Because of my brother Ken Croy’s foresight, we have the recorded memories written in my father’s hand of growing up in Henryetta, Oklahoma in the early twentieth century. Ken gave Dad a memory book (a great idea that I strongly recommend) with some lead-in questions as stimulus. Dad was a grand storyteller, still as I recall Ken had to work to get those stories in writing. But Dad did it. And as a Father’s Day present to him (November 27, 1912-May 12, 2004) and my brother (now a father and grandfather himself) I’ve transcribed what Dad wrote as best I could. When asked what was the same as when he was young, his first answer is Love. Right, Dad, still the same: I love you.
Dad’s Recollections (as he wrote them)
What kinds of things did you do on a summer day?
I played marbles, swam in Little Creek – Big & Little “5” in Wolf Creek, played touch football, baseball, Annie Over, Blindman’s bluff, tag and at night under the street light climb Bald Knob. Mother had me take “Old Fisher” a rooster up on Bald Knob and let him go because he attack all the people who walked by on the sidewalk. He was called “Old Fisher” because grandpa caught him on the North Canadian River where he camped for 3 months every summer. We would visit his camp almost every weekend for big fish fries. The Hanselman’s Risir’s and Syemours. There was the time that Clarence and I walked up the hill to the Fort Smith & Western railroad tracks. Clarence was ahead of me. He hit a limb on a tree. Stirred up a wasp’s nest and they took after me. I headed for the river and as I went thru camp my mother grabbed me and took my cloths off in front of all those people. Was I embarrassed.
…on a winter day?
Winter days I built a sled (Bob sled) and took it up on Bald Knob to slide down. There were 3 of us on it. Away we went down the hill. I tried to turn it but you know the three of us hit the tree and all went tumbling down the hill. There was the day that J.O. and I were walking up the alley to his house. We had bean flips – sling shots – we saw a rooster and he said watch me hit him in the rear. He was – the rooster – bent over peaking on the ground at the time. When J.O. shot, the rooster raised up and it was hit in the head. Bye, Bye rooster. J.O. ran home and I asked his mother where he was. I found him upstairs under the bed. And there was the time we sent swimming in Wolf Creek naked. A lady drove by in a horse and buggy and turned us in to the police. In order to scare us they came down and picked up some of the kids. I grabbed my clothes and run off thru the corn field.
Tell us a fishing story.
There’s the time when I was possible 12 or 13 years old and my father decided to go to White River. It is located between Little Rock, Arkansas and Memphis, Tenn. My brother Muriel, myself and J.O. Pharoah went with my father. It meant a trip of about 500 miles in a “T” model Ford from Henryetta, Okla. Which was a long way in those days.
We put out trout lines (in a small river it is from shore to shore but White River was so wide we had to put gunny sacks filled with sand to hold them down). Then early one morning J.O. and I got up early and run the one up the river from camp and took two drums (fish that travel under your boat and sound like drums – musical instruments) They weighted about 10 lbs. Then we went down river opposite the campsite and started to run the line there. We were in a 16 ft. boat and I thought I was pulling up the sand bag. I was in the middle of the boat and a big alligator gar flowed up. His tail was at the end of the boat. I let go and yelled for my father who was washing at the edge of the river. We went over and got him and he run the line but when he got to the hook that the gar was on it had been straightened out and and the gar was gone. It was a double oo hook about the size of your little finger. Old time fishermen there estimated the gar to weight about 150 lbs. They said the gar had been around there for years. An Alligator Gar has a wide snout like a regular alligator.
What was school like when you were young?
The school I first went to was a two story brick school in Henryetta, Okla. It began sinking to being undermined by the excavation of coal by the “Whitehead Mine” underneath it. They then tore it down and replaced it with one story buildings for each class. Must have been about 8 of them.
I was born without a palate (spelling?) in the roof of my mouth and was teased because I could not talk plain. The teacher put me in the back of the room and I could not hear her so I played hooky for a week. When my parents found out they took me to Kansas City to be operated on. They would not do it there because the needle passed too close to the brain. My father then took me to St. Louis, Mo. A children’s hospital where the[y] did the operation. I had problems learning to talk plain.
The discipline was strict but I liked it (the schools) and had a great time. I loved football, baseball, and basketball. I was suppose to take an English esam at 11:00 o’clock and I thought it was at 2 o’clock. I went at that time and they would not give it to me. So I did not make it up during the regular school term and went an extra year so I could play basketball. I took English and three other courses so I would be eligible to play.
Who was your best childhood friend?
My best childhood friend were J.O. Pharow (Pharoah) (spelling of last name not exactly correct.) Spring Hill, Okla. was changed to his last name as they were Indians and lived on a big ranch there before moving to Henryetta. Oil was discovered on their ranch and they moved to Henryetta in the big white two story house on Broadway street. Then there was Lawrence & Gene sysmore, Arthur Gibson, Clarance Rise, Edward Dashild, Henry Hamra, Fred Whitledge. All good friends but I suppose J.O. was the best. These were my friends in Henryetta.
I went to Spiro when I was in the 10th grade. Here I had my wonderful high School friends Stul Nelson, Sonny Boyette, Christine Boyetta, Sam James, Red Huff, Grace Conn, etc. Zella Christman The best friend was Stul Nelson. The last I saw of him was at Camp Stoneman, near Pittsburg Ca. during World War Two where he was being sent overseas and just before I entered the Army.
What about your brothers and sisters?
I had two brothers and two sisters. In this order by age. Muriel (the way his name was spelled) Calvin, Unice (spelling) and Helen. Unice died at 2+/- years old. Before I was born. Possibly about 1910. She is buried in the family plot in Henryetta, Okla. I was closer to Muriel than Calvin. Calvin never lived close to me except for a while when I was real young. His nature was different than mine. Muriel and I were close as we worked in the mines together and had more in common. We always went quail hunting on his birthday, Nove 20th, as the quail season opened on the 20th and our birthdays were close together but 10 years apart.
My sister Helen and I have always been close as we shared the hardships of the depression together with mom and dad. Muriel and Calvin had their hard times during this era but we did not live so close to them. We did more with Muriel than Calvin.
What was Christmas like when you were young?
Its difficult to remember much about Xmas. We did not have Xmas trees and all the outdoor decorations like they do now. Gifts were given out on Xmas Eve and we generally had a big Xmas dinner.
What kinds of things were different when you were a kid?
What kinds of things were different when I was a kid. Let me see:
Telephone – party lines
“T” model fords
Out door privies (toilets)
Neighborhood grocery stores – home delivery
No airplane transportation (public)
If you traveled you went by train.
Excuse my writing. We did have penmanship in school. I was never too good at it and I’m worse now that I’m old.
Bad roads. No modern highway system.
No refridgerators. Ice boxes with home delivery of ice. Horse drawn ice wagon. We used to follow it and get ice chips when the iceman went into the house to deliver the ice.
Many, many things were different.
What kind of things were the same?
Struggling to make a living
There are so many things that are different that it is difficult to think of things that are the same. Night and day are the same.