Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Bill Braye Interview
Narrator: Bill Braye
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Hammett, Idaho
Date: May 24, 2005
Densho ID: denshovh-bbill-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today is May 24th, Tuesday, we are in the home of Daryl Keck in Hammett, Idaho. This afternoon I'm interviewing Bill Braye. My name is Tom Ikeda with the Densho project, and then on camera we have John Pai. And in the room, just sort of listening in, we have Darrell Heider and Daryl Keck. So, so thank you, Bill, for coming here. But why don't we start by just, can you tell me when and where you were born?

BB: I was born in Santa Monica Community Hospital, Santa Monica, California, on March 31, 1917.

TI: And what was your given name when you were born?

BB: My given name was William Earl, after my dad, and last name was Bray, B-R-A-Y.

TI: And I notice in your form that you actually spell it differently, B-R-A-Y-E. How did that happen?

BB: That's because of an error in spelling. When I was about age six, why, we went to live with my grandmother, my mother's mother, and she didn't speak English; she spoke Spanish and Chinese, and she was asked to enter me in school. And she went with my mother and they entered me in the, it was, they added an "E" to my name because my grandmother insisted that's the way you spell "Braye," because in Europe, it's spelled that way in France and Spain, both.

TI: So your grandmother on your mother's side was from Spain originally?

BB: No, California.

TI: California?

BB: She's about fifth or sixth generation Californian.

TI: So let's, so on your mother's side, you are, like, seven or eight generations Californian? Is that...

BB: Somewhere around there.

TI: Wow, so when would, how, what year did the first...

BB: Well, the first women that came to California came over with the Spaniards when they settled in California. And my, way back when...

TI: And do you know about what year that might be?

BB: Oh, around 15-, probably '70 or 1580, somewhere along in there.

TI: Well, that's great, because earlier I interviewed Daryl Keck --

BB: It was before Plymouth Rock.

TI: -- Daryl Keck and his family, he could trace all the way back to about the 1600s, but you just beat him by, by being in the 1500s.

BB: Oh, well, and the women apparently came over as slaves, believe it or not.

TI: So your ancestors were slaves?

BB: Well, not exactly, but you know, you don't know. The only stories I ever heard were what my grandmother told, and whether they were true or not, I don't know. But she claimed that they came over and she was forced to marry one of the Spaniards on board, that was on the ship that she came with, and that started the family.

TI: And so they were, and so you were generations California. That's interesting.

BB: Uh-huh. The first, when they first arrived, why, they were given the amount of land in California that a horse could ride in one day. That's how they parceled land out.

TI: And how did they choose which parcel they would go? Did they just, they'd just go to a place and they, and they'd measure it out?

BB: I don't know, but they, where they finally settled was in the area of Stanislaus County in Oakdale and Modesto, around there.

TI: I would have chosen Santa Monica if I... [laughs] that'd have been great. Now, on your father's side, tell me about that.

BB: Know very little about him. I guess he married my -- he was in the navy at the time, and he married my mother. And my mother was a chorus girl originally, in L.A. And he owned a garage at the time, a small garage.

TI: Now, when you say "chorus girl," so what kind of shows would be in L.A., this is back in the '20s?

BB: '20s.

TI: So these were with clubs...

BB: Before that, around 1915 or so.

TI: Wow, what an interesting history.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.