Ken Taplin

Interviewer:  Lorin Sorenson
Interview Date:  2002

LORIN SORENSON: …2002 and we’re interviewing Ken Taplin. My name is Lorin Sorenson, and Ken, let’s start from the beginning.

KEN TAPLIN: I was born June 10, 1921 at the St. Helena Sanitarium.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Who were your parents?

KEN TAPLIN: My parents were Ethel Lewelling Taplin and Albert John Taplin.

LORIN SORENSON: All right, and do you know their birthdates?

KEN TAPLIN: No, not offhand. A.J.T. 2-4-89 E.L.T. 2-11-88

LORIN SORENSON: You know the year of birth?

KEN TAPLIN: No.

LORIN SORENSON: OK, not offhand. And, then you married Alice. What was Alice’s maiden name?

KEN TAPLIN: Gaylord.

LORIN SORENSON: Alice Gaylord.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: And what is her middle name?

KEN TAPLIN: Alice Elizabeth.

LORIN SORENSON: Gaylord. And do you know her date of birth?

KEN TAPLIN: August 7, 1922.

LORIN SORENSON: And were her parents from Napa Valley?

KEN TAPLIN: They came here when her father took over the principalship of the high school.

LORIN SORENSON: St. Helena High School?

KEN TAPLIN: St. Helena High School.

LORIN SORENSON: So, her father was a principal of St. Helena High School.

KEN TAPLIN: Right.

LORIN SORENSON: And his name was —

KEN TAPLIN: William Luther Gaylord.

LORIN SORENSON: All right, and so then Alice was born in —

KEN TAPLIN: She was born in Berkley. Came here when she was three years old.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. And, who are her brothers and sisters?

KEN TAPLIN: She had an older sister, Edith, and a younger brother, Bill.

LORIN SORENSON: And, what years did her father — Alice’s father – what years was he principal at St. Helena High School?

KEN TAPLIN: I can’t tell you that. I can find out.

LORIN SORENSON: What roughly would be the years, do you know? The twenties and thirties, or forties?  1924-33

KEN TAPLIN: Probably the mid-twenties to the early thirties.

LORIN SORENSON: All right, and when did your — the earliest members of your family are the Lewellings, is that right — they pre-date the Taplins in Napa Valley?

KEN TAPLIN: No, the Taplins pre-date the Lewellings, as I found out.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, really. So, when did the Taplins come to the valley, then?

KEN TAPLIN: The Taplins arrived in California in 1849 and St. Helena in 1867. Oh, I’m sorry, the Lewellings arrived in St. Helena earlier, but —

LORIN SORENSON: But you’re not sure what year?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah, the Lewellings arrived in 1864 in St. Helena. They arrived in California in 1854.

LORIN SORENSON: All right, and the Taplins arrived in St. Helena in 1867?

KEN TAPLIN: The Taplins arrived in St. Helena in 1867.

LORIN SORENSON: All right. And do you know who the original Lewelling was that led his family here?

KEN TAPLIN: John.

LORIN SORENSON: John Lewelling? And where did he come from? I mean, before he came to Napa Valley, where was he?

KEN TAPLIN: He came from San Lorenzo.

LORIN SORENSON: Somewhere in the Bay area.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: And before that, were they in Oregon?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: And they came over the Oregon Trail then, or the California Trail — in that case, the Oregon Trail.

KEN TAPLIN: They came from Milwaukee, Oregon, from, Salem, Iowa?

LORIN SORENSON: Salem, Michigan, I mean, Salem, Oregon.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, there were Salems across the United States if you look at a map. These were Quaker meeting houses.

LORIN SORENSON: Is this the Lewelling that was the horticulturist?

KEN TAPLIN: All three brothers were. Henderson, Seth & John

LORIN SORENSON: They were in the Willamette Valley in Oregon then.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. And so, they came from over the Oregon Trail from Iowa and settled in Oregon and were in the nursery business and then, from there, I take it that he went to Mission San Jose the Bay area John did, and from there, to Hayward & San Lorenzo to the Napa Valley. Does that sound right?

KEN TAPLIN: At least one of them did, yes. John did & later Henderson built a home & called it Fruitvale in Oakland.

LORIN SORENSON: And that would probably be your relative, your ancestor.

KEN TAPLIN: John.

LORIN SORENSON: Do you know what nationality the Lewellings were? What nationality that name is?

KEN TAPLIN: I believe there’s some Welsh. I’ve got all that information. Welsh & English

LORIN SORENSON: You’ve got a copy of that. Let me just look at that. Let me read this and, according to this that you’ve just handed me, William Hunt Taplin was a pioneer dairy man of Napa County whose ranch was two miles south of St. Helena. He was born June 21, 1864, the son of John O. and Louisa B. –her maiden name was Benjamin — Hunt (Taplin.) His father came to California by ox team in 1849. His mother came to San Francisco in a sailing vessel around Cape Horn in 1850. They were residents of St. Helena from 1867 ’til their death. William Hunt Taplin, Jr. attended Napa County schools and then went into the dairying business. He was enterprising and progressive. He was a member of the St. Helena School Board in the 1920s. Now who is William Hunt Taplin to you?

KEN TAPLIN: He was a great-uncle. My grandfather’s brother, one of the three Taplin brothers

LORIN SORENSON: OK. He played the flute in the St. Helena town band. He founded the Spring Valley Farm Center and his mother donated land for the Spring Valley Elementary School.

KEN TAPLIN: Can I interrupt?

LORIN SORENSON: Sure, Ken, go ahead. Any time.

KEN TAPLIN: My understanding of that was that his mother donated that land, and I think I have a deed to show that, and that the land reverted back to the owners, which, I think, occurred when the Lynches owned it. Yes

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Now is Spring Valley the Taplin Road area?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: That’s Spring Valley which is out basically where Joseph (inaudible) Phelps Winery is.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes. The little building as you turn from the Silverado Trail onto Taplin Road, down to the left is the bold schoolhouse. It’s been remodeled several times.

LORIN SORENSON: Did you go to school there?

KEN TAPLIN: No. My father did.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, that was Spring Valley Elementary School.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: So, William Hunt Taplin, your great-uncle, as you say, married — according to this document — he married Clara Ann Griffith, daughter of Calvin Chesterfield Griffith. He was a member of the Women of the World, the Grange, and the Native Sons. Now, do you know anything about the Griffith family?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, some.

LORIN SORENSON: Can you tell us something about them?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, they were another old-time family here. Albert Griffith was in the real estate business in St. Helena; he was one of the sons. His sister Clara married William Hunt Taplin.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. How about Mike Griffith, who’s in town here. Is that a relative to them?

KEN TAPLIN: I don’t believe so. No

LORIN SORENSON: OK. All right. Then, in the history of Napa County, there’s a story about the — in this document you just gave me — a story about the Taplin Brothers Creamery, and this was evidently run by two brothers, J.O. Taplin, Jr., and W.H. Taplin. Now who are they to you? D.O. Taplin joined his older brothers some time later

KEN TAPLIN: That’s William H., and John O. Taplin is my grandfather.

LORIN SORENSON: J.O. Taplin is your grandfather. I believe you gave it to me, but what does J.O. stand for?

KEN TAPLIN: John Orange Taplin.

LORIN SORENSON: Orange, as in the fruit. OK. It says here this Taplin Brothers Creamery was located on the Taplin Ranch, two and one-quarter miles from St. Helena, on Edge Hill Road to Napa. Now, is there an Edge Hill Road there?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, that was a little confusing to me. I thought Edge Hill Road, the only Edge Hill. I knew about was on the west side of the valley that ran out to the Sulphur Creek from Highway 29.

LORIN SORENSON: Which is where the Edgehill Winery now is being restored.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes, and that was — yes.

LORIN SORENSON: All right. And what relationship do you suppose this Edge Hill Road has to –?

KEN TAPLIN: I don’t know whether that was the previous name of the Silverado Trail. It seems to indicate that.

LORIN SORENSON: It’s something lost to history (not necessarily) OK. So, this was located on these roads, and it says here that it receives from 4,000-6,000 pounds of milk, according to the season, but generally, makes about 200 pounds of butter daily. The capacity of the churn is 375 gallons of cream. The separators and all other machinery is driven by steam power. The butter is shipped to Napa and St. Helena. This Creamery has a fine reputation for fine products and commands highest prices on the market. Now it says here that Mr. Taplin was a Vermonter — yes J.O. Taplin Sr.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: — and he was born July 22, 1830. Now this is William Taplin?

KEN TAPLIN: No, that’s John Orange.

LORIN SORENSON: And John Orange was William’s brother.

KEN TAPLIN: John Orange was the father of William and John Orange, Jr.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Let’s go back to — now why did they call this Taplin Brothers Creamery? Who were the brothers?

KEN TAPLIN: The brothers were J.O. and W.H. & D.O. (Daniel Otis)

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Then it says here that J.O. Jr. was a Vermonter, and so doesn’t that make his son, your grandfather, William John O. H., born in S.F.

KEN TAPLIN: No, they were born I think in San Francisco.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Here’s what it says. It says that J.O. Taplin, Sr. –oh, here’s a clue, J.O. Taplin, Jr., was a partner in the Taplin Brothers Creamery.

KEN TAPLIN: That’s right.

LORIN SORENSON: His father — here it is — was J.O. Taplin, Sr., who was a Vermonter, born July 22, 1830. He came to California in 1841 and settled in Napa County in 1866. He died January 22,1877. Now this is J.O. Taplin, Sr., father of the brothers who had the creamery. He married Louisa Benjamin Hunt, January 10, 1861. She was born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1834. Their children were William H. Taplin, who you’re descended from — no, you’re not descended from him?

KEN TAPLIN: Not from William H. — from J.O.

LORIN SORENSON: You’re from J.O. I’m getting it confused here. The children of J.O. Taplin, Sr., was William H. Taplin, born in San Francisco, 1864; John O. Taplin, who you’re descended from, born in San Francisco in 1865, and he again was what, your grandfather; Clara C. Taplin, whose married name was Mayfield, born in Napa County in 1868; and Daniel Otis Taplin, born in 1874, named from his mother’s brother, D.O. Hunt. Now there’s always been a prominent Hunt family –is that your family? And the Hunts, for instance, Greg Hunt, and the insurance man, Hunt.

KEN TAPLIN: No. I don’t think that’s the connection?

LORIN SORENSON: No, not? OK, what’s the other Hunt family then?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, there was D.O. Hunt, for which Hunt Ave. —

LORIN SORENSON: Hunt Ave. in St. Helena was named for D.O. Hunt.

KEN TAPLIN: I think he built the building on the corner of Hunt and Main, that was Rigsby’s drugstore, I believe that’s right.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Well, let’s go back here then. Louisa Benjamin Hunt, who married —

KEN TAPLIN: John Orange Taplin Sr. Her brother was D.O. Hunt.

LORIN SORENSON: OK, now was he the prominent —

KEN TAPLIN: That’s wrong —

LORIN SORENSON: OK, that’s wrong.

KEN TAPLIN: My great-grandmother Louisa Benjamin was a sister of D.O. Hunt.

LORIN SORENSON: And was D.O. Hunt the prominent Hunt that the street was named for?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: And what occupation was he in?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, he did a lot of clearing of land apparently. I saw some reference to D.O. Hunt’s wood yard, where he sold wood and I don’t know what else.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. But he was prominent enough to have a street named after him. Was he a developer of lots maybe?

KEN TAPLIN: Probably it was his land.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Now, there’s more about the Taplin Brothers Creamery and Dairy in Spring Valley. This ranch contains 275 acres at the time it was flourishing — that’s my notes – 138 acres cultivated. There was 100 cows on the property and – – oh, it says here that W.H. Taplin, a partner in the Creamery, married Clara Ann Griffith in 1887 at St. Helena. She was born in Santa Rosa. Her children were Clara Louise, born January 19, 1887, William H., born February 1, 1892, and Alice E., born March 12, 1897. Now which of those children, if any, were you related to? They were my 1st cousins.

KEN TAPLIN: OK. Alice E., which I have as March 4 — born March 4, 1894.

LORIN SORENSON: They changed it to March 12 here.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: In this one.

KEN TAPLIN: OK.

LORIN SORENSON: Alice E. is —

KEN TAPLIN: — is Dorothy Nachbaur’s mother.

LORIN SORENSON: All right. Dorothy Nachbaur’s mother. Now are you related to any of these children?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, she’s a second cousin.  Dorothy & I are children of 1st cousins

LORIN SORENSON: No, no, I mean by that, of the — that’s right, you’re from J.O. Taplin and not W.H. — OK, I understand that. So now, J.O. Taplin, who you’re descended from, married Frances St. Ores, married May 15, 1888. She was born in Wisconsin. Their children were Albert John Taplin, born February 4, 1889, Laura M. Taplin, born November 8, 1896, and Mildred born on the Taplin Ranch. Now which of these — let’s see, J.O. Taplin

KEN TAPLIN: Albert John was my father.

LORIN SORENSON: OK, your father was Albert John Taplin, born February 4, 1889,and I imagine, on the ranch, or where?

KEN TAPLIN: I imagine so.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Then, what business was your father in?

KEN TAPLIN: He was a farmer.

LORIN SORENSON: Elsewhere, other than the Taplin Brother Dairy?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes. He settled on land that was given to my mother by her father, and that’s on the west side of the valley.

LORIN SORENSON: Is that where you’re located now ?

KEN TAPLIN: Approximately.

LORIN SORENSON: What’s your address on –?

KEN TAPLIN: On Sulphur Springs? 1989, but the property that my mother had is on Lewelling Lane.

LORIN SORENSON: And who lives on the property now?

KEN TAPLIN: It’s rented.

LORIN SORENSON: But, is it still in your family?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, it is.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, that isn’t the Lewelling property?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, it was all part of the original Lewelling property, yes.

LORIN SORENSON: Well, let’s start from the highway and at Zumwalt  Ford there on the corner, and I know that you developed and owned your family’s own property out there – Arrowhead Drive and whatnot, and was that an old family property?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes. My grandmother sold to Fred Beraldo in I believe 1945 or ’47, from Highway 29 back to an unnamed crossroad, with the exception of a ten- or fifteen- acre parcel that my folks bought at the same time. And that adjoined Lewelling Lane, and they were on the opposite side of the line with their original twenty acres.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. So, between your family, the Taplins, which is you, and the Lewellings, you literally owned from Highway 29, opposite Zumwalt Ford, all the land from the highway to the including land that the Ray Lewelling family, Vera Lewelling’s property, contains, which is clear into the foothills.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: And how many acres was that, would you guess?

KEN TAPLIN: It’s a 113-acre parcel. There’s a 74.83-acre parcel. There’s a (R. & V 20-acre parcel,) a 7.16-acre parcel & 32.42 acres

LORIN SORENSON: OK. So, on the one side of the valley by the Silverado Trail in Spring Valley, which is on Taplin Road, you had 300+ acres there, it says here on this paper. So that was the Taplins’ holdings, and then on the other side, you had Taplin and Lewelling holdings–

KEN TAPLIN: No, no, no Taplin at that time.

LORIN SORENSON: No Taplin. And what was the name, then, besides Lewelling on that property? Just Lewelling?

KEN TAPLIN: Just Lewelling.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, that was all Lewelling property then?

KEN TAPLIN: Clear to the highway, yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. So that was all Lewelling. All right. Now can you show me another document here?

KEN TAPLIN: I just grabbed this one for —

LORIN SORENSON: This is going to be something to read here. Let me look at this. Here’s some more. Now to continue, Mr. Taplin has just given me a clipping here from the St. Helena Star dated February 27, 1948, that starts about “The last of the original Taplin farm boys of Napa Valley,” and it says here that “St. Helena lost another scion of a pioneer family, this week when death took John O. Taplin — and John O. Taplin was Ken Taplin’s grandfather — Tuesday morning. He died at his home at 1337 Pine Street in St. Helena. He was born in San Francisco 82 years ago. Mr. Taplin had lived most of his life in this valley. With his brothers, he had operated a large dairy on Silverado Trail, until his retirement in 1944 when he and his wife moved to the Pine Street house. Mrs. Taplin died in 1946, not long after the couple had celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary. He is survived by his children, Albert J. Taplin, Mrs. Oscar Anderson, and Mrs. Mildred Fleischer, all of St. Helena; a sister, Mrs. Clara Mayfield of Napa; and the following grandchildren:  Kenneth L. Taplin — who I’m speaking to today — of Davis — at that time — Donald K. Anderson, Alan A. Anderson, Joan Anderson, and Nancy Fleischer, all of St. Helena. Two brothers, William H. Taplin and Daniel Otis Taplin, have passed away.” Well, this clipping here gives us a lot of clues here of some of the relatives. Now it mentions here Donald Anderson — was that Anderson Brothers Garage here in –St. Helena?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Now who ran the Anderson Brothers garage?

KEN TAPLIN: Oscar Anderson and Martin Anderson, brothers. Father of Donald, Alan & Joan

LORIN SORENSON: That’s right. I knew Martin Anderson. He lived in Petilia? Father of Leroy. in the 1980s or so. Now he was what (inaudible) —

KEN TAPLIN: Well, he was no relation to me. Oscar was my uncle by marriage.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. So, Oscar and Martin ran the — let’s just talk about that. What do you remember about Oscar and their service station in St. Helena, which was quite a prominent place to get gas and get your tires fixed, I understand?

KEN TAPLIN: Right. That was the first job I had, was at that service station — 15 cents an hour, and my job was to pump up tires and fill radiators and sweep up, clean the restrooms, and that sort of thing.

LORIN SORENSON: What year was that then?

KEN TAPLIN: That was 1935. I was just getting out of grammar school.

LORIN SORENSON: All right.

KEN TAPLIN: And I went to work there.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. And, I understand they ran a pretty tidy operation, didn’t they?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, I think it was a pretty successful business —

LORIN SORENSON: But I mean, weren’t they pretty clean in their habits and operation?

KEN TAPLIN: (laughter) Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: Or was it just a regular garage and service station?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, kind of, I think.

LORIN SORENSON: I know some are run very neat and tidy, and some aren’t so neat and tidy.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, you see what they did, they re-treaded tires. They were one of the first to do that. They had some very old tire molds — they were new at the time apparently — the molds. They were called sectional molds, as I recall, and you’d do the tire I think in three different cooks instead of a complete round mold. That came later.

LORIN SORENSON: So, did you work on that operation?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, no, I didn’t work on it, but I was around there and so, I saw what was going on. I was too young, yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: Well, as we both know, for the uninformed, there was a time when — especially during World War II, when you couldn’t get tires — they were                                  rationed, and so what you did, or if you couldn’t afford new tires, you took your set of tires in. They would grind off what was left of the tread, and they would cement on new rubber and then cure the new tread.

KEN TAPLIN: Retreads.

LORIN SORENSON: And those were called retreads, or recaps.

KEN TAPLIN: Right.

LORIN SORENSON: And, uh, so what you’re saying is that they — and that was sort of a dirty operation then. And they would have to first grind off that old tread and get clouds of rubber all over the place, and then they would have to go in and take a three-piece mold, you say, clamp it on the tire carcass with the– did he have a lot of choices? No. Before the mold was clamped to the carcass the old tread had been removed & new rubber cemented to the carcass, the mold was heated & provided the new tread as well as the bond between the carcass & new rubber.

KEN TAPLIN: He had rubber. Rubber came in cartons, as I recall, in rolls, and they would cement that rubber to the clean carcass as you described, and then they would cook that.

LORIN SORENSON: But would the customers say, “Well I want a particular tread because I live up in the mountains,” or, “I want a highway tread,” or did they have a choice?

KEN TAPLIN: I don’t think there was a choice.  I’m not sure there may have been.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. What do you suppose it would cost to re-cap a tire –in those days?

KEN TAPLIN: Oh, I imagine twenty or thirty dollars.

LORIN SORENSON: Now, let’s see. So, you started in 1935, OK. And, now, what kind of gas did they sell then?

KEN TAPLIN: Tidewater Associated —

LORIN SORENSON: Tidewater. Is that what it was? And, now 1935, can you name the automobile dealership in St. Helena, who they were, and what makes they sold?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, the Ford Garage, of course, was right across the street — across Pope Street.

LORIN SORENSON: Is that where —

KEN TAPLIN: Where Stansberry was — yes.

LORIN SORENSON: Where Sunshine — is that where Sunshine Market is now? That was Al Michaels Union Station

KEN TAPLIN: No, it’s where that new service was — what is that service station? which replaced the Napa Valley Electric train depot.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, you mean on the corner of Pope and Main Street? No, across Main at Pope

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: The fast gas-type service station there that keeps changing names?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes — the market, Vintage Market, yes.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. That’s where the Ford dealership —

KEN TAPLIN: That’s where the Ford garage was, yes.

LORIN SORENSON: And who had it in 1935?

KEN TAPLIN: I think it might have been Stansberry, but I’m not sure.

LORIN SORENSON: And what about the Chevy dealership?

KEN TAPLIN: The Chevy dealership was across Main Street from the Ford dealership, and that was Myers Chevrolet 1947, I believe. Beverly Myers – Sterling – Meadows – Sterling

LORIN SORENSON: All right. Where — was the Parriot Garage in business in those days?

KEN TAPLIN: The Parriot Garage might have been, in those days, on Adams Street.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah, where the Sportigo clothing store is now, and was that a Pontiac dealership all the time the Parriots had it?

KEN TAPLIN: I believe so.

LORIN SORENSON: And Parriot is spelled P-A-R-R-I-O-T-T, I believe. It was one T wasn’t it? No 2. I think that’s it. OK. Were there any other dealerships in town?

KEN TAPLIN: Any other dealerships?

LORIN SORENSON: Automobile dealerships.

KEN TAPLIN: I don’t believe so. Grant’s Garage had dealt in motorcycles, but it was prior to that time.

LORIN SORENSON: Well, let’s talk about Grants Garage for a moment. What do you remember about that place?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, the thing I remember about Grant’s Garage — that you could drive in from Main Street and drive right straight through and come out on Railroad.

LORIN SORENSON: It was that large of a — in one building?

KEN TAPLIN: No, there were two or three buildings. In Tandem

LORIN SORENSON: All right. So, you remember Philo Grant that ran that garage?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: What do you remember about him?

KEN TAPLIN: I remember him as the father of the RV. He had one of the first. He bought a truck chassis and built a –Grant Cairns ,his grandson, can tell you about this — and built a motor home which he and his wife traveled in —

LORIN SORENSON: What kind of a truck was it, do you know?

KEN TAPLIN: No, I don’t. I think Studebaker

LORIN SORENSON: But they had a — they had a house built basically on the back like you say, with an advance model of an RV.

KEN TAPLIN: RV.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. What kind of work did they do there — just mechanical work?

KEN TAPLIN: Mechanical work. Ed Bonhote worked there —

LORIN SORENSON: How do you spell his name?

KEN TAPLIN: Ed B-O-N-H-O-T-E. He later had the bicycle ship on Hunt and was very active in the Fire Dept.

LORIN SORENSON: And he worked there? As a mechanic.

KEN TAPLIN: He worked there. He was fire chief part of that time when he worked there. Another mechanic was Joe Cheli, and I can’t think of his first name.

LORIN SORENSON: Do you remember, was there any colorful characters that hung around the garage there?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah, Jinks. Wesley Jennings

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, the black?

KEN TAPLIN: Black — he was —

LORIN SORENSON: Now what do you know about Jenks?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, Jenks was always the fix-it man around town – did electrical work. Kept the street lights working. He was a handyman, well-liked.

LORIN SORENSON: I understand he was quite respected in the community, and he was — was he somewhat of a dapper-type person?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, I don’t remember that, but —

LORIN SORENSON: How old a man do you think he was when you knew him?

KEN TAPLIN: When I knew him? Probably in his fifties or sixties

LORIN SORENSON: And, do you remember, did he speak with the typical southern accent, or did he speak more or less Californian?

KEN TAPLIN: I don’t remember that — Californian, yeah, I think.

LORIN SORENSON: And did he have any family that you remember?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes, he had a wife who did, I believe, housework – maybe not housework, maybe she was more like a nurse’s aide – and very much respected

KEN TAPLIN: — would go into homes and help elderly people, and I believe they had one daughter, and I don’t know what became of her.

LORIN SORENSON: OK, and do you know of any of that family still around?

KEN TAPLIN: No.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Did you call him “Jenks,” or was there some other —

KEN TAPLIN: Jenks, yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: — because his last name was Jenks. Jennings

KEN TAPLIN: I don’t think I ever called him that because I was too young, but —

LORIN SORENSON: All right. So, that was your first job, at Martin Anderson and Oscar Anderson’s service station in 1935.

KEN TAPLIN: Right. I would like to say one thing.

LORIN SORENSON: Go ahead.

KEN TAPLIN: As I would be sweeping off early in the morning into the gutter there —

LORIN SORENSON: At the service station?

KEN TAPLIN: — at the service station, Bob Mondavi would come walking down from his home, which was out at the Krug place, to work, in his Levi’s, to work in the Sunny St. Helena Winery, which was owned by his family there, and then he’d go back and be walking home in the afternoon.

LORIN SORENSON: Really.

KEN TAPLIN: And Martin and — Oscar

LORIN SORENSON: Would that have been during that period of time?

KEN TAPLIN: About ’35, ’38, somewhere in there.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. I wasn’t aware that — I know they bought the Krug Winery about 1943, I believe was the date, so they must have been here before they made that purchase then.

KEN TAPLIN: Was it that late that they bought that winery? Yes 1943

LORIN SORENSON: Don’t know. I’ll have to check that, but I believe it was 1943 when they — that doesn’t mean they weren’t here for other reasons already.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah. I don’t know whether they owned the Sunny St. Helena, or whether they just used that for storage, or what.

LORIN SORENSON: That brings up the name Louis — Louie Stralla. Now Stralla leased the Krug Winery, didn’t he, in 1933, yes, isn’t that the story?

KEN TAPLIN: Could be. I don’t know.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. You don’t know that much about that. OK. Well, Ken, let’s go back now, and you told me already, but what year were you born in?

KEN TAPLIN: 1921.

LORIN SORENSON: 1921. OK. So, you got that job at the service station when you were fourteen. Now, what was it like growing up in St. Helena? I mean, as a youngster — I guess you went to, what, the St. Helena Elementary School?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: What can you recall about that? And some of the teachers, or —

KEN TAPLIN: Well, the first — my biggest recollection was of the old three-story stone building, which was the elementary school.

LORIN SORENSON: And where was that located?

KEN TAPLIN: Right where the present school is.

LORIN SORENSON: Right there. Literally on the same footprint of that school?

KEN TAPLIN: Possibly a little bit east of the —

LORIN SORENSON: So, behind it, somewhat.

KEN TAPLIN: No, it was on — Adams near Oak.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, towards the corner of —

KEN TAPLIN: Oak Avenue.

LORIN SORENSON: Oak Avenue, oh. More or less where they have primary –they have kindergarten and whatnot in that area.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, it wasn’t that close to the corner. (overlapping

dialogue; inaudible) It was — there was some space there.

LORIN SORENSON: OK, somewhere between Oak Ave and the present school.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah. Or it may be right where part of the present school is. I don’t remember.

LORIN SORENSON: OK.

KEN TAPLIN: A three-story stone, and it was condemned when I was in the third grade,          I remember that.

LORIN SORENSON: Sometime in the late twenties then.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: And I believe the new school was built something like 1928 or so — does that sound right?

KEN TAPLIN: No, the new school was — well, I graduated from the new school in 1935. So did Charlie Varozza.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, but — how old was it then when you graduated?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, I went there in the sixth grade — sixth, seven, eight — it was only three years old.

LORIN SORENSON: In ’35, so it opened sometime around ’32 then.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: OK, we can check that. Do you remember some of the teachers you had there?

KEN TAPLIN: Oh yes.

LORIN SORENSON: Name some of them, if you will.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, Miss Wells was one of my teacher, Miss Raymond, Miss Gersky. Not one of them was Wilna Mitchell, Catherine Miss Dowdell, Miss Hansen (later Mrs. Ray Lewelling) — I didn’t have them.

LORIN SORENSON: But you — they were there.

KEN TAPLIN: They were there. Vera Hanson Lewelling was there. Virginia Dufour .

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Well, you mentioned Raymond. Does that have anything to do with Roy Raymond?

KEN TAPLIN: No.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. And you mentioned, of course, Vera Lewelling, and that’s Ray Lewelling’s wife.

KEN TAPLIN: Later she became —

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah — later after that, yeah. OK. Do you remember some of your classmates that came up through school besides Charlie Varozza ?

KEN TAPLIN: Harold Smith. Robert Gallion, Marshall Sears, Aldo Micheli, Robert Thorsen, Marie Matitzi,  Bppbard Booth, George Rutherford, Betty Stockwell (later married Jorge Carbela) Harold Smith, Ardith Gree, Alice Eymard, Paul Engli, Mott Zopfi, Edie Beroldo

LORIN SORENSON: Harold Smith.

KEN TAPLIN: Nellie Salvestrin

LORIN SORENSON: Now are you talking about Snuffy Smith — Harold, Jr. And who was the other Salvestrin?

KEN TAPLIN: Nellie Salvestrin.

LORIN SORENSON: Nellie Salvestrin. That’s Suzanne’s mother — I met her. No, that’s Ed’s.

KEN TAPLIN: No, Ed’s sister.

LORIN SORENSON: Ed Salvestrin’s mother, I’m sorry. That’s right. She married Ed. Anyone else?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, there was Betty Stockwell. Her mother was a hairdresser in town. Lois Schneider.

LORIN SORENSON: Lois Schneider?

KEN TAPLIN: Uh huh. Her father worked in one of the wineries. Louise Keller  — not the other Keller.

LORIN SORENSON: Not the Keller market people.

KEN TAPLIN: No, I don’t believe so, no.

LORIN SORENSON: How about Nachbaur? Any Nachbaurs?

KEN TAPLIN: Nachbaur was ahead of me one year. Mott Zopfi was in my class.

LORIN SORENSON: How do you spell that last name?

KEN TAPLIN: Z-O-P-F-I, I think Robert Gallion, Marshal Sears

LORIN SORENSON: OK.

KEN TAPLIN: Rina Contini, one of the Merciers. Bobbie

LORIN SORENSON: Merciers? They had the funeral home, & later White Sulphur Springs?

KEN TAPLIN: They had White Sulphur Springs and also a furniture store where the Galleron  Building is. They had the Galleron Building.

LORIN SORENSON: All right.

KEN TAPLIN: A Greer. I can’t think of his first name. Alton He was killed during the War.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Well, that’s plenty to think about. Do you remember anything of great interest that happened when you were in elementary school? Earthquakes, fires, or murders?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes, the fire at John Booth’s end of Sulphur Springs. (now Garden) Main house burnt down due to penny under fuse

LORIN SORENSON: Nothing like that — OK. Yet, was it a good experience as a child?

KEN TAPLIN: Elementary school? Oh, it was a good experience, sure, it has to be. That’s where I met Alice, so. (laughter)

LORIN SORENSON: Did you? Oh, did you meet Alice there?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: In what grade?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, I became aware of her when I was I guess in the eighth grade, and she was in seventh grade, and she was Queen of the May Day.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh.

KEN TAPLIN: So —

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah, well, she was a pretty girl — I can imagine she would be — yeah. Well, so, you got through that. Now your father, again, what did he do?

KEN TAPLIN: He ranched, farmed, mainly raised turkeys.

LORIN SORENSON: Just ranched and farmed. Where did he — live?

KEN TAPLIN: On Lewelling Lane.

LORIN SORENSON: On Lewelling Lane. OK. Now, did you have a role in that farming operation?

KEN TAPLIN: Oh, yeah. I had to help on Saturdays, and —

LORIN SORENSON: Did you have a tractor you had to drive, or –?

KEN TAPLIN: Oh yeah. & a Model “T” Ford truck with hardrubber in back

LORIN SORENSON: What kind of tractor was it, do you know?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, a two-ton that I still have. A Holt two-ton I still have. I also worked later as I was about to enter — or I guess I was in college, or about to enter college,               I worked over at Taplin Brothers with — I think it was the first or second rubber-tired Ford Ferguson tractor that came into the valley that they bought to work over there.

LORIN SORENSON: OK.

KEN TAPLIN: A notable experience in running that was that tractor had a brake on each side, a clutch and a brake on the left and a brake on the right, and as I would be plowing and coming towards the end fence, there was always the question of — can I make the turn with my foot on the brake, is it going to make it or not, and if you took it off the brake and hit the clutch, then you were usually in the fence.

LORIN SORENSON: (laughter) So did you go into the fence once in a while?

KEN TAPLIN: I did, trying to plow up to the fence

LORIN SORENSON: And your dad wasn’t too happy about that.

KEN TAPLIN: No.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah. So, what — did you farm with horses at all? Taplin Bros. did

KEN TAPLIN: Yes, but not me personally.

LORIN SORENSON: You did. And what would you use the horses for?

KEN TAPLIN: That was at Taplin Brothers.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, now you’re over at the Creamery.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah. But the Creamery’s long gone, it’s just —

LORIN SORENSON: I understand, but now did you also work at the Creamery?

KEN TAPLIN: No, I just did field work worked — yes I did work over there, but —

LORIN SORENSON: As a hired hand.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: Doing what?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, running the tractor, helping with the corn silage, hauling the corn in, and that was after the tractor came. Before that, I was just along with my dad as a kid, on the wagon with the horses.

LORIN SORENSON: With the horses — so, do you have strong memories of those days on the wagon with the horses, and all that?

KEN TAPLIN: One really stands out. We were coming up Silverado Trail with a load of corn or hay or something, and a rattlesnake fell off of a bank & scared the horses — and I can still show you approximately where it was — it fell off of the bank and came down, and my dad took the team and the wagon up a few feet and just parked it, right in the middle of the road. In those days, there wasn’t a car an hour, I guess. And he grabbed a pitchfork and he went back, and the rattle snake challenged him, he’d fallen at the face of the cliff and he came right out after him, and my dad made a jab with a three-tine pitchfork and caught the snake right behind the head with the center tine. A very lucky jab.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah. So, he stabbed that snake with one stab, and you were pretty impressed with that.

KEN TAPLIN: I was pretty impressed —

LORIN SORENSON: Like he’d done it every day, huh?

KEN TAPLIN: And he said, one chance in a million that he could have done that.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah. OK. Well, what kind of horses did you have out there?

KEN TAPLIN: I don’t know. They were pretty big horses.

LORIN SORENSON: Were horses in your childhood — were they still a pretty important part of the ranch life?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, what was I then? Probably ten or twelve years old. Up until that point, the change to tractors and mechanical came right after that.

LORIN SORENSON: Right after that, yeah. But you got in on the tail end of the horses.

KEN TAPLIN: Horses. I never got to drive horses or anything like that.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Yeah. So, a lot of the output of the farm was to feed the cows, literally.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, they have a barn for it. In those years they were down to two horses but, before that, they’d had four to six horses in the barn.

LORIN SORENSON: So, along came the tractor, and the wonderful thing about a tractor is you didn’t have to feed the horses anymore.

KEN TAPLIN: Right.

LORIN SORENSON: So, you parked the tractor, and you’d let it sit as long as you want and go start it up and do it again, and – where the horses had to be maintained year around.

KEN TAPLIN: Right.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Did you ever get involved in the vineyard business at all in those years growing up?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes, I drove tractor for my uncle Lester Lewelling in his vineyard.

LORIN SORENSON: You didn’t. Now, in one of these articles, it said that you were at Davis at the time of the death of J.O. Taplin. Were you going to school in Davis?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: What were you studying in Davis?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, I started out —

LORIN SORENSON: University of California at Davis, of course.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes. I started out in poultry husbandry. I took a two-year course, and then the War came along, and then when I came back, I thought I wanted to go into ag engineering. Well, I did until I hit calculus, and that wiped me out. So, then I thought, well maybe I could teach ag mechanics, and I took a few courses. Then I found out that most of the high schools — that’s where lots of the misfits ended up, was in the ag mechanics class, so I decided I didn’t want that. I just graduated in general agriculture.

LORIN SORENSON: Uh-hum. In what year?

KEN TAPLIN: 1949.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. You mentioned the war came along, did you get caught up in that?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: What, drafted, or —

KEN TAPLIN: No, I enlisted in the Airforce, the Cadet program.

LORIN SORENSON: OK, let’s go back now. In 1941, you would have been about twenty.

KEN TAPLIN: Right.

LORIN SORENSON: Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

KEN TAPLIN: It was a Sunday morning, and I was on the campus.

LORIN SORENSON: At Davis.

KEN TAPLIN: At Davis.

LORIN SORENSON: And, how did you hear about it?

KEN TAPLIN: I imagine we heard it over the radio.

LORIN SORENSON: But you don’t remember what your reaction was to it, or —

KEN TAPLIN: Well, yeah, we were just — we knew we were going to be called, and I remember walking across the quad thinking about it.

LORIN SORENSON: And, you weren’t married at the time.

KEN TAPLIN: No.

LORIN SORENSON: And so, you had no exemptions. No children, no wife.

KEN TAPLIN: No, no.

LORIN SORENSON: And so, and you’re draft age, and so that became the topic of the campus.

KEN TAPLIN: Oh yeah. (laugh)

LORIN SORENSON: OK, so — and that of course was December 7, 1941, so then you did what — you joined the Air Force?

KEN TAPLIN: I enlisted in the Air Force.

LORIN SORENSON: In what year?

KEN TAPLIN: In the Cadet program.

LORIN SORENSON: In what year?

KEN TAPLIN: ’43.

LORIN SORENSON: Roughly what month?

KEN TAPLIN: February of ’43, I believe it was.

LORIN SORENSON: February of ’43, so, had you already gotten your draft notice?

KEN TAPLIN: I don’t remember. Probably I was getting close. I was working — I don’t think I got any deferment for working at Taplin Brothers in the field. I don’t think I got anything.

LORIN SORENSON: So, now you enlist in the Air Force as a Cadet.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: To learn what?

KEN TAPLIN: To fly.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Had you had any flying experience before?

KEN TAPLIN: No.

LORIN SORENSON: Why did you pick that service?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, I’d always been interested in flying. I always wanted to fly.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. So, now you enlisted, and you went into training where?

KEN TAPLIN: Let’s see, I first went to Fresno for basic and then I was transferred to Ellensburg, Washington in a pre-cadet program. We took courses there in math and geography and these sorts of things, in preparation for going back to Santa Anna in the Cadet program. And we also did have up to ten hours of flying. We were not allowed to solo, but we could do that.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah. Were you also studying officers’ training?

KEN TAPLIN: I guess so, I don’t know. They kept telling you that you were the cream of the crop, so you washed out, and then you became the scum of the earth. (laughter)

LORIN SORENSON: Well, did you get your wings?

KEN TAPLIN: No.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, you washed out?

KEN TAPLIN: I washed out.

LORIN SORENSON: What did you do, come in too heavy?

KEN TAPLIN: They said I had hypertension. I was too nervous to fly.

LORIN SORENSON: I’ll be darned. So, was that a blow to your ego?

KEN TAPLIN: Oh, sure was. As I said, they kept telling you, “You’re the cream of the crop, you guys,” and then when you wash out, you’re the scum of the earth.

LORIN SORENSON: (laughter)

KEN TAPLIN: And then I went to gunnery school. And when I got there, I said, well — I don’t know, do you want to hear this kind of thing?

LORIN SORENSON: Sure, this we want to hear.

KEN TAPLIN: I got there, and I knew that my service record had big purple letters across it saying, “Unfit for air crew training,” so I went in and I said, “What kind of training am I going to get here?” “Gunnery.” “Well, that’s flying.” “Yes, that’s flying.” “Well,” I said, “I think there’s some mistake. My service record says ‘unfit for air crew training,'” and he says, “What’s your name?” and I told him, and he reached down in the paper carton, and pretty quick, he says, “Is this it, right here?” and I said, “Yeah,” and he said, “Oh, we’ll fix that,” and he tore the cover off, stapled a new cover on, and he says, “You’re all set.” So, I —

LORIN SORENSON: So, it didn’t work.

KEN TAPLIN: No, I became an aerial gunner on a medium bomber, B26.

LORIN SORENSON: A B26. All right. So now, where did you take training on that?

KEN TAPLIN: I took training at gunnery — armor training was in Denver– two fields, can’t remember the names of them. Hickam & Lowery

LORIN SORENSON: OK.

KEN TAPLIN: And then I went to transition training at Barksdale Field. Shreveport LA

LORIN SORENSON: Barksdale?

KEN TAPLIN: Barksdale.

LORIN SORENSON: And what state’s that?

KEN TAPLIN: Louisiana. Shreveport, Louisiana.

LORIN SORENSON: OK.

KEN TAPLIN: That’s where our crew formed. We formed and then trained together as a crew.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. So, you were on a B26. What gun were you handling?

KEN TAPLIN: I had two fifty-calibers in the tail.

LORIN SORENSON: So, you were a tail gunner.

KEN TAPLIN: Tail gunner.

LORIN SORENSON: And that was below the tail, or at the back end of the tail?

KEN TAPLIN: Right in the tail.

LORIN SORENSON: Right in the — it was a bubble in the tail?

KEN TAPLIN: Tail.

LORIN SORENSON: And, so, in your training, you did in-flight training –shooting at targets?

KEN TAPLIN: Targets.

LORIN SORENSON: Towed targets?

KEN TAPLIN: Right.

LORIN SORENSEN Were these the canvas type towed behind the plane? And, did you hit the target quite a bit, or miss it quite a bit?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, apparently, enough to get by. I don’t know — one of the favorite tricks was to try, after you thought you’d hit it a few times, just to move up to see if you could get the tow rope, because then it was all over for the day.

LORIN SORENSON: You’d go home.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. So, that that was pretty chancy hittin’ that –So, do you remember, did you always have one crew that you went into active duty with? One crew?

KEN TAPLIN: Pretty much. They did change us around a little bit, but mainly I flew with the same — there were six of us.

LORIN SORENSON: And what was the average age of the crew, would you guess?

KEN TAPLIN: Let’s see — Sam Tate was the radio gunner, and I think he was two years older than I was, and the rest of them were all younger. The pilots were nineteen.

LORIN SORENSON: Twenty-two on down —

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: — to probably eighteen, maybe.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: And the captain — do you remember his name?

KEN TAPLIN: The pilot? Was, yeah, Bill White. 2nd Lt.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Does that have any significance — that name?

KEN TAPLIN: That name? Well, we lost contact after the War. Seventeen years later I finally found him through the help of my son-in-law and the computer, and I called him, and a man answered the phone. I had this number, and I said, “Did you ever fly a B26?” And he said, “Yeah, who the hell are you?” So, I told him, and we got together, just once, and we went to a reunion. I talked him into coming, and we said good-bye on a Sunday. Twelve hours later he was dead. Heart attack.

LORIN SORENSON: Did you have these reunions after the War with — like you say?

KEN TAPLIN: I was late in making contact with the group, but I have attended probably seven, in the last eight or ten years.

LORIN SORENSON: After training, did you go into some theatre of the war and see action?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: OK, where did you go?

KEN TAPLIN: We went first to England. We flew two missions out of England, picked up a few holes the first mission, none the second, and then we moved —

LORIN SORENSON: Excuse me. Let’s go back, now. So, if you flew into France, that’s after the Normandy Invasion, so now you’re into France, and you’re flying missions out of where –what city or airport?

KEN TAPLIN: It was Matching Green, England, was the name of the field.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, you were originally at Matching Green, but then you say you went into France and were flying out of there?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: Where was that at?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, it was Roye-Ami — between Amiens and -what’s the other one? Rheims

LORIN SORENSON: What did you have, like a captured German airfield that you were flying out of?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: And you say you picked up some holes, meaning that you got some flack — flying missions over where?

KEN TAPLIN: Over Germany.

LORIN SORENSON: Over Germany. Industrial areas?

KEN TAPLIN: Mainly the B26s went after railroad marshalling yards — bridges– highway intersections, that sort of thing.

LORIN SORENSON: And your job was to fend off attacking fighting planes.

KEN TAPLIN: Fighters.

LORIN SORENSON: Now, what did you see in that kind of a situation.

KEN TAPLIN: On two missions, I saw fighters, but they didn’t challenge us.

LORIN SORENSON: So, you didn’t have to unlock your guns, literally.

KEN TAPLIN: No.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. So now you’re flying out of France, and what year was that?

KEN TAPLIN: ’44.

LORIN SORENSON: ’44. Well, the war was still going on pretty hot and heavy.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah. Well, by the time we got there, it was starting to taper off a little I believe. We got into some brief, hot missions.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah, and as I understand it, all of the people in the bombers and probably the fighters, too, had to do at least fifty missions. Is that what you had to do before you could come home?

KEN TAPLIN: I think it was sixty or sixty-five on the mediums, because we didn’t go as far. Heavies were still coming from England.

LORIN SORENSON: Now, what would you call a heavy?

KEN TAPLIN: B17, B24.

LORIN SORENSON: B29s weren’t out yet?

KEN TAPLIN: Uh-huh.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. And so, you went on light bombing runs — what you might call shorter-range bombing runs?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah. Medium.

LORIN SORENSON: And your mission was to get over your target area, drop your bombs, and get out of there and get back. OK, so you got shot up a few times, but not enough that you had to parachute out anytime.

KEN TAPLIN: Never. No.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. So, did you have any other missions where you lost an engine or had any crisis?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, we had the top turret gunner, who was the engineer gunner. He got flack in the back. Didn’t break the skin, but came up through the ship and went right out the top.

LORIN SORENSON: Came up through the floorboard, so to speak, and went out through the top, and then sort of swiped him as it went?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah. I got a pretty loud bang right under me. Pulled up the extra flack suit that I used to line the compartment for more protection. Pulled off my gloves, and it was still hot. That’s the closest I came to being hit.

LORIN SORENSON: Speaking to that, did you take parachute training then? Jump training?

KEN TAPLIN: Never jumped.

LORIN SORENSON: Did they teach you how to jump off of a roof?

KEN TAPLIN: I don’t think they figured it was worth teaching us. We had chest packs that we had to pick up and snap on. I couldn’t wear it and fire the guns. So, if we’d ever gotten hit, there would’ve been a slight chance that I would have ever gotten the pack on and gotten out of that plane.

LORIN SORENSON: And if you did go out from the tail gunner’s position, where would you go out?

KEN TAPLIN: The waist. It was just, oh, from here, that close. About six, seven feet in back of me. But I knew, in my position, and my chute was right here, but as I watched ships go down, I just couldn’t believe that I could ever get that chute on.

LORIN SORENSON: Now, when you say some that went down, were they some of your B26s?

KEN TAPLIN: Oh, yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah. And did you sort of consider yourself lucky that you didn’t —

KEN TAPLIN: Extremely lucky. And as I go to these reunions, I learn a lot more than I knew at the time because I was flying backwards.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah. OK, so now, you were part of a squadron, I imagine.

KEN TAPLIN: Right.

LORIN SORENSON: How many planes in a squadron?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, we put up 36 ships, frequently, and I think we went more than that, to 48. I was in one six-ship flight. There were three and three.

LORIN SORENSON: Flying in formation?

KEN TAPLIN: In formation, yeah. And that was our advantage over the 17s, is that we were much more maneuverable. We could change direction every twenty seconds. That’s the time it took them to get a shell to us. And we could dive all six in formation and go right or left or up.

LORIN SORENSON: Once you saw the bursts, you could see where they were and what altitude?

KEN TAPLIN: If you see the bursts, then you better start moving. Changing direction.

LORIN SORENSON: So out of your 30 to 40 or so planes that were in your squadron at given times, what percentage loss do you suppose you had?

KEN TAPLIN: The B26s overall had less than two-and-a-half percent.

LORIN SORENSON: Two-and-a-half. Was that a good plane?

KEN TAPLIN: Oh, terrific.

LORIN SORENSON: What did it fly, a Pratt-Whitney engine, or —

KEN TAPLIN: They were built by Ford. R2800s.

LORIN SORENSON: But they were Pratt-Whitney engines, built by Ford.

KEN TAPLIN: I guess. They were [radials]. And a lots of the guys, I didn’t know about this until I started going to these reunions, they said they promised themselves they’d never ever buy anything but a Ford.

LORIN SORENSON: After that. Because of those Ford engines, yeah. I got you.

KEN TAPLIN: I was in one mission a guy wrote a book about. Forty-five minutes of continuous flack, which was supposedly the longest recorded in the war.

LORIN SORENSON: 45 minutes of continuous flack, and they go through this some way?

KEN TAPLIN: We got through it and got back.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh. In other words, you guys went through 45 minutes of continuous flack.  But in all that time, you only got hit on two missions?

KEN TAPLIN: No, I don’t say we got hit on two missions. That mission, we picked up 50 holes, I remember that.

LORIN SORENSON: Now of course, at this point, one reason that the Messerschmitt’s, the Germans, weren’t coming after you, is because they pretty well were running out of planes to get up in the air, and they were just shooting at you. And so that’s one reason you didn’t have to be as busy, maybe as a bombardier.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, we had escorts, too, quite a bit. 50s and —

LORIN SORENSON: 51s, P-51s?

KEN TAPLIN: P-51s, yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah, OK. So then how many missions do you suppose you went to —

KEN TAPLIN: I just went 36. And you had to have 36 to come home.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. You went 36 missions, and you feel like you were getting flack the whole time?

KEN TAPLIN: No, not on every mission. Some of them were milk runs. Nothing.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah, all right. But you went on one that was — you had 45 minutes of continuous flack and somehow got through that.

KEN TAPLIN: And I missed the mission which took down 16 ships and 101 men. I was scheduled for it on the bulletin board the night before, and for some reason, our crew was scratched. And I feel that was the luckiest day of my life.

LORIN SORENSON: I guess. 16 planes out of how many?

KEN TAPLIN: I don’t know how many. Probably 32 or 36

LORIN SORENSON: Maybe half (inaudible), if of 30 planes, maybe half.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah. Probably. Maybe more.

LORIN SORENSON: Maybe half went down, with all their men. 100 and how many?

KEN TAPLIN: 101 men. 16 ships.

LORIN SORENSON: 101. What rank in the Air Force — now, this was the Army Air Corps at this time, wasn’t it? Because it didn’t become Air Force until later, after the war.

KEN TAPLIN: No, I think it was Air Force. I don’t think —

LORIN SORENSON: Well, originally it was Army Air Corps.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah, I know it was.

LORIN SORENSON: But you may have been the Air Force?

KEN TAPLIN: I think I was in the Air Force. I don’t know when that changed.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah. What rank were you?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, I started out, after I washed out of Cadet training, as a Private, and I came home as a Staff Sergeant.

LORIN SORENSON: Staff Sergeant. OK. Well as staff sergeant, you must have had men under you then.

KEN TAPLIN: Not in the Air Force.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. It was just a pay grade then.

KEN TAPLIN: It was just a pay grade, yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: So, when you got out of the Air Force, then you went back to school and graduated from Davis in what?

KEN TAPLIN: In ’49, in general agriculture.

LORIN SORENSON: But now, in your occupation, aren’t you a civil engineer?

KEN TAPLIN: I’m not, no.

LORIN SORENSON: You’re not.

KEN TAPLIN: That was always my interest, but, as I say, calculus doomed me.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. So then, what did your occupation become? Your life occupation?

KEN TAPLIN: After graduated in ’49, I went to work for a farm machinery manufacturing company in Manteca. They were making a walnut & almond harvester. Mr. Goodwin  was quite an inventor. He’d invented an almond huller, which was very popular. Sold a lot of those. Then he developed this harvester, and so I went to work with them, and I stayed there five years. Then I came back to St. Helena to work for Conrad Weil, who was the city engineer at that time.

LORIN SORENSON: Let’s go back to the huller manufacturer, what did you do there? Was it sales, or what?

KEN TAPLIN: I was purchasing agent, and I assembled all the materials to build these machines.

LORIN SORENSON: OK, so you dealt with the sources for all these items they purchased to make them.

KEN TAPLIN: Did some design work, too.

LORIN SORENSON: So, then you went to work for the city engineer?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes, I worked for Conrad Weil, who was —

LORIN SORENSON: How do you spell his last name?

KEN TAPLIN: W-E-I-L.

LORIN SORENSON: Conrad Weil, OK.

KEN TAPLIN: Junior. He was also an attorney — an attorney and a civil engineer.

LORIN SORENSON: He was? And what were your duties with him?

KEN TAPLIN: I was kind of the office manager. That was when the city – that was in ’54, I believe, when the City Hall was brand new. And after it was built, it looked kind of empty. There was just — Marie Volper was the City Clerk, and she had an assistant, and there were all these offices with nobody in them.

LORIN SORENSON: You mean the present city hall? OK.

KEN TAPLIN: So, the council decided they’d give Conrad Weil office space– some arrangement — I don’t know what the arrangement was.

LORIN SORENSON: Was he also city attorney?

KEN TAPLIN: No, he wasn’t. I don’t think he paid anything — I don’t recall — for that space, but that’s where he had his office. He did private work as well as city work.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. And so, then you did what for him?

KEN TAPLIN: I was office manager. I did the payroll and did drafting — mainly drafting.

LORIN SORENSON: Office manager in the planning department, or?

KEN TAPLIN: No, no. It was just for him, which didn’t mean a hill of beans, I mean, I wrote the payroll checks, but most of the time, I was doing drafting of maps and that sort of thing. I drew the plans for Bell Canyon Dam.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. You were actually working for him and not the city.

KEN TAPLIN: That’s right.

LORIN SORENSON: And so, he would do these engineering things for the city on the side, so to speak, on a contract basis, and you would help him carry them out.

KEN TAPLIN: Right. He had a total of 4 employees

LORIN SORENSON: And, so then you were dealing with the city powers , the city fathers, at that time. Who was the mayor, for instance, in 1950?

KEN TAPLIN: Stralla  was the mayor at that time.

LORIN SORENSON: Louie Stralla, and of course he’s the father of Bell Canyon project —

KEN TAPLIN: Right.

LORIN SORENSON: — on the City Council, so you got involved in, what, the land acquisition?

KEN TAPLIN: No, I got involved in drawing the plans for the dam.

LORIN SORENSON: Drawing the plans, OK. Did you draw in that big leak that it had for years?

KEN TAPLIN: (laughter) I knew that leak was there. That was a concern at the time.

LORIN SORENSON: Looking back, that was good for the city that they got such a good water system.

KEN TAPLIN: It sure was.

LORIN SORENSON: And a lot of people were, I think, against it at the time — a big expense — but it was the best place they could have put it, I guess.

KEN TAPLIN: Right.

LORIN SORENSON: And that was put on the old Rossini property, which gets us back to Charlie Varozza family in talking about that, So now, it’s 1954, and now somewhere along in that era, you sort of became a developer of sorts.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, I think I worked for Conrad Weil for probably five years. Stu Rhodes came to work for him too. And then, so.

LORIN SORENSON: Now Stu Rhoades was who, and what did he do?

KEN TAPLIN: He became a councilman later. He was a civil engineer — Stanford graduate. He had thought of going to work for a stock brokerage firm, and somebody in San Francisco knew Conrad Weil and suggested that he come talk to him about engineering work, which he did. 

LORIN SORENSON: And his name is spelled S-T-U-A-R-T   R-H-O-D-E-S.

KEN TAPLIN: There may be an no A in there.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah. OK.

KEN TAPLIN: I forget. (laughing)

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah. I’ve seen it. So —

KEN TAPLIN: So, then we broke off from Conrad and formed a partnership.

LORIN SORENSON: You and Stuart Rhodes?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. And what kind of partnership?

KEN TAPLIN: just a business partnership.

LORIN SORENSON: Business partnership.

KEN TAPLIN: And we did Indian Valley Subdivision on Arrowhead Dr. We did that development on Sulphur Springs Ave. We did some on the coast between Albion and Little River. We developed some property there.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Now, what you would do in those days — now in the case of Indian Valley, that was not family property at that time.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, we bought it — it had been sold to Fred Beraldo by my

grandmother & we bought it from Beraldo.

LORIN SORENSON: Meaning you and Alice?

KEN TAPLIN: No. Well, all three of us — Stuart Rhoades and I and Alice — yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: All right. Oh, OK. So, you, as the new business partnership, bought some land on Sulphur Springs Avenue and developed some — now how about the lots, for instance, that Laurie Woods’ house is on, and the Nachbaurs?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah. That was property that was sold by my uncle, Raymond Lewelling — it’s just a strip along Sulphur Springs.

LORIN SORENSON: Those lots. So, when you put in Arrowhead, that was your new partnership’s venture.

KEN TAPLIN: Right.

LORIN SORENSON: OK, and how many lots did you put in there, would you guess?

KEN TAPLIN: [Nineteen?] Yes. (inaudible)

LORIN SORENSON: OK, that’s right. And then so you did the same thing. You bought some land up around Albion, up on the Mendocino coast and put in some, what, a small subdivision?

KEN TAPLIN: We divided it and we built a house on it and sold the house.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Now didn’t you put in, also, or have something to do with the Fawn Park area, and what was that all about?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, we formed, I guess, we had a partnership with Ray Bentley, Glenn Buller

LORIN SORENSON: Glenn Buller.

KEN TAPLIN: Glenn Buller and Rhoades and I — oh, Dr. Baldwin.

LORIN SORENSON: Dr. Baldwin, the dentist.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: All right.

KEN TAPLIN: Five of us, I guess.

LORIN SORENSON: Meade Baldwin.

KEN TAPLIN: Meade Baldwin.

LORIN SORENSON: And he’s still around — I see him at the post office. And so —

KEN TAPLIN: And then we developed some lots up there.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. And did you name the streets?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: Who was involved in naming the streets?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, Alice and I and Stu, I think.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. And, can you name any other properties you developed around the valley? That was about it. What year did you marry Alice?

KEN TAPLIN: I married her when I was 23 — she came down to see me at Barksdale Field, and we got married.

LORIN SORENSON: During the war.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah, yeah.

KEN TAPLIN: Crazy, but it worked.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah, and then you had — I’ve asked you so many names, but

I don’t think you told me the names of your children and their birthdates.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, Melinda was born May 15, 1949. Just before I graduated from U.C. Davis.

LORIN SORENSON: Melinda Taplin.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes — just before I graduated. 5-15-49

LORIN SORENSON: And what’s her middle name?

KEN TAPLIN: None.

LORIN SORENSON: No middle name — OK, Melinda Taplin. And then who else?

KEN TAPLIN: Stephen Hunt.

LORIN SORENSON: Hunt Taplin. OK. And born — 1951

KEN TAPLIN: ’51, I believe.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. 1951.

KEN TAPLIN: And then Bill was born in 1956, I think.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. And are they, hopefully, happily married and occupied these days? Anything you want to tell us?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, Melinda obtained a teaching credential. She works for EPA in a teaching capacity around the different regions. There are fourteen regions, and she works to coordinate paperwork between regions. Stephen became a doctor, Master’s in Public Health. He’s in Seattle. Seems to be in demand to give talks on his research on breast cancer mammography. He’s going to Japan next month. Bill is a civil engineer – works for Montgomery Engineers — a big engineering firm. They have 200 engineers in the Walnut Creek office where he is. And he’s been to Hong Kong working on water systems and —

LORIN SORENSON: Well, obviously, the children are not an embarrassment to the parents.

KEN TAPLIN: No.

LORIN SORENSON: It sounds like a wonderful group of children to be proud of.

KEN TAPLIN: I picked the right girl.

LORIN SORENSON: Boy, you sure did. Alice — what a sweetheart. Well, did Alice — I know Alice, but I don’t remember what she did.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, she went to Davis. She graduated from Cal because they closed the Davis campus during the war. They opened a Signal Corps training school there.

LORIN SORENSON: During the war?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes. She taught nursery school in Manteca when we lived there.

LORIN SORENSON: You say nursery school?

KEN TAPLIN: Nursery school.

LORIN SORENSON: As in children?

KEN TAPLIN: Small children, yeah. She was interested in that.

LORIN SORENSON: OK.

KEN TAPLIN: And other than that, when we came back here, she eventually went to work for Red Cross as Bill got into school and she had some time, she worked for Red Cross as Executive Director, I think they called it at that time.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Well, let’s go back to — let’s talk about the Lewellings now. Vera Lewelling you say was the elementary school teacher. Is that what she did – that was her teaching area was elementary school? And she never went to high school teaching? What was her maiden name?

KEN TAPLIN: Hansen. Vera Hansen.

LORIN SORENSON: Sen or son?

KEN TAPLIN: Sen, I believe, and her father was the manager of To Kalon vineyards.

LORIN SORENSON: To Kalon, which is To Kalon, which now is owned by Mondavi?

KEN TAPLIN: Probably.

LORIN SORENSON: And it’s in Oakville.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: Now her family was quite a pioneer family, weren’t they?

KEN TAPLIN: I think so.

LORIN SORENSON: And she married — evidently the youngest Lewelling, Ray, or Raymond Lewelling, who was a bachelor well into his fifties. And she was somewhere around fifty, I imagine, when they got married — in the fifties.

KEN TAPLIN: I think so. In the fifties.

LORIN SORENSON: All right. So, they never had any children.

KEN TAPLIN: No.

LORIN SORENSON: And they are living at the old home which dates back probably to the 1850s.

KEN TAPLIN: 1870, it was built.

LORIN SORENSON: The house was built in 1870 —

KEN TAPLIN: Or finished in 1870.

LORIN SORENSON: — on Sulphur Springs Avenue, and what can you tell us about Ray? What did he do?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, he was the youngest, as you say. He went to Stanford and graduated in electrical engineering. I think he was first or second in his class. He had a nervous breakdown — I don’t know whether I should say that or not, but that kind of set him back.

LORIN SORENSON: Well I knew him, and he was a little bit of a nervous type.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah, yeah. He worked for radio manufacturers early on. Brandies and Kohler I  remember were two of the names that were manufactured. In fact, when he was at Stanford, he would go and park his car with instruments to find out locations for transmission towers. And actually, some of them were built, I understand. But he developed those radios for Kohler and Brandies and the elementary school at one time had one of them — the system for the rooms that went to all the rooms. But he – they wanted him during the way to go to work at the Lawrence Lab, and he wouldn’t. He stayed on the farm — stayed with his mother and —

LORIN SORENSON: Stayed with his mother, and who was that, do you remember her? What was her name?

KEN TAPLIN: She was an Alstrom, who was the other set of grandparents that I had. Her name was Annie.

LORIN SORENSON: Annie Letetia Alstrom?

KEN TAPLIN: Annie.

LORIN SORENSON: And she was the heir to the property, then.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: And, so is the mother and the bachelor son living there for many years.

KEN TAPLIN: Right. And then a sister came back after her marriage. Her husband died and she came back.

LORIN SORENSON: OK, well now talking about the Alstroms, I see here that there’s an entry in the St. Helena Star for April of 1875, and it says that “S. Alstrom will soon open White Sulphur Springs,” now who is that?

KEN TAPLIN: That was my great-grandfather.

LORIN SORENSON: So, is he the originator of the White Sulphur Springs?

KEN TAPLIN: No.

LORIN SORENSON: He bought it from someone else, already a going concern?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes, Swen Alstrom.

LORIN SORENSON: OK, his name is Swen. S-W-E-N, I suppose?

KEN TAPLIN: Uh-huh.

LORIN SORENSON: And it says that he had the business, the White Sulfur Springs, in 1876. By 1880, it says, he’s removing the furniture from White Sulphur Springs and planning a large hotel in St. Helena in 1881. Did that –? And then he built it, it says here, in 1881.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah. The hotel St. Helena. But the story about White Sulphur Springs that I remember is that he built a new hotel out there, completed not too long before the Fourth of July, and there was a Fourth of July celebration out there, and somebody threw a lighted pack of firecrackers on the roof and burned it all down. He had no insurance or anything. He was running into hard luck all the way along.

LORIN SORENSON: Well, he had enough money, or investors, but he built a large hotel in St. Helena. He called it the Windsor Hotel, according to this article here, and then that became what we now know as the St. Helena Hotel, which is on Main Street, across from Hunt, roughly — Hunt Street.

KEN TAPLIN: Right.

LORIN SORENSON: And his daughter had a wedding June 29, 1883 — who would that be? Or, would you know?

KEN TAPLIN: Probably my grandmother to Lewelling, but I’m not sure.

LORIN SORENSON: Well, Swen Alstrom’s obituary was in the St. Helena Star June 26th, 1885, page 2, column 1. What else do we have here on Swen? Now Sophie Alstrom was who?

KEN TAPLIN: His stepdaughter.

LORIN SORENSON: She was wed it says on June 29, 1883, page 3, column 3.

KEN TAPLIN: Maybe that’s the one.

LORIN SORENSON: Now we switch over to the Lewellings and look at these cards.

KEN TAPLIN: Sophie Alstrom — yeah — married a Mitchell.

LORIN SORENSON: In 1878, Charles Lewelling  (never heard of), according to the Star, gets a new telephone, and it’s January 18, 1878. That would be page 3, column 1. Now that was a — my knowledge of history, that was the first telephone, maybe in Napa Valley. Now what do you know about that?

KEN TAPLIN: I know — I don’t know who Charles Lewelling was, but my grandfather, Harvey, supposedly hooked up Krug, Beringers, Lewellings — the other name escapes me now. There were five of them who were hooked up with telephones very early on.

LORIN SORENSON: So, they had their own little telephone system. It was like an intercom, that probably was battery-powered of some kind, or electrical powered some way.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, you cranked — it was a magneto that gave you power to make it ring.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, that’s the way it went — OK. It says, it doesn’t give a name, but one of the Lewellings shipped some almonds in 1879.

KEN TAPLIN: That’s John or his son, Harvey. I think it was John.

LORIN SORENSON: Who was Eli Lewelling?

KEN TAPLIN: Eli was John’s brother. He was at San Lorenzo.

LORIN SORENSON: Well, there was also Elvy Elliot Lewelling. Is that also

KEN TAPLIN: Elvy is a wife of John’s.

LORIN SORENSON: It says Mr. Elvy Lewelling. So — it was a lady named Elvy Elliot Lewelling.

KEN TAPLIN: No.

LORIN SORENSON: Let’s see what else we have here. It says that H.J. Lewelling resigns from warehouse June 12, 1883, Now, I imagine that’s a U.S. bonded warehouse that is still existing. That’s on Railroad Avenue.

KEN TAPLIN: Church Street.

LORIN SORENSON: Church Street — is that Church Street there?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: OK, it’s Church Street, it’s the stone building that now houses Jim Loomis’s business among others.

KEN TAPLIN: Jim Loomis, State Farm Insurance, 55 degrees.

LORIN SORENSON: It was built. Well, it was originally a bonded warehouse for storing Brandy by the U.S. Revenue Service, I believe. Also, H.J. Lewelling was having a reservoir built. Now, who is H.J. again?

KEN TAPLIN: That’s Harvey John — that’s John’s son, Harvey.

LORIN SORENSON: John Orange Lewelling’s son? No

KEN TAPLIN: No, that’s John Orange Taplin. This is H.J. John —

LORIN SORENSON: Well, we’ll try to sort that out later. He was having a reservoir built. Any idea where that might be? 1885?

KEN TAPLIN: No, one behind the main house & two further up in the hill. There are three reservoirs on the property.

LORIN SORENSON: Are there?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Well, he must have built one then. H.J. was also director of the St. Helena Bank in 1884. Now, here’s a Harvey Lewelling, John’s son.

KEN TAPLIN: That’s his son.

LORIN SORENSON: He got telegraph poles to his house in 1876.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah. Uh-huh.

LORIN SORENSON: So, do you suppose those are also what we call telephone poles?

KEN TAPLIN: Right.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, here it is — in 1878, he’s testing a telephone, and he has water wheels to run the machines. Now what’s that mean?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, there’s still a Pelton water wheel out there in the shop, and that —

LORIN SORENSON: P-E-L-T-O-N? And what’s the significance of that?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, the story that I had — and I don’t know — it was the second power plant on the Pacific Coast. I don’t know whether that’s true or not —

LORIN SORENSON: What’s the principle of a Pelton?

KEN TAPLIN: Water — pressure — gravity-fed water from the springs to reservoir on the hill come down and drive this water wheel, which drives an electric generator armature.

LORIN SORENSON: So, they have to somehow pressurize that gravity flow a little bit — or is it just the fall of the water?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah. Just the fall of the water. creates approximately 170 # of  pressure.

LORIN SORENSON: And the wheel is, what, like no perpetual motion? If you can get it going, it will keep going? Caps on a wheel driven by gravity fed water pressure

KEN TAPLIN: No, you have to keep the water flowing on it.

LORIN SORENSON: That’s what I mean, but, it must be weighted some way so that it gives you more than just a regular wheel —

KEN TAPLIN: Well, water’s flowing through it all the time to keep it moving, and it’s generating power.

LORIN SORENSON: What does it look like?

KEN TAPLIN: As I recall, it looks something like a centrifugal pump.

LORIN SORENSON: So, it’s enclosed?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes. Many cup-like tips on a wheel.

LORIN SORENSON: And it has like turbines in there?

KEN TAPLIN: I think there are little cups on the end of the wheels. Similar to what  they used in the mining country up in Grass Valley.

LORIN SORENSON: For hydraulic mining?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: And you say that — now this says here that he has water wheels to run machines and has a 30-inch turbine water wheel — in 1879. Is that the one that’s still there?

KEN TAPLIN: I think it’s probably the one.

LORIN SORENSON: The one — OK. There’s articles in the St. Helena Star about it. He also has a new machine in his workshop, 1880. He’s planted an orange grove in 1886. He’s director of Granger’s Bank in St. Helena in 1884, and there are quite a few entries in here about the Lewellings. Let’s seem ships grapes in 1876. It says he farms near Pine Station. Now actually, that Pine Station district runs clear out to Zinfandel practically, didn’t it? Do you recall that name as Pine Station?

KEN TAPLIN: No, I don’t recall that. Vineland, I recall.

LORIN SORENSON: Well, let’s just talk about that for a minute. Now, do you remember the trains that came through Napa Valley?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: Both the steam train and the electric, urban?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: What do you remember about those?

KEN TAPLIN: I remember my one ride on the steam train with my dad. It stopped at Sulphur Springs, and we got on. I guess we went to Hayward where Eli Lewelling’s place was, I’m not sure.

LORIN SORENSON: It stopped at Sulphur Springs.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: Where would it stop? You mean it stopped opposite Zumwalt?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah. Right where the tracks are, still.

LORIN SORENSON: But, now there was a stop on the urban in front of the high school.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, it also stopped – the electric one, you’re talking about?

LORIN SORENSON: Electric — yeah.

KEN TAPLIN: It stopped at Sulphur Springs.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, it did?

KEN TAPLIN: Oh, yes.

LORIN SORENSON: Was there a platform there?

KEN TAPLIN: No.

LORIN SORENSON: It just stopped.

KEN TAPLIN: It just stopped for passengers getting on or off.

LORIN SORENSON: It was just like flagging down a taxicab?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah. My aunt, Mabel Lewelling, would come from Crocket, where she taught, and we’d go down and meet her in the evening, and she’d get off the train right there.

LORIN SORENSON: So, if someone was anywhere down the line — if there was a road that intersected with the tracks, they could just stop there and the trainman would stop and pick them up?

KEN TAPLIN: I can’t say for sure. I don’t know.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. But you’d go down to Hwy 29 at Sulphur Springs, in front of the present Zumwalt, and get on the train there – the electric.

KEN TAPLIN: You could get off. I think she got on there, too.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. How often did you use the train?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, during a certain period, my aunt was teaching school in Crocket, and she would come home weekends.

LORIN SORENSON: And you say you could connect then to ferries to San Francisco?

KEN TAPLIN: Uh-huh.

LORIN SORENSON: So, you would go where — to Vallejo —

KEN TAPLIN: Vallejo.

LORIN SORENSON: — and get a ferry there, and it would take you where – to the ferry building in San Francisco?

KEN TAPLIN: San Francisco, Martinez, Benicia.

LORIN SORENSON: What other ferries — did you take the Marin County ferries at all?

KEN TAPLIN: I took the Benicia with my folks coming from – we lived, just before I entered school — we lived on the Eli Lewelling property at San Lorenzo, and we would come back and forth in the old Model T and come across in the Benicia Ferry to Vallejo, and it was always a question wonder as to whether you would just miss the ferry or just make it. The wait between ferries was long.

LORIN SORENSON: OK, now let’s go back to 1939. You were eighteen years old, and they had the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island. Did you go to that?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: And what do you remember? And how did you get there?

KEN TAPLIN: We were in high school. We went. How did we get there?

LORIN SORENSON: Did you take the train or — we took the train

KEN TAPLIN: I’m not sure. I think maybe we did take the train.

LORIN SORENSON: Take the train, and then you would have been able to take the Bay Bridge in some way because it had just been —

KEN TAPLIN: No, it was just being built then.

LORIN SORENSON: No, it had already opened.

KEN TAPLIN: The Bay Bridge?

LORIN SORENSON: It should.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, I remember going, I think, on the ferryboat and seeing them doing the construction.

LORIN SORENSON: Oh, I thought it opened in 1937, but that’s OK, we’ll check that out. Then do you remember them having the Panama Clipper flying boats there that –?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: Do you remember much about that?

KEN TAPLIN: No, just seeing them and being amazed at (laughter) the size of those things.

LORIN SORENSON: Because they were at the hanger right along the bridge there.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, they came in right on the water there.

LORIN SORENSON: That little bay there, yeah. Well, what do you remember about the Fair? Anything stand out in your mind?

KEN TAPLIN: Uh, the Follies, which I couldn’t go into.

LORIN SORENSON: Sally Rand’s  Nude Ranch?

KEN TAPLIN: (laughter) Something like that.

LORIN SORENSON: Do you remember that?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah, but then there were the Water Escapades with Esther Williams, I think — I remember that was very impressive.

LORIN SORENSON: But it was pretty colorful — yeah.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah, yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: Well, let’s get back to the Lewellings here. Now we got John Lewelling, and that’s who — Raymond’s — Ray’s father?

KEN TAPLIN: That’s Raymond’s grandfather.

LORIN SORENSON: Raymond’s grandfather. He’s got legal problems over a fruit dryer in June of 1875. He has fire losses, but then in 1876, the grape crop looks good. He’s got a winery. Did they have a winery?

KEN TAPLIN: On Spring Street.

LORIN SORENSON: On Spring Street — oh, the old building there on – that was made into a courtyard for a home.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah, they preserved the building, but they don’t —

LORIN SORENSON: That would be about the 1800 block of Spring Street, and it would be on the south side.

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: Right on the sidewalk, that building — they stopped.

KEN TAPLIN: pretty much, yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah. And that was the Lewelling Winery. What do you know about that?

KEN TAPLIN: Not much.

LORIN SORENSON: Not much. OK. But the Lewellings were purveyors of fruit products.

KEN TAPLIN: Right.

LORIN SORENSON: They have a fruit products industry in St. Helena. What was that — they had a market to fill something to get the fresh fruit somewhere?

KEN TAPLIN: I don’t know what they did up here. At the place in San Leandro — or San Lorenzo, I have some — I know where there are diaries in the old house telling of going to San Francisco with berries and rhubarb, and the prices they were getting for peaches and apples, and all of those things were pretty rare, apparently. And I just read an article after you told me about this, of how John Lewelling came here a very wealthy man from the fruit business in the Bay area.

LORIN SORENSON: Uh-huh. Yeah. Well, I’ve heard, and maybe you know something about this, but they were sort of like the – the family, collectively, were like the Luther Burbank of Oregon.

KEN TAPLIN: Second only to Luther Burbank, I read.

LORIN SORENSON: On the West Coast, they were great for plant breeding and the selective process of getting the best fruit, and they were famous in their time in horticulture, is that right?

KEN TAPLIN: That’s right.

LORIN SORENSON: The Lewelling family.

KEN TAPLIN: They came, you know, they brought saplings across the plans in covered wagons especially built to hold a mixture of charcoal and something else, and they had these big deep wagons that they kept those trees alive, and the Indians reportedly helped them because they had living things. They didn’t attack them. They just kept them headed for water so they could keep them alive, and they landed in Milwaukee with all these trees, apparently.

LORIN SORENSON: Now when you say Milwaukee, that would be Milwaukee, Oregon.

KEN TAPLIN: Milwaukee, Oregon, uh-huh.

LORIN SORENSON: And he had something to do with the St. Helena Academy –John did. What was that about?

KEN TAPLIN: I don’t know.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. And he died in 18 — no that was William Henderson Lewelling. Do you know who that would be?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah. That’s Henderson — he may have been — Seth and Henderson were two other brothers of John, and they — OK, I’ve got all kinds of stuff that — you know, that you could read and tie it together — maybe you want me to try and tie it together.

LORIN SORENSON: Sure. We’ll get this transcribed and then take it and see what we want to do with it from there. Getting back to Daniel Hunt — the Hunt family — I’m looking in their St. Helena card file here, on the St. Helena Star items. And it says, “There’s a description of cave on property on Howell Mountain in 1881.” What do you know about that?

KEN TAPLIN: I know nothing about that.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah. There’s a number of caves up there, and I just wondered if you might know. OK. There’s quite a bit on the Hunts. He had a general — oh that’s Hunter — that’s somebody else. So, now the Lewellings were known as not only great innovators in horticulture, but also in these mechanical devices.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, this was Harvey John. This was John Sr.’s son, who only had one eye, and apparently was kind of the favored son. So, the shop that’s out there that’s still standing today was built for him, I understand, and equipped with all these tools — the lathe, the —

LORIN SORENSON: You say built for him, or built by him?

KEN TAPLIN: Built for him by his father.

LORIN SORENSON: Who was not as mechanical?

KEN TAPLIN: I don’t know whether he was or not, but Harvey was, I know. And so, the father encouraged that.

LORIN SORENSON: And what are some of the things that he built and innovated

out there?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, he did some things on the lathe. He made some dustpans. There was one item that I remember with a turned handle and a [meddle?]. I still have one, and I’ve seen other members of the family — they still have them. He did tops for kids’ playthings. He did lathe work.

LORIN SORENSON: There’s a story that he built his own automobile. It may have been the first automobile in California. Was that him that did that?

KEN TAPLIN: He in connection with Money.

LORIN SORENSON: John Money?

KEN TAPLIN: John Money. I have pictures of that.

LORIN SORENSON: Now, of course Money built the Ritchie Building. Is that the Money?

KEN TAPLIN: I think so.

LORIN SORENSON: Yeah.

KEN TAPLIN: Not to be confused with Mooney.

LORIN SORENSON: No, no. John Money. So, was he the money man, or was he also a mechanical type? Money? Or do you know?

KEN TAPLIN: I don’t know, but there wasn’t a lot of money involved in this thing. It was an old four-wheel wagon with a great big pumph-pumph engine on it.

LORIN SORENSON: Some they took like a stationary engine —

KEN TAPLIN: Yes.

LORIN SORENSON: — that you would pump your water with, or something like that —

KEN TAPLIN: Right.

LORIN SORENSON: –and they put it on like a farm wagon-type and put a steering device on it, and probably ran a belt to the wheel, and had an automobile.

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah. They went down the lane, couldn’t turn it around because it had no differential.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. So, what year would that have been —

KEN TAPLIN: I don’t know — I have the picture.

LORIN SORENSON: Turn of the century maybe — 1900?

KEN TAPLIN: Probably.

LORIN SORENSON: Around there? OK. Now, the Lewelling house is literally a museum of St. Helena history and time, I understand. It was built in 1870 and has a lot of its original furnishings, I understand, has a lot of its original farm implements — what?

KEN TAPLIN: Not much in the way of farm implements, I don’t think, any more.

LORIN SORENSON: You had mentioned to me through the years that you have some, for instance, like the old Holt tractor. Was that a Taplin –?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah, that was my dad —

LORIN SORENSON: — thing, and then you have an old Model T Ford.

KEN TAPLIN: Ford — yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: Is that a Taplin —

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: — item? And you have an old truck, I think — an old ’32 or so truck.

KEN TAPLIN: Well, there are a couple of Model A trucks, yeah.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. Who was the photographer in the family? Which Llewellyn?

KEN TAPLIN: That was H.J., the son that the shop was built for.

LORIN SORENSON: That’s Harvey. Harvey J. was a photographer. An amateur photographer or a professional?

KEN TAPLIN: Yeah, amateur.

LORIN SORENSON: OK, now you say that you have a number of glass plate

negatives that he took. What kind of subjects would he

take pictures of?

KEN TAPLIN: Oh, some of them are of Main St — Fourth of July parade –some of that. Gosh, I don’t know, there are books of them out there — I can’t tell you.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. And you also said that you have the old St. Helena High School yearbooks from about 1909 to whenever.

KEN TAPLIN: Our daughter’s collection of those.

LORIN SORENSON: Now, who collected those?

KEN TAPLIN: Oh, different members of the family, I imagine.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. And those are like in the house?

KEN TAPLIN: Yes, they’re in the house.

LORIN SORENSON: You also mentioned one time about the large dining room — a beautiful dining room that they built there. Was that for entertaining a lot of — did they do a lot of entertaining back in the early days?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, I wasn’t around, I can’t tell you.

LORIN SORENSON: OK. What other interesting — in the last few minutes of the tape here, what could you tell us about the Lewellings that you remember — besides Ray — his mother, for instance, what can you remember about her?

KEN TAPLIN: Well, she was a large woman, and the favorite family story about her is when she would sit down at the table and there would be fresh corn — she loved fresh corn — so she would go through that, yeah. She taught me how to make apple pies, when I was a little kid I did that. She was a very gracious woman, loved to entertain, always had people coming, which was not my mother’s style at all. She didn’t like entertaining. She was, you know, Swedish and —

LORIN SORENSON: She was the Alstrom?

KEN TAPLIN: Alstrom, uh-huh.

LORIN SORENSON: You mentioned earlier that Dorothy Nachbaur is your cousin then.