my Grandpa Frank Walker was traveling on a train and he got in a poker game with
some of the men that were on the train. He won enough money to buy their farm. It was
located one mile north of old Pearson, Oklahoma. They moved from Asher, Oklahoma,
in 1916 to their farm. Grandpa farmed and built and maintained roads until the state built
a new highway in 1931 from Asher to Tecumseh, Oklahoma. The old town of Pearson
was moved one mile east to the new highway after it was completed.
When my mom and dad got married in 1923, they moved in with Grandpa and Grandma Walker.
Betty and I were born in the old farmhouse. One night the barn caught fire and was
completey destroyed. They moved the old house to where the old barm was and built corn
cribs, stalls and the upstairs was turned into a hayloft. Grandpa built them a new house
and he also built my mom and dad a three room "shotgun" house.
My mom told me about these incidents:
I was nearly five years old when Dick was born. My dad was celebrating with two of his
friends (they had been drinking). These men decided to throw my dad in the big horse tank.
I thought they were going to throw him in the big dug well. I was so scared. I started
screaming and crying and I picked up a big stick and I was hitting them with all my
little arms would let me. I even kicked their shins. They saw how upset I was,
so they put Daddy down.
When my sister, Betty, was about 4 years old, she wanted to have hair (black) like our
brother, Dick and me. One day she was out playing and she came in the house and she was
smiling from ear to ear. She had found some axle grease and she had completely covered
her head with it. Mom said she was so proud of herself. She said, "See, like Sissy."
That was her nickname for me.
Mom's sister called Dick "Dickie Bird" because he had long, thin legs. Later it was
shortened to Dick. I don't ever remember him being called Charles. Dick nicknamed
Betty "Bean" when he first started talking. We all used those names until we started
school. Mom made us call each other by our real names, except Dick kept his for the
rest of his life. When we was a little boy, about six years old, Mom said he always
played by himself. One day he had a block of wood pushing it back and forth in the dirt
pile, and he was singing. At first Mom couldn't hear what he was saying.
All at once he sang out, "I'll be glad when you're dead, you bastard you"
(the word was supposed to be "rascal").
He was repeating what he heard Daddy say. One time he was trying
to lace up his shoes. His shoestring had a knot in it and it wouldn't go through
the eyelet. Mom said he was so mad and was trying so hard, and finally he said,
"......... If this ain't a hell of a shoe string!"
My memories start when I was about nine or ten years old. These are things I will never
forget. My dad had a friend that was a "bootlegger." That's a person that makes illegal
whiskey. I don't know what their arrangement was, but my Dad hid the whiskey for him.
One of the hiding places was in a field next to our house. They dug post holes with a post
hole digger and inserted some lengths of stovepipe. They put three one-half gallon jars
filled with whiskey down in the stovepipes and covered them with some kind of lids and
put dirt on the lids to hide them. I'm sure they marked the places so they wouldn't
forget where they were. Knowing my dad's habits,
I'm sure he sampled the whiskey real often.
I listened to a cassette tape yesterday that Mom had made in 1976. Two of the incidents
that she talked about got my memory straightened out. I remember one day Betty and I
were playing with our paper dolls. Jackie, our cousin, came over to play with us. We got
in a fuss about something and Jackie grabbed some of our paper dolls and tore their heads
off and then ran home. We were so mad at her. She came back and tried to talk to us
through the open window and we wouldn't have anything to do with her. So finally
she would come up to the window and call us "shit ass." The third time she said it,
I threw dishwater in her face. Of course, she went home, bawling like a calf.
We never let her play with our paper dolls anymore.
This next incident that I remember was a doozie.
Jackie and I were playing in the wash house. All at once she said, "I've got to pee."
I told her to go to the toilet and she didn't want to. She found an empty can, and peed
in it. The best I can remember I really got onto her for doing that. So she grabbed the
can and was going to throw it on me, so I took it away from her and poured it on her
head. As usual, she started bawling and went and told her mother, my Aunt Beulah.
You can imagine what happened next. Aunt Beulah came out and she was really
mad and she was mean-mouthing me real good. Daddy came around the house about
that time and they got into a bad cuss fight. That fight was the cause of us
moving from Grandpa's place to the Anderson community.
I have sat here for hours, with hundreds of memories running through my mind and
I don't know where to start. Most of the things I think about are what a hard
life we had. The first few months (in the Anderson community) we didn't have much
to eat. I remember Mom making biscuits with water and also water gravy. She
would brown corn meal in a skillet and make her and Dad a hot drink for breakfast.
Later, Grandpa Walker brought us a milk cow and some chickens.
There was one Christmas that I won't ever forget Mom got me a pencil box, Betty a little
doll, and Dick a little red truck with a battery. When we went to bed at night, all three
of us would get under the quilt and turn on the lights of the little red truck and play
until Mom or Dad would say, "Get to sleep in there!" It didn't take long for the battery
to run down and there was no extra money to get a new one. That Christmas day we went
to the woods and Mom and Dad cut firewood. We had a heater and a cookstove that burned
wood. Mom took food and cooked on a campfire. I can remember the big skillet of fried
potatoes. That morning after we got to the woods, Mom told us we could walk down to
Charley Copeland's grocery story and get us 25 cents worh of Christmas candy and put
it on the grocery bill. It was 1-1/2 miles down there. So that made it a 3-mile round trip.
I will always remember that Christmas.
I remember one time we were walking home from school. There was a bunch of kids that we
always walked with. One boy, about my age, was with us. His name was Kermit Davenport.
He looked out in the field where my dad was plowing cotton and said, "Look at that old
crippled son of a bitch." Well, he just said the wrong thing. I grabbed him and I knocked
him down and I punched him in the nose and busted his lip and he was bawling and trying
to get up. When I finally let him up, I told him, "Don't ever call my Daddy that again."
I told him also that he had better not tell the teacher or I would do the same to him
the next evening. Mom and Dad heard about it and got onto me real good for fighting,
but Daddy thought it was funny.
I couldn't remember Kermit walking home from school with us ever again.
We moved from the Anderson community to the Moore School District in 1936. During that
year Mom got us on welfare. At that time, all we got was commodities (surplus food the
government gave to needy families). They gave flour, meal, powdered milk and sometimes,
fresh fruit. I remember one time they gave grapefruit. We didn't know how to eat them.
We tried to peel them like an orange and didn't like them because they weren't as sweet
like oranges, but we ate them anyway. Sometimes she got canned meat and lard and raisins.
I get real emotional when I think how Mom would have to find a ride to the town where
they were giving out the groceries, and then stand out in the hot sun for hours waiting
in line with everybody else. My dad never did offer to go with her or to help in any
way. Later they started issuing food stamps and that helped a lot. That fall Mom got
us kids signed up for Aid to Dependent Children. I can't remember how much money we
got, but it was enough to by our school shoes and warm coats and other things we needed.
The year I graduated (1938) from the eighth grade, Mom made me a real pretty pink dress.
It was long, down to my ankles and I thought it was the prettiest dress I ever saw. She
got me some new white shoes to wear with it. That evening, when I got dressed, Mom got
out her face powder, rouge and lipstick, and proceeded to put some makeup on me. The
powder went up my nose and in my mouth and I started coughing and sneezing. Finally
she got it smoothed out and she lightly put the rouge on my cheeks and then the light pink
Tangee lipstick. That was my first experience with makeup and I was fourteen years old.
That fall, I started to high school at Asher, Oklahoma. I had to walk a mile south to
Pearson to catch the school bus, and I was really scared, but I finally got used to
it. That spring or early summer of 1939 we moved again. The place we moved to was
Bill Walsie's farm; it joined by Grandpa Walker's farm on the north side. Mr. Wilsie
let my dad use a team of horses, wagon and farm implements and supplied all the corn
seed. When the crops were harvested, Mr. Wilsie got two-thirds and we got a third.
That's what is known as share cropping.
In the fall of 1939, I started Macomb High School in Oklahoma, where I spent the next
three years. The school bus picked me up about a quarter of a mile from our house.
That sure beat walking a mile like I did the year before. I played basketball and
softball and I was more interested in sports than my studies. I started my senior
year in September of 1941. On December 7th of that year, the Japanese Empire bombed
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. That was the beginning of World War II for America.
Every man's and woman's and child's life was changed by that terrible event.
In November of 1941, I started dating a boy that recently moved to the Macomb area.
His name was Tommy Smith. He and his mother had bought a farm northwest of Macomb.
I was really impressed with that, as all I had ever known was share cropping on somebody
else's farm. He had a new farm tractor, cows, sheep and a nice house and a 1940 Ford
pickup. We had dated about six months and he asked me to marry him. I remember so well
what I said to him. I said, "My God boy, you've got to let me think about this." I
talked to Mom and Dad about it, and they said whatever I wanted to do would be all right
with them. I knew I had no chance of ever going to college, so I told him I would
marry him after I graduated from high school. I knew I didn't love him like I was
supposed to, but I thought if I married and left home, that would be one less to feed
and clothe and maybe Betty and Dick could have a little bit more. I graduated in May
1942 and we got married in June and I moved in with him and his mother.
Lord have mercy, what a mistake that was.
Well, things changed that fall. Mrs. Smith decided to go back to college and get her
teaching degree, so she moved to Ada, Oklahoma. Mom and Dad moved to San Francisco,
California, to work in the Kaiser shipyards, and Dick and Betty came to live with
Tommy and me until school was out. Betty had been dating Junior Birdsell before Mom and
Dad moved to California. He was in the Army and came home on furlough in February
and I took Betty to Shawnee to his sister's so she could be with him. I went to get her
in a couple of days and his sister told me that they had gotten married. I was shocked,
hurt and so mad. Junior's sister told me they were down at her mother's at Maud.
Well, I went to Maud with tears rolling and fire in my eyes. When I walked in the house,
they knew I didn't come to congratulate them. After I got through letting both of them
know how I felt, I told Betty that she had to be the one to write Mom and Dad and tell
them what she had done. She was only sixteen years old, for God's sake, and I was still
trying to protect her. I already knew what a mistake I had made by marrying so young and
I didn't want her to do the same.
After school was out, Dad came back to get Dick and Betty. While he was there, he talked
Tommy into the notion of giving up his farm deferment and going to work in the shipyards.
We put the sideboards on the pickup and covered them with a tarp, put an old cotton
mattress in the bottom and stacked boxes that we had packed our clothes in on top of
that. There was room for two or three of us to ride back there. Let me tell you, the
Joab family in the Grapes of Wrath didn't have it as good as we did.
They made it to California ............and so did we.
We went to work in the shipyard and Betty went to the welding school. I don't remember
where Tommy went. After we completed our schooling, we went to the basin where they
were building the transport ships, to work with the ship fitters. After we had worked
a couple of months, we went to take a welding test. We both passed it and that made us
journeyman welders. We got an increase in salary to making $1.40 an hour.
Whoopee! We thought we were rich.
That fall Dick enrolled in high school, and Tommy got notice that he was being drafted
into the Army. He moved back to Oklahoma, and I moved in with Mom and Dad. Betty and
I paid them room and board. I can't remember how much it was but it was enough to buy
all the groceries. Mom was tryhing to save every dime they could so they could buy them
a home when they went back to Oklahoma. All of us worked the evening shift, 4:00 pm to
12 midnight. We rode the streetcar to the ferry building and then rode the ferry boat
to Richmond, where the shipyards were.
In July 1944, Betty got poisoned welding on galvanized metal. She had to quit working.
At the same time, Dad decided to quit and go back to Oklahoma and look for them a farm.
So Betty, Dick and Dad rode the train back to Oklahoma and Mom and I kept working.
Oh, Lord, I forgot to tell about Betty buying her a car. It was a 1938 Ford sedan.
Her thoughts were that she would have it when Junior came home from overseas.
We worked until the first of October. We packed all our stuff in Betty's car
and left San Francisco about noon on October 2nd.
We drove to Merced, California, and we decided to get us a motel room and went in it
and guess what, there wasn't a bathroom. Everybody was supposed to use an outside
toilet. Everybody knows the first thing you do when you get out of bed in the morning.
Right! You go empty your bladder. Well, Mom and I were not going to use that toilet.
We stood around with our legs crossed trying to decide what to do. I opened the door and
it was dark and real foggy. I said, "Come on, Mom." We went around behind the motel
and down with our pants and we peed on the ground. We got in the car real quick and left.
We spent the next night in Tucumcari, New Mexico.
The next day we got to Grandma Walker's about five o'clock.
Before we got home, Dad had bought a farm. Mom was so disappointed. The hosue was a
wreck and all we could see was Johnson grass and cockle burrs. I don't mind telling
you I was madder than hell. Mom worked so hard to have a decent house
and she sure didn't get it.
As always, though, ...............Mom made the best of the situation.