Written History of Bert N. Whitney
I was only required to attend school during the morning half of my senior year, so I took a job at the Rancho Grande Creamery, working from 1:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. each day seven days a week. The work consisted of taking care of the front counter, selling dairy products to retail customers. The pay was $50 per month. Sometimes when other help was available for the front, I would work in the back making ice cream and popsicles. The year that I worked on that job I was able to attend the church meetings in the forenoon and stayed interested and active in the church. It was necessary for me to live in Las Vegas to take the creamery job so I moved in with a friend (George Anderson) who was rooming with a Mrs. Mott. She lived next door to the house on 5th street where I had lived when I was in the 7th and 8th grade. I ate breakfast at the Motts, lunch in a cafe with George, and I picked up supper from the dairy case on my job.
I don’t remember spending much time with my family during that year, except with my brother Howard who also was living in Las Vegas and working full time somewhere in town. I remember that after I graduated from high school in 1941, I became very tired of the work I was doing and decided to quit and find another job. It took me several weeks to get up the nerve to tell my boss I was quitting, but I finally did. He made me feel guilty for wanting to quit and tried to talk me into staying, but I stuck to my decision and found myself unemployed.
Job hunting was much more unpleasant than the work at the creamery. After a week or so I found a job washing dishes and peeling vegetables at a small cafe on North 1st Street. The pay was $2 a day. Before the end of the first day I was so tired my legs ached. I had cut my hand and blood was getting all over everything I touched. Just before quitting time, my brother Howard, who knew I had been job hunting, told me of a job available at a talc mine in Death Valley for 65 cents an hour working with Dad and my Uncle Allen Nay. My decision was easy–I took my $2 and headed for Death Valley with Howard.
That summer was very enjoyable and productive. Some of my experiences there are told in the following entries:
Probably most of you have heard your uncle Howard and I talk about the summer months we worked at the Superior talc mine on the edge of Death Valley in 1941.
I’m sure you remember us telling how we hiked up the hills above the mine after work and of us rolling barrel cactus charged with a half stick of dynamite and a short fuse, with a hope that they would explode while they were high in the air as they bounced down the mountain side.
At one time we were exploring the other parts of the mine (not in operation at the time), casually picking up pieces of fuse and lighting them with our carbide lamps as we walked along talking. Your Uncle Howard was whirling a piece of fuse in a circle as it burned when I noticed a shiny reflection from the end of the fuse. I quickly told him I thought there was a cap on his fuse. He stopped the motion, looked, and immediately threw the fuse to the mine floor ahead of us. Almost instantly a loud explosion echoed through the mine tunnel. For a moment we just stood there fully aware that a dynamite cap can sever a couple of fingers, put out an eye, or do other serious damage. We were waiting to see who was going to speak first when we heard footsteps approaching from behind and soon saw a light in the tunnel behind us. It was Dad! He surely heard the cap explode and I expected a severe reprimand, but all he said was, “I was worried about you and thought I’d see if I could find you.” We enjoyed a friendly talk as we returned to our quarters down the hill from the mine.