Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: James T. Johnston - William R. Johnston - Dorothy J. Whitlock Interview
Narrators: James T. Johnston, William R. Johnston, Dorothy J. Whitlock
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Sedona, Arizona
Date: April 16, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-jjames_g-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2>

KL: And your parents met in Batesville, you said, is that right? Okay. Did you then, did they settle in Batesville?

WJ: Well, that's where their home, they made it, was in Greenwood.

DW: Greenwood. And actually, I was the first child, and I was born in Fort Smith at the hospital because Greenwood was a little bitty town.

JJ: Right out of Fort Smith.

DW: Yeah. So the hospital was Fort Smith. Then where were you guys born?

WJ: I was born in Little Rock, [inaudible] at that time.

JJ: I was born in Little Rock also. Actually, they were probably living in Dyess at the time, and Mother went to Little Rock to have me.

DW: Yes, you were. That was, we had a place in Little Rock, and when Dad went to do the work at the Rohwer camp...

JJ: We went to Dyess first.

WJ: Yeah, he was at Dyess first.

DW: Oh, okay, I know, but we still had the house, we kept renting it out, kept going back and forth to Little Rock.

KL: Did he always work for the extension service?

WJ: He worked for the USDA in one form or another. He had switched from the county...

DW: Home County Agency.

WJ: ...division into the Farm and Home Security, I think it was. It was the same thing as the... what do they call it now?

DW: Farm and Home Administration.

JJ: That's what it was then, FHA, Farm and Home Administration.

DW: Yeah, Administration.

WJ: Farm and Home Administration.

JJ: I'm not sure what it's called now, maybe it's the same thing.

WJ: The name's changed a little bit.

DW: He basically worked for the federal government.

WJ: Loans, making loans for farmers, bulk crop loans and to buy land. And then they got into just home loans. Even now, it's even the non-farmers.

DW: Well then probably the most unusual place we lived in was Dyess, because he was the administrator of one of the WPA programs, forty acres and a mule. And so we lived there.

KL: I've been to Dyess, that's why it's familiar. That's where Johnny Cash was born.

DW: We know him. We went to school with his siblings, he was two years older than me, and we all were in class with the other Cash kids.

KL: Oh my gosh, did you live on the bigger properties, or were you in town?

DW: We were in town and they were out on one of the...

WJ: We were town, which was, certainly can be considered bigger properties.

DW: Yeah, the whole place was a hundred people, I guess, in town. Most of it was the acreage where Johnny Cash was.

WJ: It was divided up into forty acres.

DW: Well, your wife Nita lived on one of the forty acre places.

KL: So your dad was one of the administrators there.

DW: He was the administrator.

WJ: He was the director of that office, or the supervisor of that office.

JJ: [Inaudible] in government positions, was the project director of Rohwer and at Dyess.

WJ: In fact, he was a project director at Dyess, was recruited for Rohwer. When we left Rohwer we went back to Dyess, and he went on with the job there.

JJ: He actually, they closed down the relocation... what did they call the Home Administration project there?

KL: Was it Farm Securities Administration?

WJ: Dyess County Project, wasn't it?

JJ: When he retired, he and Austin Chapman were closing down the government project there, and getting the government out of that business.

DW: Because people were gradually taking over all their homes.

WJ: Then it became just Farm Home Administration making loans to everybody. He was the county supervisor of that, which was located in Dyess.

KL: Did your mom work at Dyess Colony, too, or other places? Was she advising people in home economics?

WJ: No, not until...

DW: After...

WJ: After that she worked teaching home economics in Dyess school.

DW: She went back to teaching after Dad died. Before that, she was basically, after I came along, I guess, she was a homemaker.

WJ: Which is a perfect job. I have a good friend whose wife had to go to the hospital. He came back after visiting her and said, "You know, I lied to you all the other day." Said, "You asked me if she had a job, and I said no." He said, "She's got a hell of a job now that I have to do it." [Laughs]

KL: Yeah.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.