***at 2123 Jackson Street. She was Lena (Mrs. Samuel) Rosenberg.
San Bernardo Rancho and the Town of San Ardo,
aerial view taken in June 1974 by William F. Winchell.
The railroad tracks are at the left, the Salinas River
The town lies close to the eastern foothills of the Southern Salinas Valley.
This view of the northern part of San Ardo shows a lima bean field, the town
water towers, and, at the right, rail cars on a siding next to the main line.
At the entrance to San Ardo from the south is a marker created for the 1976
Bicentennial celebration. It is topped by a sculpture of a cowboy mounted
on an oil well, which was made by Gene Delaney. The curved road to the left
is Cattleman Road. At the right is Godchaux Street.
The San Bernardo grange hall is on Main Street. The town water tower stands
next to the building. This photograph was taken on a Sunday in September,
1980, when the annual flea market was being held on the streets beside and
in front of the hall.
Lopez Market on Main Street, across from the San Bernardo grange
San Ardo s major general store.
One of the oldest buildings in San Ardo, this was originally the residence
of the manager of the Southern Pacific Milling Company. It is on Jolon Street.
Another of San Ardo 5 oldest buildings, this was originally the Robinson
Brothers store. It is now an apartment building. It is on Jolon and
A typical modern home, at Rico and Martin Streets,
A community of stationary mobile homes on Godchaux Street.
The San Ardo branch of. the county library on Main Street. There was but
is no longer a Justice Court in the town.
The playing field of the San Ardo unified district primary school, with the
school buildings in the background.
Joseph Rosenberg Memorial Auditorium, High School, San Ardo
The R M Bar Cafe on Cattleman Road, serving Mexican and American food,
is the longest- lived restaurant in San Ardo as of 1981, It has been for
periods the only one.
The San Ardo cemetery. The land was given by Meyer Brandenstein.
A cemetery district was later created to maintain it.
Saint Matthew s Episcopal Church
Our Lady of Ransom Catholic Church
Rosenberg: the house. And I think he had been confined to a wheelchair
the last year he lived. He was a very heavy man, a short, heavy
Teiser: In this little town, was he the unofficial mayor? Was he the
one who was the center of the town in the early days?
Rosenberg: I don t know; I ve heard all these stories about him. He was
rather dynamic, I m sure. They just came and went. There is no
mayor, as such, as you know.
San Ardo People and Their Activities
Teiser: Who else lived here then; what brought people here besides the
Rosenberg: The railroad brought many people of Basque descent, and many people
of French descent, and then there were a few of the original
California Spanish here. One of the grocery stores when I was
married was still run by Joe Alvarado, who was descended from an
early governor. However, there are no descendants of theirs around
The families that came, many of them were from Alsace-
Lorraine. They were Alsatians, some Alsatians; it was the war of
1870 that sent them here, you see.
There s a valley across the river here, that we call Paris
Valley. And the Tresconys were instrumental in bringing many of
the Basque people here as sheepherders.
There was, still is, I think, what we call the Basque hotel
in San Francisco, I think it s Hotel Espana. Isn t it still there
down on Broadway?
There are still Basque hotels, but that hotel is gone.
But that was where people would go to find laborers , and sheep-
herders. The Tresconys brought many of the Basques in here
because Julius Trescony s mother was a Basque, and her family
owned that hotel at one time. Do you know the name of Aguirre?
Well, her name was Aguirre; and I believe they had come to San
Francisco from San Sebastian. After all, this isn t the only
place where there are Basques.
Rosenberg: When I was first married and went to church here, it was a very
linguistic area; people talked French and Basque, as well as
English, after church. And Spanish. Now, they talk a great deal
of Spanish and some English; very little Basque and French.
Teiser: The French people, did they take up farms?
Rosenberg: Well, that was all there was here, farming. There was no industry,
as such. The cattle, sheep. Sheep are very much Basque and French.
In the Midwest, you know, you can see that. And if they raise
sheep in the Midwest, I find out they never eat the meat, they
sell the wool; have you heard that? I m the type of person that,
when I have guests, I m inclined to have a leg of lamb, because
we eat our beef very rare. And when I say rare, it is rare; I only
cook roasts for people I know. But if I just have somebody
coming in; I m inclined to have a leg of lamb; and I ve been
surprised at the number of people that never eat lamb.
Jewish people are very fond of lamb; all Mediterranean people
eat lamb. And Irish people are equally fond of it. And Basque
people. All eat lamb; and I don t cook my lamb in the French
style, I cook it in, I don t know what you would call it, maybe
the Irish style? Well-done. Pink lamb doesn t appeal to me. But
many of these people, maybe they only had it pink. In my case
it was because Walter couldn t stand to see lamb pink. The beef,
we d eat it rare.
Teiser: The people who took up the lots in the town I assume it wasn t
immediately sold out
Rosenberg: There were many left after I was married. The family owned the
town water system, and a great many lots. Many had been sold, but
they still owned quite a few; the family no longer owns any lots
in the town as it is laid out, and as it is defined on the maps.
But the people that bought lots were well, I think there
were the Chiappones. He was Italian and had a hotel, which is
now a labor camp. Very few people bought lots, when I think
about it. There were Wittmans, and well, there was a great deal
of railroad land around here too, you know.
Teiser: Did people sometimes live in San Ardo and work land outside?
Rosenberg: Not to my knowledge. There were very few people living in the
town when I was married, and they either had stores or restaurants.
There ve always been a couple of restaurants, and a couple of
stores, at times three or four stores.
Rosenberg: No, people that buy lots are people like people that work in
the oil fields. And the Chiappones owned quite a few lots. Their
sons have houses on them, and the mother s still living. Now that
takes up quite a piece of the town of San Ardo.
There were service stations, which have mostly closed, due
to one thing and another. There are still three, but they re
open a little spasmodically. Then there s a garage, and one
restaurant that isn t open* and one restaurant that is. There
aren t too many businesses in a small town.
There s a grange hall. There s a sign out there as you go
Teiser: Four hundred and forty-five population is that accurate?
Rosenberg: It s from the last census. I don t know. I don t think it s
changed much since then. There are a few what you d call pensioners,
people living on social security, elderly people that have never
moved away .
What houses are for sale are snapped up immediately; there s
always somebody looking for a house. There aren t many. I m
trying to think of what house has been built recently. We had
two new houses last year. They were both built by young couples
with growing families. One man works for Howard Sandich, who is
a contractor for the oil fields; the other man has trucks and
But those were two new houses, which was rather unusual in
one year for San Ardo; and both built by couples in their thirties,
with young children. And they re nice houses.
Teiser: Did people buy, actually, 25-foot lots, or did they buy two of
them and put a house in the center?
Rosenberg: Well, fliere is a subdivision down here which Walter s father, I
believe, created, but there was very little on it. We call it
the Brinan subdivision, because Walter sold it to some man who
eventually sold it to Bill Brinan, and I think the lots are
probably varied. They re 60 to 90 feet.
Teiser: As I go along and look around, it didn t seem to me that the lots
were so narrow, but maybe I just wasn t observing.
*It later reopened.
No, you haven t seen it, you only see it on a map. I don t
think anybody bought a 25-foot lot. But I m sure they re defined
that way on the tax bill. I have seen the map of the town and
that s the way they were laid out.
The people who owned stores, of course, bought lots. Most
of the original lots that were sold were on the road coming from
the depot, for business purposes; it led directly to the school,
as I recall. Then the highway, instead of going along the old
county road, went through in a circular arc, and then there were
more lots sold along there.
And consequently, because of the way the Cattlemens Road
goes, there are a few three-cornered lots that nobody knows what
to do with.
Is the state highway the same as what is now called Cattlemens or
Cattlemans Road (we see it both ways) ?
Approximately the same road, with some changes in grade, etcetera.
One of those three-cornered lots has nice rosebushes in it now.
That s a 4-H project; it used to have a Christmas tree, and the
Christmas tree did not thrive. This is as near as we have to a
little park. It was put in about the time of the Bicentennial.
It is nice; it makes a little change.
And there is the recreation club here that has the barbecue
pits and tables down here by the teacherage. The teacherage is
actually built on what was school property that Walter s grand
father gave to them, and when they built a new school they felt
they needed a lot more land; so they acquired a much bigger piece,
up toward town. The school has the most land in the town;
naturally they don t pay taxes.
Is there a municipal government now?
You don t have city taxes, just county taxes?
They do have county taxes; we are part of the county.
In the social life of the town there are so many varying people,
Rosenberg: Years ago, I think the grange might have been the center of the
social life, but I rather doubt that it still is. In the twenties,
for instance, they had a dance hall. It was upstairs somewhere.
I always remember that, because we occasionally came to dances
here. Those were Saturday night affairs. My feeling would be
that social life is rather nil in San Ardo, if you are looking
for Culture. But I think you find that everywhere. I think
television ruins social life. In small areas particularly.
Teiser: But the schoolhouses were kind of social centers, too, in earlier
Rosenberg: I think you re thinking before my time.
Teiser: You said, however, there was a hall next to your Oasis school-
Rosenberg: Yes, and they had dances occasionally.
Teiser: Are there any other things that Meyer Brandenstein did that created
what s here now, today?
Rosenberg: As I say, I suppose what was inherited from him was the town
water system. But that has been turned over to a water commission.
There are small county commissions. There s a board for the
cemetery, which is supported by county taxes. And there s this
water and sewer commission that s I can t explain. I think most
of the people serve without recompense. The water and the sewer,
I believe, go together, and I think that has a tax. Somebody does
get a small salary for sending out the water bills and sewer bills,
and they have a little building over by the grange hall.
And there is a county library here. A very nice woman, Winnie
Hazen, runs it, and the children get quite a bit of use out of
that. She s a conscientious librarian; and in the summer she ll
have readings for the children on certain afternoons, which is
very nice. My daughter s found bar very helpful in getting any
books the children need for their extra reading. The school
does have a library, but the county library is helpful to the
I notice each teacher taking her class over to the library,
possibly once a week, and I know it s for the extra reading, and
for the things that Winnie gets for them. So that really is, I
think, a great help to the school, and I suppose saves them from
Rosenberg: Right now, there s a Red Cross swimming program going on, that
goes on every year; and that s volunteer, as you know, and very
good. The swimming pool belongs to the school and is administered
by it. However, it is maintained by private funds.
I think all that would be considered quite good; I really do,
for the size of the town, and the varied interests. They have
the reputation of having quite a good school, with a good board.
Rosenberg: You seldom hear of very much praise of the public schools, but
since my grandchildren have been going here, I have felt it was
quite good. And they came from a much larger school.
Teiser: Your daughter
Rosenberg: She s very pleased with it.
Teiser: But doesn t she do some work for it, too? She probably adds to
Rosenberg: But it was good when she came in. It so happens that most of the
people on the board have been her contemporaries.
San Ardo Streets and Structures
[Interview 3: June 26, 1980 ]##
Teiser: You told us, when we were visiting here earlier, that some of the
streets of San Ardo were named for specific people.
Rosenberg: The street, or road, at least, to the cemetery, is called Rico.
There was a man named Francisco Rico, or Pancho Rico, that the
little creek up here was named for. He was one of the original
owners of the San Bernardo rancho.
So one street is named Rico and there s also Pancho Rico
Road. Then there s a street named Martin, which, I believe, was for
one of the early foremen on the ranch, and an old family in this
area: John Mar Lin.
There s a street called Jolon, which is logical; it goes
across the river and out in that area, towards Jolon. And the
wide street in town is Main Street. And Railroad Avenue is
because there was a Railroad Avenue in San Francisco, where all
the wholesale butchers were. My grandmother lived off that street,
and I remember when it was called Railroad Avenue, before it was
Rosenberg: Annette Street was named after a Godchaux daughter, so I ve been
told. There are no streets named for the Brandensteins. College
Street was named because the school was there. There s a Godchaux
Street. Center is the continuation of the lane to my house, I
believe. The Catholic church is on College Avenue, and the school
was moved from there up to Center.
I get these streets occasionally confused with the streets
in San Lucas. Those in San Lucas were named for the Trescony
Teiser: What about Pleyto?
Rosenberg: Is there a street called Pleyto?
Teiser: On the map.
Rosenberg: Oh, well, that s the one that runs into the Pancho Rico creek,
and there s no street there any more. The Pancho Rico s changed
its course. This is a creek that, when it rains heavily and the
creek flows for several days it s very high, and it will wash out
a great deal of land. And it took that street.
I don t think anybody lives on Pleyto Street; but Pleyto is
an area over towards Lockwood, so I suppose they just named it
after that town. Pleyto is a little area like Jolon. Pleyto
is much south of Jolon, so maybe there was another road through
the hills, when you cross the river, before they had bridges, or
Teiser: Where did Meyer Brandenstein live here?
Rosenberg: Well, my daughter lives there. It s across the Pancho Rico.
Teiser: It s outside the town plan?
Rosenberg: Oh, yes.
Teiser: To the south?
Rosenberg: More east than south, in that direction.
Teiser: Is it far from the rail line?
Rosenberg: Not very far; it s about as far as this house is from it, about a
quarter of a mile. It s across the Pancho Rico, which is the
natural southern boundary of the town.
That was originally an adobe home?
Never to my knowledge. There is an adobe there that was built
by Meyer Brandenstein for a store room. Who built the original
house, I m not sure.
I believe I ve showed you the original U.S. Surveyor s
plat of the grant [dated May 19, 1859]. It s hanging on the wall
in the dining room.
I have the guarantee of title by the United States, after
California became a state. The man to whom the grant was confirmed
was a Soberanes.
I don t know whether he built the original house or not; the
house had been one story, and Walter s father, Joe Rosenberg,
added a second story. But the grape arbor and the fountain that
are still there, and the bunkhouse, I believe, and the barns, were
originally built by Meyer Brandenstein.*
The adobe was also built by him; it s just a square adobe that
people used to build for storerooms. They were cool, and you kept,
before the days of refrigeration, the slaughtered meat there.
It had a screen. There still is the old screen cupboard where
they kept the milk pans, I m sure, and things like that.
Then when was this house built?
This house was built about 1940.
And the lane of trees was just
And you built at the end of it?
Not really at the end of it; we were limited by the power and
telephone line. We needed the telephone, we needed the power
line, and this was the most logical place to put it. There are
more trees down the lane,
That goes down, I don t know the exact
That was the practical reason for choosing this site. The
lane was here, in dire need of clearing at that time. And the
electricity and the telephone were available.
You did landscaping, did you?
Well, I suppose we did, but after forty years, it s pretty over
grown right now. It could stand a little clearing out. The
west side of the river is much prettier.
*See photographs pages 36 and 62.
Two views of the Meyer Brandenstein house. The second
story was added sometime between 1916 and 1920.
The ranch headquarters sign, with corrals in the background.
460 is the fire department s code for the location.
The shop and foreman s house, ranch headquarters.
The tree-lined lane leading to Mrs. Walter Rosenberg s home is known as
Rosenberg Lane. The trees were planted by Meyer Brandenstein.
A field of lima beans to the west of Rosenberg Lane,
Mrs. Walter Rosenberg s home.
Mrs. Walter Rosenberg during interview.
The bed of the Salinas River as viewed westward from near the cemetery.
Looking eastward at part of the San Ardo oil field, about eight miles south
of the town of San Ardo.
The Ranch and Its Water Supply
Teiser: The ranch itself. Was it originally, as Meyer Brandenstein had it,
cattle alone, or did he have some crops?
Rosenberg: As far as I know, and I m not very definite about this, there was
probably very little, if any, farming on it. He did have an
orchard put in, and I know that he particularly bought it for
the pasture. I m sure of that; he particularly bought it to hold
cattle until they were ready for slaughter. And I m sure, as
much as you ve read of the people like the Soberanes, they really
didn t have anything but cattle. To my knowledge, they had hides,
they had tallow, which are by-products of cattle; and that was
their main commodity of trade.
The farming was very incidental then. What I imagine they
may have done is cut wild hay in good years. It was as much
agriculture as either the Mexican government, or those people who
settled under the Spanish government, had. But you always read
about their selling their hides and their tallow; in fact I
think they killed the animals for the hide and the tallow.
Did you ever read Two Years Before the Mast? I think that
was what they traded with. This ranch did not have one, but on
most of the old grants you d have a vineyard of some kind. On
this one, Meyer Brandenstein put in the orchard.
Teiser: Did he start leasing the land along the river, do you think, for
crops later, or
Rosenberg: I have very little knowledge of that. That must have started
probably about the time of his death, or somewhere in there.
We have a few pictures. One shows sort of a meadow with
cattle in it; and the other one shows the people playing croquet
in the front yard, I believe. And pictures of him in the hammock,
on the front porch.*
But I know they had a Chinese laboring crew; and I somehow
connect them with the orchard. I don t connect them with the
Teiser: Did he have dairy cattle?
Rosenberg: No, I don t think so; I ve never heard that he did. Undoubtedly,
everybody had a milk cow for the house, or a couple.
Teiser: When Joe Rosenberg took over, did he start leasing out land?
*See pages 35 and 36.
Rosenberg: I think he did that early development, with the irrigation. I
know he did. At the time I was married, he hadn t been dead
very long. I recall there was 1,000 acres of irrigated land
which had been developed over the years. And there were two
dairy ranches, but those were leased to dairymen.
They themselves didn t have dairies, but there were two
dairies on the ranch that I know of, because there s still a
dairy barn up there, and anyone can tell a dairy barn. It s a
long barn. It s entirely different from a horse barn.
Teiser: What about the water rights on the ranch?
Rosenberg: This is something that we re very concerned about now. We have
the water rights, the riparian rights on both sides of the river
for twelve miles. We have them if nobody takes them away from
us and they re not for sale.
Teiser: How could they be taken away?
Rosenberg: Legislation. That s one of my great worries.
Teiser: This is not federally irrigated?
Rosenberg: No, that had nothing to do with this area. But, haven t you ever
heard of how Los Angeles will steal water wherever they can find
it? ! There s a piece in the Chronicle today about it. And, you
know, Southern California s going to get all the water they can,
and they ll take it wherever they can get it. They have the votes
to pass the legislation to get it. The California riparian laws
are very complicated. In fact, I asked a man, the other day, at
Davis, who had some connection with the law school, if there
would be any way to have a study of the riparian rights of
California. My own lawyer tells me they re so complicated that
it s a special study of its own.
I know one man that pretends to understand them, and maybe
he does, an engineer. He s expounded to me at great length, but
we don t agree always. He doesn t own any [laughs]
But it s a very complicated subject; it s complicated by
the laws that were made for the hydraulic miners, by laws that
come into hydro-electricity, so I ve been told, written into the
California laws. It covers such a variety of water.
And you do remember the story of Owens Valley, I hope? I
grew up on two water stories; my San Francisco family was very
proud of Hetch Hetchy. I was very young when Hetch Hetchy went in,
but I certainly heard a lot of conversation about it. And it must
have been a very controversial subject then.
Rosenberg: Then later, when I knew more people from Southern California I
heard about Owens Valley. Those are more matters of history now.
But I was alive at the time, a child, but I did tell you that I
spent quite a bit of time at my grandmother s house when I was
a small child. I heard a great deal of adult conversation
because it was a family of adults. And very politically minded,
all with different opinions.
Teiser: I was just thinking Hetch Hetchy was unpopulated when they took
water away, Owens Valley
Rosenberg: It was cle-populated when they took it away, so I ve heard.
Teiser: I was thinking of it in relation to this valley, which is now
Rosenberg: Well, it is of some concern. It s a violent business in this
state. People used to kill over water rights, you know.
Teiser: The Pancho Rico creek here, which sometimes overflows, is that a
source of usable water?
Rosenberg: It comes into the Salinas River; it s just another creek
Teiser: You don t tap it on the way for use on the ranch?
Rosenberg: Well, it d be difficult. It s very dry most of the year.
We don t have any springs on this ranch. A ranch that is watered
by springs considers itself extremely lucky. There may be some
at the very far end of the Pancho Rico, which really rises in
the Peach Tree area.
It s a very interesting ride, if you had time some day to
take it, through the east side of Monterey county. You go along,
and you see the gorge of the Pancho Rico. There used to be a
men s prison up there. It isn t there any more, as far as I
know, and it was more of an honor camp, where they had prisoners
who fought fires and things like that. It s called Slacks Canyon.
Going through that area you would see what I call the gorge
of the Pancho Rico, how deep a gorge it cut in some places. I
really think it s more than a creek, but I don t know that it
has the dignity of the term river. In so many years there s no
water in it.
Teiser: In Joe Rosenberg s time, did he also continue the cattle?
Samuel Rosenberg, father Lena Rosenberg, Joseph
of Joseph Rosenberg Rosenberg s mother
(Mrs. Joseph) Rosenberg
in middle age
Walter Rosenberg and his
mother, Linda Branden
stein Rosenberg, in the
Four generations of Meyer
Bran dens te in s descendants:
Rosenberg Duflock, daughter
Flora Brandenstein holding
great -great -grands on Walter
Duflock, and grandson Walter
Rosenberg: Yes, there were always cattle on the ranch, one way or another.
Sometimes they didn t have very many cattle, and then they d
take cattle in on pasture, which is a very common thing here
was, in this area, still is for some people. When you have
feed and no cattle, that s the way you utilize it, by renting
But there always were cattle on the ranch. As a rule, even
when it was leased, the ranch was in charge of the operation,
more or less. I remember one man had cattle here for many years.
Of course he bought them and sold them, but the men on the ranch,
generally speaking, took care of them. There was always a crew
on the ranch, to mend fences and look after the water, which was
mostly in connection with cattle.
It was during Joe Rosenberg s lifetime that they put this
1,000 acres under water, I m sure, the irrigation. It s been
added to since then quite a bit. So that right now I can t tell
you how many acres there are in the irrigation. But he was
managing it when that was done originally; and again, that was
tenant- farmed .
I m sure when there were dairies here there were no dairies
when I came but I m sure that when there were, this field west
of this house must have been in alfalfa. Just now it s in beets,
beans and carrots.
The Rosenberg Family and the Ranch
I was speaking to Mr. Reuben Albaugh, and he said that Joe
I imagine he knew him quite well.
Yes; he said he was a very fine cattle man. He spoke highly of
his wife, also.
She was a very interesting woman. In our present-day parlance,
she came on strong.
She was Linda, Meyer Brandenstein s daughter.
Teiser: Did she take a hand in running things?
Rosenberg: She left it all up to her husband; and after he died,* she left
it all up to her son. She had nothing to do with managing things
as such. She had many piano lessons, and enjoyed playing the
She was very myopic, and she always took off her glasses to
play the piano because she couldn t see the notes with her glasses
on. I have seen other people that take off their glasses to read,
you know, and she put hers on to look out the window. I guess
one would say she said what she thought, most of the time. She was
a great woman.
Teiser: Was she devoted to this place, or did she like San Francisco
Rosenberg: I think that that would be a very difficult question to answer.
She was a San Franciscian. She lived in San Francisco most of
her life. And when she moved down here, it was more to her like
camping. They didn t really move, they were just staying here
for a while. They d always come to the ranch. Her summers were
always spent at the ranch when she was growing up. It was a summer
place to her, even though she knew full well that that was where
her living came from.
She and her sister Flora [Brandenstein] , I remember, after I
was married, always went to San Francisco for the Jewish holidays,
but they never went to the synagogue. And they always came back
here for the Christian holidays; it was more fun here. The
Jewish holidays all come along in the fall, you know. Are you
familiar with it? The last few years they spent their winters in
Santa Barbara, because when the rainy season began, you were never
too sure there is a good bridge now, across the Pancho Rico but
at that time there wasn t. And you were never too sure if you
could get out in the winter.
For some years they spent their winters in Santa Barbara.
After New Year s, you know, they d usually go down there til
Teiser: Did they observe Friday night services, or anything of that sort?
Rosenberg: 1 told you they never went to the synagogue. They liked to be
in San Francisco when it was the Holy Days, or the ten days in
there between Yom Kippur and something else.
Teiser: Has the family ever become Catholic?
Rosenberg: I m Catholic; no, the family isn t. My daughter s Catholic
and her children. Walter s older children* were brought up
in the Jewish faith, naturally.
Teiser: The ranch was always quite profitable?
Rosenberg: That would very much depend on whom you spoke to. From my point
of view, it was. The fact that the family could live off it
without working particularly, made it seem to me that it must
have been profitable. Their living was from the ranch.
I would say, well, I couldn t see where anybody did much
Teiser: They lived comfortably?
Rosenberg: I thought so. But comparatively, as many people do, they, I
think at times felt poor, because they had such wealthy relatives.
That s the only explanation I could give, but I felt it must ve
been very profitable. So many people were able to live off it.
And because it was all tenant- farmed, you have to realize that
they had never any great investment in machinery. Though at one
time they kept horses for the use of the tenants.
As a matter of fact, the twentieth century was very slow in
reaching San Ardo, I ve always said. When I was married, everybody
else in the county that I knew was farming with tractors, and I
looked out my window, and saw this man cultivating beans with
horses. I didn t fall out the window, but I was awfully surprised.
Teiser: That was about 1940?
Rosenberg: 38. I say the twentieth century is very slow in getting to San
Ardo. About ten years ago, they had the rural free delivery.
Also, when I was married, there were only four telephones in the
town. And I had lived on a ranch, and had never been without a
telephone to my knowledge. It might not have been the best phone,
because it was a country line; but I had never been in a house
without a telephone any more than I had lived in a house without a
bathtub, and I used to wonder which I d rather do without!
*Ruth Ann and Gorden Rosenberg, and Janet Rosenberg Lynch.
Oil and Cattle
Teiser: The oil wells I think this was in the Portrait of a Town early
on, Joe Rosenberg had formed a company to explore for oil, called
Rosenberg: That s long before my time. I do remember it, and I know where
the location was; it was over in Paris Valley. But it was not
profitable at all.
Teiser: Was it on this ranch?
Rosenberg: Yes. As far as I know, there was a seepage of oil, and they
drilled. But they didn t discover any oil in paying quantities.
In this country, you must know, there are seepages of oil
in various places; but the real discovery of oil here, and
development of oil, was on the east side, what you call Sargent
Teiser: When did that come, then?
Rosenberg: I was afraid you d ask me that, I d have to look in a book to find
out. I think you re asking me a lot of questions to which you
already know the answers .
Teiser: Well, not necessarily, and you re correcting some things I ve read
that are wrong. But I do have a press release that General
Petroleum put out in 1972 that says the San Ardo field was
discovered in 1947.*
Rosenberg: They didn t develop it for a while, because it s extremely heavy
oil, and they had to develop a system to get it out of the ground.
Rosenberg: [looking at album] It s a long time since I looked at this picture.
This is the first successful well. There s absolutely no date on
it! I thought I had clippings.
Teiser: It must ve been a big day when they brought in the first one.
Rosenberg: Well, I don t think it was on this ranch, it was on the Lombardi
Teiser: There s an oil field south of here. There is a turn-off on 101.
Rosenberg: That is Alvarado Road. That s the San Ardo oil field. It s
operated by Texaco and Mobil; it s quite large.
Teiser: I gather that this development was something that happened gradually
then. It wasn t just that one day you didn t have oil and the next
day you had a lot of oil?
Rosenberg: No, it took a long time, several years, to even develop it. At
that time it was a different process to get the oil out, to make
It flows to a I don t know just what they call that plant,
a mixing plant or something. They have to pipe in light oil to
mix with this heavy crude, and then pipe the heavy crude back to
Estero Bay. That s where it all goes out.
Estero Bay, down by Morro Bay, is where the tankers come in;
and that s how this oil goes out of here, through a pipeline
that goes through Hames Valley and Hesperia, through the hills.
And there are two lines; one brings the light oil back here
to mix with the heavy crude. Then it s mixed, and they have
another process of heating it to get it out of the well.
Actually, I think what made this more desirable than anything
is the fact that this heavy crude makes jet fuel. So I ve been
told. I am no authority on any of this.
Teiser: In the oil field, there is a series of what look like stacks, with
some kind of emission coming out
Rosenberg: Well, they have to heat this oil, and now they are heating the
ground with steam injection to even get the oil out of the ground.
Teiser: We were looking at the Salinas Californian files on the south end
of the county, and there wasn t much.
Rosenberg: I shouldn t get on the subject because I feel so strongly about
it. In Salinas, they really aren t sure that we are part of the
county. The county line goes to Camp Roberts.
For fire protection and the sheriffs, and police protection,
I think we do at least as well as could be expected. But because
Salinas is the county seat, what happens down here is not of
paramount importance to them. And we have very little representa
tion. We used to have a supervisor in the King City area, and then
Rosenberg: one for south of King City. But because of our population, which
is small, compared to that at Salinas, and the one-man, one-vote
we lost most of the representation we had. One man has this
large territory to take care of, which extends from the coast,
from the Pacific Ocean, all the way to the San Benito County line.
And one man really has great difficulty representing that. And
then it goes as far as Salinas.
So that, area-wise, it s very unfair.
Teiser: The county is fairly homogeneous, is it?
Rosenberg: It s primarily agriculture.
Teiser: So that there aren t such dissimilar things to represent?
Rosenberg: No, the whole Salinas valley is agriculture. The biggest industry
for years and years was Spreckels Sugar factory. For many years,
from 1880s, I believe, I don t remember the exact dates, that was
the biggest industry for the county.
And the cattle industry has always been very important around
here, which is much more of a business now than just turning cows
loose in the hills. And this intensive row-crop farming. But
still, there doesn t seem any way much to go in this county except
agriculture. The Monterey Peninsula has little understanding of
agriculture because they have so many retired people there. And
their business, I suppose one could say. It used to be the
sardine factories. So there always was a difference. But now
there aren t any sardine factories, except a restaurant called
that. And, tourism. Of course, it s a beautiful area, and it was
the first capitol; and it has a great deal going for it in the
way of tourism and retired people. They are trying to promote a
medical center there now.
Teiser: Do you feel that the rest of the county has much in common with
Rosenberg: I think we do, because we have great pride in it. We have pride
in the fact that Monterey was the first capitol. It has a great
deal of historical appeal, I think, to most people in the valley.
We are glad to have it, but sometimes they don f know we re here.
Teiser: Its problems must be quite different
Rosenberg: They have big military installations over there, you know. They
Teiser: We took off at a tangent when I said that the Salinas Calif ornian
file on the south end of the county hasn t got much in it. The
only thing I remember there was more than one piece on was oil,
and there was a picture of laying pipe from San Ardo. It said
that the pipe had been from some other oil field *
Rosenberg: Yes. The first oil company I remember here was Jergins oil; and
they were bought by General Petroleum, and General Petroleum had
a plant over in Bel Ridge or Bellevue, somewhere in the Taft area.
I don t know which town. And they brought this plant over, and
that s what they installed to transfer this oil to the coast.
Teiser: Was it much after the field came in?
Rosenberg: I would say maybe several years.
Teiser: Up to that point what had they been doing with the oil, trucking
Rosenberg: No, they hadn t been pumping it. This is what 1 think. Now
really, I was right here, but I was very busy with other things,
and I really never took the oil seriously.
Teiser: You had a small child.
Rosenberg: I did. You can tell from the pictures in that book [album] that
Margaret wasn t very big. I really hadn t taken the oil too
seriously anyway. I was surprised. Nobody was more surprised
than I was that it became so lucrative.
General Petroleum company, I know, put in that dismantled
plant to transfer the oil to the coast. Then General Petroleum
sold out to Mobil; and the plant has been updated, I m sure, in
the last thirty years, or twenty-five, and is used jointly by
Mobil and Texaco.
At one time most of the oil flowing through it was Mobil, and
now a high percentage is Texaco. Those are things I know. But
as to dates, I really would have to search somewhere for them.
Does it make any difference in the operation of this ranch? For
instance, was there land under cultivation that s now oil fields?
Rosenberg: No, it was pasture.
Teiser: Then you did lose some pasture land?
Rosenberg: Not a great deal. You d be surprised. Sometimes you go down
there and see the cattle wandering through the oil fields. This
is a large ranch, about twelve thousand acres, and the amount they
lost to that was not a great deal.
Teiser: Did it make any difference in the operation of the ranch?
Rosenberg: Everybody became suddenly rich. [laughter]
Teiser: Did everybody buy a new pump or something they d been always
Rosenberg: It didn t make, I suppose, as much difference in the lifestyle of
the family as one might have thought. They weren t living so
poorly anyway. They bought more cars and things like that; but
they d always bought cars, so it really didn t seem that different.
Teiser: Did they put some money into the ranch that they would not have?
Rosenberg:- Big improvements, not as much as you might have thought, and not
as much as should have been done, really. The fences were
rebuilt that needed it, and there s quite a system of roads through
the ranch that were carved out, and oiled, and that have been kept
Then there are a couple of new houses. But there hasn t
been as much done as one would have thought because of the fact
that the oil came from the ranch. But there has been some
development since. And of course it s more expensive than ever
to put in wells and bring in irrigation; but I think the irrigation
is more sophisticated now than it was then.
Some of it has been just keeping up what was there, and
some of it has been improved. For instance, there s a good bridge
across the Pancho Rico now.
Teiser: Did the operation of the ranch change at all?
Rosenberg: The same foreman is here that was here when I was first married;
we came together.
Teiser: What s his name?
Rosenberg: Paul Strohm.
Teiser: So the leases continued and the cattle ranching continued, and
Rosenberg: The ranching operation has improved, of course, but that s more
due to the tenants, and new ways of things. I suppose, we have
a better or more profitable breed of cattle than we did, but
they never were too bad.
Mr. Albaugh said that this ranch had always been "cooperators.
I guess that s the word they use for people who cooperate with
the University of California Agricultural Extension programs.
At the time I was married, Rube Albaugh was the Extension Service
man down here. And they did have a selective program of breeding
of some kind that I really can t use the correct term for. It
went on for some years. This was something that he and Walter
were carrying out.
They came once or twice a month to put tags in the cows
ears, or something; that s when I saw him the most. I had
known him before, but then I knew him during those years. And
I think when he left, well, the program was given up shortly
Teiser: He said that you were all very kind, and would allow other cattle
people to come and see what had been done here
Rosenberg: Oh, yes, well, everybody does that that has any program with the
Extension Service. That s inherent in the program; it s for
research, and it s for everybody s benefit.
Teiser: You must have done something here unusually well for him to be
so enthusiastic, because he seemed to set the ranch apart from
Rosenberg: Well, it was a big ranch, for one thing; and he and Walter were
quite friendly. I know there are other people that he was at
least equally, if not more so, friendly with.
But they, I think, got along very well together; I m sure
that he was easy for Walter to work with, and Walter was probably
easy for him to work with. And Paul Strohm remembers him well.
He says, "When you see him, be sure and remember me to him." He
would like to see him again.
Teiser: I guess Joe Rosenberg s interest was mainly continuing things.
But did your husband have any special interests about ways the
ranch should go, innovations?
Rosenberg: Yes, he was maybe more interested in irrigation than his father.
But it s still his father that inaugurated it. He was more
interested in mechanical things, and he was a cattleman but not
a cowboy. He was interested in the upbreeding of the cattle and
in improving watering systems. He was more mechanically minded, I
used to think. More mechanically minded than livestock-minded.
But he would never have given up the cattle for anything else.
Teiser: What specific things did his mechanical interests take him into, then?
Rosenberg: Mostly new automobiles* [laughter]
Teiser: Not tractors, not graders
Rosenberg: Yes, he did see that the men had trucks to take the cattle from
here to there, instead of driving them, and things like that. He
saw to that, and electric pumps for water. He was extremely
interested in the local dams and worked to have them built. He
served on many county commissions.
Walter had many personal charities which he never mentioned. I
learned about some later. Many I m sure I will never learn of.
Teiser: Had he had a specific education for farming or ranching?
Rosenberg: He went this is something I m not sure of at all he went for a
couple of years to the University of California, and I think he took
a course in horticulture at Davis, and that s about all I know.
Teiser: He d grown up in ?an Francisco, had he?
Rosenberg: Graduate of Lowell High School; had the true Lowell High School
accent. He was in the service, I think, after he got out of
high school. He was quite young when he went in the service for
World War I. He d been very interested in airplanes; he was in
the early aviation, but not as a pilot.
He learned to fly after. Well, I suppose I should have
mentioned that he got an airplane after he had oil; and he learned
to fly. I said he was more interested in mechanical things!
Teiser: That s why the airstrip just to the east here!
Rosenberg: That airstrip is at least thirty-five years old. So maybe I
could date the oil from that. I m sure he didn t get the airstrip
built until they had the oil to pave it with, and the airplane
to put in the hangar.
Teiser: Then after the service, he came here to live?
Rosenberg: He married, and yes; I think he went to college a very short
short time after the service. I m trying to think, his oldest
daughter was born in 1923, and they were living here when she was
born. She is Janet Lynch; she lives in Pebble Beach, you know.
But she did live here on the ranch for many years. I ve had to
look up her birth so often that I know it was 1923; December.
Teiser: And then a son, too? Yes Gordon.
Rosenberg: They were living here when he was born, also. Then the family
moved to Salinas. But that s a period I really don t know a
great deal about. The two older children went to school in
Salinas, and the youngest, Ruth Ann, was born there. But by the
time she went to school, they had moved to San Francisco, and
Walter and his wife were divorced.
So that his three oldest children went to school in San
Francisco, except for a short time in Salinas. It might have
been longer than I think; I really don t know.
Teiser: And your daughter Margaret was born
Rosenberg: She was born here. She went to school here. She always has
lived here, except for the years since she was married that she
spent in El Centre. And she was there for thirteen years.
And then her husband, William G. Duflock, is, at the minute,
flying out of Houston, and she s back living in her grandmother s
Teiser: He s a commercial pilot?
Teiser: You ve got lots of flying in your family.
Rosenberg: And Gordon flies, too. He and his father learned together.
Teiser: Does he live here on the ranch?
Rosenberg: Yes; on further south. Margaret is living in the old ranch house,
and he lives about maybe a mile or two further south. It s a
Teiser: Does he take an active part in the management of the ranch?
Rosenberg: Yes, and he has a walnut orchard on the ranch.
Teiser: Is he interested in cattle, too?
Rosenberg: Not particularly; he s more interested in farming and irrigation.
Teiser: So who handles the cattle, the foreman?
Rosenberg: The same foreman that s been doing it. I think this ranch has
only had four or five foremen. The first one I ever heard of
was this John Martin. There might have been somebody before him.
And then there was one for a brief period of time there in the
twenties, and the man s name escapes me now, because they didn t
mention him very often. He wasn t there long enough to make a
And the next foreman was a man named Bill Nattrass, who was
there for many years, anyway. And then another, Junnie Bernard,
then a man named Charlie Johnson was there a short time. And
then Paul Strohm. There may have been others whose names I
don t know.
Teiser: The cattle business has not changed ?
Rosenberg: We hope it s improved, but
Teiser: I mean, you sell your cattle through generally the same channels?
Rosenberg: You can only sell them to cattle buyers, and if there are any
that are rejected by the cattle buyers, they go to an auction
Instead of driving the cattle to the r-.ilroad and loading
them on boxcars, the trucks come to the ranch and pick them up
at the corrals.
You have scales at two different corrals, sets of corrals,
so the cattle can be weighed and loaded from there. Which is
a much easier operation. It still entails a lot of work.
Somebody has to get on horseback and round them up and load
them. But it s not as difficult as driving them to the railroad,
and then you used to hold them in the railroad corrals overnight.
Rosenberg: And the thought is coming back that people may be doing that with
the energy shortage. They may go back to shipping by rail. I
don t know how likely that is.
Teiser: You may look out and find the man cultivating the fields
Rosenberg: with the horse again. I m afraid it would take years to train
Teiser: Do you buy cattle at all?
Rosenberg This is what is known, I believe, as a cow-and-calf operation.
We buy bulls. And the cows are culled every year, so I would say
that we raise the good heifers.
It is known as a cow-and-calf operation in the trade.
Teiser: I understand that you ve been on some boards, and worked on some
civic and general public affairs.
Rosenberg: Really the only county board I ve been on for some years, I think,
is what is known as the Social Service; it used to be known as
Welfare. At the minute I m hoping I can find someone to take my
place. The Red Cross I would like to continue with, because I m
turning all the difficult parts of the Red Cross over to my
friends. But I am still on the board for a while. It would be
wise if I found someone to. take that over, too.
Teiser: Someone told me that if there was anything that went on in
Monterey county, you knew about it.
Rosenberg: I m afraid they were talking about someone else. The county at
large often escapes me.
Public Service and Community Affairs
[Interview 4: September 30, 1980 ]##
Teiser: We wanted to ask more about your service on the Social Service
commission of the county. When you were first appointed?
Rosenberg: I ve been on it too long, I know that. Maybe six, seven years
ago. Whatever the supervisor s term is, I ve had two terms and
I m into the third one.
Teiser: Are there many social needs that are acute?
Rosenberg: The social need that I can think of right now that really I would
say is acute is a convalescent home of some kind in King City
for the older people who are not able to take care of themselves.
There was a combination home for ambulatory patients and
temporary shelter, but it had been closed.
Teiser: Was it run by some government agency?
Rosenberg: That particular thing was run through the Social Service. They
call it a temporary shelter, until they can get these people
established somewhere. People that have run out of funds.
Particularly in winter, you can t have people sleeping in the
The convalescent home was for ambulatory patients, so it
really wasn t so much a convalescent home. But the two were run
together in an old hospital. And the property was sold, and so
as a consequence the old people that were there had to go to
Greenfield, which was the next best place. But it didn t
satisfy them, because that s too far. Their friends don t drop
in to see them. If they re old and can t drive, there they are.
The other thing that they ask for quite often in King City,
and that is operation I believe, is a children s day shelter.
I am on this Social Service commission because there are so few
people to draw from to represent the south end of the county.
I m just looking for somebody who would like to take my position.
Teiser: There is a day center now?
Rosenberg: There is one. Whether it s big enough or adequate, I really
don t know much about that, because I don t come in contact with
the young working mothers .
Then of course there s a great floating population of migrant
workers who seem to be quite well taken care of by the rural health
project in King City.
Teiser: Is that a federal project?
Rosenberg: I believe so.
Teiser: How about the housing needs of the migrant workers?
Rosenberg: You can see they re deplorable, what s offered. There s a great
need all over California for adequate, low-cost housing, not
potential slums. The minute you say low-cost, you think of these
I may as well be honest. The least interesting thing I do is
this Social Service. It s hemmed in by regulations. Everything
is mandated, more or less. There isn t a great deal the individual
can do, except in these cases where some need arises before your
eyes and can do something right about it because you re there.
That s the most obvious thing, as far as I m concerned, and why
a local representative is needed.
People in small areas, fortunately, are very well taken
care of by their neighbors. It s very fortunate in a little area
like this. If they have to go to the doctor, there s always
somebody that will take them to the doctor, or take them to the
hospital. But it s the ongoing care that they need that s so
difficult, such as nursing in the home and things like that. It s
just not possible to get anybody that you can trust, which I think
is also statewide,
I don t think that has anything to do with
How about the education of the migrant workers kids?
Are you talking about that controversial thing known as bi-lingual
education? I try to be a middle-of-the-roader on that.
One way or the other, are the kids getting educated in any
Oh, they are, well. In San Ardo, we have a very good school
And the Mexican workers kids?
There are not as many here as there are in other places. Teachers,
as I understand it, know basic Spanish. I think their object
here and maybe it shouldn t even be published but their object
here is to teach them English. But the teachers know enough
basic Spanish so that the first and second graders have no
problems at school. They are accepted. It s a small community,
and there isn t too much of the class distinction that you run
into in other places.
Have the social problems of this area in the years that you have
known them changed markedly?
I would say not.
You always had migrant labor.
Rosenberg: California always had it. California would never have had the
railroads built or their crops harvested or many of their mines
worked, I m sure, if it hadn t been for migrant labor. I grew
up with migrant labor. Of course, migrant labor I remember
distinctly. I don t remember when everybody had a Chinese cook
I only remember one. But I do remember when because this would
stand out to a child when the Hindus worked on the railroad,
and they wore turbans. That you couldn t forget.
I went to a school that was half California Spanish and half
English. They were bilingual, but we weren t. I always regretted
that I wasn t.
Teiser: I think one of the other organizations that you said you had
served on was the Red Cross, that you d enjoyed that.
Teiser: Have you been active in that for many years?
Rosenberg: Oh, for maybe thirty. A long time. My first experience, when I
actually did anything for it, was as a nurse s aide at Camp
Roberts when it was going full blast during the Korean incident,
I began working on blood banks there. You know, you had an
unending source of volunteers. The soldiers needed it. You were
getting blood for the soldiers, but you got it from them,
ironically. The more recent blood bank that I served on is over
at Hunter Liggett [Military Reservation]. But I just recently
turned the blood bank work over to another friend. I thought I
had served on it long enough.
Teiser: Have you done other things with the Red Cross, too?
Rosenberg: Some organizational work, I suppose you call it. Like lining up
people to help with swimming classes. It s a long time since I
did that. And people to man the drive for funds that they have
every March. I still do that. That s not hard to do, because I
don t have to collect.
Teiser: I know that you are a member of the Cowbelles.
Rosenberg: Strictly a supporting member.
Teiser: Have you been a sponsor of the 4-H?
Rosenberg: I was a leader for a long time when my daughter was growing up.
I taught people cooking; dragged people to many meetings and
exhibits and fairs. My daughter is doing it now for her children.
I don t have to do it any more.
Teiser: Did it involve taking kids and their stock to the fairs?
Rosenberg: Or getting some man to haul the sheep. My daughter always showed
sheep, so that was easier. There was always a man who had a truck
that took all the sheep.
Teiser: Where did she take care of her sheep?
Rosenberg: Right out here. There s a little pen. We use it for a dog pen
now. She also raised a seeing eye dog, which did not go to the
fair. I was really very active in 4-H for quite a while, and
still support it.
There s a fairly active 4-H group here now made up of parents,
many of whom I taught in 4-H that now have their children in 4-H.
You have to have the parents. It s a parent-involvement type of
thing. Nobody s as good a leader as a parent. You need interested
parents and young parents, and people that can show the children
how Co raise the animals. Fathers that will help them. They
become family projects, you know. But it s very good, I think, for
a small community. The nicest thing about it is that if your
community shrinks, your age group goes up and down, which it does
here quite a bit. It s for boys and girls both, so that you at
least have them all in one club. You don t have to be running
from Boy Scouts to Girls Scouts. [laughter] To me that was the
greatest joy about 4-H.
There is a pretty active Boy Scout troop here, but the town
really isn t that large. There again, you have to have parents
for children s clubs. And the parents can only spread themselves
I think 4-H is the answer; but I must admit, I m thinking
about the parents as much as the children. One meeting a week is
How long have you been on the board of the College of Notre Dame
Rosenberg: Six or seven years maybe.
Teiser: Do you enjoy that?
Rosenberg: Well, I enjoy the people very much. They happen to have an
extremely interesting board. There are men who are very busy,
but they re dedicated to giving so much time to this. It s a
variegated group of doctors and lawyers and accountants, builders.
Sister Catharine Julie, who s retiring as president, has been
fortunate in picking her board, because there s an expert in
nearly anything that she wants to know, such as insurance, who s
more than glad to help her. And varied ages, and men that have
served on other boards and know what is needed to keep a college
going. She has a wealth of knowledge to draw from. Actually, you
don t feel that you as an individual have accomplished much, but
you feel that they have. It s so very worthwhile.
Rosenberg: Of course, there are educators on the board, naturally. But she
has found such a varied field of experts. There s a great deal
of maintenance to a college. A board member that happens to be
a building contractor is very shrewd about what she needs and
what she doesn t need, and can assess what has to be fixed, and
whether this just needs a paint job or if it needs a complete
overhaul. You need someone like that. They give so much time to
it because, as I say, they re men active in their fields.
Teiser: In a period when small, private colleges particularly are having
difficulty, it s been very successful, has it not?
Rosenberg: I think part of that is the college s attitude. They re not trying
to grow bigger, because they re in an area surrounded with higher
education. They do try to offer something very good in what
they have. They re not trying to be a university, as far as I
know. But they want the caliber of their staff to be as good as
it s ever been.
In high school I went to the sisters of Notre Dame for a
couple of years. I was brought up with the idea that they were
a very fine teaching order. I ve had no reason to change it
since I ve been on this board.
Teiser: Your daughter went to the college in Belmont?
Rosenberg: Yes, she went for two years. Margaret s on the board of the
University of San Diego, and they have a lay man as president of
the college. But I think at the College of Notre Dame the
president has to be a member of the community.
Teiser: Did your daughter go there, to San Diego, after Notre Dame?
Rosenberg: Yes, for two years and graduated there.
The Rosenberg Family and Relatives
Teiser: I understand that the Rosenberg family long ago gave a grant to
the University of California at Davis in memory of a family
member who was killed in the First World War. Could you tell
Rosenberg: Not very much. It was Walter s brother, and his name was James
Rosenberg. He died in the First World War. As a matter of fact,
it s a very sad story. He died in Italy of the flu after the
armistice had been signed. His mother and father gave whatever
his insurance was (I believe yearly sums for a certain period of
time) to Davis for scholarships. It might have been twenty years,
and possibly not a very big sum. But in that time it didn t
have to be a very big sum to be a scholarship.
I myself thought that was a nice thing to do. They wouldn t
have known what to do with it themselves, so this was a
There are some families and groups of people who have a tradition
of public benefit. I presume that the Rosenberg family has.
I think it s very common among Jewish people,
They re very
The Regional Oral History Office has had the opportunity to
interview members of the Haas and Koshland families
They were related to my husband, you know. Dan Koshland s mother
[born Corinne Schweitzer] and Walter s mother were first cousins.
They knew each other.
Those pictures* most of the people were first cousins. Leon
Guggenheim that you see there was a first cousin of Walter s
mother. There was a large Schweitzer family that was related.
There was a Georgia Schweitzer.
Mrs. Koshland had several sisters, and I used to hear them called
by name. One, I think Lilly, married a Guggenheim. These were
the families that Walter grew up with.
They look in those pictures as if they were having a good time.
Well, this was their summer place. You can see that. It was when
San Francisco was cold and foggy. I think they spent most of their
summers here. Those ^oung people didn t think of it as a year-
round home. You could see they thought of it as a place to go
for the summer, to the ranch, as many people would.
They d come down on the train of course. Some of them rode
horseback. You could see they were definitely an urban group,
[laughter] They must have enjoyed it very much. I think that s
when they had the Chinese cook.
*1889 pictures taken at San Bernardo Ranch; pages 35-38.
Teiser: Was the croquet ground near the Meyer Brandenstein home?
Rosenberg: Right there in front. I don t know whether it was on the fountain
side or the other side. At that particular time the present one-story
house wasn t there, and the gazebo was moved.
Teiser: Where was it originally?
Rosenberg: I saw it as a child. It was in the yard. It shows in one of
these pictures. There wasn t a second story on the house then,
I remember being brought to that house as a child, and seeing
the gazebo, which was the first one I d ever seen. I think Walter s
mother called it a summer house. I was about eight years old, and
they were having a Liberty Bond drive. In those days they had
tea; and I guess you signed up and bought a Liberty Bond. At that
time my mother was knitting for the Red Cross.
Actually, this is a very good picture of the house, because
it shows the grape arbor, and the
Teiser: the one with Emma Patek in the front.
Rosenberg: I think she was a friend. But Georgia Schweitzer was a cousin,
I know that .
Teiser: This fountain
Rosenberg: I pointed it out to you the other day.
Teiser: Yes; it s rather covered with vegetation now.
Rosenberg: But it works. It still waters the yard. It has a sprinkler on
it, and it s always watered that lawn.
Teiser: They really are urban, as you say.
Rosenberg: They re a very urban group. Urban people.
I haven t looked at these pictures for a long time. But they
were definitely a dressed-up group. Except for the men in the
picture at the ditch. [laughter]
Teiser: Does that ditch still exist?
Rosenberg: No, it s been cultivated and farmed over. There s very little
indication of it left now.
Transcribers: Steven A. Wartofsky, Matt Schneider
Final Typist: Keiko Sugimoto
TAPE GUIDE Mrs. Walter Rosenberg
Interview 1: June 23, 1980
tape 1, side A
tape 1, side B
tape 2, side A
tape 2, side B
Interview 2: June 25, 1980
tape 3, side A
tape 3, side B
tape 4, side A
tape 4, side B
Interview 3: June 26, 1980
tape 5, side A
tape 5, side B
tape 6, side A
Interview 4: September 30, 1980
tape 6, side A (cont.)
tape 6, side B
APPENDIX I (The house number was originally 1542 McKinnon Avenue)
LANDMARKS PRESERVATION ADVISORY BOARD
Case Report - August 17, 1972
1562 McKinnon Avenue
Michael D. Reich and Robert M. Pace
1562 McKinnon Avenue, northeast side 150 feet southeast of Mendell
Street. Lot is rectangular with 50 foot frontage on McKinnon
Avenue, depth of 100 feet and area of 5000 square feet. Lot 31
in Assessor s Block 5295.
As one of the oldest and most attractive houses in the Bayview
area, this two story wooden frame structure possesses an architec
tural style and quality which enhances the community s visual
environment. Although the date of construction is not known, the
house was occupied in 1875 by Mrs. Mary Quinn. In addition to
owning other properties In the area, the Quinn family owned this
house for eighty three years, selling it in 1958.
The two story wooden frame structure represents a particular stage
of Victorian architecture. Built in approximately 1870, the house
reflects the simple and r..fi.;.-=d qualities of early Italianate
Occupying approximately half the width of the lot, the structure
rests directly upon the ground, without a basement. Faced with
shiplap boards, the structure s notable quality is its facade and
exterior decorative elements. The facade consists of a two story
slanted bay window and a projecting porch entrance. The bay window
is modestly decorated with ornamental keystones and wooden trim.
A dentil lated cornice surmounts the first floor bay. The porch con
sists of two corinthian columns and pilasters, surmounted by a roof
with a dentillated cornice. The porch frames the arched doorway,
-which is surmounted by an ornamental keystone and wood trim. A
wide projecting cornice, supported by consoles, decorates the roof
line of the house. Each console displays a moulded foliate pattern
and painted designs.
The fenestration is regular, with arched, double hung windows.
Moulding and an ornamental keystone decorate each window. The
wing contains two windows, one on each floor, facing McKinnon
Wooden quoins distinguish each corner of the facade and side wing.
A simple picket fence encloses the property.
The subject property is in an R-l (One-Family Residential) zoning
district surrounding the base of Hunters Point, developed primarily
with single-family residences. The Third Street commercial area is
one and a half blocks west of the property. A church occupies
the southv. est corner of Kenueil and McKinnon and the South San
Francisco Opera House is one block further southwest on Mendell
Street and Newcomb Avenue.
APPENDIX II - 1972 Report on the San Ardo Oil Field issued by the
Public Relations Department of the General Petroleum Corporation
The San Ardo oil field was discovered in 1947, but the crude
oil was so viscous that no one could find a way to move it to
market at a reasonable profit. The gravity of San Ardo crude
ranges from 11 to 14 degrees.
The original discoverers of the San Ardo field drilled 65 wells
hoping to find a less viscous oil, but when none was found,
most of the wells were shut-in and the field stood virtually
idle for four years. Hence, it was nicknamed the "reluctant"
oil field by oilmen.
As demand for crude oil in California grew, however, oil
companies began to think about how to make use of the idle
crude at San Ardo.
General Petroleum Mobil s predecessor company on the West
Coast finally solved the problem by coming up with the idea
of bringing in a lighter oil to mix with the heavy San Ardo
crude. This light oil, called cutter stock, with the aid of
heat, thinned the San Ardo crude enough to move it through a
pipeline. But due to the Korean War, there was a shortage of
steel pipe with which to build a pipeline. GP also solved
this problem. The company hired Bechtel Corporation to move
its idle 8-inch Lebec to Mojave pipeline which had at one
time connected the GP refinery at Lebec with the Santa Fe
refueling station at Mojave. This 53-mile, line was. rendered
obsolete when the Santa Fe shifted from steam to diesel engines
2,600 tons of steel pipe approximately 98 percent of
the line was salvaged. This pipe was reconditioned in a
factory set up in the field at San Miguel and then laid
between San Ardo and Estero Bay a distance of about 40
miles at a cost of nearly $2 million.
GP bought approximately one-half of the San Ardo field from
the Jergins Oil Company and the General American Oil Company
several months after the pipeline was completed. The
purchase price was approximately $36 million.
The first barrel of San Ardo crude oil flowed through the
line on June 19, 1951. Since that time, more than 230,000,000
barrels of oil have moved through the pipeline.
The oil is heated to 200 degrees F and reheated along the
route at the Adelaide and San Antonio pump stations. It
arrives at Estero Bay, where it Us loaded aboard tankers, at
150 to 160 degrees F.
In 1966, a new 12-inch pipeline was laid at a cost of $3
million. This increased the line s capacity by 24,000
barrels a day to 56,000 b/d. The new line is automated, and
valves controlling the flow of oil are triggered by microwave
signal from Torrance.
In 1964, Mobil began a steam secondary recovery project at
San Ardo to increase production at the field. Steam is
injected into the oil formation through producing wells to
thin the heavy crude so it can be brought to the surface.
Mobil currently operates more than 300 wells at San Ardo
which produce approximately 13/000 barrels of oil a day.
The San Ardo operation generates an annual payroll of
approximately $600,000, and royalty payments on production
amount to more than $1 million per year.
- -> .
An oil pipeline that had been in service 38 years was ripped up and
moved 200 miles to create a pipeline from the San Ardo field to
Estero Bay. Putting it back in the ground at San Ardo.
APPENDIX III - copied from Spectator, University of California, Davis,
$500,000 ESTABLISHES ROSENBERG FUND
UCD has received a gift of $500,000 to establish the
Walter Rosenberg Research Fund for support of applied as well
as basic research by senior and junior faculty, postdoctoral
fellows, and Ph.D. candidates in the Departments of Agricultural
Engineering, Agronomy and Range Science, Animal Science and
The money was given by Mrs. Walter Rosenberg to perpetuate
her husband s memory and his lifelong interest and devotion to
ranching and agricultural sciences, according to Charles Hess,
dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Hess says that he and Mrs. Rosenberg have also discussed
"the possibility of using the income to support joint Experiment
Station/Extension research as well as for graduate student
recruitment and grants for new faculty." ...
In announcing the establishment of the Walter Rosenberg
Memorial Fund, Chancellor James Meyer expressed UCD s appreci
ation "for the new opportunities this gift will provide. As
times and conditions change and new opportunities develop, this
fund can serve as vital seed money to inaugurate new research
projects. Gifts of this type are essential to enriching UCD s
capability to seek new knowledge and making it applicable to
meeting society s needs."
INDEX Margaret Barbree Rosenberg
Albaugh, Reuben, ii-iv, 71, 79
Alsatian Americans, 54
Alvarado, Joe, 54
Barbree, Emily, 10
Barbree, Geraldine, 3, 10, 11, 12, 14, 23
Barbree, James J., ii, 5, 12, 23, 26
Barbree, Jane Kell (Mrs. Joseph M. ), 2, 4, 10
Barbree, Joseph, 2, 4, 11, 23
Barbree, Joseph. M. , 1-4, 10, 11
Barbree, Margaret Quinn CMrs. William Robert), 5, 8-14, 19, 23, 24, 22, 30
Barbree, William Robert, 2-6, 9-19 passim, 23, 24, 25, 29, 42
Barbree, William Robert Jr., 5, 12, 23
Basic Vegetable Products Inc., 21
Basque Americans, 17, 54-55
Bernard, Junnie, 83
Bechtel Corporation, 94
Boy Scouts, 88
Brandenstein, Fanny Schweitzer (Mrs. Meyer), v, 34, 39, 42, 46
Brandenstein, Flora, v, 34, 36, 39, 42, 46, 72
Brandenstein, Linda. See Rosenberg, Linda Brandenstein
Brandenstein, Meyer, 32-46 passim, 52-71 passim, 91
Brandenstein, M. J. , 32-33, 46
Brinan, Bill, 56
Brinan family, 41 ,
Bullock, William H. , 3
Cal Spice, 21
Casey, Bill, 25
Catharine Julie, Sister, 88-89
cattle, iii, 33-84 passim
Chinese Americans, 24, 25, 67, 87, 90
College of Notre Dame, Belmont, 88-89
Delaney, Gene, 47
Depression period, 15-16, 31-32
Duflock, Margaret Rosenberg (Mrs. William G.), v, 13, 41, 44, 58, 59, 60,
70, 82, 87-88, 89
Duflock, Walter, 70
Duflock, William G. , 82
Note: All place names are in California unless otherwise indicated.
Elder s, Paul, book store, 30
Etchenique, Louis, iii
Filipino Americans, 24
4-H Club, 57, 87-88
French Americans, 55
Garrissere, John, 35, 37
General American Oil Company, 95
General Petroleum Corporation, 74, 77, 94-97
Godchaux, Annette, 60
Godchaux, Lazard, v, 33-34, 35, 37, 39, 43, 46, 60
Goldsmith, Myron, 37
Goldwater, Simon and Marcus, 44
Guggenheim, Leon, 35, 90
Guggenheim, Lilly Schweitzer, 90
Guilbert, H. R. , iii
Hamilton, George, 18
Hamilton, Will, 18
Hazen, Winnie, 58
Hellman family, 42
Herzog, Susan Rosenberg, 33, 43
Hindu Americans, 24, 87
Hunt, Harry, iii
immigrants, 5-6, 8, 17, 23-26, 29., 42-43, 45, 54-55, 67, 72-73, 86-87, 90.
See also under names of specific groups, e.g. Basque Americans, Chinese
Irish Americans, 5-6, 29, 55
Japanese Americans, 24
Jergins Oil Company, 77, 95
Jews, 42-43, 45, 55, 72-73, 90
Johnson, Charlie, 83
Joseph Rosenberg Memorial Auditorium, 51A
Kell, Jane. See Barbree, Jane Kell
Kell, Margaret, 4-5
King, Charles, 2
King City, 2, 3, 15-16, 18, 20-23, 24, 30-31, 45, 85
Koshland, Corinne Schweitzer, 90
Koshland, Daniel E. , 90
Koshland, Jesse, 37
Layous , John, iii
Lopez 1 Market, 48
Lynch, Janet Rosenberg, v, 73, 82
Maggio, Carl Joseph., Inc., 21
Markham, Walter, iii
Martin, John, 35, 36, 59, 83
Mattrass, Bill, 83
McDougall, Ruth Brans ten, 46
Mechanics Institute, San Francisco, 29
Mexican Americans, 23-24, 25-26, 54, 55, 67, 86, 87
migrant workers, 85, 86-87. See also Depression period
Mobil Oil Corporation, 75, 77, 94, 96
Monterey County Social Service Commission, 84-86
Monterey Peninsula, 76
Newbegin s book store, 30
Newman, Walter, family, 42
Norton, Belle Barbree (Mrs. Luke), 2, 4, 11
Notre Dame, Sisters of, 4-5, 89. See also College of Notre Dame
Oasis district, v, 3, 9, 11-14
oil wells, 56, 66, 74-75, 77, 82, 94-97
Our Lady of Ransom Catholic Church, 53
Paris Valley-Lockwood road, 45
Parker, Paul, 31
Patek, Emma, 35, 37, 38, 91
Quinn, Elizabeth, 8
Quinn, John, 8
Quinn, Margaret. See Barbree, Margaret Quinn
Quinn, Mary (Mrs. William), 5-8, 10, 12, 19, 20, 28
Quinn , May , 8
Quinn, Pat, 8
Quinn, Peter, 8
Quinn, William (grandfather of Margaret Rosenberg) , 5-6
Quinn, William (uncle of Margaret Rosenberg), 8
R & M Bar & Cafe, 52
Rancho San Bernardo, v, vi, 33-91 passim
Rancho San Lucas, 3
Red Cross, 59, 84, 87, 91
Rico, Francisco ("Pancho") , 59
Robinson Brothers, 49
Rose Brand company, 74
Rosenberg, Gordon W. , v, 73, 82-83
Rosenberg, James, 29, 89-90
Rosenberg, Joseph (Joe), iii, v, 34, 39, 46, 56, 61, 67-68, 69, 70, 71,
72, 74, 81
Rosenberg, Lena (Mrs. Samuel), 46, 70
Rosenberg, Linda Brandenstein (Mrs. Joseph), v, 34, 35, 36, 37, 39, 42,
45, 70, 71-72, 90, 91
Rosenberg, Ruth Ann, v, 73, 82
Rosenberg, Samuel, 70
Rosenberg, Susan. See Herzog, Susan Rosenberg
Rosenberg, Walter, ii, iii, v, 29, 34, 39, 40, 45, 46, 55, 56, 61, 70, 72,
73, 79, 80-82, 89, 90, 91, 98
Saint Matthew s Episcopal Church, 53
Salinas, 17, 31, 75-76
Salinas Valley, passim
San Ardo, ii, v, 40, 44-91 passim
San Ardo public school, 51, 51A, 58-59
San Bernardo Grange, 48, 56, 58
San Bernardo Rancho. See Rancho San Bernardo
Sandich, Howard, 56
San Francisco earthquake and fire, 1906, 34, 46, 54
San Lucas, 1, 2, 3, 9, 18, 30, 44, 45, 60
Schwabacher, Jack, 42
Schweitzer, Bernhard and Mrs., 35
Schweitzer, Corinne. See Koshland, Corinne Schweitzer
Schweitzer, Fanny. See Brandenstein, Fanny Schweitzer
Schweitzer, Georgia, 35, 37, 38, 90, 91
Schweitzer, Lilly. See Guggenheim, Lilly Schweitzer
Southern Pacific Milling Co., 49
Southern Pacific Railroad, 39-41, 43-44, 45, 54
Spreckels Sugar Company, 24, 76
Steinbeck, John, ii, 14-18, 31
Strobridge, Mrs. James Harvey, 6
Strohm, Paul, iii, 78, 79, 83
Texaco, Inc. , 75, 77
Trescony, Alberto, 3
Trescony, Julius, iv, 25, 44, 54, 6Q
University of California, Cooperative Extension. See Albaugh, Reuben
University of California, Davis, iii-iv, 98
Veach, Rose Barbree (Mrs. Joseph), 2, 4
Wallz, Jack, 42
water rights, 68-69
Winchell, William F. , 46A
Born in Portland, Oregon; came to the Bay
Area in 1932 and has lived here ever- since.
Stanford University, B.A. , M.A. in English;
further graduate work in Western history.
Newspaper and magazine writer in San Francisco
since 19^3, writing on local history and busi
ness and social life of the Bay Area.
Book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle,