I just found an old interview I did with my grandpa about his childhood. It’s so amazing how people used to live, and how each person has a lifetime of memories stored up inside him that no one may ever know of …
December 9, 2008, Oklahoma History
“You’re great-grand parents, my parents lived in Arizona. They lived in Northern Arizona between Williams and Flagstaff Arizona. And my dad worked for the Santa Fe Railroad as a section foreman. He took care of a section of the railroad—this is back in the day when they had steam engines, not diesel engines like they have now but steam engines. And the men that he worked with, that worked under him were primarily Navaho Indians.
When I was born, my birth certificate says ‘how long my mother was in the hospital,’ and the birth certificate says ‘five minutes.’ [My parents] said that if there had been one more snow bank, I would have been delivered in a snow bank. We lived in Northern Arizona, I was born in February, and they had, just a severe snow storm. And as my mother was going in the hospital, she was going in; I was coming out. So in reality, my mother wasn’t in the hospital for five minutes … I was born in 1943 … [we lived in Arizona] until 1951. During that time (in Arizona), I used to watch the Navaho women—these families lived in the bunk houses that the railroad provided and I used to sit out and watch them. They would make Navaho Indian rugs. I wish I have one now, those blankets. Where they would cut the wool off the sheep, twist the wool, dye it, and they would make those rugs by weaving in and out in and out that string … and I used to sit by the hours and watch them make those blankets when I was young.
My first schooling was from first grade through third grade. I went to a small school called Parks Arizona. And in one building was [first through fourth grade], and in the other building was fifth through eighth. And then after the eighth grade then we were transported into Williams to go to school. But—and I can remember during that time from ’43 to ’51, I can remember my mother feeding hobos … at the section house in the back yard. They would come and eat a meal that my mother would fix for them and the hobos used to rid the trains all across America and they knew where the places were where they could stop and get a meal by word of mouth. And one of the places was where my mother was … she used to fix lots of meals for hobos.
And I remember living in the section house with a huge pot-bellied stove in the living room and that’s what heated our house with coal, through this pot-bellied stove. And that’s the way the house was heated in the winter time. And one winter, when we lived at Parks, [Arizona,] one winter the snow was so high, that it was up above the fence around the house where we lived. And icicles would hang from the edge of the house to the ground … [as thick as my leg]. And we went to school from March through November. We couldn’t go to school in December [through] February because of so much snow.
The last place we lived before we moved to Oklahoma was in Belmont Section. We moved in 1951 to Waynoka. And the reason why we moved to Waynoka was because my dad and mother thought that they could make a lot of money by buying a laundry. They had the old Maytag washing machines that had a tub with a ringer at the top … That lasted for about 6 months because that’s when automatic washers came into effect. So when automatic washers came in they didn’t need a laundry any more. And so my parents struggled for several years. We lived in Waynoka from 1951 through 1958—Waynoka, Oklahoma, right south of Alva. My grandparents lived on a farm in Avard and when we moved back to Waynoka, the thing I remember most about growing up was, I started the third grade in Arizona, and we moved to Waynoka [right in the middle of the school year in Arizona], and it was at the beginning of the school year in Oklahoma, so I took third grade over again.
The thing I remember most about my youth is something families don’t do anymore. I can remember going to grandma, your great-great grandma and grandpa’s farm. We’d go just about every Sunday to the farm. And all of my cousins and my aunts and uncles would come to the farm on Sunday afternoon. They would drive from Ponca City … Wellington, Kansas, drive from Alva and Waynoka, and we’d all congregate at Grandma and Grandpa’s just about every Sunday. Families don’t do that anymore … because families are too busy now-a-days to spend much time together. So I think that’s very important. When I was in grade school, up through the 6th grade, I got one spanking from the principle every year, and maybe more …
[on the farm every Sunday] we’d always play, go out in the barn, and play in the pasture … we thought that Grandma and Grandpa’s barn was huge … we’d walk by the creek, walk by the railroad tracks … Grandma and Grandpa had an outside toilet and … if you had to go to the bathroom you always made sure there weren’t any kids around to lock you in the bathroom, and that’s been known to happen. [I never got locked in the bathroom] … [I locked my grandfather in]. I stayed with him one week and I locked him in the bathroom. Boy, was he mad. I ran and hid for a long time, till he cooled down.
At Christmas time we always had Christmas together. All the aunts and uncles and cousins … my aunt Nell and uncle Kooney, they lived on a farm south across the Cimarron river and west. In their front yard they had a huge, big ‘ol cedar tree that they put lights on it at Christmas time. And when we’d go out there, there would be all kinds of relatives and friends, I mean it was a deal. Kids would be playing and we would be having a good time and all of a sudden we’d hear bells ring. And we’d go outside and underneath the tree would be hundreds of gifts. And we as children never knew how those gifts got there. The parents always told us, “Santa Claus was here. And when he flew off, he rang the bell.” And we went out and found all those gifts.
[Testimony] We lived in Waynoka … the pastor, his name was C. D. Baggett … we went to an RA conclave at the old Baptist Church on Robinson St. in OKC. And I felt that at that time the Lord was calling me to be a believer, and I was probably 9, 10, 11, somewhere along in there … and I felt like I was being called to being a believer, but I didn’t do it that night. The next Sunday when the invitation was given I accepted Christ as my savior.