A WALK THROUGH MEMORY
A Memorial by Dorothy Watters Jamar
Written August 1987
In her writing, Ms. Jamar mentions a family scrapbook that contains vintage memorabilia from her past. Vanoss School is interested in finding that scrapbook and making digital copies of its contents. The digital images will be added to our local history files. If you have information about this scrapbook, please contact Vanoss Public Schools.
A WALK THROUGH MEMORY: A Memorial
HISTORY OF VANOSS
MEMORIES OF VANOSS MISSIONARY (LANDMARK) BAPTIST
A TRIBUTE TO THE P.A.TEMPLEMANS
A TRUE “LANDMARK”
A TURNING POINT: YEARS 1925-1926
INTERLUDE AWAY FROM VANOSS: FEBRUARY 1926 – SUMMER 1927
VANOSS HOME-BASE AGAIN: SUMMER 1927-29
A TRIBUTE TO FAMILY
A Walk Through Memory is, in fact, chronologically Part One of the 1981 genealogy of the David Macklin and Ammah Ethel Bradley Watters Family.
More of a pictorial narrative of the Old Midland-Vanoss area, it recalls incidents of our growing-up family life there for thirteen years, from 1916-1929. The narrative is just that: my own personal recollections – but supported by historical data researched from materials located in the Historical Genealogical Museum, Ada, Oklahoma. I believe the “little stories” will strike a familiar chord in the memories of my generation.
The original manuscript includes a family tree for David Macklin Watters, Sr. (5-30-1881---2-6-1957) and Ammah Ethel Bradley Watters ( 1-12-1884---7-10-1918).
There were seven children:
This narrative has been a “memory lane walk” through highlights of the David M. Watters, Sr. family years from Christmas of 1916, when we migrated from near McKinney, Texas, to the Old Midland-Vanoss community in Pontotoc County, Oklahoma, to 1929, the last year that Vanoss was the family home base. Because these thirteen years seem like a lifetime in retrospect, they must have been important to this five-year-old girl who grew up and graduated from Vanoss High School in May, 1919, on her eighteenth birthday.
On Monday following graduation in 1929, Dollie and I were installed in unfamiliar homes in Ada and were enrolling as freshmen in East Central State Teachers’ College. We were “working for room and board,” I with Mrs. H.H. Shirley at 824 East 12th Street, and Dollie with the Dr. Orange Welborn family on South Belmont, riding the city bus daily to classes, some of which we had together.
David finished eighth grade at Chism where he and Papa were living. In late summer of 1930 Papa was employed as custodian at Byars Lake and Park Resort. David did his high school freshman work and until February of 1932 of his sophomore year at Byars.
David assisted Papa with the custodial work and both enjoyed the change of pace and place. They maintained the several private cottages on the lake, owned by wealthy people from Tulsa and Oklahoma City who came weekends to enjoy recreational facilities, especially to hunt ducks. Both Papa and David had become adept as oarsmen, and David had become a good swimmer. He owned a horse for a time and learned to ride. They lived in a house in the Park, and the weekend services performed for the cottagers netted them generous tips.
In February 1932 the Park closed from “hard times.” David and Papa joined me where I was completing my first teaching year at Galey, living in the teacherage. David commuted from Galey to Vanoss by school bus for the rest of that year. Oma and I married in May, 1932, and David made his home with us, to finish his junior year at Vanoss in 1933. During the 1933-34 school year, David lived in Vanoss with the Alonzo Tilley family, completing his high school work in May, 1934. The last Watters family member bade good-bye to Vanoss.
Since publication of the Watters Family Genealogy in 1981, I find myself recalling childhood years and events that shaped all our lives. Maybe I inherited Papa’s bent to “rehabilitate” noteworthy environments and incidents of the past which help to explain the present. My inner camera clicked away at little but not insignificant episodes, photographing – and sometimes enlarging – them as a means of preserving the fleeting impressions that became an important part of all our lives.
Past years are a part of us as long as memory lives. These recounted incidents of family experiences from only a small segment of those 365 days multiplied by thirteen. Over and over I was astonished at all the little—but not minor—happenings that came gushing from my memory bank, begging for a telling.
Perhaps for my own benefit, but believing that at least some of the younger generations share my interests in family background, I have spent much time and no small effort to locate other historical sources to amplify and re-enforce my own recollected details that might recapture the image and spirit of our family’s thirteen years in the Old Midland-Vanoss community.
Sources in this narrative include The History of Pontotoc County, Volume II; Church Minutes of Vanoss Missionary (Landmark) Baptist Church, kept by Mrs. C. M. Nelson and F.A. Templeman; issues of the Stratford Star; conversations with family members,
relatives, and Old Timers of the area; and my own rather extensive memorabilia of letters, pictures, scrapbooks, memory books, and news clippings.
A person needs to know where he has been in order to know where he is and where he is going. One’s heritage serves as a signpost for today’s journey. Someone paid dearly for every second of whatever we have become at any given point in life. One is wise not to turn his back on his beginnings, humble though they are. Perhaps because one’s heritage is humble, he should remember with pride and thanksgiving.
Dorothy Watters Jamar
Plainview, Texas 79072
Back to the Top
Upon arriving in Oklahoma, our family spent Christmas of 1916 with Mama’s widowed mother, Mary Laverne Bradley, and Aunt Vest Bradley, before settling down in the place Papa had bought in Old Midland, a mile and a half west and south of newer Vanoss. Grandma and Vesta occupied the second floor of her large house two miles north and east of Vanoss. The J.H. Bradley family, her son, lived downstairs and farmed the land belonging to Grandma’s place. The R.M. Bradleys, another son, lived on an adjoining farm about a mile farther north. Both families had migrated earlier from Texas.
A few years before we arrived, the business section of Old Midland had burned to the ground one night, destroying also many residences, no firefighting equipment being available. During the transition period when Indian Territory was leading to Oklahoma statehood, pioneers from other states and even other nations were moving into sparsely populated Oklahoma territories and establishing cities and building roads and railroads that would link up with already growing towns.
In 1916 the decaying village of Old Midland was giving way to the rapidly growing town of Vanoss. History records that in 1908 the Oklahoma Central Railroad connecting Stratford and Ada was surveyed and constructed largely through the initiative and finances of a business man, Mr. S.F. Van Oss, from The Hauge, Netherlands (Holland). Establishing the OCRR Depot at Vanoss had by-passed Old Midland and shortened the distance between Stratford and Ada. For a time, three trains a day ran through Vanoss.
The new town was named Vanoss to honor S.F. Van Oss, the railroad founder. On January 2, 1908, Vanoss Post Office was established, and in 1908 a mass meeting of citizens organized a Vanoss School and voted bonds of $2500 for a building erected at the south extremity of the new townsite in order to accommodate both Vanoss and Old Midland. A huge two-story brick and wooden structure on a corner lot at the south end of Second Street was our first school to attend in Oklahoma, and my very first school.
After the Old Midland fire, re-alignment of the remaining properties formed a sort of “cluster” retaining visible signs of the original village laid out in city squares or “blocks.” During our years there most family homesteads consisted of from one to four “blocks,” farming families renting additional lands within commuting distance from their property. Earlier pioneers had bought up adjacent-plantation-like sections and now became landlords to tenant farmers. Papa rented lands north and farther west of our place.
Our property consisted of three “blocks” surrounded by a wire fence and encompassing our three-room dwelling; a deep water well at the back door; a storm cellar; an outside toilet; a large barn and small sheds for cattle and feed storage; and a large barn lot for animal range and parking space for farming equipment.
Our house faced west on an original north-south street that was now closed at the western edge of our ample front yard. Our barn sat directly north of the house alongside another original street which was now a well-traveled country road running east-west along the northern perimeter of our property. Our U.S. Mail box at the wooden barn gate perched atop a high sturdy post was our one connecting link with the “official” world. No telephones, radios, or televisions then existed. I recall that twice weekly the Kansas City Starcame to our box, and, I think, two annual mail-order catalogues came to us free. We kids looked forward to the STAR “funnies” and a children’s serial called “Uncle Wiggly”. The STAR kept Papa informed in world news. Our out-dated catalogues eventually found their way to the outdoor toilet, Scott tissue and Spillmate yet unborn.
A long porch extended across the west front of our house. I recall summer evenings after sundown when we would sit on the front porch while the house “cooled off.” Westward we had a good view down the sloping terrain toward several neighbors’ homes. I remember the Doc Woods, a retired couple who kept Angora cats; the Smiths, next door; the Miles Collins, a former Old Midland merchant; the Timms; the “Preacher” Chambers; and Tom Cook.
Our kitchen on the east faced east and overlooked the block-sized acreage devoted to our truck patch. The “block” immediately south of our house-barn cluster was cultivated to cattle feeds, a fence bordering the three outer sides. Beyond our eastern property line, an original wide street now closed to the public was separated from our acreage by a fence over which a wooden stile gave easy access to the street area which we called “the Lane,” leading south from the east-west country road but not open to traffic. Now a sort of “no man’s land” between our property and the Bob Walkers’ on the east, “the Lane’ was a playground for children of both families.
The Walkers’ owned about five or six “blocks,” with two separate houses facing each other across an “avenue”; three or four barns and sheds; and on east, across another north-south country road, their large apple orchard. On the corner north and across the east-west road lived Reverend Downing and wife, retired and alone. From Downing Corner to Vanoss Post Office was approximately two miles “around the road,” first north then east and back north again. But most pedestrian traffic cut diagonally across the large untilled field east of the Downing Corner, coming out at the Charlie Auten place on the hill, shortening distance considerably for Old Midland school children.
Farther west and back south of our place, a distance of about a mile and a half, lay the village “burying ground,” Old Midland Cemetery. Funeral corteges had to pass our barn along the east-west road. As children we ran to watch in awe from safe inside our barn gate. A historic memorandum of 1908 lists 160 graves in Old Midland. Today (1987) the growing cemetery remains active with additional acreage in late years providing for pioneer families who wish to return their loved ones to their ‘roots.” Vanoss has no other cemetery. (What about Old Moss Cemetery??? lm)
I can still visualize our homeplace in Old Midland, and it seems that we lived there many years. Actually, we left the Old Midland home for good in 1922, and we were also away after 1919 during two Lawton treks. The buildings on our land gradually deteriorated and were finally carried away piecemeal by vandals. During the Depression Years, the land and what remained of the buildings were sold for back taxes. I remember how sad I felt on my first trip back to the cemetery when I realized that our home place was no longer ours.
Back to the Top
Memories of events plucked piecemeal from the years 1916 through 1924 when I was age five to thirteen may not be historically exact as to date. But they record my impressions and the import of a particular time period, and form reliable continuity which serves my purpose for preserving some sort of descriptive resume of our family life and environment during those years.
I remember going by wagon nightly from Old Midland to Vanoss, Papa and Mama in the spring seat, to attend a brush arbor summer revival located on the grounds where the Missionary Baptist Church was later built. I remember sleeping on the way back home in the jolting wagon and how hard it was to wake up enough to get in the house when we finally got home.
I remember a little wagon with a wooden bed or body, like a real wagon. I think it was red. Papa brought home a goat – Billy—one day and made a harness for him so he could pull our wagon. We had exciting times riding. But Billy was stubborn and often went on “sit down strikes,” ignoring our switching his behind. He was simply un-teachable and had his own ideas. He taught us patience. If we didn’t watch, Billy tried to come into the house when a door opened. He chewed the clothes off the line unless he was tied up. Finally Papa had to get rid of Billy, and we missed him.
I remember an Easter egg hunt with all our Bradley cousins at Uncle Bob and Aunt Lollie Bradley’s farm home on a Sunday afternoon after we had attended morning worship together in Vanoss.
I remember some ice cream suppers on Saturday nights with all the Bradley kin. Each family brought milk, eggs, sugar, cream, and one family brought a large block of ice for all the hand-turned freezers. While parents froze the ice cream, we children played together as we waited for the delicious refreshments. I recall chasing lightning bugs and putting them in jars or bottles.
I vaguely recall parental talk of World War I, aware that adults were concerned when United States entered the war in 1917, and that “conscription” became a fearful connotative term in my child-mind. I tried to visualize the “terrible Kaiser”, in far away Germany.
I remember my first day of school. My teacher was Miss Ida Bolen, “spinster sister” of Judge Bolen in Ada, as adults referred to her. Miss Bolen wore spectacles that sometimes dangled from a ribbon, bouncing about her ample bosom when she walked. She gave me the only spanking I ever got in school. During noon hour one day three of us primary girls were busy arranging the funeral of a ground squirrel down in the corner of the school yards. Failing to hear the “take up bell,” we suddenly discovered that we three were alone on the entire campus. We frantically scrambled to the building as fast as our legs could take us. Miss Bolen’s chastisement – and remedy—for tardiness and other like crimes was three spanks on the behind of the offender. I got mine and snubbed through the whole afternoon and until we got home “to Mama.” We five older children walked to and from school daily, along with other children in Old Midland, and the mile and a quarter seemed endless to my short legs. I remember a bicycle. I don’t recall whose, but I remember sitting on the rod between the handle bars in front of a brother.
I remember the thrill of learning to read and the magic of words that talked. I was proud when Miss Bolen let me stand beside her chair in front of the room and read to the entire class, her arm about my waist. She wore her hair atop her head in a “bun”, and from time to time from the corner of my eye I could see it bobbling up and down as she nodded her head. I remember the delight of writing on the black board “if we’d been good.” I tried hard to earn the wonderful privilege.
I remember a box supper at school one night. We rode in the wagon from old Midland, and Mama fixed a pretty box for herself and one for Janie. I couldn’t understand why I was “too little” for a box. We all ate from Mama’s box which Papa had bought, and Janie’s box which an older brother bought. It seemed a little like a picnic. Everyone laughed and talked and sometimes traded goodies. The superintendent, Mr. White (C.S., I think.) had the reputation of a stern disciplinarian, and we little ones were terrified of him. But when he auctioned off the boxes, laughing and telling jokes, we warmed up a little to him. He didn’t seem so forbidding from then on.
On May 12, 1918, I turned seven, and on July 10, 1918, Mama succumbed suddenly to appendicitis. I remember that Mama called us one by one to her bedside before she was placed on a bed in the back of our banker’s long black automobile. Mr. J.B. “Mac” McCauley drove her and Papa to Faust Hospital in Ada, where Dr. Faust performed a belated appendectomy. She died from peritonitis on the operation table and was taken to the Shelton Funeral Home (now Criswell’s). Next day Papa returned on the train with her body, and she lay in state overnight at Grandma Bradley’s, where we all spend the night. I remember the bewildering “flash scenes” of that night and next day, the trip to the church and to the cemetery, Papa holding David up to see Mama in the casket and him holding out his arms to her. I was frightened at what was happening to us, and I did not understand what death really meant. Mama’s becoming ill on Saturday night and being buried on Wednesday was too sudden. For a long time I kept expecting Mama to come back. My seven-year-old dreams were unreal. Our home-life became strange. Everyone seemed too silent.
I remember the revival a few weeks after Mama’s death when our neighbors, the Timms, rode in the wagon with us to the services at Vanoss. I had been sent to ask the Doc Woods family if they wanted to go with us. When I returned in a run, I saw Mrs. Timms in our spring seat with Papa, and for a startled instant I thought, “Mama has come back!” I was so disappointed – and for some reason silently ashamed—when I discovered my mistake. I kept expecting Mama to return from wherever “death” was. I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone my thoughts.
Again, shortly after Mama’s death, I saw Aunt Myrtle Nelson shampooing her hair, and as she bent over the pan of water, I thought for an instant, “That’s Mama!” Again I bore my embarrassment silently. Through the years sketchy images of Mama, how she looked, her personality, and her manner as a mother and homemaker formed a sort of hazy, distilled mosaic in my memory. I seem to remember that she was more like Aunt Lula in stature and physical make-up, with Aunt Lula’s quiet speech and soft voice. My family album contains an early Kodak picture of Mama and Papa in which Mama wore a long black skirt and white blouse and Papa wore black trousers and a white shirt. At the bottom of the picture, according to Bill, the dog’s tail is “Old Wilson.” (I don’t understand that last sentence, but it is as printed in the original transcript. Lm) Bill believed the picture was made in Texas before our migration to Oklahoma.
I can remember her hugs and comforting pats when things went wrong for one of us. I recall her kindness to her mother’s blind sister, Aunt Lavisa (Aunt Vice, we called her) when she made an extended visit with us. At first I was afraid of Aunt Vice because she was blind. “Come let me ‘see’ you,” she’d say. I held back, until with Mama’s arm around me, I felt Aunt Vice running her hands over my face, body and hair. “My, how you’ve grown,” she’d say. Gradually I accepted her blindness, although I didn’t understand why she couldn’t see.
When I was in college I remember questioning Grandma Bradley and Aunt Vesta about Mama. Vesta’s remark, “I’ve always thought Ammah was the best one of all us sisters,” stayed with me. She didn’t define “best,” but the word warms and sooths my need of Mama, still.
November 11, 1918, stands out in my memory. When word reached Vanoss that an “armistice” had been signed, the whole country became bedlam. Jubilant people shouted, laughed, and cried. Guns were fired into the air. Church and school bells pealed steadily for a long time. We lived in Old Midland, but the “grapevine” brought the tragic news that in the wild excitement and pandemonium, our depot agent’s seven-year-old son had been run over and instantly killed on Vanoss Main Street. The distraught driver of the car, Mr. Hayes, our rural mail carrier, went home and took his own life. The double funeral of a man and a child—both from unnatural causes—memorialized Armistice Day forever in my child-mind.
I recall the horrible national influenze epidemic that struck our area in winter of 1918-19. Said to have originated in European war camps, the influenze took many American civilian lives. Our cousin Marshall Bradley, Jim’s age, was a victim. Papa and Jim took the “flu” –we abbreviated it—and Jim’s case turned into pneumonia. He was severely ill. We were all frightened. No one understood the mysterious malady, and doctors experimented with new medicines.
We had an anxious moment when David pulled up a chair to the dresser where Jim’s medicine was kept, and before we noticed, he had swallowed a large amount. Our neighbor Mrs. Walker was there. She quickly heated some bacon drippings, poured it into hot coffee, and forced David to drink the “home made” emetic. It worked. He up-chucked emetic and medicine. Frightened by all the commotion, David cried after the excitement was over. Mrs. Walker urged us not to let him go to sleep for awhile. We anxiously watched him for an hour or so, but he suffered no ill effects. Later Dr. Gaddy told Papa that the dosage David drank could have killed him had not quick action been taken. We always credited Mrs. Walker with saving David’s life.
A veritable kaleidoscopic succession of changes in place, people, and time during the next two years, 1919-21, defies my attempt at exact chronological order or rational description. Left suddenly a single parent of seven children ranging from 2 ½ to not quite 16—and Papa himself still a young man of thirty-seven—he must have struggled frantically under the shock and the load of personal disaster during an historic epoch when the whole world was undergoing many crises.
We made two different trips by covered wagon to Lawton, where Papa’s people lived. We hired out to gather cotton crops in western Oklahoma. We spent a Christmas near Sterling, not far from Marlow, where we lived in a huge two-story house and gathered our landlord’s entire cotton crop. (I wrote the story of this Christmas, which was published in “Plainview Herald” for the Christmas of 1985… That story fits right here.
We youngest of school age attended a part of the winter term at the little Sterling school. At night we studied our lessons together around our large dining table, lined up along each side on two long benches. Later Papa would read aloud to us from library books we brought home.
One night we had settled down around the stove to listen to Papa read. He had pulled off his shoes and propped his black-stockinged feet up on the woodbox, and leaned back in his chair toward the lamp light. We would set a trap at nights and occasionally catch one of the “friendly’ mice that visited when all was still. Papa had reached a tense moment in the story and all was quiet. Doad had sat almost hypnotized by what he thought was one of our night visitors coming out of the wood box. He slowly and furtively reached for the poker and quickly banged the intruder – Papa’s foot!
The whole room seemed to explode. It took a minute for the rest of us to realize what had happened. Papa was in great pain, and Doad in embarrassed disgrace. I remember Doad’s confusion and chagrin. I don’t recall that Papa scolded Doad. But we soon dispersed for the night and went solemnly to bed, and the story went unfinished. Through the years we all told and re-told that story with uncontrollable hysteria. Even Papa laughed. Doad always looked “sheepish.”
Another ‘home spun” entertainment helped us to fill our free hours together and to endure what could have been a certain amount of boredom in an otherwise repetitious day-to-day existence. We attempted to make our own music for our own pleasure. We all loved to sing. We’d acquired two guitars and a mandolin. Papa and Bill were the chief musicians, and we all sang to their accompaniment. Papa would first play the “new” melody on a French harp until we picked up the tune.
We learned all the popular songs – “town and country” they are called today—and the church hymns and gospel songs. Maybe we grew up capable of enduring “fruitful monotony” that resulted in a degree of healthy productivity. I recall especially a Hawaiian waltz tune and the “Spanish Flandingo” Papa and Bill did as a duet, Bill sliding a piece of metal up and down the strings to produce the “zing” and sway and lilt of the music. Through the years as we got together with all our families, we always had a little period of “sing song.” I remember still the song, “If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again.”
But back to our winter at Sterling. Jim was the family cook that winter. One day he undertook to treat us with a dessert. He shooed us all out of the kitchen. When the tantalizing aroma of cooking doughnuts came drifting through the house, we crowded around the kitchen door to inspect the growing stack of golden doughnuts on a large platter. Busy at the stove with his back to the platter on the cabinet, Jim kept taking up doughnuts and refilling the skillet from time to time. Now and then, long turning fork in hand, Jim would glance over at the platter, a puzzled expression on his face.
Bill and Doad were periodically reaching around the door jamb with a long ramrod, surreptitiously spearing doughnut after doughnut and passing them to the rest of us lined up in the hall. The stack of doughnuts was diminishing as fast as Jim could take them from the skillet. It didn’t take long for Jim to investigate the vanishing goodies, and he threatened that this was his last time to make doughnuts. That solicited our humble cooperation. He became a pretty good cook. This story also went the rounds down the years as we all got together. I can still see Jim’s grin and his twinkling eyes as he listened to us tell our version of the prank.
During an early spring we lived near Papa’s sister and family, Mamie and Joe West, close to Cache, outside Lawton. Grandpa Watters was living with us then. About mid-April Papa, Grandpa, Bill, and Jim went to work at Fort Sill on a rock quarry, commuting daily by the interurban. Doad was in charge of us younger ones at home, looking after us while Papa was away. They all were making good money and our home atmosphere improved under more “affluent” conditions. I recall Papa bringing home treats for us. One day he brought home an entire stalk of bananas, and we had a real feast. He always bought apples by the peck or half-bushel. I don’t recall oranges except at Christmas time. We ate a lot of dried peaches, apricots, and raisins, stewed with a little sugar added. They were delicious with hot buttered biscuits. I can still see that huge bowl of dried, stewed fruit sitting in the center of our long table.
I remember the day Papa let Doad bring us younger four to Fort Sill to meet him and the older boys and Grandpa after work. Doad, about fourteen or fifteen, could handle the team of mules and the wagon, but what he didn’t anticipate was a near tragedy. As we neared Lawton outskirts, a low-flying airplane from Fort Sill swooped down along the turnpike, and suddently we became frightened victims of a runaway team speeding pell mell down the thoroughfare for more than a mile. While Doad hung on to the reins and tried to control Jack and Tobe, we four children clutched each other tightly, huddled low in the wagon, and hung onto whatever seemed steady. Whether Doad mastered the mules, or whether they just “ran out of breath,” the mad dash ended, with five shaking children in no mood for a holiday. Papa was the shaken one when he learned what had happened. He complimented Doad on his handling of the situation. I think Doad had already settled in his shaky mind for safety.
In mid-summer we moved into Lawton into a large two-story house on Seventh Street near the First Methodist Church. Papa, Grandpa, and the boys kept working at Fort Sill, riding the interurban. Doad sold water melons from our parked wagon on the street. He was a good salesman and took in quite a bit of money that summer.
We enjoyed living in Lawton. On Saturdays we went to the movies at the Dome Theatre. I remember being a clown in a parade, riding in a decorated wagon and waving to the crowds. I had stuck a huge splinter in my foot and couldn’t walk with the other clowns down in the street, kids from the Methodist church.
Our Seventh Street neighbors were good to us. Mrs. Heppinstahl and her Methodist sewing circle made clothes for us girls and David, after helping Papa to select proper materials. These women sort of “supervised” our home activities at times, which we kids didn’t exactly appreciate. But they were helpful. We girls and Doad made quite a bit of “pocket change” running errands for them and doing little chores around their places. Doad picked bag worms off their shrubs. A large pear tree in our back yard was loaded, and we shared with the neighbors. For once we had all the pears we could eat fresh from the tree. One neighbor made preserves for us in exchange for our “leg service.”
Between age 3 and 4 ½ , David became a regular little nudist. He developed the knack of a hasty “strip tease,” leaving his clothing in a little pile—wherever—and running free until one of us caught and re-rompered him. I recall an occasion on Lawton Seventh Street when a shocked neighbor came rushing over to exclaim, “Little Dave is down the street and naked as a jaybird!” One of us dashed out, and sure enough, there was David, down the sidewalk about a half-block away, galloping happily along on his broomstick horse—truly naked as a jaybird.
We other kids thought that David’s nude frolics were cute – and certainly amusing. Papa laughed with us, but he took proper measures to bring David’s “free living” to a halt. It wasn’t easy—or immediate—but in time David learned, like Adam and Eve, to adjust to the fig leaf.
I remember the special train trip we made back to Vanoss from Seventh Street. Papa took us four younger ones back to spend a weekend with Grandma Bradley. Mrs. Heppinstahl helped us get ready for the occasion, and Papa even took us to a studio and had a picture postcard taken of us four: Janie, Dorothy, Dollie, David. We all had new clothes for the trip. I treasure my copy of the photograph as a memento of a happy time for us growing children. Somehow, young as we were, I sensed Papa’s pride in showing Grandma he was rearing his children right. He always spoke of “Mrs. Bradley’ with great respect and valued her opinion. I sensed she appreciated Papa as a man and a son-in-law.
Meantime, the Charles Nelsons had migrated to Oklahoma from Denison, Texas, and had rented our place in Old Midland during our Lawton sojourns. On our first trip back, we lived on Tal Norvill’s place and gathered his cotton crop. His little rent house was new and sat in a grove of willow trees. Memories return about our stay there. We got a new cook stove, and Papa was looking forward to a good “batch” of biscuits. Somehow he mistook cream-of-tartar for soda, and the biscuits were a total disaster, the house smelled putrid, and the hungry brood had to wait for a long time for supper that night. Later we could all see the humor of the incident, and another story went the rounds.
I remember our playhouse under the willows at the back of the house. Our furniture was boxes, upturned buckets and cans, and our dolls were our children. We set our table with pieces of broken china and jar lids, and we swept our floor with a bunch of broom weeds. Make believe was all real to us.
Our last return from Lawton, in early December of 1920, I think, we moved temporarily into a brand new bungalow in Vanoss, owned by the banker, J.B. McCauley. He had built four rental bungalows all alike, three in a row and the fourth across the street facing them on Second Street, only two blocks from the Vanoss School building. When the building burned one night that winter, none of us knew about it until next morning, despite the commotion. More about that later.
Our housekeeping equipment (left stored, I guess) had to be assembled again, once we returned to stay. A flash of early memory recalls an organ that would play only about half of notes, and the pump pedal did not generate enough power. I suspect the instrument was plain worn out. But we’d had it a long time and it was “family.” Papa and Bill pulled out the “innards” and built in two shelves in the top part to provide space to row up our school books. The bottom cavity became a sort of catch-all for odds-and-ends. To conceal the yawning abyss, we hung a cretonne curtain on a drawstring over the bottom part. That “compartment” turned out to be the cache of most lost articles. The organ wood was beautiful, and the bookcase served a useful purpose. On top we put a pretty vase and other knick-knacks. We called this piece “the library.” “Look in the bottom of the library,’ we would remind each other when some object was missing.
I remember a leather upholstered oaken “doufold” that opened into a bed. Two feather-beds we’d had a long time were stored inside. I recall an oaken rocker we referred to at “Papa’s rocker.” Much later when Jim took “shop in school, his “project” was a long slender table of beautiful mahogany, with a narrow runner or second shelf underneath, much like today’s coffee table, except it was taller. For whatever reason, we called it the “library table” even though it was too high for a desk. The polished top was “off limits” for anything except the lamp and a pair of book ends that held two or three of our newest books.
When we moved from house to house, we girls had to decide how best to place these pieces of furniture in our “front room.” They remained with us as long as we “kept house.”
All our bedsteads were dark brown hollow metal and easy to handle. The huge dresser in the girls’ room had three long drawers for the three girls. I recall two huge trunks: “Mama’s trunk” and Papa’s trunk.” Both were of metal and wood, brown in color, but Papa’s a darker brown. They had trays in the top for little articles. When I went away to college, I hauled Mama’s trunk around with me until I married. It was my “home” and held all my worldly possessions during the years I was looking forward to one day having my own home. I learned early that “things” do possess a recognizable presence.
But back to the school house fire. After the fire, grade school classes were held in the three churches, and high school students met over Bunk Garland’s Garage in the Lodge Hall. Dollie’s room was the First Baptist church, Janie and I attended in the Missionary Baptist, and Doad in the Methodist church. I think both Jim and Bill went to the Lodge Hall. David was pre-school age, but teachers permitted him to attend with Janie and me since Papa was at work all day. He became the “pet’ of all teachers and students. I remember when our room gave Miss Hawkins a “fruit shower” one day. David marched up to her desk and made several “choice” selections. The students broke out into laughter, and Miss Hawkins took him on her lap. Later she gave him a sack of goodies to take home. Janie and I were red-faced.
Meantime a new school building was under construction south and east of downtown, about a mile and a half distance from the larger community. It took a long time in building, we thought.
In early spring of 1921 we got possession of our place in Old Midland. The Nelsons moved into the Smith bungalow adjacent. Papa rented farming land from Bud Martin, I think, and made a crop again.
In early fall of 1921 a typhoid fever epidemic swept the country. We were all vaccinated except Bill. Dr. Gaddy ran out of vaccine, and Bill insisted he would be alright. Three of us were victims simultaneously: Bill, Dorothy, David. We were sick for several weeks. I recall the ominous scarlet quarantine flag nailed on our barn gate near the mail box. Dr. Gaddy took care of us. Bill was most seriously ill, and for two days and nights we didn’t expect him to survive. Mrs. Walker was a loyal friend and stood by Papa during those critical hours. With hot wet sheets they gave Bill steam baths to drive down the fever. Aunt Myrtle Nelson came over daily to bathe the three of us and to prepare our rice broth, our only food for weeks. Our medication of sweet quinine was bitter and made our ears roar, but it broke the fever.
As we recuperated, the fever “settled” in Bill’s and my legs, and Bill had to walk on crutches for most of that winter. I used crutches for about a month before my legs relaxed and I could walk. David’s case was milder, and he was up and about sooner than we. It was a long fall and winter! During our final recuperation, students and teachers from Vanoss brought us a “fruit shower”—two large crepe-paper decorated waste paper baskets filled with fresh fruits. Bill’s class brought Gene Stratton Porter’s novel, The Harvester. It became my favorite love story which I read over and over through the years.
On New Year’s Day, 1922, a bitterly cold day, we loaded our wagon and left Old Midland home place, moving across Sandy Creek east of Vanoss about two and a half miles, to farm the place of Mr. Neal, an Ada grocer, for the next two crop years. 1922-23 and 1923-24. We felt so far away, with only one neighbor within a half mile, the Rogers family. We needed a bigger house and land nearer our dwelling. I think Grandma and Vesta lived in our Old Midland house for a time.
While Bill was regaining his strength that winter, he became the family cook and always had our supper ready when we got home from school after the long walk. I remember those baked sweet potatoes hot from the oven, and Bill’s hot corn bread and pinto beans. I remember a dish Bill called “cush” which was his substitute for dressing, made of left-over corn bread and cold biscuit, seasoned and baked in the oven. We didn’t complain of no chicken or turkey!
Papa and the boys cut ricks and ricks of wood that winter and next, and paid off our medical dept to Dr. Gaddy. Those two years seemed to have lasted a life time.
Uncle John Bradley’s family had moved across the Creek about a mile south of us, but they were on the school wagon route, and we were not. We cut across the large alfalfa field and walked a foot log across Sandy Creek. Often we stopped at the John Palmer’s about half way, to warm or to dry out when it was raining. “Aunt Lucy” Plamer, not kin to us but a sister to Aunt Media Bradley, was good to us kids and helped us in many ways. I remember that she sewed dresses for us girls during those two years, her grown daughters Lorene and Mattie helping. They became almost like family.
During rainy seasons Sandy Creek often got “out of banks” for a night or two, and we kids spent the school nights in Vanoss with friends, often with a teacher who invited us. I remember spending a night with Miss Mable Clark, my favorite teacher. I slept in her silk gown and felt important and loved. She and Miss Connie, her sister, lived in a little house on the school campus. They were always good to us girls.
On Sundays the distance did not hinder us from attending Sunday school and church. We were eager to go, and Papa saw that we went. We all turned out to be good “walkers.” Maybe those two years initiated us. The Bradley cousins, Pete, Ruth, Alta, Ruby, J.H. and Nova Lee, often came by and walked with us on Sundays. Part of that time Ruth dated Orlan Sneed, whom she married. Alta dated Ragland Keel, and Janie was “sweet hearting” John A. Keel. I think Bill and Edna Keel were dating then, and Doad and Alpha Rogers, who lived up the hill from us, were going together. Jim’s girl was Bertha Sturdivant, who lived nearer town. We younger kids all dedicated our energies to pestering the couples as we all walked along, trying to overhear their “magic” –to us –courtship conversations.
Economically we were not having an easy life. But we kids enjoyed day-to-day living, not realizing that grown-ups had worries trying to provide for their families. Bill had joined the National Guard Unit, and his monthly stipend became a life saver during those lean years. As they got old enough, both Jim and Doad became National Guards, too. Each summer the Guards trained for two weeks in Fort Sill. I recall postcard photographs of their Company in khaki uniforms. I recall how the boys had to practice rolling those “leggings” neatly.
I can still visualize that house across the Creek. The large living room had a fireplace which we had not had before. We girls had the big bedroom opening off the east, and Papa, David and one of the other boys slept in the living room. A side-room attached to the kitchen was the other bedroom shared by the older boys. I remember the breeze-way between the living room and the kitchen. The kitchen got “stony cold” at night in winter, and often water froze in the water bucket. It took a few minutes for the cook stove to warm the kitchen. In summer the breeze-way was ideal and made the house cooler.
Doad had a cage for pet squirrels under a tree, and he raised white rabbits. One night when we had brought in a squirrel and a rabbit to play with them, the squirrel became frightened, dashed into the fireplace and behind the “back log” in confusion, and never came out. The tragic incident sobered us all. We just could not understand why he would run into a fire and burn to death. We all felt guilty for having brought them inside that night.
I remember drying apples on the roof of the little side-room. Papa showed us how to cut them into quarters, then eights, so we all helped. We spread them on a sheet in the sun, and the older boys climbed up and turned them in the sun two or three times a day. We had lots of fried apple pies and stewed apples that winter.
One day while Papa and Bill were away on business, Jim discovered our milk cow “stuck” in the flat marshy bog which we called the “slough.” I think we pronounced it “slew”, a variant of “slough.’ Bossy had sunk up to her knees and couldn’t free herself, so she had simply died from exhaustion. We were all shocked and saddened. Jim’s mind started contemplating how we could salvage something from the loss. When Papa got home Bossy had been skinned and cup up for beef, ready to “peddle”, as people did when there was no refrigeration to preserve quantities of fresh beef. They sold what they could not eat right away, and in this way families could enjoy fresh beef occasionally without losses.
With pork it was different. We butchered hogs in dead winter and salted down the bacon, hams, and shoulders, which would keep until eaten. Most of the lean tender loin went into sausage, containing sage and other seasonings to preserve, and packed in bags that would keep a good while during cold, freezing winters. The heart, liver, ribs, and tender loin held back had to be eaten almost immediately.
But that is another story. The problem with Jim’s plan was that Bossy was a milk cow, not a meat-bearing animal. But Papa complimented Jim’s initiative, I remember, and showed appreciation for the work we had all done in our efforts to make the best of a bad situation.
Another sad memory from our two years “across the creek” relates to a bantum hatched among a brood of Wyandotte chickens belonging to a neighbor. Dollie was gifted with the bantum, and she made a house pet of the orphan which she called Banty, fed her several times a day, and carried her around like a doll while she was tiny. Everybody respected Dollie’s attachment as the chicken grew into a little hen.
One day Banty laid an egg behind the trunk, so from then on that spot became her personal nest. Dollie called Banty’s “deliveries” her “Easter Eggs.” The rest of us got a little annoyed when Banty made smelly deposits in the floor, and she was always trailing around in the way, getting stepped on. As time went on Banty was gradually “persuaded” to make her home outside the house, and Dollie’s attachment relaxed accordingly as Banty left her “cute” chickenhood behind and became one of the barnyard residents. Banty and Dollie were both growing up, we decided.
One day we learned that our landlord, Mr. Neal, the Ada grocer, was coming for a visit. It was time to renew our contract for the place, and we were aware that it was important that he get a good impression of his tenants. We did a thorough house cleaning, and the boys swept the yards. Groceries were never exactly plentiful at our house, especially “company groceries,” and I recall that we worried about the meal for that day. Hard times were no respecter of families, but without a woman’s ingenuity in the kitchen, we pondered the situation—and the menu.
How it came about I never knew. But Banty became “chicken and dumplings” for our landlord’s dinner with us. I don’t recall how or when Dollie got the word. I only remember how crushed she was when she learned the fate of her pet. After a good cry, she simply refused to talk about it. But a child’s hurt was apparent for a long time. We all tried to commiserate with Dollie by being especially kind, without a lot of talk.
We had never lived so far away from people before, and from our church and school. We were all jubilant when Papa decided after two years across the Creek to move back into Vanoss. Well into the summer of 1924 we moved into the Shade Flowers’ house below the P.G. Smiths’ bungalow on the hill, just off South Main Street about a block. We were there only a few months. I recall that Grandfather Watters from Lawton came on the train and spent two weeks with us there. Janie and I were baptized into the Missionary (Landmark) Baptist Church on a cold day in early November, in Sandy Creek. About three blocks from the church, we were there every time the doors opened.
An amusing incident surfaces in memory which we all through years of growing up referred to as “the cat story at the Shade Flowers’ place.” Our perpetually accumulating family of cats in all sizes and colors almost “ate us out of house and home,” in Papa’s words. He did not allow them in the house, but we kids “encouraged” our pets to “live in” when Papa wasn’t around, or when he failed to notice. He always chased them out with a threatening folded newspaper or his hat. They knew who the enemy was.
Our screen door had a hole about the size of a cat, providing easy access when all was quiet on the “Papa front.” One night we had settled down—as much as seven kids ever settled—and Papa was engrossed in his newspaper. Suddenly Papa sneezed—and Papa was a vociferous sneezer—and all the forbidden feline stowaways in one scrambled mass headed for the “escape hatch” in the screen door. The scene was so comical that even Papa joined in our unsuppressed raucous laughter.
Not long afterward, while we younger kids were away from the house, all our cats mysteriously vacated the premises. We silently searched every nook and cranny for a day or two. Papa and the older boys wouldn’t talk about it. We never learned what had happened. Papa patched the hole in the screen, and we decided the cats were gone forever.
Shortly before Christmas the W.J. Standridges’ new home was completed and they moved, and Papa rented their former house on Second Street next to the Bunk Garland home. It was a nice large place and well-kept, and we were happy when we moved in. Grandma Buck, mother of the grocery merchant, lived across the street, along. Homebound, she had a way of enticing us into her home for a visit, often giving us little trinkets: a handkerchief, a lovely glass, a piece of pretty lace. With a nose for news, she pumped us for the latest happenings around town, and we obliged. She often sent us on little errands, sometimes to the grocery store. She would always reward us with a few pennies. It was good to be among nice neighbors.
During our years across the creek, Vanoss Consolidated School, District N. 2, had opened for business in the new commodious building. It was a Red Letter day for Vanoss. We learned what “consolidated” meant when several new yellow school wagons (later we had buses) brought in students from outlying communities, and attendance “mushroomed” beyond our wildest imaginations. We felt like a “city school” among so many students and teachers we had never seen before.
I remember the “newness” of everything: new desks; new long blackboards on two walls of each room; water fountains in the hall, clean and convenient. The wide hall seemed endless, running through the entire building. Each student had a place to hang his coat. Long shelves provided a place for our dinner buckets to sit in a row. The brand new swings, see-saws, merry-go-round, and other playground equipment worked overtime with excited youngsters.
Until consolidation, school was a place to study hard, to learn all that the text books contained. We hadn’t known about “extra-curriculars.” With consolidation came competitive athletics born in a gymnasium, interscholastic meets, and competitive groups in the arts: music, drama, public speaking. It was suddenly a whole new world. From 1924 to 1929, school took on a new dimension to which some adults vocally objected. But students responded happily to new opportunities. A new life was beginning for us.
Sometime during the first years in the new building, Jim and Doad were employed for a time on the janitorial staff, working before and after school hours in building maintenance. For convenience they “batched” in a little two room house on the campus for a while. I don’t remember much of the details.
I doubt that second and third generations of the Watters’ groups know much about the “split” school term of that era. The school year opened with a two-months summer term in July and August. About Mid-November an extended longer term of seven months began, ending in early May with “promotion.”
In agricultural areas like our, crops of cotton, corn, and feed stuffs for farm animals required that everybody in the family help with the tilling of the land, the planting season, and the cultivation of the crops, which included plowing, hoeing and weeds and grass from the growing young plants during May and June. Harvesting the corn, feed crops, and cotton took place from late August to Mid-November. So children from ages eight and older worked in the fields alongside their parents during these months. Hence school terms were arranged to provide intermissions suitable to “free” field workers for the appropriate crop seasons.
I remember that our “goal” during hoeing season was to “lay by” the crop—meaning the end of cultivating—by July Fourth. We looked forward to celebrating with the family ice-cream supper on the Fourth.
As I recall, fields needed hoeing two times, plowing twice each, for the plants to mature on their own. Rainfall sometimes delayed or prolonged the hoeing season, so country kids grew up with practical weather knowledge as a part of their personal educational development. With crops “laid by” and summer school beginning, we were eager to go to school and see our friends and “have fun.”
During fall intermission, cotton picking kept everybody busy. We went to the fields early in the morning and stayed until sundown, with time off at noon for lunch. Some mornings a heavy dew prevented an early start, because cotton could not be gathered wet. The days were long as we picked cotton, pulling the long cotton sack by shoulder straps. Bending constantly as we moved down the long cotton rows was hard on the back. Now and then we crawled along the “middle” between rows on our knees, to rest our backs. Grown-ups often had “knee pads” to protect their knees. Picking cotton was not a job for sissies.
We developed a personal pride about how many pounds of cotton we could pick in a day. Setting and meeting goals made the hard work less onerous, creating a sort of sport out of the task. When crops were all gathered and fall school started again, we welcomed the change of pace. Few youngsters had to be coaxed to attend school. Getting an education and fellowship with our friends in school seemed like a sort of reward for the hard work in the fields. Many of the young people whose parents were not farmers went to the fields and made good workers. We knew very few “stuffed shirts.”
School was a privilege and work was a normal way of life. In early summer after our crops had been “laid by,” Bill, Jim, and Doad went to work in the broomcorn harvest in northern Oklahoma or Kansas for several days. In fall before cotton was ready to pick in our locality, they “hitched rides” to the western Oklahoma or Texas cotton plantations and hired out to the same family. They saved their money and shared with Papa to meet household expenses, as well as buying their own clothes. To them, these trips were like vacations. They brought back many stories about the people they met and their experiences away from home base.
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HISTORY OF VANOSS
Vanoss was the typical small town growing up around a railroad station. In my opinion it was a wholesome place to rear a family. Maybe it was a “hick” town. I am not sure of that. Alexander Woolcott defined a “hick town” as one where there is no place to go where we shouldn’t go. Vanoss pretty well met that definition. Anything two wicked to take place in school or in church activities just didn’t have a place to happen.
Several progressive leaders among schools, churches, and businesses believed in our town and worked for its betterment. Young men and women from our town went out to the larger world to become leaders in education, churches, and businesses elsewhere. Vanoss was where we all began, so it was an important place for us. I look back upon the environment to which we were exposed as friendly, healthy, and safe from unwholesome factors that can warp and otherwise hinder young developing teenagers. Vanoss was “our town.”
The complete township of early Vanoss was built on and around three hills, and the settlement covered, I suspect, not more than two to three square miles altogether. The two principal streets, Main (First Street) and Second Street ran north-south, extending about two miles long, with the east-west boundaries of the township less than a mile apart, maybe. The business section occupied the highest hill, Main Street, running north-south. Two blocks of businesses facing each other made up the shopping center.
About two to three blocks north down Main Street, at the bottom of the steep hill, sat the train depot and railroad tracks that ran east-west, connecting Ada, about sixteen miles east, and Stratford, about twelve miles west. The bright red depot and shiny steel tracks formed the north boundary of town, and was picturesque against a background of deep deep woodlands on the north.
In the early days the railroad depot was “where the action was.” All school kids knew when the passenger trains were due. We called them the “Eleven Ten” (arriving at 11:10 a.m.) and the “Two Fifteen” (arriving at 2:15 p.m.) In summers when school was out, the older teen-agers’ favorite excitement, especially on Saturday or Sunday, was going down to the depot to see who got off and/or on before the train continued its journey.
We looked upon the agent-telegrapher as a person of importance. He knew from memory how much a railroad ticket would cost to “wherever” –grown-up or half-fare. Not that many of us rode the train that much; still it was handy to know how much Grandpa Watters spent for his round-trip ticket from Lawton when he visited us the summer of 1924.
We kids developed a sort of camaraderie with the engineers the year we lived on the hill above the tracks, on the Holmes place. We would be hoeing cotton and hear the engineer toot his whistle on the Eleven Ten about two miles before he reached the depot. Our digestive juices would begin flowing. We always “quit for noon” at about eleven-thirty and hurried home to prepare and eat dinner. If we happened to be walking along the road adjacent to the railroad tracks, we kids would always wave wildly at the engineer looking from his cab window. He would pull off his red cap and wave it broadly. Somehow his lingering gestures let us feel that he was a friend.
Through the years on return visits to “what was Vanoss,” it has been a custom to circle by the site of the “departed” train depot, as a sort of monument to our growing up experiences. Stretches of the old abandoned track rails still remain if one searches carefully under the weeds running down to what is left of the old trestle a few yards beyond the station, going east toward Ada.
The two blocks of the downtown shopping center of Vanoss seemed like a busy bustling place in those days. I remember it as if it were yesterday! The most important business was the State Bank of Vanoss. Mr. J.B. “Mac” McCauley had come to Vanoss from Olivet, Kansas, purchased lots on the northwest corner of what became Main and California Street, and build and organized the State Bank, which was chartered on July 27, 1910. In addition to being president of the bank, McCauley built the Vanoss Lumber Yard behind the bank, facing on California. He financed most of the area farmers, built and rented several family dwellings, all four-room bungalows, on Second Street, west of Main. He was the principal financial supporter of the First Baptist Church “on the hill” and was its Sunday school superintendent.
He built a “mansion” northwest of the bank on a second hill, where he reared his family. I can’t recall that the McCauleys socialized with others in their family home. But he was a genial man and was a friend to the children, always speaking to us wherever he met us. He often took a car load of children in the area for Sunday afternoon rides in his long black car. The McCauleys owned a large handsome thoroughbred collie that seemed almost like a person to all us kids. It was said that Mrs. McCauley could send Prince to the grocery store for meat and could depend on his completing the errand without sampling the package which he carried back in his mouth.
Banker McCauley was a real friend to Papa. His oldest son, J.I., later called “Doc” McCauley, in future years owned one of the leading real estate-insurance businesses in Ada. He, too, became a staunch friend to Papa. In the later years he had a large home in east Ada in Hillcrest Addition, where Jim and Georgia Lee built their home on Woodland Drive. The other son, Dean, remained for years in Vanoss, operating a grocery-service station business.
Opposite the Bank on Main, facing west, was the combination Vanoss Post Office-Drug Store owned by Charlie A.Berger. It was a favorite meeting place for teenagers. “Checking the mail” at the General Delivery window afforded opportunities to check the long line of ogling members of the opposite sex. As teenagers, girls would dress up, saunter down Main, and check the mail – and the boys waiting there.
“Would you like a Coke?” could lead to a twosome at one of the marble-topped tables where Berger’s sons, Christian and Arthur, waited tables and “promoted” twosomes. Ice cream sodas at ten cents was a special treat, or a Coca Cola and a Baby Ruth. Not many boys were flush with money, so a Coke was the usual order of a girl considerate of her hot’s invitation. When the tables were filled, the place took on the atmosphere of a party, and the teen crowd lingered way beyond mail call. Innocent flirtations in full view were not apt to compromise a nice girl’s reputation, and we had a convenient place to get acquainted and fellowship with the boys.
The White Brothers’ Department Store owned by Ambrose H. and his brother, Oscar, was a good place to “browse” among the pretty clothing and girls’ shoes. Ambrose was the father of a large family of children whose names all began with the letter “V”: Vardia, Vada, Verdie, Verna, Varnia, Vascum, etc. His brother Oscar, rotund and bald, was a jolly bachelor. They were brothers of Mrs. Callie Templeman. White’s Store was next door south adjoining the Bank. Next to Whites’ was W.T. Buck and Sons’ Grocery. Bunk Garland’s Garage was across the alcove south of Bucks’, on the same side of Main, and was the only two-story building, the second floor a Lodge Hall for the community.
Across the street east, facing Garland’s Garage, sat W.J. Standridge’s Hardware, an imposing building with items that fascinated us kids. We had little occasion to enter his store, but he was a friendly man and often spoke to us from the front door of his store. We stopped and looked into the crowded windows as we walked past. Another department store adjoined the Post Office on the north, completing that block. I don’t recall who owned it, and it closed after a time.
Next block north, on the long steep hill leading down to the depot, contained a barber shop, a restaurant, a blacksmith shop, and on the end a grist mill where we took our corn to be ground into fine meal. The miller would take part of the meal for his fee, and in turn would sell the meal to whoever needed it. He also had a few items for sale, like assorted flavorings, spices, and other kitchen items. He would take “in trade” eggs or a live hen. Other businesses in that block I can’t recall. Another fire at a later date than the Old Midland fire had destroyed about half of the block. Scarred concrete foundations still stood after the fire. Farmers coming to town on rainy days or Saturdays gathered and sat on the concrete slabs across the corner from the Bank, talking and visiting.
At one time Papa operated the restaurant for about two summer months. I think we seven kids ate up the profit. Papa and Jim also operated the barber shop on Saturdays for a few months, even while Jim was attending college in Ada. They were barbering there that Saturday night in January 1926 when Janie and Robert eloped to Stratford where they were married, driving on to their awaiting apartment in Shawnee where Robert was working as a mechanic.
On Saturday nights in the summer of 1924, P.G. Smith, depot agent for a few years, set up a movie projector in the narrow alcove between Garland’s Garage and Bucks’ Grocery. It was an open-air affair, but that didn’t bother the patrons. We kids eagerly anticipated the Saturday night Westerns and the serial story that ran from week to week, always ending with a “cliff hanger” that gave us conversational material all the coming week.
Now and then Smith would give free passes to some of the lucky youngsters. So we all got to be on “friendly” terms with him. I remember Papa called him P.G.”; but when one of us said, “P.G. gave me a movie pass,” Papa spoke up firmly, “You mean, ‘Mr. Smith’, don’t you?” We did! Papa always insisted on our using titles for adults.
The P.G. Smiths lived in a new bungalow across the street and up the hill from us when we lived on the Flowers’ place. Francis Smith, my age, and I were good pals. I remember we played “Treasure Island,” burying trinkets from each other, giving the other a clue, then digging up the treasure. The Smiths attended the First Baptist on the hill, so I went with Francis to their church socials. Our Missionary (Landmark) Baptist frowned on “socials” in church at that time.
Home “yard parties” consisted mostly of running “group games” and were not considered beneath the dignity of teenagers up to fifteen. “Three Deep” and “Reuben and Rachel” allowed boys and girls to hold hands and run in pairs. We expended a lot of surplus energy and learned the thrill of boy-girl proximity in a wholesome way as we chose our partners and ran hand-in-hand together.
Few families had a house large enough for a dozen teenagers. We popped corn and made chocolate fudge and peanut brittle in groups of six to eight, flirting shamelessly as we “fed” each other popcorn, grain by grain. We simply “invented” amusements where there were no theatres, no radios, no televisions to make entertainment for us. Later when the portable victrola became available, we exchanged records, spent time together learning all the words of each popular love song, and sang them together. I don’t remember ever feeling “impoverished” or bored for ”something to do.” We simply created pass-time that brought delight.
We couples did a lot of “kodaking” on Sunday afternoons, at age sixteen and up. No Hollywood scout ever worked harder to find just the right scene to memorialize a wonderful day kodaking in the country.
By 1928-1929 some of us were traveling in couples to Ada to see a special movie, maybe once a month. Double-dating made the trips possible for those combined couples fortunate to have among them access to a family automobile. “Family Night” discounts tickets were a real bonanza at the movie, and we went in groups then.
Halloween celebrations in our little town reveal the “depth of depravity” to which the mid-to-older teenagers could sink. Because we “manufactured” our own fun times, we developed by necessity somewhat keen imaginations. As each Halloween drew near, the entire Vanoss population, even the grown-ups, I think, anticipated with some titillation the newest antics that would provide amusement—albeit a degree of consternation—for the town’s older inhabitants on this special night.
When overturned outhouses behind all businesses on Main Street became “standard” and too commonplace to raise an eyebrow—or a laugh—early morning merchants were dumbfounded following the night of goblins to discover all the outhouses were now centering the two blocks of Main, rowed up in dignified order and spatial precision. The devilish aim, no doubt, was that adults’ dignity must suffer in returning embarrassing “necessities” to their proper alley homes. Sometimes the store proprietors hired the same—in all likelihood-revelers to do the replace job; thus sparing their own self-esteem. Teenage boys made sport of the job while collecting a few dollars from their chagrined victims, adding insult to injury.
An outstanding post-Halloween memory of those shananigams surfaces. One chilly morning a jersey cow “great with calf” looked quizzically down from her Halloween Night perch atop a downtown store building, shaking her head at the bewildered--and hysterical –assembly gathered beneath her, faces up-turned in amazed wonder of it all.
The success of these ghoulish goings-on was evaluated by the degree of secrecy about the “who’s” and how’s” with which their executions were managed. Straight faces and silent tongues belied any knowledge whatsoever. Somehow “the work” never leaked out. Most of us younger ones – in the dark—concluded that the ingenious schemes must have been hatching at least a year in advance. And I think we younger ones always wondered secretly if any of our older brothers had been one of the celebrants. But we never knew.
Apparently merchants went calmly to bed and to sleep on All Hallows Eve, having forgotten and/or forgiven last year’s pranks. Seldom were resident sections of town included in the holiday assault. Main Street was the stage, and the whole town turned out early next morning to catch the first reactions to the show. For a few days we were all agog as we scanned each face for tell-tale signs of guilt. But identification of the perpetrators remained a town mystery.
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Like most small towns, Vanoss depended for a social life on its school and churches: First Baptist Church, Missionary (Landmark) Baptist Church, and First Methodist Church. We heard little about other denominations. Two of my best friends, Deletha Tilley and Lois Williams, who are cousins, were from families belonging to Church of Christ. They both attended Sunday morning services at First Baptist and Sunday and Wednesday night services at Missionary (Landmark) Baptist.
First Baptist, which we called the “Board Baptist” and/or the Baptist “On the hill,” was the Southern Baptist which moved from Old Midland to Vanoss in 1909. Some time after the move, a “split” occurred in membership, and Missionary (Landmark) Baptist members pulled away to begin a new church. Discussions among relatives seem to point out that Landmarks felt that First Baptist was controlled by wealthy people, and that it was too “modern” in belief. I recall that Landmarks did not support foreign missions. Years later when Jim and Georgia Lee’s preacher son, James Lee Watters, was beginning his ministry, he was called to pastor the Vanoss First Baptist. Among our relatives, a few, reportedly, felt that the Watters group had departed from our original doctrinal belief because by then we had all left Vanoss and had moved our memberships to a Southern Baptist, several of us in Ada First Baptist at that time.
First Methodist Church of Vanoss, on the corner of Oklahoma and California Streets, one block west behind the State Bank, allowed our Missionary (Landmark) group to use their building for Sunday School and church services on Sunday afternoons while Landmarks were in the process of getting a building. Mama’s funeral lin July, 1918, was conducted from First Methodist, with Brother P.A. Templeman, Landmark pastor, officiating. The Methodist pastor at that time was Brother “Bill” Robinson, who lived next door in the parsonage.
Missionary (Landmark) Baptist Church, which we all referred to as the “Templeman Church,” was on South Main about two blocks over the hill from downtown. According to the church Minutes, it was organized by R.M. “Bob” Bradley, Mama’s brother, in1917. The Bradleys had settled in 1911 on their farm north of Vanoss, moving first to Roff from Texas. Uncle Bob was the chief financial supporter through the years, and all visiting preachers or part-time pastors and most of the summer revival evangelists always stayed at Uncle Bob and Aunt Lollie’s home. The Mintues record that Mrs. P.A. Templeman entered the church by letter in 1917 and was a charter member. Elder P.A. Templeman joined in 1918, having been in State mission work earlier. Mama and Jim joined by letter, Mama in 1917 as a charter member, contributing a part of her father’s estate (her inheritance) in Texas in the building of the new Landmark church, still in the “funding stage” at Mama’s death in July, 1918. Among other men, Papa with his team, helped in preparing the foundation for the new building. Jim’s letter was entered in 1919, according to the Minutes.
The three Vanoss churches cooperated congenially in summer revivals, running concurrently, usually two weeks each when crops were “laid by.” Everyone who was anyone attended all three revivals most of the nights. They provided social life, spiritual growth, and personal development. We always had good singing and learned a lot of new hymns during revivals.
Summer revivals were held outside on the church lawns because it was cooler and afforded ample space for the larger attendance. A dais created at the front held the piano, benches for the choir, a rostrum, and in front a low bench for the altar observance. Hanging gas lights scattered throughout the assembly attracted insects, which we had to fight constantly. An Ada Funeral Home supplied summer revival crowds with free fans made of cardboard. They bore a beautiful picture on the front side and the funeral home advertisement on the back. Now and then during the services some agitated person would vociferously bat the offending insect with his fan, and the young people would have to smother their giggles.
Benches were rowed up into two fan-like sections with a large aisle running down the middle to the dais. Children often slept on pallets in the aisle beside their parents’ pew seat. Sometimes younger teenagers clustered in groups on the grass at the ends of the rear pews where we could be together. We looked forward to these fellowship groupings.
I recall the memorable night that the revival at the Baptist “on the hill” was in progress when suddenly a large number of robed Ku Klux Klans (from Ada, we later learned) put in their appearance, frightening everyone. Silently they marched in a line down the center aisle to the pulpit where the evangelist was in the middle of his sermon, and handed him a letter and a check for $100 for revival offering. They marched out without a word and we heard cars pulling away from the shadows near the church. That money was like a million dollars to the small church. This episode was the topic of conversation for weeks.
It was rumored that Vanoss had a unit of Ku Klux Klan members who held secret meetings. Nobody knew who they were. It was a mysterious organization and not much action ever came from the Vanoss unit. I recall the night when in the pasture not far from us, in front of the Barton Williams’ home, white-robed figures quickly and silently accumulated and in a few minutes dispersed, leaving a burning cross high in the air. We never knew what it meant, and nothing ever came of the incident except of lot of talk and amazement among us younger ones.
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MEMORIES OF VANOSS MISSIONARY (LANDMARK) BAPTIST
Sunday school and Sunday morning worship at Missionary (Landmark) Baptist were never as well-attended as Sunday night and Wednesday night services. Most older adults arrived at the close of Sunday school for the preaching service. “Regulars” who attended both probably numbered from fifty to sixty.
Sunday school was a loosely organized congregation made up of four categories: the Card Class for beginners; the Junior Class; the Young People’s Class, late teenagers; and the Adult Class, which included all married people, and taught by a man, usually. Teachers of all classes were older people, considered to be scripturally knowledgeable.
Our Sunday school literature was from the David L. Cooke Publishing house and was always scarce, because it was expensive, and quarterlies were lost or left at home. Only older “old” people brought their Bibles. In general, we became “hearers” of the Word, more than readers. We listened attentively to those who claimed the distinction of being Bible scholars. Memory verses committed diligently during the week by members of the Card and Junior classes probably constituted the most lasting learning that took place.
After opening exercises of a hymn and a prayer, the superintendent, Uncle Bob for many years, read a Bible passage, then made a few remarks before the four classes scattered to the four corners of the one-room sanctuary to participate in muted tones. Classes dismissed at ten-thirty, and the congregation re-assembled for morning worship. Very few people left after the Sunday school period.
Wednesday night singings at Missionary Baptist was one of the liveliest events in town, and well-attended. Mrs. Templeman led the singing and played the piano if no pianist were present. Our cousins, Leah and Floy Bradley, played piano but were not regularly present on Wednesday nights. Mrs. Templeman’s strong operatic soprano could be heard for blocks. She taught alto, bass, and tenor to those eager to learn. She “promoted” a male quartet which became quite famous across the country. They were Clint Sturdivant, Jodie (Tully) Norris,, Commodore Sutherland, and “Hibo” Bohannon, an extraordinarily tall fellow. The quartet seldom missed a Wednesday night and often sang a special on Sunday nights. Mrs. Templeman formed duets, trios, and larger ensembles among us girls. She taught us “stage presence” as well as music.
We worked for days on programs for Mothers’ Day and Easter. Pre-teen and teen-age girls formed into “drill teams” according to height, and marched to music in different configurations, dressed in various pastel colored dresses, with a finale a vocal medley she had taught us in parts. It was all great, and we had to go for practice sessions several times, which we loved. I recall how she “drilled” us to keep step to the beat of the march music she played on the piano. A “joker uncle” tagged us “Callie Templeman’s Leg Show”, but we ignored him. From her we learned self-confidence, poise, and maybe a little dignity. Our drill groups consisted of twenty-four girls, and I’ll bet every living person of that group remembers it.
BYPTC (Baptist Young People’s Training Course) was new and introduced by Mrs. Templeman. She supplied all our quarterlies, taught us how to study the Baptist literature and doctrines, and to present assigned “topics” to the entire Sunday night audience. We read and re-read our individual topics all wee, to be letter-perfect on Sunday night. BYPTC met an hour before Sunday night worship, but adults began to drop in, and we usually had two full programs. Many a backward boy and girl learned to speak in public through Callie Templeman’s initiative.
Her brief introductory “sermon” (we called it) before each lesson was as good a sermon as we ever heard in our little church. Following her, we found it easier to “give our parts.” She concluded with complimentary remarks about the young people who had brought the program.
Preceding Sunday night worship, we sang about thirty-minutes. This was the “draw card” for older as well as younger people. When sermons tended to last too long, we young people fidgeted. Adults did not know about “attention span’ in those days! I am afraid we sometimes “endured” the sermons because of the good singing sessions we had enjoyed so much.
Long sermons didn’t bother six or eight “toughies” who came regularly to church. These boys always occupied a back pew. I need to explain that the only entrance to the one-room sanctuary was at the front. Late comers had to walk in facing the congregation, pass the bell-tower closet, pass the dais on which stood the piano at one side and the minister’s pulpit at the centerm on their way to their pews. Few people came late!
About halfway through the sermon – any Sunday night—these toughies stalked out in groups of two or threes, their heels clattering –to tip-toe for them! –on the bare hardwood floor, past the preacher, and out the door. In a few minutes they would return, again in groups, parade past the preacher, and clatter on to their back pews. The preacher never paused in his sermon.
None of the church leaders ever criticized these disturbances openly because now and then one of the toughies would make a profession of faith, join the church, and move up to a forward pew. Many times these boys had begun to date one of the girls who participated in church activities, and that influence was given credit for the boy’s “reform.” The toughies respected Mrs. Templeman and never caused other disturbances than their untimely entrances and exits. Audiences simply “tolerated.”
Dating didn’t reach much sophistication in those days in small towns. Most boys seldom accompanied “their girls” to church. They might sit with them after arrival, but usually, unless the couples were “steadies,” the boys waited outside the church door after dismissal until the girls made their exit. The young people always loitered around the outside for a few minutes, chatting, laughing, talking, -- and flirting – but soon they drifted off in pairs, the date made and accepted “on the spot.” The boy held the girl’s arm all the way to her door. So “after service” was looked upon as dating time. Only a few goys had cars. A few rode horses and tied them to trees behind the church during service. These boys often led their horses along as the couple walked to her home. Maybe it was not romantic, but it was practical and therefore acceptable.
One might wonder why the toughies bothered to attend church. But the church was a social center, and for whatever reason, the Templeman church at least tripled the attendance of the other tow churches combined. Courtship was in important by-product of the church services. Dates were made or rejected outside church doors. For a girl to reject a proffered date meant the boy was “stood up.” It was embarrassing to both. Sometimes a boy would send word to a girl through her girl friend that he would “like to date her next Sunday night.” This prevented embarrassment if the girl was not interested. The boy did not always give up, however. “Nice girls” often turned down a suitor’s first invitation or two. She might refuse kindly. For some reason unspoken, most girls did refuse –but politely—the first invitation. Then she waited, patiently and secretly, for the next try, if she really liked the boy. He seemed to know that, instinctively, and tried again.
“Fast” was a label all “nice girls” meant to avoid. If she habitually granted the first date, or granted too early the first “goodnight kiss,” or if her flirtation became too obvious, a girl was running a risk of being labeled “easy.” Girls valued their reputations and slowed down the courting process as a matter of modesty. Very few hasty engagements were made, and couples came to know each other pretty well before serious commitments were considered. Foundations for many Christian homes began at Vanoss Missionary (Landmark) Baptist Church.
In researching Mintues of Missionary (Landmark) Baptist Church, I excerpted items of interest to our (the DorothyWatters Jamar) family members:
Papa never moved his letter, reluctant because Mama’s membership had been Vanoss. He attended regularly at Ada First Baptist from the mid-thirties until his death in 1957, and was buried under auspices of Ada First Baptist, Dr. Roy C. McClung officiating.
In addition to our regular attendance at Missionary Baptist, we kids often went to special services at First Baptist when times permitted, particularly soon following Mama’s death. Banker McCauley and Mrs. McCauley and other business people made us welcome. Mrs. McCauley gave us kids parts in Easter pageants and Christmas musical programs. I remember an Easter program in which Dollie and I were “flowers” blooming slowly out of our boxes on stage, dressed in colorful crepe-paper costumes resembling a Johnnie-jump-up and a lily. We felt like prima donas, wordless though our roles. When first Baptist had “socials” for the children, we were invited, and Papa let us go.
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A TRIBUTE TO THE P.A.TEMPLEMANS
Great inspirations to all our seven siblings – and to Papa – were the P.A. Templemans –Callie and Brother Philip. They were more than pastor and wife. I doubt if any of us took time to realize at that age that she was a mother figure in terms of demonstrated concern and love for us. It took time and years for us to gain that wisdom, but I am glad we told them so, while we could.
She was alert to each of our personal needs at different times, and steered us toward healthy fulfillment. Not that she “smothered” us with overt affection. She was too wise for that. But each of us knew that she was interested in us as individuals. We tried to measure up, I think, to her expectations of us.
In earlier years after Mama’s death, Mrs. Templeman often invited us girls to her home for a glass of lemonade. She taught us how to sit like little ladies in her living room, to us a treasure of fine furniture and interesting objects: vases, pillows, pictures, what-nots. She played the organ and had us sing with her, helping us with alto and soprano parts. Our visits were times of “quiet awe” for some reason. They had no children, but she loved all young people and they lived her. She embarrassed pre-school age David by kissing him in public. He tried to hide behind Janie or me when we entered the church building.
Each Mothers’ Day during those years, we three sisters and David circled by Templemans’ on our way to Sunday school, and she pinned a white rose on each of us. She had beautiful flower gardens, and Brother Templeman kept several hives of bees. He looked so “alien” in his bee mask, and we always stood in awe of him. His mother, “Aunt Woodie,” lived with them and was a regular recluse, seldom coming from her room, and her shadowy presence intrigued us.
For many years Mrs. Templeman was correspondent for the Stratford Star, and sometimes for Ada Evening News. It was she who wrote Mama’s obituary for Ada News. Grandma Bradley gave me her copy which I have in my family scrapbook, a treasure of unity between Mama, Mrs. Templeman, and Grandma.
The following are random items I excerpted from Stratford Star:
These items reflect Mrs. Templeman’s interest in the Watters children:
The Templemans left Vanoss and were granted letters in 1931 to a Baptist church in Oklahoma City, where they bought a home and where they both died, with interment in Old Midland Cemetery. Wonderful family friends in our growing up years, they were an important influence in our spiritual maturity and always supportive of Papa as a single parent.
Among my keepsake letters, one from Mrs. Templeman to Dollie and me upon our graduation from Vanoss High School in 1929, encouraged us to finish our education and never to give up our youthful goals.
I also treasure among Oma’s and my collection of “gift books” a slender maroon colored leather-bound Red Letter Testament from the Templemans to Oma, also a Vanoss graduate in 1929. Her handwritten inscription on the fly leaf reads: “Wishing you success also happiness and pleasure as you go down the stream of life. Your sincere friends, Rev. and Mrs. P.A. Templeman.”
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A TRUE “LANDMARK”
The Missionary (Landmark) Baptist Church building still stands, and has been refurbished periodically as a landmark by the Vanoss Home Demonstration Club. No services have been held there for many years. The town’s shopping center is gone, and the consolidated school is about all that remains. A filling station-grocery store carries limited necessities for the dwindling population, perhaps not more than two dozen families. Most of them shop in Ada or Stratford and attend churches at Gaar Corner, about five miles north of the Stratford-Ada highway, or drive into Ada or Stratford to church. It is indeed a “deserted village.” The “Landmark” holds memories for hundreds of people whose spiritual lives were enriched within its walls.
After consolidation, Vanoss High School building became secondary as a place where “boy meets girl” at ball games, plays, class parties, and other school functions. Somehow even those ‘together times” seemed to have been generated from friendships begun in church activities.
Today Vanoss High School Annual homecomings are held there at the school building, with all graduates welcome. Often non-graduates go and join in the festivities. The building has been enlarged, added to, and otherwise remodeled through the years, but in the entrance hall pictures of each graduation class are displayed as a matter of pride in school and town.
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A TURNING POINT: YEARS 1925-1926
The years 1925-26 were pivotal years in our family directions. In January of 1925, we moved to the Holmes place on the hill, a half-mile east of downtown Vanoss. Papa rented other adjacent farm lands to supplement the Holmes lands.
Many memories are associated with those years. We kids crossed the pasture south of us to school, only about two blocks. We could run home for lunch at noon, which we liked. I recall that all farmers were having a harder time getting by. We all “hired out” at harvest time for farmers with larger cotton acreage. I recall that we also picked up pecans “on the halves” and turned our half into cash.
From the Holmes place Bill went to work in the Allen oil Fields and bought a brand new 1925 Model F Ford Roaster, paying cash. He was the first young man in Vanoss to own a new car, I remember. He was generous with sharing. We went in his Ford that fall to pick cotton for farmers west of Vanoss several miles. With our group we could earn quite a few dollars a day. Bill took us all into Ada a few Saturdays for a little fun. We were packed like sardines into that roadster, but nobody seemed to mind. I remember that we made studio pictures one Saturday, four for a quarter; so we all “sat” for individual pictures. Copies are in my family photograph album.
On the Holmes place Bill built a summer shower from a barrel which he mounted on a four-legged scaffold about eight feet above the ground. The boys drew water from the well in early morning and in a “bucket brigade” filled the barrel and let the water warm in the sun all day. After dusky dark we bathers could “pull the plug” and have a refreshing shower. We girls bathed first then called the boys. We had to hustle if everyone got his turn. It wasn’t perfect, but a great improvement over the #2 wash tub which we customarily pulled into the kitchen for our baths. And it was lots of fun.
I remember the Sunday night we had just reached home from church when a fearful wind and rain storm caught us unaware. Huddled together in the kitchen, we felt the house “lift” momentarily. We had not had time to make it to the cellar out front. Next morning we discovered that the wind had separated the porch room from the house, so we knew we had had a narrow escape. After that stormy night, Dollie was terrified for a long time of even the slightest summer cloud and always ran down into the cellar and stayed awhile.
Bill and Papa mended the porch roof and covered it with, I think, tar paper so that it didn’t leak at the break. The long porch across the west front of the house was a good place to sit in late summer afternoons. Bill and Papa did a lot of other carpentry work around the Holmes place. From scrap lumber they built a sort of built-in cabinet in the kitchen where we washed dishes and stores pots and pans underneath. In the smoke house out back, they made shelves for storage. All our brothers grew up with the knack of building.
From the Holmes place our older siblings were beginning to “spread wings” and leave the family nest within the next to years. Jim had gone to attend East Central State College in Ada, “barbering his way through.” He became principal at Galey School, District 7, for the school year of 1925-1926. He began teaching on a Two-Year State Certificate, attending East Central summer intermissions until he earned his Life Certificate, then his Bachelor’s degree.
Doad’s mechanical potential was beginning to surface. He made from parts a “strip down” vehicle consisting chiefly of a frame on four wheels, a gas tank, a seat, and the engine. But it ran, and was nothing short of a miracle to us. During late fall of 1925, Doad, Bill, and “Sheeny” Shaw found work in Okemah at a garage, and Doad began his long career as mechanic with the Parrot Motor Company in Okemah that led through the years to his own automotive business and related extensive garage and dealership holdings in Oklahoma City, which he still owns today, leasing them to other business men.
After working for a time at the Okemah garage, Bill late in 1925 became associated in a partnership with Olen Ryecroft in a filling station-garage-grocery in Chism, near Galey, where he remained for several years before building a business of his own on the new Stratford-Oklahoma City Highway.
Many schools like Vanoss ran short of tax funds to operate and often had to cut a term short. In May 1925, Janie was completing eighth grade when Vanoss’ shortened term necessitated that eighth graders complete a month of “subscription” school in order to establish their credits. Janie attended the summer term at Horace Mann, Ada, and finished her work. It seemed strange with Janie away.
While we lived across Sandy Creek, Janie had begun to assume supervision of the household activities. By the time we moved back into Vanoss, she was nearing fifteen and Papa had given her full authority in directing the younger three about the household chores and about our “proper” behavior. Papa hadn’t abdicated his parental position, but he obviously couldn’t be in the house all hours and do his work outside. We three were obedient to Janie, generally, but sibling-like, there were times when we challenged her older sister “bossing.” However, the arrangement worked, and when Janie was away, we missed her guidance.
Mrs. Mayberry Tilley, one of Vanoss’ best teachers, was a good family friend. She sponsored Janie in the 4-H Club work. Janie won Blue Ribbons in cooking, canning, and sewing in the County Fair for a couple of years. She applied her skills at home by sewing for us three girls. I remember particularly that we three each had a satin dress with a basque waist on a full skirt, and a lace “bertha” collar, which was very fashionable then. She became a good cook. On Saturdays she baked a cake for Sunday, usually chocolate or coconut, which our gang finished off in one meal.
Janie was the prettiest girl in her class, and most popular. I remember that when she shampooed her hair, she “steamed it” over the tea kettle, pressing it into large finger waves. This was before curlers or permanents. She looked nice in her clothes and was always neat. Her quiet modesty attracted her to older people.
Janie and Robert began dating early in 1925. Robert drove the school wagon from his area south and west of Vanoss, while attending school. After church on Sunday nights, we all walked home together, about four or five blocks. They would sit for a few minutes on our porch, and we three kids would frequently crawl under the porch to try to tune in to their sweetheart talk.
Just before Christmas of 1925, we moved from the Holmes place into the “middle” bungalow on Second Street. Papa and we four younger ones were now the “family.” Jim came home from Galey on weekends, and he and Papa barbered on Saturdays in Vanoss. We four were in school, Janie now a freshman in high school. Suddenly our family circle changed radically. In late January of 1926, Janie and Robert were married in Stratford and made their first home in Shawnee. Jim and Georgia Lee married in Ada in June, 1926, at the start of Jim’s second term at Galey. In July, Doad and Gladys married in Okemah. Bill, still single, was away at Chism. Now we were four!
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INTERLUDE AWAY FROM VANOSS: FEBRUARY 1926 – SUMMER 1927
Our family experienced a strange interlude beginning in February, 1926. We three younger ones joined Jim at Galey, to finish the 1926 school term. He had been boarding with the Rankin family, and now we moved together in a little house about a mile and a half from Galey school. Bill lent Jim his Ford to provide transportation for us. Papa went to work in Ada on construction projects for the next few months.
In the smaller school at Galey, Dollie, David and I all developed rapidly under Jim’s supervision and “push.” He was a “born teacher” and from early teens had set his sights on getting an education. He became a master teacher and extraordinary principal, and the community appreciated and supported his programs. Galey won prominence among other two-year high schools during his principalship, and he went on to larger schools from there.
At Galey Jim introduced extra-curricular interests in speech, drama, music, and athletics. We three siblings participated in everything and loved every minute of it. Dollie and I debated, took roles in dramatic productions, and became active in oral interpretation, oratory, and declamation. We were on the girls’ basket ball team, and we also took part in women’s track, new that year. Younger then we, David nevertheless also took part in grade athletics and was on the track team. Galey responded whole-eartedly to Jim’s leadership, and we all profited from our “interlude.”
A great personal thrill came for me with the Pontotoc County Lincoln Essay Contest in February, 1927, when I won First Place and received the large copper medallion resembling the Lincoln Penny, Lincoln’s engraved image on the front and my name and date inscribed on the back. I was fifteen and this encouraged an inspiration to write. This copper medallion is among my most prized possessions today.
During 1927 Harry Miller, Ada Boy Scout Executive for many years, and another Christian layman from Ada conducted a county-wide New Testament Memory Emphasis in all rural schools. Students memorizing the greatest number of New Testament verses were awarded a golden lapel pin in the shape of a Bible. Dollie, David, and I were each awarded a pin.
We made lasting friendships in the Galey community, and in 1931-32 I taught my first school term there, as had Jim before me. (Most important, I met the Jamar family, and Oma and I were married in May, 1932, and we lived in the Galey teacherage while I taught the next two school years.) This Galey Interlude was a “turn around” to our family in many ways.
In May, 1926, when Galey term ended, we three and Jim moved into Ada into a duplex on West Fourteenth Street; and Papa, employed in public works, joined us. Jim attended East Central summer term and barbered in the afternoons and Saturdays. It was hard to meet expenses in town. Bill, still single, contributed to our rentals, and Doad, still in Okemah and as yet unmarried, helped out. Jim and Georgia Lee married in June 1926 and moved into the Galey teacherage to begin the summer session of the 1926-27 school year. Doad and Gladys married in July that year, 1926, and “honeymooned” with Jim and Georgia Lee before returning to their apartment in Okemah.
Our small family moved back to a house at Galey in the fall, where Jim and Papa had bought a cotton crop “in the field” so we gathered the cotton. Just before fall term started, we moved to Chism for the winter, Bill joining us. We three siblings commuted on foot, almost three miles, back to Galey school during that fall, winter, and spring of 1927. Dollie and I attended summer term at Horace Mann, Ada, and in late summer our family returned to Vanoss to live. These moves reflect the bleak years of mid-1920’s and on into early 1930’s and the Big Depression building up from post-war years, reaching its crescendo and climax in the historic October 1929 Wall Street Financial Crash when the bottom literally fell out of national economy.
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VANOSS HOME-BASE AGAIN: SUMMER 1927-29
Back in Vanoss in August of 1927, we moved into the bungalow on Second Street across the street from the other three bungalows. W.J. Standridge now owned this place. The State Bank of Vanoss was closed and the McCauleys gone.
In September Bill took us younger ones and Papa to Western Oklahoma where we gathered cotton for the next two and a half months. Janie and Robert and Dorothy Lee formed a part of our “crew” as we picked the bumper cotton crop of Robert’s uncle, Bob Mullins, near Rocky and Cordell. We returned to Vanoss for the beginning of winter term in mid-November. Bill returned to his business in Chism, boarding with his partner, Olen and Jewell Ryecroft.
All people suffered from the economic nightmare. With meager worn-out farming equipment and unavailable credit for farmers, it was practically impossible to go on. Papa must have been shaken to the core of his being as he contemplated the future possibilities of making a living and keeping the three of us, ages 16, 14, and 11, in school. He had tried public works. Scarcity of public work led to a dead end. Papa farmed the next year on “the halves” for Bud Martin. We three remained in school.
On the surface, life went on for us kids. The real heartache and worry was Papa’s. We kept in school, attended the ball games and other school and community functions, and kept in Sunday school and church. During the Galey interlude we had begun to mature and develop skills so that we held our own -- back in the larger high school. Dollie as side-center and I as forward were on the girls’ basket ball team. I made All-County Forward at the Ada Basket Ball Tournament in the 1928 spring meet. A prized keepsake letter from Jim that spring complimented me on the Basket Ball Honor, as he assured me that athletic prowess would be helpful to me as a teacher.
Dollie and I were members of the High Schools Girls’ Glee Club from 1927-29, and entered competition in the Annual Interscholastic Meets. We had leading roles in junior and senior plays and went on short tours with the dramatic groups that staged plays for other schools. David, in grade school, enjoyed athletic participation with grade teams and track.
The year Dollie and I took geometry, our teacher, Mrs. Lucile Adair, turned out to be non-accredited, so the entire class had to go into Ada and take a comprehensive examination in the office of the County Superintendent of Schools. Dollie was one of the two highest scorers. She memorized all the propositions and theorems and could recite them like poetry. She always laughed and said that none of it made sense to her, but she did have the knack of memorization. She was a good student in all subjects throughout high school, although Jim had let her “skip” from seventh to eighth grade when we moved from Vanoss to Galey, his theory being that she and I could be advantaged if we “did” high school and college together.
We had had helpful experience which benefited us when we had taken Eighth Grade Examination from Galey School, traveling with classmates to the County Seat. Jim had been our teacher, and he had seen to it that his students were all prepared academically. All Galey students passed their examinations and got their diplomas.
By attending two summer terms at Horace Mann, Ada, working for our room and board, Dollie and I were able to carry full course loads and complete high school in three years, graduation from Vanoss in May, 1929. Older sibling loyalty made it possible for us to get through that difficult time maybe with some sort of dignity. Cap and gown rentals, diplomas, high school rings, banquet fees, glee club uniforms, and graduation announcements all became almost un-surmountable difficulties even for our classmates with both parents. Our older siblings were supportive of Papa in many ways. This same innate family loyalty through those bleak years enabled Papa to do the double job of parenting his and Mama’s family. Bill, Jim, Doad, and Janie each in his own way helped to establish the pattern of partnership.
For the next three or four years forward from 1929 as the three youngest of us were reaching toward further education and/or other career preparation, continuing loyalty from older to younger siblings was an immeasurable impetus that unified our family relationships.
Jim and Doad helped finance tuition and books for my second college year, to earn the Two Year State Certificate and begin teaching in 1931-32. In turn I was able to assist David in completing his high school work early in my teaching career, and help finance Dollie’s college work before she grew discouraged and quit, to work full time. Doad was helpful in “launching” David in the automotive business which became David’s lifelong career. From older to younger our sibling loyalty was the real strength that help us together as family.
As each of us married and formed new family ties, living geographically apart, opportunities for close fellowship lessened through the years. But the “spirit of family” lived on. Time goes quickly. When age or illnesses followed their natural course with Papa and with our older siblings, the direction of supportive concern has reversed, and we younger siblings have in turn tried to be loyal and helpful wherever possible to those who stood by us when we needed them.
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A TRIBUTE TO FAMILY
In a way I have come to realize as this manuscript took form that part of the motivation has been therapeutic for me as I pay tribute to Papa’s dedication and as an expression of appreciation for my brothers and sisters.
During the years of our growing up, kin and neighbors emphasized the tragic loss of our mother in sudden, unexpected death at thirty-four, leaving seven motherless children. In sympathy for us, many people – perhaps including us seven children – appeared less cognizant of the fact that Papa had lost his companion and helpmate, also suddenly and unexpectedly. How he managed to cope as a middle-aged man, with his loss and his increased family responsibilility, brings sober reflection. That he remained single to the end of his almost seventy-six years makes a significant statement about his personal sacrifice and commitment to “family first.”
Only as adults were we really able to understand fully. Papa let us mature as independent individuals with free wills. We exercised freedom of speech with each other and with him, yet under his watchful restraint, it seems to me, against undue hurt and harm to each other. Somehow we survived the day-to-day combativeness considered normal among growing children.
Papa never ever resorted to heavy-handed discipline among us. We learned early to anticipate and “time” his threats of the “hickory limb” until the tense moment had passed. At heart, Papa was a “gentle man.” I don’t recall any wordy conflicts with his neighbors, his co-workers, or supervisors on the job. He was well-liked among our cousins and our childhood friends as well as adults of our acquaintance. He always respected and expressed appreciation to our teachers, our pastors, and other church leaders. They respected him.
Despite the sacrifices and deprivations demanded by his role as a single head of household, Papa, I think, remained at peace with himself to the end of his life. To me this speaks of personal inner resources of an unselfish, caring, generous man who gave of himself so that his and Mama’s brood of seven could grow into as well-mannered and well-prepared adults as possible within the limits of his ability to provide.
I confess that part of my motivation for this narrative is the nostalgic recall of a TIME as well as a family record. Now, in 1987, those years seem almost an idyllic time. Life was simple and uncomplicated with “getting and spending,” however impoverished in the main. Most families we knew realized that just “coming by a living” was inherently tough. Still, few of us harbored resentment toward “the system”: the government, the vague control called “the economy,” or the social structure that perpetuated inequality among classes.
Nave? Yes. But to us that was “just the way things were.” We blamed no person nor power nor circumstance. On the whole, Papa seldom imposed on us children his more mature understanding – or his frustration. We were not unduly prejudiced by whatever adult criticism of “the times” I am sure he often felt.
In early adulthood I came to know that Papa understood and felt deeply – and even bitterly – far more about “unequal opportunity’ – but also about “great causes” – than he had conveyed in words to his developing charges. We grew up with the conviction that if we worked hard enough, behaved ourselves, did our best at whatever we did, and kept faith in the Greater Power Whose justice and mercy protected those with faith in Him, we would make a space for ourselves and realize some of our young dreams someday.
I have reached back in my mind to pull out almost forgotten bits and pieces, in some cases; and to assemble memories into some sort of rational order for the telling. But many –oh, so many! – important incidents go untold because of time, effort, space. This experience has been stimulating and pleasant –albeit sometimes painful when certain memorabilia touches a wounded emotional nerve of childhood from which I find I have not been able to heal entirely. But in the main, I have warmed myself at the memory of old joys.
To return to the past in memory does not necessarily mean living in the past. To indulge in nostalgia can regenerate our lives. Examining our lives in retrospect is an important as looking to the future. Retrospect lets us see again what it was that brought people happiness and contentment. Perhaps we need to bring back the simple things into our lives today – to enjoy the “best of both worlds.”
So. I have come “full circle” in a review of thirteen years – 1916-1929 –that in memory seem like a lifetime. Important years to each of the David M. Watters, Sr. Family – it seems to me. –should prove important, enlightening, and maybe interesting to the succeeding generations of Watters and their offspring. No one ever gets too far from his genetic roots – physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. To know who we are is to know who we might become.
I have lived enough years to learn that it is disastrous for one to isolate himself from his family. God placed us in families for sharing. Like a stream, our lives should flow into the lives of each other – to purify, freshen, and sustain. Family is our truest mission field.
As we age and our memory banks get a little sluggish in ability to recall, we need to refer to them more often to try to keep our “primary” apparatus sharp and active. Memory is a treasure.
Within the possibilities of human progress, each generation, given the superior opportunities, should improve over the past generations. “Man’s reach,” said Robert Browning, “should exceed his grasp; or what’s a heaven for?” I pray that all of you younger Watters posses that ‘reach’ for human achievement and self-fulfillment, all within God’s will for your individual lives.
All in all, I would not exchange my growing up years with anyone’s. This is the way life was for us. I think it is your right – and hopefully your advantage – to know a little about your background in the dim past.
God bless and keep each of you with His will for you.
Dorothy Watters Jamar
Plainview, Texas 79072
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