Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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<Philip and Barbara Krizo look over old scrapbooks and photographs. Philip Krizo, 90, grew up on a farm near the Lost River and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II.
Philip Krizo returned from war to farm 39
years in the Tule Lake Basin
The 90-year-old Klamath Basin resident grew up on a farm near the Lost River, where a 100-foot amateur radio tower was part of the skyline. He studied electronics and radio at a technical school and served in World War II, using his expertise in the those fields in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
There also was the life Krizo lived to help support his family, as a youth and as a husband and father. The Great Depression and the struggles of being one of the original veterans granted property in Tulelake following the war built his determination as he worked the Basin’s soil.
Krizo was born on Sept. 1, 1918, in his parents’ home between Merrill and Malin.
< Philip and Barbara Krizo, original homesteaders near Tule Lake, have been married for 65 years. Phil served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II as a radio technician.
His parents were Slovakian immigrants, and his father farmed near Adam’s Point. His mother was a homemaker who cared for the family’s five children.
He and his siblings helped his father. The family raised sheep and grew a variety of crops, from potatoes and alfalfa to clover seed.
Many of Krizo’s adolescent years were during the Great Depression, when a crumbling economy led to massive unemployment and hard times. Krizo said it was rough, but they managed.
“Money was scarce but we had our own food,” he said.
There were the lighter moments. Whenever possible, Krizo would visit the movie theater in Malin, where cowboy movies with Gene Autry and Roy Rogers were staples. Amateur radio was a favorite pastime of the Krizo family, and they would communicate with English speakers in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, China and Japan.
“Some people used to listen to us for entertainment,” he said.
Krizo attended school in Merrill and Malin before graduating with eight others from Malin High School. He had to miss out on courses such as typing to help his family with harvests, though he did study mathematics and chemistry.
A year later he spoke with a friend about his classes at a technical school in Los Angeles and joined him. Moving from a small rural community to a bright and noisy metropolis was jarring, but Krizo said he learned to focus on his schooling. He studied electronics and radio technology and coincidentally met a lot of . other amateur radio enthusiasts like himself. Some of them were Japanese youth sent to the school by the Japanese government. Krizo said it wasn’t until World War II started that people realized those same youth were being trained for war.
Krizo was working for Lockheed Martin in Burbank when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He was eating breakfast when the news came over the radio. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943.
“Some got a draft number but I beat them,” he said.
Pilot was the role he wanted to play in the war, but military officials soon discovered his education background and put him to work working on electronics and radio equipment in military planes, specifically the P-38.
After returning home in 1945, Krizo and his wife, Barbara, joined the list of veterans seeking homesteads in the drained Tule Lake Basin. They were present in 1947 when their names were selected from a pickle jar for a 75-acre plot of land.
The couple lived in a converted barracks from the nearby former Japanese internment camp. Barbara said those years had their challenges, such perpetual wind and dust, an old coal stove that didn’t provide enough heat and a hard water supply that made for less than pleasant drinking and laundry water.
“Your clothes would be yellow,” she said.
39 years on the farm
The family stuck it out, and Krizo farmed his homestead for 39 years, growing potatoes, clover and malt barley. A back injury ended his days working on the farm, and he and his wife eventually moved to Klamath Falls to retire.
Barbara said the community has changed since those early years farming. The 2001 water crisis dealt a heavy blow.
But she said the Basin was still a good opportunity for her and her husband, for which they’re thankful. Just as it was in the 1930s and those years in Tulelake, it’s just a matter of mindset, the Krizos say.
“If you’re going to be a farmer, you better be optimistic,”
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM Pacific
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