Breadcrumb

Dillon S. Myer Oral History

Oral History Interview with
Dillon S. Myer

Director, War Relocation Authority, 1942-46; Commissioner, Federal Public Housing Administration, 1946-47; president, Institute of Inter-American Affairs, 1947-50; Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1950-53.

Berkeley, California
July 7, 1970
by the University of California Bancroft Library/Berkeley Regional Oral History Office (Helen S. Pryor interviewer)

[Manuscript History | Contents| Acknowledgements| Forward - A Brief Family History]

Chapters I-IV| Chapters V-VIII | Chapters IX-XIII | Chapters XIV-XVII

[Notices and Restrictions | List of Subjects Discussed]


Notice
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview donated to the Harry S. Truman Library. The reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word, although some editing was done.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

RESTRICTIONS
All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement between the Regents of the University of California and Dillon S. Myer and Jenness Wirt Myer, dated July 7, 1970. The manuscript is thereby made available for research purposes. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to Dillon S. Myer and Jenness Wirt Myer until January 1, 1980. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of the Bancroft Library of the University of California.

Requests for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library, and should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user. The legal agreement with Dillon S. Myer and Jenness Wirt Myer requires that they be notified of the request and allowed thirty days in which to respond.

Opened July, 1970
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

MANUSCRIPT HISTORY

The following manuscript by Dillon Seymour Myer, government official in the areas of agriculture, the relocation of the Japanese during World War II, federal public housing, inter-American Relations, and Indian affairs, came to the attention of the Regional Oral History Office in the spring of 1968. At that time Mr. Myer was engaged in tape recording his recollections of his many years in government service, a task he took on after completing the writing of The Uprooted Americans on his work in the War Relocation Authority. Mrs. Helen S. Pryor , a friend and retired government employee, was serving as an interested listener and questioner (for Mr. Myer soon found that talking to a tape recorder alone was an awkward and unrewarding process), and Mrs. Pryor had heard of the Regional Oral History Office through Dr. Thelma Dreis, the Office’s Washington, D.C., interviewer. The question was raised as to whether The Bancroft Library would be interested in having a copy of the completed manuscript so that it could be made available there for scholarly research.

Mr. Myer had served as director of the War Relocation Authority, 1942-1946, largely a California problem. His work as Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs brought him into western U.S. history. As an agronomist, county agricultural agent, and Extension Service supervisor (although in Indiana and Ohio), his career directly complements interviews being carried on by the Regional Oral History Office on agricultural history. The Bancroft Library indicated that it would be delighted to have a copy, and would like to encourage the completion and distribution of the manuscript in every way possible.

Over the following two years letters and several meetings took place between Mr. Myer and Mrs. Pryor, and Mrs. Willa Baum and Mrs. Amelia Fry of the Regional Oral History Office. In the meantime, Mr. Myer completed his painstaking tape recording. He could have stopped there, but he didn’t. With admirable persistence, he undertook to find a transcriber, who materialized in the form of his daughter, Margaret Myer McFaddin. Still a do-it-yourself project, he carefully edited the manuscript with full cooperation from Helen Pryor, had it retyped and indexed, provided photographs, and sent a final typed version to The Bancroft Library in June of 1970 that was so clean and complete that none of it had to be redone before photocopying it. His work is now available in The Bancroft Library as well as other research libraries which will be requesting copies. In addition, Mr. Myer has given valuable assistance in suggesting and locating other individuals who can give information on other aspects of the wartime Japanese relocation.

The previous November Mr. Myer also recorded with Mrs. Fry an extensive interview on his War Relocation Authority experiences in California and this manuscript will appear as part of the series of interviews in the Earl Warren Oral History Project. The original draft of The Uprooted Americans (University of Arizona Press, 1970), which contains some materials that were deleted from the final publication, has also been donated to The Bancroft Library.

Willa K. Baum, Director
Regional Oral History Office
20 June 1970
Regional Oral History Office
486 The Bancroft Library
The University of California at Berkeley

[iii]

CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

FOREWORD - A BRIEF FAMILY HISTORY

Chapter

I GROWING UP ON THE FARM IN THE 1890s AND EARLY 1900s 1

The Country School 4
Family Life 9
Household and Farm Chores 13
The Miracle of Free Gas 17

II FARM OPERATIONS 19

Threshing 27
Corn Harvest and Storage 28
Potato Raising 31
Butchering and Meat Preparation 33
The Catfish Ceremony 37
Off -Season Work 45
Community Road Repairing 47

III PLEASURE AND RECREATION 54

Memories of Visits to Grandmother Seymour 56
A Country Quartet 58
Marooned by a Storm 60
Plans To Become A Farmer 63
More About Fun During The Days On The Farm 64
The Coming Of The Interurban And Related Items 66
An Expansion Of Business 72

IV GROWING UP DURING THE TEEN YEARS AND MY FIRST JOB 73

High School 75
My Early Courting Days 76

[iv]

Innovations And Transition 77
College Years 81
My Years At The University Of Kentucky The First Job 85

V. MATURING AS A YOUNG COUNTY AGRICULTURAL AGENT IN INDIANA 89

More About Kentucky 91
My Only Scientific Publication 92
Soil Fertility Theories 93
Back To Vanderburgh County; Getting Acquainted 96
Making An Impression By Demonstrating Know How 98
Field Demonstrations And Dealer Cooperation 100
War Gardens And Aphids 103
Interest In The County Agent’s Politics 104
Newspaper Experience And Relations 105
Early Meetings 107
Learning The Importance Of Remembering Faces And Names 108
Get Acquainted Meetings 110
The Soy Bean Story 112
Hybrid Corn 117
Wintertime Meeting In Scott Township 120
Summer Time Meetings 123
A Return Visit After Twenty Years 124
Women On The Farm 125
Four H Club Work 129
Interesting Adult Demonstrations 132
Armstrong Township And Henry Kissel's Hog Cholera 135
Army Worm And Grasshopper Control 139
The Process Of Change 143

VI COUNTY AGENT SUPERVISOR AT PURDUE UNIVERSITY AND A MOVE TO OHIO AS A COUNTY AGENT AGAIN 145

A Second Job As A County Agricultural Agent 149
A Move To My Second Supervisory Job As District Supervisor Of The Agriculture Extension Service 151

[v]

Supervisory Techniques 154
A Crucial Decision 155
Facing The Problems Of The Depression 156
A Bit Of Back Stage Lobbying 157
Adding To My Farm Experience, 159
I Met The Most Wonderful Girl 159

VII THE COMING OF THE NEW DEAL AND A CHANGE OF WORK 161

The Move To Washington 164
Another Job Change 166
Another Proposed Move 167
Initiation Of Aerial Land Surveys 168

VIII A BRAND NEW JOB IN THE SOIL CONSERVATION SERVICE 170

Origin Of The soil Erosion Service In The Department Of The Interior 171
The Battle To Secure Passage Of The state Soil Conservation Districts Act 175
A Promotion To Assistant Chief 177
An Attempted Take Over 177
A Proposal To Move Some Regional Offices 178
The Pearl Harbor Attack And A Change In Status 179

IX THE MOVE FROM AGRICULTURE TO THE WAR RELOCATION AUTHORITY IN 1942 183

The Evacuation Authorization And Initiation 185
Agricultural Labor - The First Relocation Move 187
Student Relocation Committee 188
First Steps Toward A General Relocation Policy 188
The Army Assembly Centers 190
The Move To Relocation Centers 191
The Policy Conference And Its Importance 192
The Dies Committee Moved In 193
The Posten And Manzanar Troubles 194
A Second Policy Conference 195

[vi]

Relocation Field Offices Established 196
A Senate Sub-Committee Holds Hearings 197
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team Was Launched 197
Baseless Rumors 198
Our Letter To Secretary Stimson Recommending A Change In The Exclusion Order.199
Mrs. Roosevelt’s Visit To Gila River And A Luncheon 200
The Dies Sub-Committee At Work 202
The Tule Lake Incident And Resulting Turmoil 204
A Date With The American Legion 208
A Follow Up Of The Tule Lake Incident 210
Reinstitution O