top of page

Oral History Interview
Date: September 12, 2020

This transcript has been edited for clarity and ease of reading. The full audio interview is available from the Friends of the 1883 Clarksburg Schoolhouse.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Today is Saturday, September 12th. We are in the home of Jim and Cindy Tickler. Ms. Tracy Huddleston is conducting the interview. Also present are Mike Campbell, Don Fenocchio, and Karen Coffee from the Friends of the 1883 Clarksburg Schoolhouse.


MS. HUDDLESON: Jim, could you tell us your full name?


MR. TICKLER: James Bradley Tickler.

MS. HUDDLESTON: When and where were you born?

MR. TICKLER: I was born on December 14th, 1943, in Sacramento, California.

MS. HUDDLESTON: Let's talk about the greater family that you come from. How long has your family lived in the area?


MR. TICKLER: Since 1859.

MS. HUDDLESTON: Specifically, where in the area?

MR. TICKLER: Merritt Island.  

MS. HUDDLESTON: Where did your family originally come from?

MR. TICKLER: Jeremiah Colby came to California in 1859 from Maine. He was hired as a stonemason to work on the foundation of the California State Capitol building. He also did some mining for a year in San Juan and then came back to the Delta and bought property in Clarksburg for $6,000 in 1870 next to the Berkenkamp place. One of Jeremiah’s sons, George was a Justice of the Peace for years and was eventually elected as a judge of the Superior Court, a position he held for 22 years. He often held court on the lawn of the current Tickler house. Walter Baldwin Colby (1866-1941), my grandfather lived most of his life on this property. He married Anna Belle Berkenkamp in 1895 and they built a home on the property. My other grandparent, Henry Berkenkamp came to Merritt Island in 1864 and bought acreage on Merritt Island in 1865. He lived here until his death in 1920.


MS. HUDDLESTON: What were they raising here?

MR. TICKLER: they raised cattle, alfalfa seed, hay, melons and later sugar beets, tomatoes and onion seed.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Can you give me the full names of your parents?

MR. TICKLER: My mother was Georgia Mary Colby. And my father was Edgar Arthur Tickler.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Do you have siblings?


MR. TICKLER: I have one sister. There's thirteen years between us. We had one brother in between us; he drowned in the slough when he was four years old.


MS. HUDDLESTON: And what are their names?

MR. TICKLER: George was my brother, and Margaret Ann Mirande is my sister.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Talk about the community where you grew up. What are some of your early memories of being a child on this property?


MR. TICKLER: In my early years, I spent most of my time outdoors playing. I had a dog named Friskie. The Webbers were one family friend whom I played with and later, we got to enjoy swimming in Aunt Ida’s pool. One of my early farming memories was our tomato contract with Folsom Prison. My Dad, Edgar would haul a truck and trailer loaded with tomatoes to the prison and sometimes I was able to ride along. The sugar beets went to the local factory in Clarksburg. Our hay was stacked and sold, but when I was sixteen, I worked for the trucking outfits around here. They were Souza Trucking and Gomes Trucking. We hauled the hay to the dairies on the coast.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Where did you go to school?

MR. TICKLER: Clarksburg Elementary and High School.


MS. HUDDLESTON: What did you do for fun when you were a little boy?


MR. TICKLER: We played in the slough a lot. And then (we'd call her Aunt Ida; down here the Webbers had a pool that had a high dive and an old springboard; you'd have to clean it about every two weeks because there was no filtration, you know. Just put chlorine in it. So around this island, everybody went there to go swimming. Plus, we had Boy Scouts which kept us busy.


MS. HUDDLESTON: These parcels of land and the farms are a good piece apart from each other. How would you get around?


MR. TICKLER: You'd have to walk or ride your bike.

MS. HUDDLESTON: Who were your childhood chums?

MR. TICKLER: Jim Mitchell, Bobbie Webber, Wayne Larson. In high school my good buddies were Julian Salazar and Jim Azevedo and the guys with whom I played sports.


MS. HUDDLESTON: How large is this property? Or how large was it when you were a boy?


MR. TICKLER: The whole ranch is 140 acres.


MS. HUDDLESTON: That's a lot of land. So what occupations did your family engage in besides farming, or did that take all of their time.


MR. TICKLER: They were farmers. Once my grandpa got too old to farm, my dad took it over.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Do you have memories of your elders from when you were a boy?


MR. TICKLER: I do of my Grandma Colby because she lived next door. I would go down there for breakfast. She was always big on breakfast and she always had a pie. The pie was always sitting on the counter. She ran this ranch until she was 90 years old.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Was she a widow?




MS. HUDDLESTON: When did her husband pass? How old were they?


MR. TICKLER: Walter lived on Merritt Island until he passed away in 1941 at the age of 75. Anna continued to live in their home, spending hours and hours in her great garden. She enjoyed the Garden Club. And then she ran the ranch. She hired a foreman, but she did all the book work. One year I went to the Old Timers dinner at the Firehouse, and up on the wall were all the pictures of the farmers and she was the only woman. That made me kind of proud. She used to keep their time on the back of envelopes; that's how she kept your time. She suffered massive stroke and spent the last four years of life in an Elk Grove care facility, the only time that she lived away from Clarksburg.


MS. HUDDLESTON: The other grandparents that you knew, you saw less of; do you have memories of them?


MS. HUDDLESTON: In your memory, how did your family celebrate holidays?


MR. TICKLER: We’d have dinners and barbeque once in a while at my Grandma’s house and eat at her large dining table. There was also a kids’ table, but mostly dinners.


MS. HUDDLESTON: From the other people we've talked to, most people celebrated at home rather than celebrations in town.


MR. TICKLER: When home for the holidays, Sunday dinners were big down here.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Were there any holidays that were community-focused in town? Like, 4th of July or something?


MR. TICKLER: Yes, 4th of July was and still is popular today.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Did they ever have little parades or anything?




MS. HUDDLESTON: Were you ever in one?


MR. TICKLER: Yes, with the Boy Scouts.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Can you describe a 4th of July parade?


MR. TICKLER: A lot of farm equipment, old cars, and youth groups. Later on, after the '60s, then the car clubs ‑- And then the different groups, like the church, dance group, bicycles, fire department and a Grand marshal.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Did they doll up their farm equipment with flags and bunting or anything like that?




MS. HUDDLESTON: When you look back, do you think that your family experienced any particular challenges? There were times in our national history that were difficult for many people. I know living on farms, probably running short of food was not a problem during the depression.


MR. TICKLER: No, it was not.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Think about your parents and their lives and what challenges they may have experienced when you were a boy.


MR. TICKLER: There was not a lot of money because some years you make it farming and some years you don't.


MS. HUDDLESTON: And that's a result of how the yield went that year?




MS. HUDDLESTON: Do you have any special memories of your time in school, grammar school and junior high, high school? Do you remember any teachers that were special to you?


MR. TICKLER: I have good memories. This was a good place to go to school. Classes were small and the teachers were good. In Elementary School, Mr. Fenocchio was very popular. He taught and also coached sports. He stayed in the community and has done so much. In High School, teacher also taught and coached. Mr. Scalf taught Spanish and was the track coach. Mr. Pearce was the football coach, teacher and friend into our adult life.


MS. HUDDLESTON: So you were a multi-purpose athlete?


MR. TICKLER: Just track and football.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Let's say you're in high school and you meet this girl named Cindy that you like. You think she's cute. You want to ask her out on a date. How do you show a girl a good time in Clarksburg back then?


MR. TICKLER: Well, you have to go to Sacramento. So about half of our kids at that time, which was in the '60s, were from West Sacramento. There was a dividing line in West Sacramento and some students went to school in West Sacramento. They bussed the others to Clarksburg.


MS. HUDDLESTON: So you would never have met her otherwise?


MR. TICKLER: Correct.


MS. HUDDLESTON: You can't have gone to Sacramento every single time. Is there anywhere in Clarksburg to go for a soda or a movie?


MR. TICKLER: Oh, no. No movies. We had two stores. We referred to them as top Lawlor or bottom McDonald, which is still there now. Our family always went to the top store because they carried our family through the depression.


MS. HUDDLESTON: It's really interesting because it was a farm community, there were so many cultures here living alongside each other.


MR. TICKLER: I was in high school from '59 to '62, long after World War II so I did not experience the Japanese being sent away. My sister did, though, and she said everybody was crying. They came and got them out of the classroom. Some people kept things for the Japanese and returned them after the war. I have heard that they worked the land for them, keeping the arrangement they had with them before they went and honoring it upon their return.


MS. HUDDLESTON: What other cultures were here? I know in the greater delta that there were a lot of Filipinos who worked in the canning sheds, but in terms of Clarksburg, you had Hispanic people?


MR. TICKLER: Filipinos, on the ranch next door. They planted asparagus, picked asparagus, packed it there, and shipped it. They're still some houses there.


MS. HUDDLESTON: In addition to the different Hispanic and Asian cultures that lived here, there were probably immigrant families too, correct?




MS. HUDDLESTON: I know there was a lot of Portuguese, right?


MR. TICKLER: Yes, big Portuguese population..


MS. HUDDLESTON: You mentioned the Souza and Gomes families.


MR. TICKLER: And Azevedos. They immigrated up the river. My mom would buy fish from them. They called it Portugesetown. They would fish for salmon with nets, and they would sell their catch. I never knew about this until I was older. My Mom canned only salmon.


MS. HUDDLESTON: After you graduated from high school, what did you do?


MR. TICKLER: I went to City College for a couple of years; I wasn't serious about that, so Uncle Sam says, I got a plan for you.


MS. HUDDLESTON: What militarily was happening at that time?


MR. TICKLER: Vietnam was just starting.


MS. HUDDLESTON: And what had you studied in college?


MR. TICKLER: I took General Education.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Now, you already had your high school sweetheart. When did you get married?


MR. TICKLER: We got married in 1967.


MS. HUDDLESTON: When you returned from the military?


MR. TICKLER: Correct. We've been married fifty-two years.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Congratulations. Where were you sent when you were in the military?


MR. TICKLER: I was sent to the south and assigned to revamp the old military bases. They needed new communication equipment. I was in the Signal Corps. I went around and installed new poles.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Did you learn that in the military?


MR. TICKLER: Yes. That was my MOS.


MS. HUDDLESTON: And then you came back from the military and got married.




MS. HUDDLESTON: What is your wife's full name, including maiden name?


MR. TICKLER: Cynthia Louise Evenson.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Did you have children?


MR. TICKLER: Two boys.


MS. HUDDLESTON: What are their names?


MR. TICKLER: Erik Bradley Tickler and Mark Eugene Tickler.


MS. HUDDLESTON: When were they born?


MR. TICKLER: Erik was born in '71 and Mark was born in ’73.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Where do they live?


MR. TICKLER: West Sacramento, both of them.


MS. HUDDLESTON: So your family has stayed local?


MR. TICKLER: Yes, they did. When I came back, I became a plumber, but my mom was still here and running the farm. After my dad, Edgar passed away at 47 in 1951, my mom hired a ranch foreman over the next 20 years. In early 1970, my mom Georgia and her sister Laura Snyder leased this ranch to the Bogles.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Did your mom remarry?


MR. TICKLER: She got remarried.


MS. HUDDLESTON: And whom did she remarry?


MR. TICKLER: Horace Williams.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Was he local?


MR. TICKLER: Yes. He was from Isleton. He ran the Heinz pickle plant down there.


MS. HUDDLESTON: I was wondering if you have any family pieces or photos that have special meaning to you that we might at a later date scan?


MR. TICKLER: For sure.


MS. HUDDLESTON: You talked about going to Vietnam ‑- or in the Vietnam war effort.




MS. HUDDLESTON: Do you feel that the war had much of an impact on this community?


MR. TICKLER: Like any community, it took the young people. In that respect, for sure.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Did you have peers who also joined up?


MR. TICKLER: Some of them joined, but most of them got drafted.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Do you recall any information about the World War II POW camp? Were you told any of that?


MR. TICKLER: I was told, yes.


MS. HUDDLESTON: What did you hear about it?


MR. TICKLER: We had two German POW camps. And I think one was local.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Do you have any stories about it or knowledge of it other than where it was located?




MS. HUDDLESTON: Back to the Vietnam era. Do you recall if many of your classmates, once they'd been to war, came back to Clarksburg? Or did they scatter?


MR. TICKLER: If they were farming, their families had farms, they came back. Maybe they would go to UC Davis or something. But when they got out of college, they would farm. They would take over for the dads. But if you just found your way in life, they wouldn't stay around unless they had a farming interest.


MS. HUDDLESTON: When you think of your graduating class, how many people were there in that class, would you guess?




MS. HUDDLESTON: So of that forty, if you had to guess, ballpark, what percentage do you think stayed in Clarksburg?


MR. TICKLER: Less than half.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Okay. So that must mean, then, not that many people's family had farms.


MR. TICKLER: that’s correct.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Or they had other interests to pursue elsewhere.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Now let’s talk about national movements as it's interpreted through the lens of Clarksburg. Do you remember the Civil Rights movement?




MS. HUDDLESTON: You don't?


MR. TICKLER: We had no civil rights issues here.


MS. HUDDLESTON: You didn't really have a lot of political awareness?




MS. HUDDLESTON: And there wasn't a paper here, either was there? Or did you get the Sacbee here?


MR. TICKLER: Sacbee.


MS. HUDDLESTON: It'd be interesting to hear your perspective, even if you weren't thinking of it much as a child, about growing up in a really diverse pocket of America that seemed to really get along well when a lot of America wasn't getting along. How do you explain that?


MR. TICKLER: Well, like I say, we had Portuguese, Japanese, and we had Caucasian and some Filipino and some Hispanic.


MS. HUDDLESTON: I guess it's because everyone was working so hard to make a living.


MR. TICKLER: And you're all working together. You depend on each other to make this living, so you're not going to be in trouble with each other.


MS. HUDDLESTON: As an outsider, I would also say that the delta area, compared to other farm areas in America is sort of its own little part of the world.


MR. TICKLER: Oh, for sure.


MS. HUDDLESTON: It's cut off, you know.




MS. HUDDLESTON: So it's really your own universe.


MS. HUDDLESTON: This may also be something you haven't thought about, but think about it now. When you think about your youth, growing up here, especially your family, as you mentioned that your grandmother fulfilled an unusual role for her era, What do you think about women's lives back then?


MR. TICKLER: Mostly just homemakers and raise their kids.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Help their husbands.


MR. TICKLER: Yes. That was their role. Maybe toward the '50s women would start to work outside the home. But mostly I think they stayed home, raised their kids, and helped them do the book work and other things on the ranch.


MS. HUDDLESTON: And how do you think that's changed now?


MR. TICKLER: I think everybody has to work to make a living. The women have to go to work. And they're educated, and they can get good paying jobs.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Would you say that more women leave town for work than the men? Or is there a division like that anymore?


MR. TICKLER: No, I don't –


MS. HUDDLESTON: It's equal opportunity.




MS. HUDDLESTON: Other than the Colby and the Berkenkamp families, did your family intermarry with any other area families?




MS. HUDDLESTON: How many Colbys and/or Berkenkamps are still in town? Or do you have cousins or anything?


MR. TICKLER: None in town. A lot of my cousins have died because they're older than I am. There was John, Georgia, Laura, and Rex who went to the Old Schoolhouse. Rex was the oldest. They had a trucking company, and it was the first one to go over the Sierras into Nevada, on a regular route basis. No Colby’s stayed here and farmed. All the Berkenkamps have left town.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Why do you think Clarksburg is unique?


MR. TICKLER: It's in the delta and that makes it unique in itself. And the families stay here. There's a lot of families that have been here a long time. It has a volunteer fire department that's pretty special, and we really depend on it. It is a close knit community.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Have there been fires here?


MR. TICKLER: Well, it's not so much the fires when you need first responders. It is medical emergencies; car wrecks on the levee and near the water, or hitting a tree. Farming equipment accidents, etc.


MS. HUDDLESTON: What would you say the sensibility of Clarksburg is today compared to when you were born? Would you say it's relatively unchanged? Or has it changed?


MR. TICKLER: I think it's relatively the same.


MS. HUDDLESTON: You've lived here such a long time. When you and Cindy got married, did you always live here?


MR. TICKLER: No. We lived in Sacramento for a while. And then we built a house in West Sacramento; we stayed there for 30 years. We didn't come here until my mom left here in 2001.


MS. HUDDLESTON: When you think about being a boy here and then coming back here at an older age, what are some of your fondest memories? What snapshots spring to your mind?


MR. TICKLER: riding in the truck with my Dad. Breakfast at my Grandmas. In my teen years, I really enjoyed hunting near the ranch. We had a lot of pheasants. I also fished in the slough.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Do you remember what you got paid when you were a boy?


MR. TICKLER: I didn't get paid much. I remember when I went to work for Sousa Trucking, there's a truck and trailer with 365 bales on a truck and trailer. You go in the morning. The trucks loaded. You drive all the way to the coast; you unload it at the dairy. You come back at 12 o'clock. You load that truck and trailer up again. For the lumper, which is the kid that helps the driver load it; they didn't have squeezers or nothing then. You did it for fifteen dollars.




MR. TICKLER: A day. A load, yes. Fifteen bucks. But gas was twenty-five cents and Chevy's were $3,000 dollars. So living large.


MS. HUDDLESTON: What would you do with that fifteen dollars?


MR. TICKLER: Oh, no problem. We'd maybe drink a little beer and go to the drive in in Sacramento.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Were there any special spots on the river road or anywhere to go have parties in the field or anything?




MS. HUDDLESTON: Tell me. Are they still secret?


MR. TICKLER: No. We did have a couple of places, the oak tree groves and beer can alley.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Did you ever have dances in town?


MR. TICKLER: Oh, yes, school dances.




MR. TICKLER: In the cafeteria.


MS. HUDDLESTON: At the high school?


MR. TICKLER: Yes! Fun stuff. '60s were great.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Well, those are my questions. Is there anything I haven't asked you that you might like to have remembered?


MR. TICKLER: I think when the Colbys and the Berkenkamps first came here, it was swamp. It would flood every year. In fact, this house right here ‑- the top half of this house used to sit on the levee facing the slough because that's how all the produce and the stuff came in schooners up and down that slough. The levee was built with Coolie labor; it was only half as high until the steam engines came. They took all the houses off the top of the levees. They put them up there so it wouldn't flood, because it would flood here every year. Then they set them back down on the foot of the levee. And then they'd come through with a steam engine and made the levees higher, with the clam shells.


MS. HUDDLESTON: What is a clam shell?


MR. TICKLER: It's a drag line. It sits on a barge and they scoop the mud out of the river bottom and they take and put it on top of the levee.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Okay. That's dredging, right?




MS. HUDDLESTON: What else haven't I asked you that you might like remembered?


MR. TICKLER: My family in those early 1850s, they market hunted.


MS. HUDDLESTON: What's that?


MR. TICKLER: They would kill ducks and sack them up and send them to San Francisco by boat and the restaurants would purchase them from us.


MS. HUDDLESTON: On the riverboat? Send them up on the riverboat?


MR. TICKLER: Yes, little schooners.


MR. TICKLER: I was a Boy Scout. We had a good scouting program here.


MS. HUDDLESTON: What activities did you do?


MR. TICKLER: We went camping; there's a place over here called Winchester Lake. It's just a big wide slough, but there's nice flat, and that's where we camped a lot.


MS. HUDDLESTON: With, like, pup tents?


MR. TICKLER: Yes. The whole thing.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Who was your scout master?


MR. TICKLER: Bealafelt (ph.) was mine.


MS. HUDDLESTON: How long were you in Scouts?


MR. TICKLER: Four or five years. My mom was a Cub Scout leader.


MS. HUDDLESTON: And the generations are going forward because your sons have sons; is that right?




MS. HUDDLESTON: You have your grandchildren; what are their names?


MR. TICKLER: We have five: Jacob, Colby, Kyle, Chase and Jack.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Thank you very much for sharing your memories with us.


MR. TICKLER: You're welcome.


MS. HUDDLESTON: And we appreciate your willingness to share your photos and documents in the future.


MR. TICKLER: Sure. We have a lot.


MS. HUDDLESTON: Okay. Great. Thank you.


MR. TICKLER: You're welcome.

bottom of page