Interview with Jean Johnson

Dublin Core


Interview with Jean Johnson


Pasco (Wash.)
Kennewick (Wash.)
White Bluffs (Wash.)


An interview with Jean Johnson conducted as part of the Hanford Oral History Project. The Hanford Oral History Project was sponsored by the Mission Support Alliance and the United States Department of Energy.


Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities




Those interested in reproducing part or all of this oral history should contact the Hanford History Project at, who can provide specific rights information for this item.



Date Modified

2016-06-7: Metadata v1 created – [J.G.]


The Hanford Oral History Project operates under a sub-contract from Mission Support Alliance (MSA), who are the primary contractors for the US Department of Energy's curatorial services relating to the Hanford site. This oral history project became a part of the Hanford History Project in 2015, and continues to add to this US Department of Energy collection.

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Robert Bauman


Jean Johnson


Washington State University - Tri-Cities


Northwest Public Television | Johnson_Jean 

Robert Bauman: All right. Ready to get started? 

Jean JohnsonMm-hmm. 

Bauman: Okay. We'll start by having you state your name. 

Johnson: Well, my name--the name that people from White Bluffs will remember is Carrie Jean Conning. That was my name there. 

Bauman: Right. Your name now is Jean Johnson? 

Johnson: Yes. I left the Carrie off. 

Bauman: Okay. Great. And my name is Robert Bauman, and we're doing this interview on July 31, 2013, at Jean Johnson's home. And so I want to start our interview by just asking you to tell me a little bit about your family. If you know when they came to White Bluffs, how and why they came there, and when. 

Johnson: When my father was Leslie Andrew Conning. Known in White Bluffs as Andy. Andy Conning. He came from Pennsylvania. Somewhere here in the West and came up the river and landed in White Bluffs in 106. 

Bauman: And do you know why he came to White Bluffs? 

Johnson: He was kind of an orphan when he was born. His mother died with birth. And his grandmother and father raised him, and they couldn't take care of him, so an uncle took him. And his name was Andrew somebody else. Had sheep. And he wanted my dad to come back, come there into Colorado, or in the White Bluffs area and have sheep. Don't know if he ever did.  

Bauman: And so that's why he came to White Bluffs. 

Johnson: Mm-hmm.  

Bauman: And how about your mother? 

Johnson: My mother came from South Dakota. They went to Yakima. I don't know why. And then they went from Yakima to White Bluffs in 1912. She married my dad in 1918. And he had four--they had four children. I have three older brothers, then myself. 

Bauman: And so your parents met in White Bluffs, then? 

Johnson: Yes. They were neighbors. Because her name was Johnson, also. She came in there as Irma Johnson. And then she married Codding. That's what people are confusing when they say, what was your mother's maiden name? Johnson. [LAUGHTER] So, then I went to work right from graduation to The Republic newspaper in Yakima. 

Bauman: In Yakima, okay. 

Johnson: And I worked there--I was only, I think I was maybe 17. I was going to say 16, because I did graduate a year earlier in my age than I should have. And I could only work so many hours, because that was during the war. '43 I graduated from Yakima High School. And I had to sign a paper for a Social Security number. I never had had one before. So then that's when I took off the Carrie and just put Jean Conning. And then, of course, as soon as I got married, I had to do it again. 

Bauman: [LAUGHTER] I wonder if you could talk a little bit about where you grew up in White Bluffs. Your family farm, what that was like, what sort of crops you grew, that sort of thing. 

Johnson: He grew--my father had apples. And we lived right next to the Columbia River, and we had a water pump. And used to pump our water out of the river to irrigate. And then we had--he had just a home. Little bunch of fruit trees. Peaches and pears and cherries. And every—lot of people would come and pick them and can them, and my mother would can them. And they worked—they irrigated with the pipe and plugs. 

Bauman: What kind of pipes, do you know what that pipe was? 

Johnson: Wooden. Wooden pipe. And they had a cement--I don't even remember what they call it. But the water came from the river, and stayed in there, and then the pipes would drain off to put water in the field. And then the war came. And I was still in school, because I started--I was born in 1925. So he lost that place and had to move to another place. And the boys were all in the service by then. And he worked it by himself. And worked himself down. He got sick. But we stayed in White Bluffs. And then the cars were going through with the US government, so we knew something was going to happen. 

Bauman: I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about the farm that you grew up on. Were there other buildings that you had? Was there like a storage--a warehouse for storing some of the fruit, or any other sort of buildings? 

Johnson: Not then. We had a barn, because we had a milk cow, and two horses. The horses used to pull the spray wagon. And then in later years, they put a pipe out for them, to hold a spray. So they could just hook up and spray. And they were spraying that lime and sulfur, something like that. It was very--after everybody was gone, I heard how dangerous that was. 

Bauman: And was that for insects? 

Johnson: Mm-hmm, worms. The worms were eating him up. And nothing would stop them, since I told you before, they didn't come with DDT until after the war started, which was too late for him. 

Bauman: Did you have electricity on your farm? 

Johnson: Uh-huh. And my mother had an electric stove and an electric washing machine. But it was just a small little house. And the school bus would not pick me up, because I lived within three miles of the school. 

Bauman: So you walked to school? 

Johnson: So I had to walk to school. And there were three other girls there, who all four of us had to walk to school, carrying our lunch buckets and our books. And no fear. You know, every place we went, we walked. We had no fear. We knew everybody. 

Bauman: Do you remember the names of any those girls that you used to walk to school with? 

Johnson: Yvonne Ponsat was one. P-O-N-S-A-T. Her father was French. And she had two brothers who were in high school with my brothers. Another one was Elizabeth Keele. I don't know what he does. He's around Yakima somewhere. He's probably gone by now, too. The other girl, I can't remember her name, because she had moved there. 

Bauman: So when walking to school, was that elementary school and high school, or? 

Johnson: High school. 

Bauman: High School. 

Johnson: Yeah, the school bus would take us to grade school, but not to high school. 

Bauman: The high school was closer to you. 

Johnson: And it was just across one field, but we walked over and went down and walked down the road. And then eventually we all got bicycles. But the bicycles were--we were almost grown by the time we could afford a bicycle. [LAUGHTER] 

Bauman: [LAUGHTER] Must have been a little tricky walking sometimes in the winter. 

Johnson: There were no winters there. We lived so close to the river, it was warm all winter. I don't remember any snow. No snowmen, no snow fights, no icy roads. 

Bauman: And did you have telephone at your house? 

Johnson: Oh, yes. With the ringer, you know-- "number please!" [LAUGHTER] You remember them? 

Bauman: [LAUGHTER] I remember the dial phones. [LAUGHTER] 

Johnson: Oh yeah. Well, this was just a telephone operator. And we also had RFD. We also had mail service. So it wasn't too remote. 

Bauman: So how far from the town were you? 

Johnson: Well, they said I lived within three miles.  

Bauman: Okay. 

Johnson: And that was the limit for school was three miles from town. 

Bauman: Do you remember any of your teachers from school at all? From either grade school or high school? Did you have any favorite teachers or ones that you remember at all? 

Johnson: Well, those pictures reminded me. I did not remember them, yes, but I do now. And another thing, too. My father was the clerk of the school board. 

Bauman: Oh, okay. 

Johnson: So he got to have all the interviews of all the people who came that wanted a job of teaching. And my youngest brother and I would sneak around and try and get a good look at them before any of the school kids did. We wanted to know who they were first. [LAUGHTER] My other two brothers had graduated from high school by then, but my younger brother and I went to school as close together as four years could do it. 

Bauman: Mm-hm. Were your parents involved in any other organizations at all in the community? 

Johnson: Well, just my dad was a Mason, and my mother was Eastern Star. And that was all of their--they did not go to church. And we had eight churches in White Bluffs, and they were all active. No, there were six! Six. I'm too far. 

Bauman: What about the town itself? What sorts of businesses do you remember, or stores, or anything like that? 

Johnson: Mm-hm. You want to bring that in, Leslie? It's out there. I didn't bring the right one. It's a tablet. Just seeing that picture reminded me of a lot of their names. Okay, the grocery store was the first scene. His name was Dick Reirson. R-E-I-R-S-O-N. And then we had a drugstore, but it was a pharmacy. And he had an ice cream table. And he had a distorted hand, and he used to put the ice cream cone down in there, you know, with the little top, and then reach down. Remember those cans that had the ice cream in it? Good old hard ice cream put in there, and never drop a drop. He was also the band leader for the high school music. And then there was the power company, and I could not remember the lady's name. They had Pacific Power there. And he had a Ford dealer with a service company. That was Fred Gillhualy. G-I-L-L-H-U-A-L-Y. And they were four boys. And I don't know if they're around Yakima or gone by now. 

Bauman: Yeah, I'm not sure. 

Johnson: I know the name because one boy said he was flying home from California to Yakima, and they were takingso many people had to get off the airplane, but he got to ride all the way to Yakima. Went to get off the plane, the little stewardess said, how do you pronounce your last name? [LAUGHTER] They couldn't tell him to get off the airplane because they couldn't pronounce his name! So that was good. And Levi Austin was the superintendent at the high school. And the Austin name is from Prosser. The one boy, he had a hardware store in Prosser. But I keep thinking, you know, they're still there, but I'm just lucky to live as long as I have. Because they were probably--they were in my brother's age. And see in there, everybody's gone. So I don't remember any teachers. 

Bauman: Okay. 

Johnson: I remember--well, I don't remember the principal, but I remember the principal of the high school took us all in the next morning after Pearl Harbor, and told us that they had bombed Pearl Harbor. 

Bauman: Is that how you found out about it? 

Johnson: World War II, yes. Because remember Roosevelt? Franklin Roosevelt? "This day will be known in infamy." Well, I heard that. Course, it never went away. And then my father--this was years before we moved to this ranch. The first ranch we had when we were all little. My father and the neighbor built this warehouse, and they came in with apples, and they poured them in this water bath, and then it went down. And the women sorted off all the bad, and the other ladies were packing the apples with wrapper paper. Take that little paper. And they'd go on a roller to the lidder, and he would put the lid on and stack them up. And then two more people would come with these lifts and carry the five boxes of apples across a ramp and put them on the truck until they got the truck loaded, and then they would take it to White Bluffs, to the railroad. 

Bauman: Oh, okay. 

Johnson: The Milwaukee Railroad came into White Bluffs, and they would take them to Yakima. 

Bauman: And that's how the apples would get shipped out. 

Johnson: And the Pear and Fruit. I don't even know if they're still there, but my father worked for them after he had to leave White Bluffs and went to Yakima. 

Bauman: When you were growing up on the farm, did you have any chores? Any things that you did? 

Johnson: No, I was little. 

Bauman: [LAUGHTER] 

Johnson: I was little. No. And I said we didn't have any indoor plumbing, and we didn't have any running water. And my brother reminds me so much of Wes, the boy you met. Said, well, Jeannie said we just put the bucket on the rope and put it down, and get a bucket of water. Wind the rope up, grab a hold of the buck, and if you were still able, you'd run the water to the house. [LAUGHTER] So he tried to tell me that we did have running water. But no, I did--I probably took care of the chickens or something like that. I didn't have any pets. 

Bauman: Did you swim in the river at all, or anything like that? 

Johnson: No. No, I was too little. The boys did, and we'd go out in one of these peach orchards. There were a lot of orchards in White Bluffs. Beautiful orchards. And they also had irrigating water. Pretty British, no. What's the Puget--what's over here? Where the river goes under the bridge? 

Bauman: Not sure. 

Johnson: Priest River! Priest Rapids! 

Bauman: Priest Rapids, sure. 

Johnson: Priest Rapids irrigation. And they had paid in money for the upkeep of it. And that was one of the things that the boys--some White Bluffs boy told me, did you ever get any money back from your--what do you call that? Whenever you give money--have money yearly. It's not a donation; it's a cost. 

Bauman: The years of the irrigation. 

Johnson: Oh, can't think. Okay. And no, we didn't ever have any. But they did have plenty of water. That's one thing they did have up there was plenty of water. And those peach orchards, they could afford to clean up new land, and bringing in new trees, and have the water. And they could--with the winters that we had there, their fruit would get onto the market before California would get up to Yakima. So when that company came in to take over, they gave my dad about $5 an acre. And these guys got maybe $20. And they were all rich enough to hire lawyers, and they hired lawyers. And their lawyer got them much more money for their land. But it was worth it. To see those brand new trees get just bulldozed over! 

Bauman: I was wondering if you remember any special community events or celebrations? Did you have any 4th of July celebrations, or picnics, or anything like that? Foot races? 

Johnson: I can't remember any specific. I do remember that they built next to the high school something called a Community Hall. And they would have dances and the boys would play basketball. And maybe Kennewick would come up and play basketball. They'd have basketball games. But as far as grange, they did not participate. 

Bauman: So-- 

Johnson: Oh, and this orchard, in their warehouse. Yes, he had told me that before, that he had about 16 people that they hired. And my mother was the bookkeeper. And so these people were getting money every Friday night. 1934 and '35. So he had lots of friends. Lots of people liked him, because he did provide for people to get a job. There were no jobs, as far as work was concerned. The grocery store would hire--his nephew was there. And the drugstore did it by himself. And one lady, Mrs. Leander, was the postmistress. She took care of the post office. I don't know who any of the people were that came around to deliver the mail. 

Bauman: You mentioned earlier that there was the initial farm that your parents had, and then your father had moved at some point. Is that right? 

Johnson: Yes. 

Bauman: About how old were you at that time, then? 

Johnson: Well, according to the pictures on--at home, I was about four. Because I was just with the kids as they would stand out go to school. I wasn't going to school. And then I cannot tell you how long it was, but it was a big blow to leave that house and that yard, and go to a house where workers had lived in all their life. And they had cardboard on their walls, covering up the wood. And it had one bedroom, and I got to have the bedroom. And there was a big porch in the front, and the three boys slept in part of it, and Mother and Dad slept in the other. But the weather over there was never cold. I guess it was hot, but I don't remember that. I'm sure it was hot. Because it was desert. 

Bauman: And how far away would the second place have been from your first house? Was it fairly close? 

Johnson: I would say three and a half miles, just up over a hill. 

Bauman: And then you lived there until you moved to Yakima? 

Johnson: Yes. 

Bauman: Okay. You mentioned that you'd heard about World War II beginning. You want to talk about your brothers? And I understand they all joined the service at some point. Is that correct? 

Johnson: Mm-hm. 

Bauman: And that's why you were still living in White Bluffs? 

Johnson: No, Yakima. Well, you're right. They were. But then they left, because one was going to university and the other two we're going to Washington State. And they joined in what, '41? And then we had to move in '43. But they said, Mom, don't worry about moving to Yakima, because we can get to Yakima from anywhere in the world, but we can't get to White Bluffs. So they were probably already in the service doing their first camp or something. And one--I had no idea in the world what reconnaissance meant--he did not fight a war, but he was in reconnaissance--until I looked it up in the dictionary. And he was fighting the war up in the air, taking pictures of their movements, the Japanese movements. And my other brother was in a tanker taking fuel from New Orleans to France in the Atlantic. And he said that the Atlantic was full of German submarines. He said there were four days that they didn't even take their clothes off. But his was brand new, and he could not go slow as everybody else did. And he could go faster than their convoy, so he circled their own convoy without any cover, because he said his boat would not go that slow. And my other brother was in Marine fighter pilot. And he--I don't know if you knew the story about Ted Williams, but Ted Williams' group came in. Whenever my brother left that camp, Ted Williams came in. And I just heard that on the--because people look at me and say, Ted Williams, the baseball player? And I said, yes, he went to war. Yeah, he was in a group that came in and took over where my brother had been. 

Bauman: You mentioned earlier that you started seeing some cars and vehicles that said U.S. Government. Do you remember any more about that? Anything else that happened? 

Johnson: Well, that was our first--there was gossip around that, I don't know, that they were going to take over and build a atomic bomb or something on our land. That we were going to have to leave. Well, you know, until it came to push, and then came shove. But these station wagons were showing up, and each one of them had about four men sitting in it. And they were surveying the land. And they had surveyed how many houses there were, and what condition they were in, because some houses were ready to be burned and a few houses were moved. And the rest of them were demolished. And then all of a sudden it came across that you were going to have to move by the 15th of September. They gave them the date. And my mother worked on an election board. And whatever year that was, I don't know. But she wanted to stay and work on that last board. And I had been told later that that was the only money she was going to move with, was what she got paid for. She had a sister that lived in Yakima, and they found us an apartment. And it was just two rooms. Oh, goodness, it was small. But that was where we were. And my dad stayed to work on the orchard. They let him stay until the crops were all picked. And he sent the last bunch of apples off that orchard to Yakima. 

Bauman: How did you feel about having to leave? Or your parents ever express anything about-- 

Johnson: They did not, because as I've said before, I said we were poor. Leslie just said we didn't have any money. 

Bauman: [LAUGHTER] 

Johnson: And we all got jobs. I got babysitting jobs with a little neighborhood girl. The mother was there, but I would just go over there and play with her, and get maybe $0.25 or something. Well, that's all there was. And I didn't drive. I couldn't go anywhere. Cars were--gas was rationed. And then we went to Yakima. And I graduated on about the 3rd of June and went to work on the 6th. I said to Mother, now, don't wake me up. I'm going to sleep for two days. She woke me up and said, well, there's an ad in the paper. The newspaper wants help. And I said, well, I'll go see. Well, I got taken that day. I worked there for seven years. In the advertising, Johnny, doing anything that they wanted done. I would do it. I ran the switchboard. And I could--I did a lot of odd jobs there. But I was in advertising. Yeah, I have to tell you that writing for sale notes to be published in the paper. And Friday night, he had to have it. Everything had to be back in the room to get onto Sunday's paper, at least by five o'clock Friday night. And this one man would invariably come about 20 after 4:00. And every time I could, I would leave the room. But I got a hold of him one time, and he had cattle for sale. And I was writing it down. And he had a milking short-horn bull. And I wrote it down, and I looked at it. That's what it said, a milking short-horn bull. I said, that's not possible! Oh, he said, you silly girls don't know a thing. That's what it is. Put in the paper. [LAUGHTER] I couldn't ask him, hey, my father wouldn't have known what a short-horn bull was either. [LAUGHTER] Wow, I never will forget that. So I found out later that that's a breed of animal. That's what they're called.  

Bauman: I was asking about leaving White Bluffs. Did your parents get any money for their property at all? 

Johnson: I have no idea. Money was never spoken of. I know that we took what furniture that there was suitable, and we had an aunt and uncle that lived in Sunnyside. And they came over with an old truck, and took whatever we couldn't take. Because when we went to Yakima, they said the apartment was furnished. So we didn't take anything. And that was bad. Because what they had furnished, we didn't want to sleep on. And we'd already sent out stuff to Sunnyside. So we slept on a Davenport until we got enough money to--Mother went to work for a lady that lived up the street. Had a little milk and bread grocery store, and she had two sons in the service. And so she and Mother had lots in common. And Mother would go to work for her two days--for a couple of hours two days a week. And that was what we bought groceries with. 

Bauman: When you were living in White Bluffs, how you get news? Was there a newspaper? Did you have a radio? 

Johnson: I never read a newspaper. I don't know anything about that. As soon as I got into the newspaper business, I read everything I can. I don't know. And as I said before, the radio we had was run by a battery. And the boys were allowed to have 30 minutes of radio when they got home from school. One of them was Jimmy Austin. Remember the--well you probably don't remember--it was a airplane. My one brother was crazy about airplanes then. And then they got into the, oh, some stupid--I think that was television, though. And then my dad was a great news man, and he would listen to the Richfield Reporter. 

Bauman: And how about you? Did you listen to anything on the radio? 

Johnson: Uh-uh. 

Bauman: I was wondering if you ever had a chance, opportunity, to go back to White Bluffs at some point later, during one of the White Bluffs reunions, or anything like that, where you have to go back and see the area at all. 

Johnson: Just three times I have. One was our 60th graduation. And the four I told you about--we had four--and the other three came. And that was when he took my girlfriend and I up to the--Harry Anderson took us up to our homes. Otherwise we would just join the convoy that would go out around and around and around. And come back in and drive through what White Bluffs streets were to get back out to the park. 

Bauman: When you were able to go back and see the area, were there any things that you recognized at all that were still there, or was pretty much everything gone? 

Johnson: Well, a lot of the houses were still there. The girls that I used to go visit and knew about. And the warehouse was there. Just about the last packing he did was when he left. And a wind storm had come in and it was just boards. And the wind leveled it. So that was the end of that. And our hay barn, our cow barn, had collapsed, and I didn't want to go back anymore. It wasn't home. 

Bauman: I see. What do you think is important for people to know about the community of White Bluffs? 

Johnson: I want them to know that we were a community. We had stores. We had grocery stores. We had a barber shop. Had the power company. We had electricity at home. My mother had an electric washing machine, which was very, very rare. But the boys had made enough money in the service to help her buy some stuff. So she had an electric stove, and she had a wood stove. And the electric stove is what she baked in. Use it for baking. Because we had so many apples, she was always making apple pie. The wood stove had a great big reservoir. So if you wanted hot water, you started the stove. You'd have enough hot water to wash the dishes at suppertime, and wash your face to go to bed. That I can relate to something else that's kind of bad to these kids, but every morning, after breakfast, before we went to school, we’d put a little bit of soda and little bit of salt in the palm of our hand, and take our dry toothbrush and mix that together. Have a glass of water, and the four of us went outside, and stood outside on the lawn, and we'd all brush our teeth. Dip it in the water, and dip over here. We didn't have toothpaste, but I guess soda and salt will work just as well. We never had candy. We did have apple pie and chocolate cake. Mother did bake. And then my father had that cow, and would have a calf. And whenever the calf got big enough, he'd butcher it. And it would hang up in a tree. It was cool. It was always in the fall that he'd butcher the calf. And they'd go out and cut some meat, take it in, and have it for supper. So it was very, very pioneer. True. But as I said before, Leslie has made me think we were not poor. 

Bauman: Right. Did you go to any other towns very much at all? To Pasco or to-- 

Johnson: Oh, Pasco we went for a doctor, because I got real sick in my fifth grade. I had Bright's disease. Don't even know what it is. But the doctors now say, well, I'm glad you had it then, because we don't want you to have it now. And I had to stay in the hospital in Pasco. And my mother would come twice a week, and she'd say, how are you doing? Oh, I said, I wish you'd bring me some water from home. The water they give me has--they always put my medicine in my water! And I said, I don't like it that way. I like to be able to drink a drink of water. And she said, well, they shouldn't put your medicine in your water. So she went out to the nurse and said, Jean said that the water isn't good. Well, she complains to me, too, but she's drinking city water. They had chlorine in it, and I didn't like it. [LAUGHTER] 

Bauman: [LAUGHTER] How long were you in the hospital for that? 

Johnson: About two weeks. To me, that was a long ways to be from home. 

Bauman: And about how old were you at that time? 

Johnson: I was in fifth grade. I think I was 11. Bright's disease, I think, was a kidney problem, and the doctor, without telling me, told my mother that I may not ever be able to have children. So nobody told me anything about that until after I got married. And I had four children in six years, so I proved them wrong! [LAUGHTER] All doctors aren't right. 

Bauman: [LAUGHTER] Were there doctors in White Bluffs? 

Johnson: I was born there, yes. That's what one of my friends said, you couldn't have been born in White Bluffs unless you were born at home. I said, no, I was born in White Bluffs. There was a little house there, and there was some doctor. I don't know who he was. He was an old, old man. And the lady I talked to, the nurse, was a retired army nurse. And she said she had studied--what's baby birth? It's not pediatrics. 

Bauman: It's not pediatrics? 

Johnson: Well, anyhow. 

WomanWas it midwifery? 

Johnson: Yeah. Well, that's what she was. She was a midwife. So yeah. The boys were all born in Yakima. 

Bauman: Oh, okay. 

Johnson: My mother would go in there and stay with her mother. 

Bauman: But you were born in White Bluffs? 

Johnson: I was born in White Bluffs. And isn't that funny? I can remember that, a white house. It was spotless. And there was no dogs and cats running around in it. No children. Just that old man and that lady. But I made it through. 

Bauman: Are there any other memories or stories, things you remember from growing up that we haven't talked about yet, or I haven't asked you about yet that you'd like to talk about? 

Johnson: No, I ended up with The Republic and then I got married. Well, I worked seven years at the newspaper office. And the picnics and things that we had was over on the other house where we had the big lawn. We always had a picnic there. A lot of those people who were working at the warehouse would come over on Sunday and bring one dish or something, and all their kids. And they would play on our yard, because we had water in the yard--came to go to the orchard--had been derailed and come on to the yard. And he had and old lawnmower and mowed it. So it was fun. And we had a lot of company, because everybody was beholden to my father. And that's about all I can remember, but I wanted to express myself that this is really from my heart, because I have wanted to do this. And I appreciate all your help and the other people coming in and standing there waiting for us to get done. 

Bauman: Well, I want to thank you very much for being willing to share your stories. This has been terrific. I really appreciate it. 

Johnson: Thank you. And the weather there! The weather in White Bluffs--I'm sorry. It was beautiful, even though it was desert. We had warm winters. I do not remember any snow. And it was a long trip from White Bluffs to Yakima in an old car. [bounces up and down] 

Bauman: Is that the Ford? 

Johnson: An old Ford--no, no. Oh, my, no. We had a big Chevrolet. My brother bought it, then they went to war. 

Bauman: So you took the Chevrolet once they were gone. 

Johnson: Mm-hm. Well, I am a very happy person. 

Bauman: [LAUGHTER] Well, thank you very much. Again, it was really appreciated. 

Johnson: Mm-hm. 

Crew womanIs that it? 

Bauman: Yeah. 

Crew woman: Okay, well I heard you talking about the boat regatta. 

Bauman: Oh. Yeah. The boat regatta. There's a photo of the cars lined up on the river. 

Johnson: Mm-hm. 

Bauman: Could you talk about that at all? Do you have any memories about the-- 

Johnson: Oh, yes. Because two of our men were in two of those boats. One of them was the Wiehl. I can't remember what another man's name was. I don't remember too much about it, because to me the boats were just going around and around and the rest of us kids were either trying to get ice cream, or [LAUGHTER] see how many rocks we could pick up or something. It wasn't--and that's another thing, too. I probably mentioned that before. We were never afraid. We were never afraid. Day or night. If somebody new came into town, he was well covered. And everybody knew who he was in ten days, five days. 

Bauman: The boat regattas, did it happen every year? Is that something that's a yearly-- 

Johnson: As far as I remember. I cannot say it was every year. Maybe every year for five years or something like that. And that was one of the biggest events. There was no rodeos, and no parades that I can ever remember. 

Bauman: Okay. Well, Jean, let’s have you look at some of these photos, maybe. And have you talk a little bit about them. 

Jean Johnson: All right. This is my mother and father’s wedding. They were married in Prosser in August 19—I almost want to say 1916. It doesn’t matter, really, it was somewhere in there. And they had met in White Bluffs, where mother’s family grew up—moved from Yakima to White Bluffs—was only 100 feet from Dad’s shack. 

Bauman: Oh, okay. 

Johnson: So they met early in the shack. [LAUGHTER] 

Bauman: They were neighbors. [LAUGHTER] 

Johnson: Yeah. Okay, and this was a brand new Ford Turing. It wasn’t Turing—what did I tell you it was? 

Bauman: You thought maybe a Model A, possibly? 

Johnson: No. I don’t think—I don’t know. Maybe not, it was a brand new car. And when Dad went into White Bluffs to pick up the car, he took the three boys with him and bought them all three new hats. So they were spiffy and ready to go. And here they were just showing me off. 

Bauman: [LAUGHTER] 

Johnson: And this is my house in White Bluffs. I loved that house. And you can see from the pictures they had a great big lawn. 

Bauman: Right. More kids again here. 

Johnson: Mm-hm. And we played—I was out on the grass all the time. The boys had pretend airports over here with their model airplanes. In those days they had airplanes that were made of steel or something, they were heavy. 

Bauman: And who took all these photos, did your parents have a camera then? Do you know? 

Johnson: Are we all there? 

Bauman: No, but I mean—this is the four of you kids, but did your family have a— 

Johnson: Yeah. They had a Kodak Box. And those other pictures that I took when I was older, I had a little tiny thing that took 110. And then they finally did away with the 110 film. So the girls gave me a digital—3M or something, I don’t know. I can’t think. [LAUGHTER] So I don’t take any more pictures. Yeah, this was 1937. 

Bauman: So, you were about 12 years old? What year were you born? 

Johnson: ’25. No, I was little. I was about four, I didn’t get to go to school yet. 

Bauman: Oh, here you were little, yeah. Let’s see. Oops. 

Johnson: Yeah. And that’s an orchard that they worked in and they climbed up a tree. And there was a ladder, and there’s the dog standing there with them. See that? Ben-ben was always with them. 

Bauman: That was your family dog? 

Johnson: Mm-hm. There was a— 

Bauman: And who’s this here? 

Johnson: That’s my second brother. He was the one who was on the gas run for the Navy. 

Bauman: Oh, okay. 

Johnson: He had come home from Pullman. He was very, very studious. He was the president of his senior class in college. 

Bauman: Oh, okay, was that Washington State? 

Johnson: Yes. And this one—my older brother went to the University of Washington, Seattle. 

Bauman: Okay, I’m going to bring in some of these school photos now. 

Johnson: This was the seventh grade. 

Bauman: And which one are you in here? You see yourself? 

Johnson: Remember? I was in the background, up by the teacher, tall. Yeah. And this is what? Fifth and sixth. We were younger. See that’s me right there. My brothers were all ahead of me. And that man’s name was Tomet. He lived in [UNKNOWN]. Fred Tomet. 

Bauman: And he was the teacher? 

Johnson: Mm-hm. 

Bauman: This was taken outside in front the school. 

Johnson: Mm-hm. That looks like a pretty good looking school, doesn’t it? 

Bauman: It does, yeah. Now here’s an earlier one. 

Johnson: Yeah, that was the teacher of second grade. I told you when she came back she had a little tiny—had a belly on her! Next time we knew, she had a new baby in her arms. That was my experience of when children would come, taught in school. 

Bauman: And which one are you in this photo? 

Johnson: Oh, right there. 

Bauman: Uh-huh. And there’s grade school. 

Johnson: Oh, this is a whole bunch of them! 

Bauman: Looks like the whole grade school. 

Johnson: It must be. 

Bauman: Of White Bluffs. 

Johnson: I think I’m down here, because that was the teacher. And that was my first grade teacher—I told you she was an older woman. And do you know, to this day—I called her Mrs. Moody—and there’s a lady in Ellensburg that my brothers went to school with. And they called her Mrs. So-and-so. In those days, that’s all we—you did not call them by Martha and George. They were mister and missus. And that’s what—in that, the lists that Betsy made of all those men in town—I didn’t know their first names that came to me. But they were always Mr. Gilhuly and Mr. Larsen and Mr. English. Kids in those days didn’t say, Hi Fred! 

Bauman: [LAUGHTER] 

Johnson: [referring to picture] I can’t tell, I can’t tell. But I’m there. 

Bauman: And another thing I wanted you to talk about was this. 

Johnson: Yeah, that was the name of my father’s apple. This was painted on the backside of his—on the solid end of the apple box. And that does say White Bluffs on it. Codding and Heideman, Fred Rea – Seattle was his—when his stuff was shipped out. When it went right into the store, right into people, it was Pear in Yakima. Pear Fruit Company. 

Bauman: And who was Heideman? 

Johnson: He was a neighbor. We lived here, and went through the orchard and through the orchard, and he lived right there. And they had five children and they were all younger than we were. But it’s funny how they grew up, because two of the boys were teachers that came into Yakima. They were agriculture teachers and one was a livestock teacher. And they came into the school from Wenatchee. So many of those kids, you know, they moved out of White Bluffs when they had to. And they all stayed within the area, almost. I don’t know, some of them must have left and went out of state, but a lot of them just stayed with what they knew. That’s the only thing you could do, you couldn’t get really educated. 

Bauman: A lot of them stayed close by? 

Johnson: Mm-hm. 

Bauman: I meant to ask you, do you know how large your farm was, like how many acres? 

Johnson: I think it was something like 22. It wasn’t large, but they were all trees. 

Bauman: And so your father partnered with Mr. Heideman for these apples. 

Johnson: Well, I would say Mr. Heideman let—knew my father. Because he wanted to build it. 

Bauman: Okay. 

Johnson: And Heideman said, well, I’ll help you. And so they got in a real good friendship. Us kids were all good friends, but the parents didn’t have much to do until they got into this. But he was, as I said before, a lot of people had great respect for him for getting them jobs. 

Bauman: Mm-hm, right. 

Johnson: Now, not to change the subject, but my boys are the same way as my dad was. Because my boys hire whatever they have to hire. And they are—the boys that they hire comment to them and to their parents how easy and how nice it is to work here. Because they say thank you, they don’t yell at them, they’re paid every time they need money or time they’re off. And that’s what they have learned. If they did the work, pay them. Don’t say you have to wait until Monday. So they have very good respect in the Valley. I’m very, very proud of all of them. 

Bauman: Sure. I meant to ask you, how did you come across this label? How did you get this label? 

Johnson: I have no idea. Somebody must have drawn it up for him. 

Bauman: Mm-hm. All right. Thanks. Thank you, that was very good. Very helpful. 




Bit Rate/Frequency


Years in Tri-Cities Area


Names Mentioned

Conning, Andrew
Ponsat, Yvonne
Keele, Elizabeth
Reirson, Dick
Fred Gillhualy
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano)1882-1945
Williams, Ted
Anderson, Harry


Johnson, Jean.jpg


Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities, “Interview with Jean Johnson,” Hanford History Project, accessed December 5, 2023,