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Doyle Derrick audio interview on experiences in World War II

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This is Suzette McCord-Rogers and Peggy Stanton and we are with Doyle Derrick today at the Native American Heritage Museum in Highland, Kansas.

Doyle, can I get your middle name first of all?

Mr. Derrick: Earl.

Suzette: Earl. OK. Can you tell me where you were born?

Mr. Derrick: Rogersville, Tennessee.

Suzette: Rogersville, Tennessee. And what was your date of birth?

Mr. Derrick: January 29, 1910.

Suzette: How old does that make you, Mr. Derrick?

Mr. Derrick: 97.

Suzette: 97?!!

Mr. Derrick: Correct.

Suzette: And you are still driving your own truck, pruning your walnut trees,..

Mr. Derrick: Yes, yes, sure am. Nobody else to drive me!

Suzette: You are absolutely, probably the most athletic 97-year-old I know.

Mr. Derrick: Well, they ain't many of `em around.

Suzette: May I get your address, please?

Mr. Derrick: 612 Jesse Street, Wathena, Kansas.

Suzette: OK. You were born in Rogersville, Tennessee,

Mr. Derrick: Yeah.

Suzette: …and can you tell me where you went to high school?

Mr. Derrick: Highland, Kansas.

Suzette: And how did you get to Highland, Kansas from Rogersville?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, my folks moved out here. Dad had a brother out here in Kansas, older brother, and he was younger. There were about 12 kids, you know, in the family.

Suzette: In your family?

Mr. Derrick: In my dad's family.

Suzette: OK.

Mr. Derrick: He was the youngest. My dad was the youngest. So they came to, the older brother got him to come to Kansas, see, from the hillbilly country of Tennessee.

Suzette: So how old were you when you moved to Kansas?

Mr. Derrick: I must have been 7 or 8 years old.

Suzette: 7 or 8.

Mr. Derrick: I was pretty young.

Suzette: Did you like moving to Kansas?

Mr. Derrick: We moved to Kansas as World War I was ending, on a train, you know. We had never been on a train before. So that was a pretty big experience for us. All the soldiers coming back from World War I, you know.

Suzette: Were they in their uniforms?

Mr. Derrick: They were in their uniforms coming home after the war ended.

Suzette: Did you talk to any?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I was too young to talk to many.

Suzette: Ah, they probably looked scary.

Mr. Derrick: It was all right.

Suzette: Did you like Kansas? A lot of times, kids don't like to move from home, when they are 8 years old.

Mr. Derrick: I was in second or third grade, I don't know.

Suzette: So you moved to Highland, and you stayed there…

Mr. Derrick: Well, we was out close to White Cloud.

Suzette: Were you farming?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, my dad was. I didn't do any of the farming.

Suzette: You didn't? What crops did your dad have?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, corn, mostly corn.

Suzette: Did you have any cattle or anything?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, yeah. We had 7 or 8 old cows, you know. We had a pretty rough time going, you know. We had to raise our own garden and everything. We were pretty close to poor.

Suzette: Did your mom can your food for you?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, yes. Raised chickens. She'd have as high as 500 chickens going all summer. Young chickens, you know. We had to make our own living, pretty well, on 80 acres of land.

Suzette: Did you own that land, or did you…?

Mr. Derrick: No, we was renting.

Suzette: You were renting?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah.

Suzette: Is that where the Nuzum barn is?

Mr. Derrick? What?

Suzette: Where your barn is, is that the land you were renting?

Mr. Derrick: No, no. It was over in Brown County.

Suzette: How many brothers and sisters did you have?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I had 4, 5 of us all together, one sister and 3 brothers.

Suzette: So were your brothers busy helping your dad with the farm?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, yeah, and they was working out, a dollar a day or whatever they could get. We had a pretty tough time making ends meet, you know. A big family and everything.

Suzette: What kind of work was available for your brothers at that time?

Mr. Derrick: Well, farming was about the only thing.

Suzette: So they'd go help other farmers?

Mr. Derrick: Well, we could work for another farmer, maybe for a dollar a day, or something like that. We went through the whole Depression, the rough spots. My sister, she worked out a dollar and a half a week. She'd get a dollar and a half a week.

Suzette: What did she do?

Mr. Derrick: She'd help cook, you know, help the family, most of `em had families, you know. They'd hire a girl to help do the housework, you know.

Suzette: So she stayed home and just traveled to the different places, or did she stay there?

Mr. Derrick: Well, they were close neighbors.

Suzette: Did you have a car, did you use horses?

Mr. Derrick: We had a car, but we didn't run it too much.

Suzette: So she walked to work, or…?

Mr. Derrick: Well, it was neighbors, close by, a mile and a half, something like that.

Suzette: When you were farming, did your dad use horses to plow with?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, yeah, mules!

Suzette: Mules! How many mules?

Mr. Derrick: About 8.

Suzette: So you also were growing the food for the…

Mr. Derrick: And we had 6 or 7 milk cows, had the cream when we milked, you know, and my mother raised 400-500 chickens. And she canned…

Suzette: She sold eggs?

Mr. Derrick: No, she didn't sell no eggs. We'd eat those chickens mostly.

Suzette: And she canned?

Mr. Derrick: And she canned a lot. A lot, I mean everything, big jars.

Suzette: Did you help weed that garden?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, I helped harvest it.

Suzette: You did?

Mr. Derrick: By hand, yeah. We had it pretty rough; boy, we thought it was pretty rough then. We was doing pretty good …raised 5 kids; I had another sister that died about 2 years old.

Suzette: Oh, she did.

Mr. Derrick: Outside of that, we had it pretty rough. I thought it was rough.

Suzette: You went to the Highland High School?

Mr. Derrick: Yes. I graduated there, went two years to Kansas State Teachers College.

Suzette: Oh, you did!

Mr. Derrick: in Emporia.

Suzette: You went to Emporia and Kansas State?

Peggy: Emporia State Teachers College.

Suzette: And you went there for two years?

Mr. Derrick: Yes.

Suzette: And did you graduate?

Mr. Derrick: No.

Suzette: No? What happened? Did you decide to do something different?

Mr. Derrick: I decided I'd go somewhere else.

Suzette: So what did you do?

Mr. Derrick: We had the Depression then. And the country, we had a real Depression, times were tough. So me and another kid from Highland took off, you know, and we hoboed for about a year.

Suzette: Does that mean you rode trains?

Mr. Derrick: Freight trains, and ended up in Seattle, and California. We had to beg for our meals, you know. There wasn't no work then, you know. We couldn't get work. We had to beg for our meals. A bowl of soup or something, you know. About a year I done that. And I wouldn't come home because my brother, he'd went to North Dakota harvesting, my older brother. But he had to write home for money to get home on. He was the oldest one, you know. Well, they didn't have to write for me; I didn't come home for five years!!

Peggy: Your poor mother!

Suzette: You were out being an adventurer!

Mr. Derrick: Well, that was no good, because I was a hobo for that year.

Suzette: Now, what's it like to be a hobo.

Mr. Derrick: Hobo, you got to beg for your meal.

Suzette: Did you have hobo camps besides the railroads…

Mr. Derrick: Oh, under the bridge. We had a roll of plastic, you know, roll up in at night. Then this guy, we graduated from high school together..

Suzette: What's his name?

Mr. Derrick: Fisky

Suzette: Fisky?

Mr. Derrick: Vern Fisky.

Suzette: How do you catch a ride on a freight train? Do you have to run beside the train and jump on?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah. If you couldn't get on it while it was standing still, you had to run and catch it, and they were going 20-22 miles an hour, you know.

Suzette: You must have been in really good physical shape to run after a train!

Mr. Derrick: Oh, I just did track, football, and stuff like that. I had a scholarship to go to K-State, you know.

Suzette: I didn't know that. Why didn't you go to K-State?

Mr. Derrick: K-State Teachers College.

Suzette: Oh! You had the scholarship to go because of your football abilities.

Mr. Derrick: Yes, and track. I just to run the mile run.

Suzette: So you could chase down freight trains!

Mr. Derrick: That's the way I got down there, and I had a job, all it was was just a job. In the Elks Club, you know. I got about $15 a month, see. Had to clean spittoons, and everything, it was a big operation you know.

Suzette: That must have been a nasty job.

Mr. Derrick: Well, nasty, but it had to be done.

Suzette: So where did you work at the Elks Club. Was this Seattle or California?

Mr. Derrick: No, that was done in Emporia.

Suzette: Oh, at Emporia!

Mr. Derrick: That was my job for a scholarship to play football and track.

Suzette: So you felt that when the Depression came you couldn't afford to go to college any more?

Mr. Derrick: What?

Suzette: When the Depression came, you couldn't afford to go to college any more?

Mr. Derrick: No, I just wanted a change.

Suzette: You were tired of it.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah. So I thought well, with two years of college, I ought to be able to make a living, you know. Go out and find a job somewhere, and that's how we took off. We were both from the same high school.

Suzette: What year was that?

Mr. Derrick: That was 1932.

Suzette: So you were running after freight trains,…

Mr. Derrick: No! I graduated in 1929, and it was 1931 when I finished my second year of college.

Suzette: So did you catch your freight train in Emporia?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, no, I had a free ride to Colorado.

Suzette: On a train, or with someone?

Mr. Derrick: Someone on a truck. He took us. I had to ride in the back of the truck, you know. Open truck, so that got us out there where we got a job mowing weeds out of sweet corn. We'd get a dollar a day, and that lasted ten days. Then we was on our own. Yeah, I had a rough time then.

Peggy: Did you catch the freight train in Colorado?

Mr. Derrick: That's where we started riding freight trains.

Peggy: Which way did you go?

Mr. Derrick: That was going west, the west coast. Went to Seattle.

Peggy: Did you find work in Seattle?

Mr. Derrick: No! We didn't find no work. There wasn't no work.

Peggy: So what did you do in Seattle?

Mr. Derrick: I was bummin' for meals!

Peggy: So you just stayed in Seattle and…

Mr. Derrick: Well, I was a prize fighter.

Peggy: You were what?

Mr. Derrick: You know, boxing.

Suzette: You were a prize fighter?

Mr. Derrick: Yes!

Peggy: Oh!

Suzette: In Seattle?

Mr. Derrick: Yes! I was in pretty good shape then.

Peggy: You were like the Cinderella man.

Mr. Derrick: Well, it wasn't no Cinderella, I was just a prize fighter.

Suzette: Well, when you were begging for your meals, where did you go?

Mr. Derrick: To a restaurant. You ain't gonna get a meal anywhere else.

Suzette: They didn't have soup kitchens or missions, or…

Mr. Derrick: They had one each Saturday, one meal a week. You could get a free meal. In Seattle while we were there.

Suzette: Did restaurants give you food when you went and begged?

Mr. Derrick: No, they had one meal a week. A big apple, food, you know. They were feedin' a thousand of `em or more.

Suzette: What did you eat? You had to have more than one meal a week.

Mr. Derrick: We knew we were gonna have to have a meal every day.

Suzette: Yes. So what did you do?

Mr. Derrick: I went to the restaurant and I'd work out a bowl of soup. Usually they'd let you have a bowl of soup for a bunch of dishes to wash. And that's all you'd get. It was pretty rough, you know. If that didn't fill me up, I'd go to another restaurant. Do the same thing until I got all I could eat.

Suzette: It was easier to be a prize fighter than to wash dishes?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I would get $50 a fight.

Suzette: Was that good money then?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I couldn't get it all the time. I wasn't that good, see.

Suzette: Oh.

Mr. Derrick: I'd fight anybody, you know. In Seattle where all the finest trains, you know, and there was a big colored guy. He was 6'2'', 6'3'', he wanted to spar with me. See, I was a middleweight. That's 150 pounds. I was the best, you know, that they had there in my weight. I was fastest. This guy had fought Jack Dempsey; he stayed four rounds with Jack Dempsey. You remember Jack Dempsey was a fighter, a heavyweight champion at one time.

Suzette: He must have been good.

Mr. Derrick: Well, he was fast, he could move around. He wanted to spar with me because I was pretty quick. Well, he outweighed me 20-30 pounds, see. So I was 150-pounder, so he was a dancin' around, he was playin' them ropes. You know what a rope, you know, a ring, you know. Well, he got his head under the rope. I grabbed it in my left hand, and I bit him in the nose, you know, I had him pinned, you know! (All laughing) He was dodgin' me, you know. He got mad, see. He tried to knock me out, but he didn't get it done.

Suzette: Because you were running too fast?

Mr. Derrick: I'd duck under him, see. And he drove me. He said he wanted to go another round with me. I said I'd go three rounds, I stayed with him three rounds, then he started to knock me out, see. He was bigger than I was! Three rounds was all I agreed to, I stayed my three rounds, and then I quit him. I was duckin' under him. He was really taller than I was, see. But he hit me on top of the head a couple of times too. Pretty good licks, you know. But he was askin' me, I wasn't askin' him!! I was trying to stay away from him! (All laughing)

I spent about a year and a half there in Seattle, so I met some guys from Alaska. I worked in a hotel as a bellhop, you know. Well, I was workin' there while I was boxin' too, you know.

Suzette: Were you covered with bruises and things when you were a bellhop?

Mr. Derrick: Once in a while I'd get a black eye.

Suzette: It didn't bother the hotel?

Mr. Derrick: I told `em I fell down on the pavement, you know. Some of them old ladies, you know, it was a pretty nice place. Some old lady from Italy or somewhere, you know, she had a lot of money, she said, ``How'd you do that?'' I said, ``I slipped and fell on the steps.'' I didn't tell her I was boxing cause I was liable to lose my job. I was just a bellhop, see. They had them telephones, you know, that you plug in. I had to operate that at night. This one lady, she was a shoe salesman, she would go around to all them big stores, and sell a lot of shoes, you know. She had a lot of money….I messed her up on the telephone; I didn't know how…I unplugged her. I lost her, and she bawled me out, see! I was pretty young then, see. I didn't know you get tipped, you know. I'd just go do the jobs and everything. But she had to move, so she give me 50 cents; so I said I don't need it. Ha I didn't know they had to give, you was supposed to take that. She bawled me out pretty strong. I was just about 19. I was getting about 25 dollars a month, that's all I got, see. But they give me tips, you know, when I took their baggage in. So I didn't want nothin' from her because she had bawled me out!! I was pretty green on that tippin', you know! Just being a farmer.

Suzette: Did you learn after that about tips? Did you start keeping your tips?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, I kept, oh, that's the only one I turned down! Oh, that hurt her feelings, you know. She give me 50 cents, that was a big tip, you know. To carry that baggage out, she had a lot of luggage, you know, carry it to the car. But that burned me up; that was the end of that.

Then I met an Alaskan, see. He run a restaurant up in Fairbanks. He said, ``You come to Alaska, you won't have to get a job, I'll keep you.'' I thought that was pretty nice, you know. And so I took off for Alaska!

Suzette: How did you get to Alaska?

Mr. Derrick: I hoboed up there!

Suzette: How would you hobo up to Alaska?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I dressed up, you know, went in on a ship that was going up that way. They said, ``All visitors ashore'', I didn't go ashore!! ( All laughing!) I stayed on, see. They guy I knew I stayed in his stateroom, see.

Suzette: You knew him?

Mr. Derrick: I met him there where he stopped at Savoy hotel in Seattle where I worked as bellhop. That was my little jobs, you know. I got acquainted with him, they would come down there and spend the winter, you know. From Alaska. Well, he thought I was a pretty good guy, you know, so he run that big restaurant up in Fairbanks. He said, ``You come on up, there's work up there, you know.''

Suzette: So you stayed in his stateroom?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, one of those guys that I knew pretty well. There were about 300-400 on this boat, you know. So I tipped this guy to bring my meals, give him a dollar or something you know. I was working, had a part time job as a bellhop there in Seattle, you know.

Suzette: So that's where you got some money.

Mr. Derrick: I'd tip him so I wouldn't have to show up; they'd catch me down there where they eat, you know.

Suzette: Well, I didn't think they would with that many people.

Mr. Derrick: Well, there were 300-400 people, but they was checkin' each one's tickets, you know, but I didn't have a ticket! So I stayed in his room and tipped this boy to bring my meals to me. I was tippin' him about a dollar; that was a big tip then you know.

Suzette: How long did it take to get up to…?

Mr. Derrick: About seven days.

Suzette: Seven days.

Mr. Derrick: Then when I got up there, I hoboed on a train to Fairbanks. That's about 400 miles.

Suzette: Where did you land at, like Juneau…?

Mr. Derrick: South of Anchorage, Seward. That's about 50 miles from Anchorage.

Suzette: So you just went and found a train and just got on? Did you know where the train was going?

Mr. Derrick: I just piled on, it was in April and it was snowin' up there, you know. I was readin' there….another boy from Arkansas. That other boy he went to California, the one I left Emporia with. But this guy from Arkansas, he played football on the Arkansas University team. He was a big husky guy, you know.

Suzette: He was hoboing also?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I showed him how! We got on this freight train, and it burned coal, you know. And them cinders would come out and get in your eyes, you know, dripping back on this freight train going to Fairbanks. So you get cinders in your eyes. Boy, you can't hardly get them out! And it was cold, it was in April. And the snow, it was blowing snow!

Suzette: You didn't have a coat?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I had a coat, I had a parka, I mean a sleeping bag, and we both got in that sleeping bag. You know that ole coal would come out of that coal furnace, they cinders would blow back towards us where we was at and get in your eyes. I didn't wear glasses then, you know. I left my glasses home today; I run off and left them. We'd get them cinders in and we couldn't get them out, see.

Suzette: So you covered your head up?

Mr. Derrick: Well, we tried to stay warm. It was in April, snow on the ground, you know. We never run into that kind of weather.

Suzette: I'll bet you were shocked.

Mr. Derrick: We made it though. We got about half way and there was another guy, Norwegian, he couldn't talk very good English, you know. He was on that freight train too. A bum like we were. He was going to Fairbanks; that's where the work was. So he couldn't talk, he called it ``shit'' you know, he couldn't pronounce it. We went into a place to eat, you know, about midways up, and they was feeding the crew. We didn't have no money, so they said we could sleep out where the boiler was, you know. They was pretty nice to us. We had a free place to sleep after they found out we was bums, you know.

Suzette: You'd tell `em you were a bum!!

Mr. Derrick: But they was cookin' this chicken on top of the stove. This Norwegian, he grabbed a piece of that chicken off that hot stove, stuck it in his hip pocket, you know, and he said the ``shitken'', he couldn't talk very good in English, you know. He called it ``shitken'', it tickled me, you know. But I didn't fool with the chicken, I didn't get any. But he stuck a piece in his pocket from the hot stove, and it about burned him up, you know.

Suzette: Oh, I bet!! So what did they feed you if you didn't get chicken? You got soup?

Mr. Derrick: We didn't get nothing!

Suzette: They didn't feed you at all?

Mr. Derrick: I had a little money, then. We'd buy food, you know. Eggs, we'd eat a dozen eggs one time, me and this guy. We'd boil `em, you know, and that's all we had. We couldn't afford to pay the cost; we had to save our money til we got there. We didn't have very much anyway.

Suzette: How long did it take you to get there?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, a couple of days. We was on the boat about a week.

Suzette: And then it took two days on the freight train.

Mr. Derrick: Yes.

Suzette: And so what happened when you got to Fairbanks?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, I got a job within a week.

Suzette: What were you doing?

Mr. Derrick: They sent us over to Nome. There was a pilot, you know. One of those air pilots that flies passengers over to Nome, you know. So he said there was work over at Nome, a lot of people there looking for work in Fairbanks. He said I'll fly you over there. He knew we were pretty husky, you know. He says I think you can get a job; you can pay me later. That's the way we got to Nome.

Suzette: What did you do in Nome?

Mr. Derrick: Worked on the gold rigs.

Suzette: On the gold rig??

Mr. Derrick: They were dredging for gold. They dig it like you see them digging sand out of the river. They run that sand through the dredge, you know, to get the gold out of the sand. Water washes it you know.

Suzette: Yes! I didn't know that they did that.

Mr. Derrick: I know it. You don't know a lot of things!

Suzette: There's a lot I don't know!! You're absolutely right! So you'll have to tell me! (All laughing) That's what you did?

Mr. Derrick: I worked there three or four years.

Suzette: What was your job when you were there? What particular job did you do?

Mr. Derrick: I was an oiler on the dredge. You know you had a lot of machinery on there; you had to check all the bearings, see that they don't get too hot and burn up. That was my job…did that for a year. My mother, she wrote at the post office. I was gone about four years, I hadn't been home.

Suzette: Did you write to your mother?

Mr. Derrick: No, I was too busy trying to make a living! My oldest brother, he had to send some money when he went to wheat harvest, but he didn't get a job.

Suzette: But you were independent.

Mr. Derrick: Well, I was two years of college. I thought I was smart enough to make a living! But I wasn't!! I had to scramble for it.

Suzette: So you worked for a year at the rig?

Mr. Derrick: I worked there, they liked me so well, I spent three or four years.

Suzette: What was Nome like?

Mr. Derrick: My mother, she wrote the post office. That hurt me more than anything, you know. I didn't write home.

Suzette: So how did she know where you were?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I'd let her know; maybe I'd write once a year. But that's what happened; she was worried about me and she wrote the postmaster. He told me I ought to write a letter. And I did. I was up there four years.

Suzette: Well it must have been pretty small if the postmaster knew who you were…

Mr. Derrick: Nome was about 2500. And it used to be big; a big gold town. They took a lot of gold out of Nome. Nome is 400-500 miles west of Fairbanks.

Suzette: Is it cold there?

Mr. Derrick: Sure it is cold there. We was above the Artic Circle, close to it.

Suzette: So did you have proper gear when you were in Nome? Did you have proper weather gear?

Mr. Derrick: Proper weather gear?

Suzette: Did you have parkas?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, yeah, we had all kinds of clothes.

Suzette: You did? Did you make pretty good money there?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah. We was about 10 miles from town.

Suzette: 10 miles from town? OK.

Mr. Derrick: Out in the country, where the gold was.

Suzette: So did you go to town?

Mr. Derrick: Well, we'd get in when we'd get a little time off, we'd get into town.

Suzette: Did you drive or how did you get to town?

Mr. Derrick: Well, we had cars and trucks. The company was rich! They were making a million dollars a year up there.

Suzette: So did you get pretty good pay there?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I got $250 a month, room and board.

Suzette: That's good for those days.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah! My folks is poor, you know. They was livin' out here on a rented 80 acres, out in Brown County, and just barely makin' a livin' you know. It was rough goin'. You ain't catchin' all that stuff on there…

Suzette: This is interesting. Your whole life is interesting. I haven't even done my interview because you are so interesting. This is incredible.

Mr. Derrick: They wanted me to write a book on that, you know, my experiences because I have done everything.

Suzette: So what happened after you were in Nome?

Mr. Derrick: I stayed there about four years.

Suzette: And then where did you go?

Mr. Derrick: I still stayed up there in Alaska. I went fishing. Salmon fishing.

Suzette: Um, hum. So you worked on the salmon rigs, or…

Mr. Derrick: Well, a salmon boat about 32 feet long, a sail boat. The guy there, a carpenter, he fixed it, they make big money, out in the Pacific Ocean.

Suzette: Kind of hard work, though.

Mr. Derrick: The hardest work you can get. We'd throw out these nets, you know, and catch these salmon. Catch maybe a thousand of `em at one time. That made it sink; we'd have to pull it in by hand, you know.

Suzette: By hand? You didn't have anything automatically…

Mr. Derrick: Not then.

Suzette: How much do those weigh?

Mr. Derrick: Eight or ten pounds…That would sink the nets. It would take the darn thing down about 20 or 30 feet deep, you see.

Suzette: That's a little bit more shallow.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, but that salmon goes down to the bottom. You had to pull `em up on a roller, and the boat, the sail boat, that's the power we had..

Suzette: Sail?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah!

Suzette: You didn't have a steam boat?

Mr. Derrick: No, no. It was just small, a 32-footer. We prêt near got drownded, see.

Suzette: A sailboat?

Mr. Derrick: A sailboat!!

Suzette: What happened in a storm?

Mr. Derrick: Well, we had to ride it out.

Suzette: How long did you stay out? Did you stay out for several days?

Mr. Derrick: A week at a time.

Suzette: Then where were the fish? I mean, was it refrigerated? How did you keep them good?

Mr. Derrick: That water is 40 degrees. You get overboard, you last about 10 minutes.

Suzette: Where was your port?

Mr. Derrick: We had a boat that picked up our fish, they'd come out in our fishing waters, within a mile or two. We'd have to unload every day.

Suzette: OK. Where did that boat go to?

Mr. Derrick: It would go into the cannery where they canned the fish.

Suzette: What town was that in?

Mr. Derrick: Well, it was three or four different towns. It was up in Alaska.

Suzette: But where in Alaska?

Mr. Derrick: Well, it was the Aleutian Islands. Do you know where they are at?

Suzette: Yes.

Mr. Derrick: If you had a map, I could show you right now.

I was in the north part of the Aleutian Islands.

Suzette: I heard there is real bad weather there.

Mr. Derrick: Oh, it's stormy. You could get drownded out there!

Suzette: So how long were you a salmon fisherman?

Mr. Derrick: Two years.

Suzette: Two years?

Mr. Derrick: I give it up; prêt near got drownded one year. We got out there, we was fishin' with tides, you know. We'd throw our nets out, about a quarter mile of nets, and about six foot deep, we'd drift with the tide. But the nets float, you know. So we was out away from shore about three or four miles, in the ocean, but the storm was blowin' us in shore, where it was rocky, and twenty or thirty feet deep. And them waves was hittin' fifty feet up in the air, you know. So the wind was blowin' us in, and we didn't know it, you see, until the tide was goin' out, and it was supposed to take us out. But the wind was blowin' us in to the rocky place, and we had our boat sideways, and we'd get about this much water in the boat, see. Well, you had to get that water out before the seventh wave. The last one was the big one, about that much water in the boat. We had to get away cause we was goin' to the rocky shore.

Suzette: That's right. So what did you do?

Mr. Derrick: So we had to get that water out of there. This guy I was with he weighed about 250 pounds, and he says, ``We can't make it, we can't make it!'' We gotta make it. I was ___a bailer, I had to dip that water out. The boat was layin' over on its side, every seventh wave we'd get a big wave, you know.

Suzette: How did you straighten the boat up, because if you don't get it going, the wave is going to continue…

Mr. Derrick: Well, we was kinda sideways.

Suzette: How did you turn around and get out?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I had to get that water out of the boat before we sank!

Suzette: So you did that.

Mr. Derrick: I had to work my butt off to do that! I had to keep that water out. He says we can't make it, that big guy.

Suzette: But you made it.

Mr. Derrick: I said I can get that water out. One arm would give out, and I'd bail with the other arm. I had to dip that water out, see. We had a little pump, but it wouldn't suck it out, the boat was hangin' on its side.

Suzette: Did you have other people on the boat with you? Not just the two of you.

Mr. Derrick: Just one guy.

Suzette: You had a crew of three?

Mr. Derrick: One. Two of us.

Suzette: So how were you steering then?

Mr. Derrick: He was steering, and I was pumping water.

Suzette: So he was able to turn the boat around?

Mr. Derrick: Well, he just couldn't turn it around.

Suzette: How did you get out of that?

Mr. Derrick: It was sideways, and you got the boat hangin' over, so we had to get that water out, you know.

Suzette: After you did that, how did you get saved?

Mr. Derrick: Get the sail up, and got out.

Suzette: So that was the end of your fishing career?

Mr. Derrick: That was my last year fishing. It was big money. We could make $2500 in 21 days.

Suzette: That is big money for those days.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, that is back then.

Suzette: You went from $250 to $2500 a day?

Mr. Derrick: Not a day; that would be the whole season.

Suzette: The whole season, but still, wow! 21 days. So what did you after you stopped being a salmon fisherman?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, I went back to the gold rig.

Suzette: That sounds like easier work to me.

Mr. Derrick: Easier, but harder work.

Suzette: Yes, was it?

Mr. Derrick: You're workin' in rocks, and gravel, and stuff like that. I was an oiler on them big rigs.

Suzette: So you didn't actually have to be out…

Mr. Derrick: I had to check them bearings, you know, we had a lot of machinery workin'. That gold is washed; that bucket line would pull that gold out of there, at least 50-60 feet deep…

Suzette: So how long did you work on the gold rig then when you went back?

Mr. Derrick: Well, about four years.

Suzette: And then what did you do? How old were you by this time by the way?

Mr. Derrick: I worked over on the gold dredges for quite a few years, until they started the pipe line, you know. I worked on that about four years.

Suzette: Where were you when World War II came?

Mr. Derrick: I was up there.

Suzette: You were working on a gold rig?

Mr. Derrick: Yes.

Suzette: At Nome?

Mr. Derrick: Well, they, I had been at Nome. I quit that and went fishing, see.

Suzette: Yeah, and where did you go after you went fishing?

Mr. Derrick: I went into the Marine Corps.

Suzette: You went into the Marine Corps after you went fishing?

Mr. Derrick: Well, when the war broke out.

Suzette: OK. So how old were you when the war broke out?

Mr. Derrick: How old was I?

Suzette: Um, hum.

Mr. Derrick: I was 29.

Suzette: 29, and you joined the Marine Corps?

Mr. Derrick: At 29, I was working in Detroit. I had come out of Alaska.

Suzette: You left Alaska…and went to Detroit?

Mr. Derrick: Detroit.

Suzette: And what were you doing there?

Mr. Derrick: Building machine guns. 50-caliber machine guns. I had a brother, there were three of us boys, you know. One of `em Navy, one of `em Army and one in the Marine Corps.

Suzette: So what made you leave Alaska and go to Detroit to build machine guns?

Mr. Derrick: Well, the war was breakin' out.

Suzette: The war was breaking out.

Mr. Derrick: And I didn't want to be called up there..

Suzette: So you went and started working to build machine guns,…

Mr. Derrick: I went to Detroit and got a job in a machine-gun factory.

Suzette: Do you know about what year that was?

Mr. Derrick: I was 29 years old; that is when I went in the Marine Corps. I was workin' in this factory a couple of years, making machine guns.

Suzette: Did you enlist or were you drafted?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I had a guy about 19 years old that was my roommate in the boarding house, see. We lived about a half mile from the factory, and he was 19 years old. And I was 29. So he wanted me to join the Marine Corps, and I said I'm 29 and I don't think I'll have to go workin' here in the machine-gun factory. I was workin' on those 50-caliber machine guns. And I had a brother already in the Army,

Suzette: And so you thought you wouldn't have to go?

Mr. Derrick: I wasn't afraid to go, but I thought well I was 29 years old they won't want me very bad. But this guy kept asking me, we was boarding at the same boarding house, and he wanted me to go join the Marine Corps with him. I was a pretty good boxer and he was a boxer too.

Suzette: You were still boxing at 29?

Mr. Derrick: Yes!!

Suzette: Didn't that hurt?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I was pretty quick!! And try to get a guy that's pretty quick, you know. I didn't get hurt very much. But anyways, the second time I went with him; he wanted me to go down, he wanted to join the Marines.

Suzette: So you enlisted?

Mr. Derrick: Well, when we went down there, they examined him, he took his glasses off, he couldn't see nothing you know. I mean his eyes was bad. He'd get in a fight, he got seven guys' beer just to pick a fight. He's young, and he's full of vinegar, you know.

Suzette: So they turned him down `cause he couldn't see!

Mr. Derrick: He had to wear glasses to see.

Suzette: But they took you?

Mr. Derrick: Yes, I passed! I just barely got by! That was it.

Suzette: So you enlisted, right?

Mr. Derrick: Yes, I was in and I was scared to death, you know. But I went in, and they sent me to San Diego,..

Suzette: And that's where you took boot camp there?

Mr. Derrick: Well, that's where they trained the Marines you know. And they put me in as a teacher, you know. They didn't send me into combat. My education was good enough to make a teacher out of me. So I went to Norman, Oklahoma, teaches Marines and sailors, guns and how to take care, break `em in, you know, for two weeks' training for the sailors and Marines. Well, I stayed there about two years, then I joined and went to San Diego and the Marines sent me overseas.

Suzette: Where did you go?

Mr. Derrick: I went to Guadalcanal, and the Philippines. We took the Philippines back.

Peggy: Were you in the invading forces?

Mr. Derrick: Yes.

Peggy: What years were you in?

Mr. Derrick: I was in a dive bomb squadron, and I was a bomb crew chief. I had about 25 or 30 kids workin' under me, not kids, but Marines, loadin' these planes, you know, with bombs and guns, takin' care of the armor. And I was head of that. We'd load all the dive bombers for about two years.

Suzette: Were you on an aircraft carrier?

Mr. Derrick: We were stationed on…you know, it rains a lot up there in the Philippines. We had a big field where we had 500 dive bombers a goin' out. About 32 planes out, and about 32 planes in, they'd take 5 planes off of those where they raised…We were helpin' the Army…McArthur wanted to dive bomb us, see. We had about 500 planes.

Suzette: So you were not stationed in the Philippines at the time, you were bombing the Philippines.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah! We was bombin' `em.

Suzette: Where was your airstrip, was it somewhere else near the Philippines?

Mr. Derrick: I was up there where the invasion, leveled off, they could take off five planes at a time. And we was bombing the devil out of `em, we was helpin' the Army.

Suzette: I see. When you first went to the Pacific, is that what you went to do? You went right away into the Philippine invasion?

Mr. Derrick: We trained up there about six months before.

Suzette: Did you choose to work with the bomber squadron? Was that your choice, or did they assign you that?

Mr. Derrick: That's where they put me. They put me in that school first. I was a teacher teaching in Norman, Oklahoma.

Suzette: Ok. What was the highest rank that you got?

Mr. Derrick: Tech sergeant.

Suzette: Tech sergeant. After you successfully took back the Philippines, what happened then?

Mr. Derrick: They let me out early.

Suzette: They let you out early? How come?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I was the oldest, too old, they wanted young guys in the Marines. I joined for the duration; they let me go, see, I was getting pretty old for a Marine.

Suzette: So you know when you joined? You were 29. Born in 1910, 1939 or 1940.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, I was in there about three years.

Suzette: About three years. They let you out in 1943?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, I was one of the first to go `cause I was one of the oldest.

Suzette: I see.

Mr. Derrick: I was just in for the duration of the war.

The war ended, we was getting ready to go to Honchu, all the Marines were going to make a landing there, see. The whole bunch, a lot of Marines, but they if they hadn't of done that bomb we, they was figuring on losin' about half of us.

Peggy: Were you still in the Marines when they bombed Hiroshima?

Mr. Derrick: No, Yes, that's what saved their butts then.

That's why I got to come home, see. We was getting ready to go over there, boats loaded and everything. We had two weeks' supply on that boat and all the Marines were going to make a landing at Honchu, that's one of the islands up there. But they was figurin' on losin' half of us. That bomb dropped, that saved our butts.

Suzette: You were thankful for the bomb!

Mr. Derrick: Soon after that, two or three months, they let me go, see, `cause I was one of the oldest in there.

Suzette: Because the Japanese had surrendered.

Peggy: How old were you when you got out?

Mr. Derrick: Well I was there about 36 months, I was 29 went in, 33 or something like that.

Suzette: Did you feel the Japanese were going to surrender, or were they fighting to the end?

Mr. Derrick: They did surrender! We was still fightin' `em when they bombed `em. We had the Philippines pretty secure.

Suzette: You did?

Mr. Derrick: Our squadron killed about 2900 Japs, in Luzon.

Suzette: You were in the invasion of Luzon?

Mr. Derrick: When we come back. I was down in Guadalcanal, then we come up to 1000 ships, took us in for the invasion. And they get the ship up close to it, see there was about a 1000 ships, and they had a bunch of sailors on boats right close to us. I had a piece of shrapnel, about this much, red hot. They bombed an ammunition dump, you know, the Japs had. They killed about six feet of `em. That was when we was comin' in on those 1000 ships. We was going up, everything was movin' up, cause we had Guadalcanal under control. We were invadin' the Philippines.

Suzette: Did you help take Guadalcanal also? Were you part of that invasion?

Mr. Derrick: I was there towards the end of it.

Suzette: OK. What was it like to be in that invasion?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, it was awful. Mowed down and everything. The Japanese had a big ship, you know, they was bombin' us on shore. They was wipin' us out. The trees was, you know, where they had been bombin', they killed a lot of those trees. There were Japs still on that island after we left.

Suzette: At Guadalcanal or the Philippines?

Mr. Derrick: At Guadalcanal.

Suzette: At Guadalcanal.

Mr. Derrick: They was up in the mountains, they found them 10 or 15 years later. A few of `em, you know, stayed out and raised a garden.

Suzette: Do you have any memories of that time you would like to share with us? Do you have any stories you would like to share with us during that time, from your invasion?

Mr. Derrick: No, I don't think so.

Suzette: Do you have any other memories of when you were in the Marines, in the Pacific that you would like to share with us?

Mr. Derrick: I think I've told it pretty well.

Suzette: Were you ever wounded?

Mr. Derrick: What do you mean?

Suzette: Wounded. Were you ever hit?

Mr. Derrick: No, no.

Suzette: Do you have any medals or special service awards?

Mr. Derrick: No.

Suzette: OK. So you didn't actually have to be on a ship and then run on shore?

Mr. Derrick: I was out there loadin' those bombs. We was workin' night and day. That was the hardest part, you had to get `em out. Some of those bombs pretty heavy. You lift `em up when they were dive bombing, you know.

Suzette: What was the name of your unit?

Mr. Derrick: I forgot the name of it.

Suzette: Do you have your service papers, or do you have a picture of yourself in your uniform?

Mr. Derrick: No.

Suzette: You don't?

Mr. Derrick: No, I give that to one of my girlfriends!

Suzette: One of your girlfriends?!

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, that I met in Detroit. She wanted my picture, so that's when I dressed up and…

Suzette: That's the only picture you ever bought?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, that's the only one. We was out there fightin'.

Suzette: What about when you came home? What happened after you got out? Where did you go after you got out?

Mr. Derrick: I went back to Alaska.

Suzette: You went back to Alaska. Did you ever think about coming back to Kansas?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I worked on the pipeline.

Suzette: On the pipeline?

Mr. Derrick: And I got my two brothers on there.

Suzette: So you had been in contact with your family?

Mr. Derrick: I got my two brothers and myself. We stayed on that pipeline all four years.

Suzette: It was good money. So at some point you were writing your mother and your family.

Mr. Derrick: Well, she died in 1940.

Suzette: Oh, she did?

Mr. Derrick: 54.

Suzette: So you had been writing to her?

Mr. Derrick: Not very much, see. I was busy.

Suzette: But you were with your brothers, so you had been in contact with your family.

Mr. Derrick: My mother died when she was about 54.

Suzette: Oh, she was very young.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah.

Suzette: So you were on the pipeline,..

Mr. Derrick: And the gold dredges.

Suzette: …and the gold dredges..

Mr. Derrick: …fishin', I give up fishin'.

Suzette: Yes. You preferred to go back to Alaska than to come back to Kansas.

Mr. Derrick: Well, I was raised around here, see.

Suzette: I see.

Mr. Derrick: I spent about 40 years up there.

Suzette: 40 years.

Mr. Derrick: I'm a pioneer up there.

Suzette: Well, you sure are.

Mr. Derrick: See, I been there before it was a state. It was a territory when I was up there.

Suzette: So did you have a homestead?

Mr. Derrick: No, not at first. I moved there…

Suzette: Where were you when Pearl Harbor? Do you remember Pearl Harbor?

Mr. Derrick: I was in Alaska.

Suzette: You were in Alaska? Were people pretty upset about that? Were people pretty emotional?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, yeah. At my age then, I was ready for anything.

Suzette: So that's when you decided to come back to Detroit?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I thought well, I better get out of Alaska. Alaska didn't have no way of protecting itself. All they'd had to do was walk in there. There weren't many people up there.

Suzette: Well, that's true. When did you move back to Kansas?

Mr. Derrick: I came back here `cause it's where I went to school and everything. I come back after the war, and then I went back up and worked on the pipeline for four years.

Suzette: Was that because there weren't any jobs here?

Mr. Derrick: No, jobs was pretty well in pretty good shape then. Back in the `30s when I hit the rough spots.

Suzette: Ok. Did you take advantage of the GI Bill to get any special training after the war?

Mr. Derrick: Up at Highland, they had for the farmers, you know. They helped us out a little bit to get started, back to farming.

Suzette: And did you take that course?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, I took it.

Suzette: OK. You were going to be a farmer again? You had come back to be a farmer?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, I was a farmer a little while and I went back to the pipeline.

Suzette: Why did you go back to the pipeline?

Mr. Derrick: To get more money.

Suzette: More money. Was it more adventuresome up there?

Mr. Derrick: I could get any job up there, pret near anything I wanted.

Suzette: Did you use the GI Bill other than that farming program? You were in that what, one year, two years?

Mr. Derrick: One year, I think.

Suzette: One year.

Mr. Derrick: It might have been two years. It was around Highland. They had this boy down there in Sparks, he's up in Alaska now. He was going to K-State, I forget his name. I'm losing names, you know. But he was going to K-State and he was our teacher. A young guy. He's up there now.

Suzette: Is he teaching, or…?

Mr. Derrick: He homesteaded.

Suzette: Oh, he did!

Mr. Derrick: And he's from Sparks.

Suzette: So you are in touch with him, you write to him?

Mr. Derrick: I stayed all night with him. I knew his family. He homesteaded, and they built a town right on his homestead.

Suzette: They did? What town was that?

Mr. Derrick: Wasilla.

Suzette: Um! How interesting. Now did you ever want to homestead?

Mr. Derrick: No, I was busy doing other things.

Suzette: Did you take advantage of the GI Bill to build a house or to get a loan?

Mr. Derrick: No.

Suzette: Do you use medical benefits today from…?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I get a pension from Alaska.

Suzette: You get a pension from Alaska for your service?

Mr. Derrick: Well, for my longevity, whatever it is, in Alaska. I was up there before it become a state.

Suzette: Exactly. Do you go to the Veterans Administration to get medicine, or go see doctors there? You have medical benefits as a veteran, do you take advantage of those?

Mr. Derrick: I take that meals, you know, Meals on Wheels.

Suzette: Yes. But you don't go to Fort Leavenworth to the Veterans Administration…

Mr. Derrick: They don't want me down there.

Suzette: How do you know that?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I tried it. I thought I would milk `em.

Suzette: And what did they tell you?

Mr. Derrick: They told me I had too much money.

Suzette: …a gold miner.

Mr. Derrick: That didn't do it, the pipeline done it.

Suzette: Oh, the pipeline did it.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah. I invested in Exxon. I was workin' in the kitchen, and I finally got a job, the guy that was on the aircraft carrier, he was head chef on the aircraft carrier, about 6000 servants. He was head chef on this place, see I was workin' then and feedin' these, we had about 5 workers to, we had about seven places on the pipeline. We had a mob, you know. And I was on that, Grayson, he was the head chef. So that have this guy buying the food out of Seattle. They'd fly it in. They fed about a 1000 people up there. So I was workin' there, and I got this guy a job. He couldn't get along with this guy buying the food, you know.

Suzette: He became the head chef?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, and they had about 4 or 5 cooking for these 1000 people. And I had the job of buying the meat and stuff, you know, that come in. I had about 40 people working, doing the maid work. We had about 1000 people there. We had to take care of them. So I was in charge of them. So I had to buy supplies and we'd have to fly that meat in…

Suzette: That was expensive.

Mr. Derrick: Well, that didn't cost a bit. We got a lot of money you know. So I got the job, buying that stuff. I had an office and I played the stock market a little. So there was a company, Standard of Ohio, Indiana, I bought some stock in that. It went up every year; it would go up and split and I made a million dollars just on that stock.

Suzette: Oh! Good investment!

Mr. Derrick: Yes.

Suzette: So the Veterans Administration said you don't need us.

Mr. Derrick: They kicked me out right now. And that didn't hurt me any. I was going to milk `em if I could.

Suzette: You mentioned that the head chef, when you were building the pipeline, had been the chef on the aircraft carrier you were on.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah.

Suzette: Did you maintain contact with other people you served with?

Mr. Derrick: No, I didn't. I used to have this big job, see. I know some boys I would have liked to kept contact with, but I couldn't. They was from all over the country.

Suzette: So you had friends, and you worked pretty close with them when you were in the service?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, we was just like that, see. The Marines teach you, you know, they'd tell those kids you can't live forever. And they just go through anything in the Marine Corps.

Suzette: So they teach you to work together.

Mr. Derrick: Stay together. Help each other. They teach that to you. Once a Marine, always a Marine.

Suzette: So you were pretty close.

Mr. Derrick: Yes. You can't live forever, they'd tell you. They'd like to get these guys, 17-18 years old.

Suzette: They don't want 29 year olds cause you already know…

Mr. Derrick: They'd take anything when I went in!

Suzette: After the war, you didn't maintain contact because everybody kind of went their own way, but you still…

Mr. Derrick: I knew a lot of my buddies I knew then, but you lose contact. They was from all over the country.

Suzette: You were bonded while you were working together and stayed together as much as possible.

Mr. Derrick: Oh, yea, we went as a one.

Suzette: That was really interesting. Do you think….

Mr. Derrick: Once a Marine, always a Marine.

Suzette: Do you get together with other Marines, do you have a common bond?

Mr. Derrick: Once a Marine, always a Marine.

Suzette: That is wonderful! Did you join the American Legion or VFW when you were in Alaska?

Mr. Derrick: They had American Legion there in Highland and I belonged to that. That's the only one I belong to.

Suzette: So, was that important to you to belong to that, to be with other veterans?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, I still belong to it.

Suzette: There's one in Wathena also. Did you belong to the Wathena one?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, they wanted me to join down there, but I was raised around Highland, see.

Suzette: What? They don't want you to join in Wathena because you were raised in Highland?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, but they wanted me to join there, but I can't belong to everything. They wanted me to transfer out of Highland, you know, but I know all these guys around Highland. Down at Wathena, my daughter teaches school down there, see.

Suzette: She does? What does she teach?

Mr. Derrick: Second grade. She's still teaching.

Suzette: Oh!

Mr. Derrick: I just have one daughter.

Suzette: Do you think your training during the war helped you in your life after the war?

Mr. Derrick: I don't think it helped me too much!

Suzette: It didn't help you get any jobs, or…

Mr. Derrick: I didn't need to get any. I got my own jobs.

Suzette: Ok. So your training and your experience was not really helpful to you in your future career.

Mr. Derrick: Well, it was over with. I'm getting ready for the bone yard now! Ha ha

Peggy: When did you leave Alaska and come back to Kansas to stay?

Mr. Derrick: Well, let's see. After the war years, I went up there and worked on the pipeline.

Suzette: And then what did you do after the pipeline?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I come back here. I was retired.

Peggy: And when was that? When did you retire?

Peggy: When did you retire?

Suzette: What year?

Mr. Derrick: Well, let's see, I was 67.

Peggy: 57?

Suzette: I didn't think the pipeline was being built that long.

Peggy: Oh, yeah.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, I come out of Alaska in 1966, that's when the pipeline was finished.

Suzette: And you came back to Kansas?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah.

Suzette: What were you going to do? Were you going to be a farmer?

Mr. Derrick: No, I wasn't going to farm. I bought some land and I rented it. And I bought Walmart; I buy it every year.

Peggy: You got stock in Walmart?

Mr. Derrick: I did have. That's what I started on.

Suzette: OK. So you spent most of your life in Alaska, but you came back to Kansas. What drew you back to Kansas? Why did you come back?

Mr. Derrick: Well, it was home. This is my second home. We lived in Tennessee, and I was about six, seven, eight years old then.

Suzette: Were your brothers living here?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah.

Suzette: And you came home to be with the family?

Mr. Derrick: All three of us was in the Marines that was livin'. The oldest brother, he got throat cancer. He died when he was 72, I think.

Suzette: So you came back to be with your family?

Mr. Derrick: There was four of us boys that lived.

Suzette: Where did you meet your wife? Did you meet her as a result of your service?

Mr. Derrick: Oklahoma City.

Suzette: So you did meet her as a result of your service?

Mr. Derrick: That's where I was teaching down there, teaching the Marines.

Suzette: Did you catch her with your uniform?

Mr. Derrick: Did I what?

Suzette: Did you have your uniform on, caught her wearing your uniform?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I had a uniform. I was stationed down there.

Suzette: So you met your wife in Oklahoma City.

Mr. Derrick: Yes.

Suzette: Did you get married then?

Mr. Derrick: Yes, after the war.

Suzette: After the war? So did you go back to Oklahoma City for a while?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, yeah, I was in Oklahoma City. I was down there about two years. In the Marine Corps. That was Norman, Oklahoma. Where the college is. I was teaching 50-caliber machine guns, and bombs. Then I went overseas, see.

Suzette: But after the war, you went down to Oklahoma City, got your wife, and went back to Alaska?

Mr. Derrick: I didn't take her to Alaska.

Suzette: You didn't?

Mr. Derrick: No.

Suzette: Where did she live?

Mr. Derrick: She lived in Oklahoma City.

Suzette: OK. For how long?

Mr. Derrick: Well, she was raised down there. That was her home.

Suzette: OK. Didn't she ever live with you after you were married?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah. We lived there in Highland.

Suzette: OK. You lived in Highland? And you came back in 1967 to Highland?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah. I got out of Alaska. I worked on the pipeline then. I was married before that.

Suzette: And she was with you on the pipeline or not?

Mr. Derrick: No, she didn't. She stayed down here for about four years in Oklahoma. She lived in Highland.

Suzette: So how many children do you have?

Mr. Derrick: Just the one.

Suzette: You have a daughter?

Mr. Derrick: That's it.

Suzette: And you came back to Highland and you've been here ever since.

Mr. Derrick: Not ever since. I've been in Wathena the last couple years.

Suzette: Oh, I see. So you came back, and you bought land,..

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, I bought real estate.

Suzette: Invested in real estate. I'll put it that way.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah.

Suzette: And you bought that beautiful barn, the Nuzum barn.

Mr. Derrick: Yes.

Suzette: Did you ever miss Alaska or miss that…?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I was up there a couple years ago. The Whetstines? You know them? They wanted to see Alaska, so we drove up over the highway. We spent about a month or so.

Suzette: That must have been a really nice time.

Mr. Derrick: I drove to places where I'd been, you know. Gold dredges where I'd worked on. And they saw the pipeline. We took a boat ride down the Cordova, saw the glaciers. There are some big glaciers out of Cordova and Juneau. I know Alaska from A to Z, pretty near, but I've never been to Kodiak. That's a fishing place. Where the big brown bears are.

Suzette: You'll have to go there. Yeah, the Kodiak bear.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah. I had a bear come at me. Yeah, up on the pipeline. I was out lookin' for these guys. After my work, I would go…That pipeline's 800 miles long.

Suzette: So, what happened? How did you get away from the bear?

Mr. Derrick: I was looking for diamond willow bend, they make beautiful canes, you know. And, after I got off work, I'd go out and see if I could find some. I went out there about two miles out of camp and they was a little lake, you know where there'd been moose around it. You know cow moose? There was willows around that lake, you know. A little small lake. And I heard somethin' comin' through the brush. And I looked down and I seen it was a black bear comin' at me. Headed straight for me, you know. But there'd been moose around this lake, see.

Suzette: So what did you do?

Mr. Derrick: Well, I went to screamin'. That's the most effective, to scream and surprise them. You got to do somethin' unexpected and they come up within six feet of me, prêt near to you, and he reared up, see. I was screamin' my head off, you know, tryin' to bluff him out. The Eskimos, that's what you got to do.

Suzette: So what happened?

Mr. Derrick: Well, he stopped and stood up on his hind feet. And I kept screamin', screamin', he was getting' pretty close, and I didn't have nothin' to fight with, see. Little ole tree saw, he could eat me up, see, but he didn't, he reared up and then he walked, he went down under the ___, and he didn't want no more of me. There'd been a lot of droppings from the moose, around this little lake.

Suzette: He was after the moose?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, where the moose had been, the cow moose and her calf, and I think he smelt somethin'. The moose, they get the calf, you know. Lot of times they'll fight off a moose. I think that's what he was after. He got surprised when I was standin' there, yellin' as loud as I could.

Suzette: You're not supposed to run, I don't think.

Mr. Derrick: No, you got to bluff `em. He's nearly six feet, what are you gonna do? I didn't have nothin' to fight with, a little ole twig saw I was cuttin' those willows with, you know.

Suzette: Well, you were lucky.

Mr. Derrick: I was lucky. That bear, he took off to my left, and he circled me and I thought I better get back in camp. I was about two miles out from camp. Close to the Yukon River. The river runs right through the middle of Alaska.

Suzette: You went back to camp?

Mr. Derrick: I was only two miles away. I got back to camp; I didn't go back out.

Suzette: I don't think I would either!! (All laughing)

Suzette: Do you have anything else you would like to add about your war experiences or how it changed your life in any way when you came back?

Mr. Derrick: Well, you mean, when I came back, I bought some farms. I had been lucky on the stock market. Don't put all that stuff in your writeup; I ain't tryin' to brag, or anything!!

Suzette: I know you are not. Did you feel American society changed after the 1940s?

Mr. Derrick: Well, no, I didn't pay no attention to it. I never give it a thought.

Suzette: So, Mr. Derrick, I want to thank you very much. This has been a wonderful interview and very interesting. I learned a little bit.

Peggy: You are very humble.

Suzette: Thank you very much.

(Mr. Derrick telling another story)

Mr. Derrick: ….for rest, you know.

Suzette: oh, you did some r & r in New Zealand, as a Marine.

Mr. Derrick: We got in there, in New Zealand, there's a post, the Marines, you know, give `em a big deal. We was ridin' in the parade, you know, on Main Street. They give us free meals and all the beer we could drink. Guadalcanal, you know. They pretty near got wiped out. They prêt near took over. They were shootin' at us from the ships, you know. So all the survivors that were in that place were celebrating. New Zealand wouldn't let you buy nothin'. Beer and everything was free for the Marines. We saved their butts, see.

Suzette: You were heroes by the New Zealanders.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, and there was a bunch there, and they wanted us to join them. So we was, right on Main Street, they took a movie of us as we were marchin'.

Suzette: So they regarded you as heroes.

Mr. Derrick: We had a big meal, all the beer we could drink, the wife and I got ____all day.

Suzette: That's wonderful!! So you were regarded as heroes then by people that were from New Zealand.

Mr. Derrick: New Zealand got saved, you know!

Suzette: Yes.

Mr. Derrick: They was about ready to invade New Zealand.

Suzette: I hadn't realized that.

Mr. Derrick: See, I was in the South Pacific there. We was bombing Uval, that's a little…they took over down in there, you know. We had to fight them off before we could go rescue the Philippines.

Suzette: It was pretty tough down in the South Pacific.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, flies and stuff, some of the boys got Ding disease, from the islands, you know, in the tropics.

Suzette: There was a lot of diseases.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, some of my buddies died from that.

Suzette: They did?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah. It ain't too healthy down there in some places.

Suzette: Did you sleep in tents, or were you sleeping out in the open?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, we had to sleep insideyou get that malaria, you know. We were in a malaria zone.

Suzette: You were in a malaria zone. That's carried by a mosquito.

Mr. Derrick: Yeah, we had to take pills, you know, these yellow pills that no body liked taking, they're bitter.

Peggy: Quinine pills?

Mr. Derrick: It was pretty rough.

Suzette: And it rains a lot. Did you sleep out in the open when it was raining, or did you have tents?

Mr. Derrick: In tents.

Suzette: You had tents.

Mr. Derrick: When the Japs would bomb us, you know, we had foxholes. They would fill up with water. It rained a lot over in the Philippines and places where we were at. I mean 22 inch rain. They'd fill our foxholes and some of the guys jumped right in that water and the bombing from the Japs.

Suzette: They got wet then?

Mr. Derrick: Somebody would forget about the water and them planes flying over. They dropped three bombs within six feet of `em at our place. If they'd went off; they was duds, see. They didn't go off, three in a row, five-hundred pound bombs within 40 feet. If they'd a went off, we wouldn't have been here.

Suzette: So were there a lot of duds then?

Mr. Derrick: No, that was only one place. All three bombs come over our camp, if they'd went off…

Suzette: Did you carry a rifle?

Mr. Derrick: I had a pistol and rifle.

Suzette: And did you have anti-aircraft weapons?

Mr. Derrick: We wasn't with the aircraft.

Suzette: OK. So they were trying to shoot them down too.

Mr. Derrick: Well, they had them pretty safe. We'd get these big rains and then dive bombs sink down in the ground and couldn't move sometimes. It rains a lot over there. 22-inch rain.

Suzette: So what did you do?

Mr. Derrick: We couldn't do nothin' much. It was pretty rough.

Suzette: It sounds like it. Did you have a change of clothes, or were you wet a lot?

Mr. Derrick: We'd get wet, but you'd dry off. We had gear to keep the water off. Sometimes it'd come a rain in your tents, you know, you'd get soakin' wet, wind blowin', you know, you can't keep all that water out. The foxholes would fill up with water. We all had foxholes.

Suzette: You did?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah. `Cause any time they'd bomb us, you know.

Suzette: Were there people that lived on that island?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, yeah. On Guadalcanal. I didn't see very many people live there.

Suzette: What about the Philippines?

Mr. Derrick: The Philippines were loaded with people.

Suzette: Did you interact with those people?

Mr. Derrick: They trusted us pretty well. Because the Japs took `em once, you know. Took the Philippines; they run us out. But I wasn't there when they run us out. I come by when they took it back.

Suzette: How did you find those people when you went back? Did they welcome you?

Mr. Derrick: Oh, they was nice people, nice people.

Suzette: Were they? Did you interact with them?

Mr. Derrick: Yeah.

Suzette: Did you have any other memories?

Mr. Derrick: They looked up to Americans, you know.

Suzette: Because you were seen as coming to help them.

Mr. Derrick: They wasn't antagonistic, no way.

Suzette: You were glad to get out of there!

Mr. Derrick: It didn't rain all the time!

Suzette: Any thing else you can think of?

Mr. Derrick: Glad to be back.

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