Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winnie Furrer, Author, Historian

Today I’m interviewing Winnie Furrer, one of the contributors to Leaves from the Valley Oak. Winnie is a longtime member of Visalia Writers.

Welcome to my blog, Winnie. Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born into an Imperial Valley pioneering family in 1928. My father and mother died at an early age, leaving me and my brother and sister to be raised by my grandparents. By age ten I was working outside my home. World War II had started, and two new military bases were built in the valley. I kept busy babysitting for military families. Washing carrots in the sheds with the fruit tramps and weeding fields of onions also kept me busy until my grandmother came to yank me home. I also worked as a soda jerk and as a skating car hop. In 1946, upon graduation from high school, Ma Bell found me. Like the majority of the girls in my graduating class, I started my career as a telephone operator.
I was married in 1950 to Arnold Furrer, had two children and moved to the San Diego area. While working for Ma Bell, I held many male-titled jobs, mostly due to the Women’s Liberation movement. For ten years I worked as a technical writer. Arnold and I divorced in 1967. I retired in 1982 as a senior engineer. Arnold passed away in 1983.
Lewis, my son, died in 1997, and my daughter, Theresa, passed away in 1998. Her two daughters were both pregnant at the time, so I moved to Hanford to help out. Now there are five great grandchildren, and I’m in love with each one, so here I’ll stay.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been telling yarns since I could talk. In high school my teachers told me that I was a good debater and a decent writer. I listened and started a journal.

Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

My grandparents kept boarders and roomers. We kids sat out on the front lawn and listened to the adults tell stories about their childhood. I felt that their real-life stories should be written down for later generations. I still feel that way. My great-grandchildren are also a good source.

How have you done your research?

I was lucky to have my grandparent’s generation live long lives. I could ask question of them directly. Since they are now gone, I rely mostly on diaries, journals, maps and the memories of other family members. I also use the internet.

What’s been your most rewarding experience during the writing process?

Verification of some segment of my grandparent’s lives is most rewarding. When I find a part that is accurate, I know they really lived the event. That makes me even more proud that they got through those hard times, and I remember them with pride and some humor.

How did your upbringing color your writing?

It was a stimulating childhood. There was no TV. The only time the men in the household agreed on a radio station was when night Joe Lewis was fighting. Our mixed family talked all evening, every evening. We children were allowed to take an active part and encouraged to ask questions. The environment not only helped build character, but also the experience showed us how each participant reacted.

What books and authors have influenced you?

The first novel I read, I found in Grandma’s library. It was Call of the Wild by Jack London. It made me want to be there in the wilderness. I thought about it for weeks. I wanted to give others that feeling. At San Diego State, I took a class on Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. It taught me to read critically and to never use a word that wasn’t needed. I try to live up to Hemingway’s standard, but I’m afraid I fail most of the time.

What’s your latest project?

I have three stories of the Pollard family’s wagon trip from Colorado to California in the 1890’s. One is a journal my grandfather wrote during the trip. He was sixteen. Another was written by his brother and sister during their middle age. The last is a sketchy one written by my grandfather’s mother when she was in her declining years. I’m trying to melt them into one accurate story.

Where can your work be found?

Some of my work can be found in newspapers, such as The Imperial Valley Press, the San Diego Union, Fresno Bee, and The Hanford Sentinel. Articles can be found in the Visalia Lifestyle Magazine, Modern Maturity, and the Firstdraft Literary Magazine. Short stories are the Imperial Valley Museum archives.

No comments:

Post a Comment