Joseph and the Dugas'
Hello all:  Just a couple of thoughts before I begin.  I have been struck
with the songs that I have come across rather radomly as I have left the
several places that I have been...while I surf radio I never know what will
be broadcast.  As I left the McKittrick Hills near Taft, which were so soft
and inviting in their shadows, it was Bob Dylan singing, "Lay Lady Lay," one
of his most sensuous and loving songs, and then the bright stars of the
desert night were a wonderful setting for the Fifth Dimension and "The Age of

When I left Taft it was Bill Haley and "Rock Around the Clock" a tune that I
used to dance to with memorable enthusiasms when I was in high school.  When
I left Fresno, it was Hank Williams, Jr., and "All My Rowdy Friends (Have
Rowdied on Down)" and I thought that leaving Tom Lutton and Freddie Snyder
and all of the fun times that we had as youths, that it was an appropriate

Leaving Sylvia's, I was treated to  Rod Stewart, singing Carol King's
composition, "It's Too Late," and I thought that maybe it was...but then I
said, what the hell, I'm not dead yet and there is a lot of living to do. :-)

When I left Joseph's house, I heard the Beatles and "Strawberry Fields." 
Either I am tuned into  a series of stations that play the right kind of
music or I am being told something.  :-)  But my sister, Rosalie, is the
Messenger in the family and I will await her judgement.

As I drove to Sacramento, I looked forward to seeing some more of the Dugas family. Sylvia is the daughter of my mother's sister, Eloise, and I knew that
Joseph had been kind enough to arrange a dinner that evening at my uncle Jean
Dugas, my mother's brother, and Joseph had also invited Tony Richard, Sylvia's brother.  So while the Snyder boys were going to be out on their own for awhile, it was with the Dugas' and I had much to ask and learn about that side of the family. 

For one, I wanted to know more about my cousin, Jim Richard, Sylvia's oldest
brother, and I wanted to learn more from Jean Dugas about my grandmother and
grandfather Dugas and their decision to come to California from Louisiana. 
Their parents had migrated from France.  As I mentioned earlier, it was my
understanding that Grandma Dugas had quaralled with her mother over the
decision to marry Grandpa Dugas. There is more to the story, as Jean
told me.

His parents, Grandpa and Grandma Dugas, had met and married, it is true, without the blessing of her mother, because Grandpa was in essence a travelling salesmen
who did repairs on Singer Sewing machines and speculated in oil drilling.

While in Louisiana, he had taken up with a partner by the name of a Mr.
Dickey, and they speculated in various well drilling efforts, finally hitting
the black gold, watching it spew into the sky, only to see this followed by a
spray of sea water....and once the sea water got into the oil deposit, it was
effortless to try to pump he lost his investment.

About this time, he met, courted and wed my grandmother Bertha Claire Sanerans, whille Mr. Dickey went off to California to seek his fortune.  Grandma Dugas' parents were born in France, he in Toulouse and she in Grand Villart.  While Grandpa Dugas was involved in oil speculation, he apparently borrowed some money from
his father-in-law, Mr. Sanerans.  He repaid it, but Great-Grandma Sanerans accused him of not repaying it in full.  Her daughter, my Grandma Dugas, took singular offense at this accusation by her mother, and cut off all communication.  That is why they never spoke again.

Shortly after, Grandpa and Grandma Dugas left for California to join Mr.
Dickey in more speculation.  Grandma Dugas cooked for the roughnecks and
roustabouts in the oil camps of Maricopa, which is where the oil action was,
and Grandpa Dugas set about selling sewing machines when no oil explorations

When the boll-weevil hit the cotton fields, workers were out of jobs, and
could not make their payments on the sewing machines, and he had to turn to
other lines of work.  Eventually, he and Grandma Dugas moved to Ventura,
opened a grocery store and made a pretty good living.

Uncle Jean, a retired physician, now age 86, is fit, alert, full of conversation and looking the best I have seen him in years.  His wife Dorothy is doing well despite
battling cancer.  Jean asked me if I would look up accounts of the time his
father, my Grandfather, shot a man in Taft in April-May, 1921.  Apparently
the man tried to reach in and hit my grandfather because someone had insulted
a woman in one or the other's family. 

Anyway, when the guy reaches in to hit him, Grandpa took out the pistol he always carried and shot the guy in the butt...he would have been more accurate, but it was difficult to aim.  I promised that I would ask the Taft Midway Driller if they had this story in their archives.  Grandpa was tried and acquitted.  

The other bit of news I wanted to learn was something about my cousin, Jim
Richard.  He was the oldest of the four children born to Eloise and Harold,
and his brother,Tony, told us a lot about him.  Jim  was a difficult, assertive,
hell-raising child from the get-go, who often, as Jean said, would pour water
on Jean's head when he visited and the two of them would go at it.  Jim
joined the Navy when W.W.II broke out, served aboard the USS Barb, the
submarine that sank more Japanese shipping that any other sub during the war.
(Thunder Below, by the commander of the Barb, and now a retired Admiral, James Fluckey,  is an impeccable and very exciting history of the sub's most thrilling times.  Jim Richard had a distinctive role to play in those accounts.)

A Machinest Second Class aboard the Barb, Jim was awarded the Silver Star for joining seven of his shipmates in landing on the Japanes island of Sakhalin to blow up a train in July of 1945. This was the only landing by American armed forces on the Japanese main islands during the war. He continued in his Navy career after the war and retired as a Lt. Commander.
(Pete Gianopulos, Public Historian for Taft, renders an account of this raid with notes from the original Taft Midway Driller, in a three part series published in the Driller, December 27, 2001 and January 3 and 10, 2002)

Tony was very clear in pointing out that Jim was extremely bright, but undisciplined, and until he came to find something that he really cared about, in this case, the Navy, he could as easily have ended up in a bar or a jail.  His commander aboard the Submarine, Admiral Fluckey, characterized Jim as a rascal with the personality of a pirate.  Just what America needed. :-) 

My father, Skip,who worked with Jim at Standard Oil,  tells the story that when Jim had his work hat "stolen" by a workmate, he went home, got his rifle, came back and said, pointing it at the group in general, "I want my hat."   He got it. :-)

I heard another version  this week (8-2-06) from Jim's son, Jim jr., and it rings true.

It goes as follows:

I've heard from dad and from his mother, occurred when dad was around 5 or
so. As he told it he was out by the oil rig and one of the workers took his
hat and they kept tossing it back and forth and wouldn't give it back to
him. As my grandmother told it, rather than come crying to her, he when and
got his dad's shotgun and headed back to the rig. Apparently the guys on the
rig weren't to worried when they saw him coming back with this shotgun that
was twice his size, but when he got closer and they saw him break it open
and put 2 shells in the chambers, they took off in all directions.

Nobody got shot, but he got his hat back. : )

I remember Jim, when he and Tony taught me how to shoot squirrels from the
front porch of their home at 33C and they cautioned me to be sure not to be
misled by the flick of the squirrel's tail.  , Annie Oakley could shoot squirrels so well, that she hit them in the head and did not spoil the meat. I was not very accurate at all.

In addition to learning more about the Dugas family, I just deeply enjoyed
seeing both my uncle and my cousin after nearly 40 years of only passing
hellos as we led our busy, busy lives.  Tony is now 75, looks exactly like
his father, and spends a lot of time maintaining rental homes for his wife,
Myrna, and himself.  He is a wonderful man, thoughtful, carefully spoken, and
impeccably dressed at all times.  He gave me words of advice about women,
when I was a teen-ager.  He said, "when you begin to find it a little tiring
to go see your girlfriend, say goodbye to her, because she is not the one for

I remembered that. 

Next day, Joseph and I met Nicole, Joseph's daughter, for lunch, (she is
beautiful, young, dynamic, smart and ready to take on life), and then travelled to
Napa Valley to see another cousin, Judy Snyder, now Calish.

I do not believe that I have had the chance to say 10 words to Judy in all
of my life prior to this visit, but Joseph has seen her from time to time
over the years and he and her brother, Bob have been very good friends.

Judy and her husband Syd have lived in their home for a long time, and after
initially "meeting her" for the first time, we took up the ssue of Stuffit and we learned eventually that even though they are on AOL, they still had to download Stuffit to their pc.  We did that, then called up some of the pictures that I have been sending, and she was so pleased to see the wedding dress of her mother,Virginia, as it is
draped in the Taft Oil Museum. 

We had a wonderful meal, talked a lot about western movies, our lives in
general and the things that we do.  I found out that Judy is an active
competitive golfer and tennis player, that she had a professional career in
the offices of Standard Oil and that was where she met her husband, Syd. (Did
you win your tennis match the next morning, Judy?  :-)

They were both interested in my Sony MAVICA camera, and I had a lot of fun
showing how it could take short movies.  Then she and Joseph looked over his
new Izuzu, and he offered instruction on how to negotiate and bargain.  As we
left, she said that she wanted Joseph to take her shopping for a car, and he
said, "but you have to be willing to just walk away from an unsatisfactory
offer."  She said, "I can do that" and I believe that she can.  :-)

Syd was a treat to talk with, having very decisive ways of expressing
himself, but not without reflection and the easy willingness to listen that
comes with the experience of living.  Syd is a Berkeley graduate and worked
many years for Standard Oil of California.

Now retired, he remembered his most satisfying role in life was during W.W. II,  when he was serving aboard a Destroyer Escort, I believe, in charge of 70-75 men.
For the only time in his life, he believed, he was challenged to use all
of his abilities.  Very thoughtful comments by Syd, and we all reflected on
those parts of our life that were truly satisfactory, in a challenging way. 

We don't all get to feel that we use all of our abilities very often in our
lives, and it is a special feeling when we do, and do it successfully.   It
was again, a very nice evening, one which I will treasure in my memories.

Joseph and I got home about 11:00 p.m and then I stayed up till 1:00 a.m
(ASTOUNDING) writing a letter to you all and just thinking abut my two day
visit with Dugas' and Snyders'.
I left the next day and intended to drive to Joyce's.  However, my trip was
more of a travel challenge than I had expected.  See Page "Crossing the Sierras."

Love to all,

Leaving Wisconsin

Taft: The Best of Times

Taft: Out and About

Taft: Memorabilia

Fred, Tom and Sylvia

Joseph and the Dugas'

Crossing the Sierras

Joyce's Home

Return to Directory
Jim, left, and Neal Sever, 3rd from left, were the only survivors of the landing on Japanese soil.  Now, only Neal survives this date 8/2/06.
Photo taken April, 2003, compliments of Jim Richard jr.