THE UERKVITS FAMILY REMEMBERS


HOW IT WAS BACK THEN


FORWARD

The four "Uerkvitz Girls" who compiles this book are great grand children of Rufus and Susan (Kern) Williams.  Rufus & Susan's oldest daughter, Mattie, married Joe Geelsin in Sumner County Kansas, and bore him four children.  The second Geeslin child, Merle, married Robert Uerkvits.  They in turn raise four girls - Mattie Elizabeth. Carol Joy, Ernestine, and Betty Jo - during the years of the great depression and dust bowls in Blaine County, Oklahoma.  The following is the recollections of those four girls.



PREFACE

The four "Uerkvitz Girls" decided to write about their life on the farm, sometime around 1992 when they were in San Antonio, Texas.  They each started remembering "things" that happened and would get to laughing so hard; and go on and on just remembering.  Carol started writing some and Mattie read it and said, "Well that's not what I had in mind I want all the funny stuff" As you remember, Mattie could make any and every incident funny!  She started jotting down on big pieces of paper and small pieces of paper all of the funny incidents she could think of.  Ernestine and Betty added to her enjoyment by adding their memories of when they would get together in San Antonio.  Carol didn't get there that often but was piecing together ideas for "The Book".  By this time, Ernestine became a victim of Alzheimer’s, Carol & Ed moved to Arizona keeping busy by getting their new place in shape, and Mattie was starting to have some health problems.  From time to time they would jot down another funny incident.  It is now 1999!  Betty and Carol realize they now have to get this story written!  They have read and re-read Mattie's jotting and feel they have them all grouped so they can proceed.  However, they know it won't be as funny as if Mattie had written it or as grammatically correct as if Ernestine had edited it.  Just know they did have fun!



DEDICATION

We dedicate this book to our parents, Robert and Merle Uerkvitz.  Daddy passed away on May 30, 1962 at age 75 and Mother on December 20, 1994 at age 98.  Their strong pioneer spirit gave the "four of us" so much more knowledge of living than young children today can receive from their parents.  They were married on April 24, 1920.  Just after the war, they had four girls at the very onset of the "Depression" and "Dust Bowl" days.  We never felt that we were poor because so many in our area were in the same predicament.

They were remarkable in their ability to overcome the many perils of the 20's, 30's and 40's.  They endured relentless droughts, floods, and dust storms.  These concerns were never dumped on the four of us.  The financial problems of raising four girls were difficult but we never felt that.  We had cows, chickens, and a big garden.  So at least we did not go hungry.  Mother was a great seamstress and made all of our clothes (from the skin out), except our long cotton lisle stockings and long underwear with a flap in back that buttoned onto our undershirt waist.


Bob Holland, Dutchie Holland, Janet Holland, Ed Pregill, John Tillman, Clark Shirey, Buster Shirey
Mattie Holland, Carol Pregill, Merle Uerkvitz, Betty Tillman, Ernestine Shirey, Gail Shirey
Jae Pregill, Trenee Pregill, Robbie Tillman, Donna Tillman

"THE BEGINNING"

Daddy and Mother met at a "Box Social" sometime before World War I.  A "Box Social" is usually a fundraiser for a school.  The young girls and ladies would decorate a box -perhaps a shoe box -with crepe paper, flowers, lace, ribbons, etc.  They would "doll up" their box so that it would catch the fellows eyes.  The men and boys would bid on the boxes and the highest bidder would pay the fee.  The person who brought the box would identify herself and together they enjoyed what she had fixed.  Daddy bought Mother's box and they started dating after that.

Soon after World War I started, Daddy left for France and was on the "Frontline" when Armistice was signed.  He and Mother corresponded while he was overseas.  He "courted" Mother for two years when he returned.  They married in Geary, Oklahoma on April 24, 1920.  They moved to a 160-acre farm just 3 miles west of Greenfield and 9 miles south of Watonga.  He had purchased it for $1,600.

As each of Daddy's "four girls" were born, we're sure his hopes for a son diminished.  Mattie Elizabeth was born on March 18, 1921; Carol Joy on December 27,1922; Ernestine (no middle name) on January 27, 1924; and Grandpa Geeslin's "Valentine", as he always called Betty Jo was born on February 14, 1926.




LIFE DURING THE DEPRESSION

It wasn't until many, many years after we four girls were grown that we would be home reminiscing and we realized we had indeed survived a memorable time in history.  Ours was a life of out-houses, kerosene lamps, straw mattresses or feather beds, dust storms, etc.  The great droughts of 1934 and 1936 burned the land that Daddy worked so hard to protect.  The whole western part of Oklahoma turned into a "Dust Bowl".  We were lucky that our parents managed to survive rather than pack up what they had left and head for California as some families did.  Carol remembers when she married and moved to California how peoples spoke so degradingly of "Oakies".  She said to them, "You better smile when you say that because I'm an "Oakie" and very proud of it." If people there even had an inkling of the hardships "the Oakies" had been through, they might have been more compassionate.  Since then we have said many times that "the Gamblers" were not in Nevada casinos but were the farmers, as our parents were.  Daddy never knew whether all his "daylight to dark" work would bring in a crop, if the wind would cut the newly sprouted corn or wheat to the ground and he'd have to replant, or if the late rains would "lay the wheat down" so it couldn't be harvested.

Our parents had to be discouraged and we now feel that they must have been upheld by their belief in God.  Church on Sunday was , never debated!  The only times we would ever miss would be because the weather would make the roads impossible to drive over, someone was sick or possibly Daddy would have a crop to harvest before an expected storm.  For the neighbors around us, it was love and sharing that saw us all through the Great Depression.

In the early 30's after the stock market crash of 1929, banks were closing, jobs were scarce, and businesses were closing.  The country sank into what is known as "The Great Depression".  Twelve million people were unemployed.  Many farmers lost their farms all over the United States.  How our parents managed to keep ours is a miracle.  I'm sure there were several, even many years that they were unable to make the yearly payment on our 160-acre farm.  Those were the years in the 30's when "The Dust Bowl" ravaged thousands and thousands of acres of land in the central United States, from the Dakotas to Texas.  In our area dirt and dust came from Kansas and Texas depending on which way the wind blew.  Dirt drifted so high over the fences that we could walk over them.

Dust storms were so bad that when it was learned one was approaching, school was let out early.  Sometimes the bus out ran the dark cloud of rolling dust, and other times it did not.  It could be mid-day yet be so dark from the dust in the air that we had to light the kerosene lamps.  Homes were not as well constructed then so dust settled everywhere, especially on the windowsills.  After a storm, you could write your name in dust that collected there.

President Roosevelt started the "New Deal".  Farm prices were so low that he started a program to help fanners recover called a "parity" check.  They were paid not to grow certain crops believing prices would then go up.  We received this check from the government for not fully planting all the land to crops.

During this time we still were able to have some chickens, a garden, a few cows, and even a few sheep and pigs.  We had little, if any, money to buy coal and wood.  Daddy would throw whole ears of corn to the pigs to eat.  When they finished, we girls would take gunnysacks and gather the cobs.  They were then used to start the fire in the house wood burning stove.  Some of our wood came from the wooded area along the creek in the southeast corner of our 160 acres.  You read so much about how the banks closed during the 30's.  We don't remember that having much effect on us.  Though we were not sure, it might have been because we didn't have enough to put in the bank during those years.  Our parents, and many others, bartered for things we needed.

It was during that time that Saturdays became known as "Trades Day".  Friends and neighbors visiting during the week would end the conversation with "See you in town on 'Trades Day"'.  That was because everyone took eggs, milk, cream and any surplus of anything to our small town of Greenfield to trade for what they needed.  We left cream and eggs at Joe Taylor's Produce for 100-lb sacks of Egg Mash for the chickens.  Egg Mash was a powered feed so the chickens would lay good eggs.  We took some eggs to Awtrey's Grocery Store and traded for flour, sugar, yeast, baking powder and coal oil for the lamps.

It was during this time that the l00 pounds sacks that the egg mash came in started being made of different cotton prints for making clothing.  Mother started making our dresses from them.  It would take 3-4 sacks of the same print to make a dress.  We girls found great delight when it was our turn to have something new, because we would go with Daddy to pick up our new dress.  We would go look up and down the huge stack of mash and choose one pattern we liked for mother to make a new dress for us.

As mentioned before, we had very little money, but occasionally we "four" had a nickel, maybe two, to spend.  We would choose candy from Mr. Awtrey's store.  This yummy candy enclosed in large glass cabinets that one could reach in and get the piece you wanted.  We would also buy a package of gum.  We would enjoy the candy but couldn't chew the gum, because there were six of us and only five sticks of gum.  When we got home we could hardly wait until Daddy would carefully cut the ends off of the five sticks.  When the ends were measured by the other sticks, and they were the same lengths, we each had a stick of gum to chew.  Yes, we put it on the bedpost at night to save to chew the next day, and the next day, and the next day.  Occasionally, one forgot and it would be in her hair the next morning!  What a job for mother to get out.

Watonga was nine miles north of us and Greenfield was only three miles east.  When times were such that we went to Watonga to shop, we loved to visit the drug store and have Mr. George L. Doughtery fix us a big Root Beer for $.05 in a frosty mug.  Those were days we looked forward to.  The Doughtery family were friends who went to our church and came out to the house for suppers and special occasions.

 

HOW WE MANAGED DURING THE DEPRESSION

As most farm families, we had cows that provided milk and cream and a calf when fattened out, furnished great meat.  We milked 8-10 cows during the later part of the depression.  Mother and Daddy both milked them until we were old enough to learn.  If you were a good "milker," your three-gallon bucket would have an inch or two of foam in it when you finished.

We took our cream to trade for necessities, so we needed a 4 foot tall Separator for this process.  A separator is a tank for milk mounted on an iron frame.  Beneath the faucet was a little cup with a float and, beneath that, a spout one for milk and one for cream.

In the center Before separating was a whirling bowl that separated the cream from the milk by began, the centrifugal force.  Before separating began, the handle had to handle had to be  turned until the bowl spun at the proper speed.  Turning the turned until the separator by hand took a strong back and arms.  After milking those cows by hand and turning the separator, the farmer really earned his cream.  Washing the separator disc was one job no one enjoyed.  The discs were the worst.  They were in graduated sizes from large to small and had to fit 'just right" on the post in the bowl.  If not rinsed properly with cold water, before the hot suds bathe it became a slippery , ropy, sticky, smelly mess!  The 35 discs were numbered so if you spilled them it took time to get them in order again.  They were slipped onto a larger wire frame, and they needed to be dried before putting together.  The dry discs were put on the post and a cover on top of that.

For several years, we sold whole milk.  A large truck from Oklahoma City (60 miles) came every day to pick up the milk in 10-gallon cans.  Of the milk kept for ourselves, we let the ream come to the top after we put it in our icebox.  Mother would then skim it off as needed for cereal, baking, churning butter, and in summer for making ice cream.

The large garden was a tremendous amount of work.  You can be sure that we never felt the hunger that so many did during the "Depression".  Every Spring, Daddy plowed the large garden area to get it ready for planting.  It was then time for the ritual of planting.  We planted seed potatoes, onion sets, tomato plants, cabbage plants, peas, okra, squash, carrots, beets, lettuce, green beans, radishes, cucumbers, green peppers, turnips, cantaloupe and watermelon. 

Enough of some were planted so we had plenty to eat fresh, but also enough to can for use through the winter and before next year' s crop was ready.  We canned several hundred quarts every summer of tomato juice, whole tomatoes, chili sauce, green beans (75-100 quarts), pickled beets, sauerkraut, peas, corn, and corn-relish.  We also canned cherries, peaches and made apple butter, plum butter, several kinds of jellies, and different pickles like sweet, bread & butter and pickle relish.  Two wide shelves in our storm cellar were full by the end of the summer with all of our canned foods.

When the tops of the potatoes and onions started to "die back", Daddy would plow them up.  We girls would follow behind the plow picking every one of them, large or small.  The smaller ones we would use right away, but the larger ones were put on a heavy layer of straw under a shady tree and covered with a tarp.  If we still had some remaining in the Fall, they were moved into the cellar. The onions were tied together by their tops and hung in bunches in a cool dark place in the cellar.

Even though we did not have many fruit trees of our own, we were able to find neighbors who shared their crops.  The one fruit we enjoyed the most was the Montmorency Sour Pie cherry.  Mother's dad had a large orchard of 100 trees.  They were not too good to eat fresh, but we looked forward to the delicious cherry pies, cobblers and cherry preserves.  So we thought of those each spring as we picked cherries.  Grandpa paid us $0.01 for each gallon we picked that he sold to neighbors

So you see the garden produce, chickens for eggs & meat, cows for milk & meat, gave us what many during "The Depression" did not have.


One of the things few people today can begin to visualize is life without electricity during "The Depression" was difficult enough but because the R.E.A.  (Rural Electric Association) had not arrived to rural Oklahoma, we were without it unti11939.

This meant that we did our lessons by a coal oil (kerosene) lamp sitting around the dining table.  When Mother and Daddy put us to bed upstairs, they carried a lamp There was no nite-lights left on in case we were afraid of the dark!  It was just dark in all our room

No electricity also meant no running water to do dishes, wash hair, or take a bath.  The drought years we had two or three wells in order to supply us with enough water house, chickens, farm animals and in summer for the garden.  Depending on how much water was needed determined whether we used one or two buckets, or if we had to p 10 gallon milk cans on our little red wagon and haul it to where it was needed.  When we got a Coleman lantern, we thought it was the brightest light ever.  Doing our homework around the dining table at night by this light was a pleasure.

We had two stoves to heat and cook with.  One was a pot-bellied stove in the living room, which we called the front room but do not know why.  This room was mostly used on Sundays.  The other stove was a cook stove and heater that was in the large dining room.  Two rooms off the dining room were used for storage of pots, pans, dishes and cooking supplies and one held the separator for separating the cream from the milk.  Later, the cook stove was moved to the West End of those rooms and Daddy build a chimney to exhaust the smoke and that was our kitchen.

Our next upgrade for a cooking stove, was to a coal-oil stove and the wood stove was moved to the "Old House".  This was a building, which was a garage for our car a large room attached to it for curing and smoking our meats.  It was also used to heat water for doing clothes washing.  Mother would also heat the stove up to make an Angel Food Cake since she didn't think the coal-oil stove baked it correctly!  Sometime in the 1940's, we got an electric stove and refrigerator.

Now you realize if you had no electricity and you wanted a hot bath, especially in the winter, it meant hauling the water and heating it on the stove.  We had the usual round tub for many years for bathing.  We finally bought an oblong oval tub and that was really "uptown" to take our bathes in it, because it was longer and we could stretch out more.

Perhaps what is hardest for some to imagine is having to go outside to use the bathroom, whether it was day or night, hot or cold, or in the rain or snow.  We had the usual "chamber" but it was to be used if you had to "go" during the night.  Emptying that chamber was one chore none of us enjoyed, but we sure appreciated being able to use it on cold dark nights.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal" in the late 1930's put people to work during "The Depression".  It gave us a fancy (at least we thought so) new "outhouse"!  One program was the W.P.A., Works Progress Administration, which was founded in 1935 to provide work for the needy people on the public work projects.  Men were hired in that program to do many different jobs.  One was to construct cement floor for "outhouses" and walls of tongue and groove boards.  The "stool" was made of cement instead of wood.  A lid on hinges could be closed and a 6” pipe back of it extended through the roof to allow for better ventilation.  It came with a deeper pit so it was not necessary to move it as often to clean the water material.  The W.P.A.  also built a pond on our farm and planted hundreds of Chinese Elm trees for a windbreak around our farm to help the dust storms from blowing all our topsoil away.

Every Monday, rain or shine, was "wash day.”  This day consumed the most water.  During the summer, we girls had to carry the water for Mother.  While we were in school, Mother had Daddy carry the water.

Water was heated in a large black cast iron kettle over a fire built out south and east of our house.  Clothes were scrubbed on the old washboard with soap Mother made herself.  Soap was made from fat, rendered out when a pig was butchered, 1 plus lye and other ingredients.  Tubs for rinsing were set up on stands that Daddy had made.

The clothes were hung on lines strung between trees along the driveway.  When we were not tall enough to hang clothes, we hung all the socks and handkerchiefs (no Kleenex back then) on the hog wire fence around the yard.

Getting clothes dry on cold winter days was another problem.  Heavy clothing, like overalls and long underwear, were hung on hangers on the clothesline.  In the wintertime, they would be frozen stiff.  After being brought in the house they were hung near the fire to dry.  Soon they thawed and were dry, an early version of freeze dried!

Later on we took our clothes to Watonga to a laundry mat that had electric washing machines.  Each was set up with 3 tubs for rinsing etc.  We then took our clothes home wet to hang up.  Finally in the 1950's the porch south of the house was converted to an indoor bathroom and a laundry/sewing room combination.  So Mother had her first electric washing machine and dryer!

We ironed everything except sheets, we think.  Things were all cotton and not at all like today's cotton and polyester blends.  All our dresses., Daddy's shirts, overalls & pillowcases had to be ironed.  The clothes were sprinkled with water, carefully rolled up and placed in a plastic bushel basket.  When Mother thought they were sufficiently moistened, she placed three irons on the stove to heat.  A piece of hallow metal the shape of the iron, with a wooden handle over it., could snap onto the hot iron.  We would iron until it cooled.  Then go back to the stove and get another hot iron.  If the fire got too hot so would the irons and occasionally a garment had a scorch place on it.  We were all very glad when polyester fibers meant little or no ironing.

Since Mother's mother, Mattie Elizabeth, died when she was 12 years old, we never knew when Mother learned to sew and who taught her.  However, she did know how, because she made all of our school clothes from the skin out, except our winter "long johns" and cotton lyle stockings!  We wore dark bloomers, with a pocket for our handkerchief in it under our dress.  Our petticoats were plain except the ones for Sunday school and church had lace on them.  She also made our coats and hats. 

Each year when we started to school we had five new dresses.  We usually wore them until they worn out, as we don't remember bearing "hand-me downs" from one another.  Mother taught us all to sew.  We all joined the 4-H Club when we were nine years old.  None of us remember having anything "store-bought" until late in high school.  There was a department store in Watonga called Stewarts.  They carried fabrics for sewing lingerie, ready-made dresses, coats, shoes, etc.  The ready-made things were up stairs with an open balcony overlooking the downstairs.  My, we thought we were grand when we went there to try on coats, which wasn't often.  However, by the time we were in high school, we were making wool dress and coat ensembles.


OTHER EVENTS

Besides the 160 acres in the "home place" daddy rented 80 acres from an Indian named Wilbur Tabor.  This land was 2½ miles from ours.  In payment daddy bought a car for him now and then.  Occasionally, we would go with Daddy if he was not going to be gone all day.  We loved to play with Wilbur's grandchildren

 

Excerpt from Mattie's diary...

“As we were growing up, our dad rented 80 acres from Wilbur Tabler, an Indian.  The farm where we lived was 160 acres.  We had a lot of cotton on the 80 acres, so we would hire black families to "chop” all the weeds out of the rows of cotton when the cotton was a small plant.  Later they would pick the cotton when the bole opened up.  The Indian who owned the land had a daughter and grandchildren there in the summer.  After supper many times, our dad would drive over to see how the crops were coming along.  We got to go some of the could tell us just as much Indian lore of his Cheyenne Arapaho Tribe.

During the summer they would have Pow Wows there Other Indians came and they would play the drums and have their various ceremonial dances.  We could hear the drums late into the night and would lay awake listening to their haunting music.

When we knew a Joe E. Louis fight was to be on the radio., Daddy would let Wilbur know.  He would come over and we enjoyed listening to the fight on our battery-operated radio.

Mattie had one of Wilbur's sons in her class.  Also another Indian in her class, Willy Hale, who in the mid-60's became chief of his tribe.  The Indians usually attended their own school, but a few attended the public school Carol and her family met him in his full Indian costume one summer at Anadarko, Oklahoma.  The Indian Tribes from Oklahoma and neighboring states created Indian City, USA.  Each tribe set up their tepees, which were cone-shaped tents for sleeping and various ceremonies and wicki-ups.  Wicki-ups were oblong structures made of poles and covered with fine leafed shrubs from along the river on the tap and three sides.  They were mainly for cooking in the summer.

It was interesting to see the way different tribes used the same materials to create totally different looks.  All kinds of dances were performed like hoop dance, rain dance, war dances, and many others.  Several drummers and no other instruments performed the various "songs" for each dance.  It sounded all alike to us but the dancers knew when the music was to end or pause and it was very synchronized.

Wilbur never did have a telephone 'put in.  If someone needed him they knew to call our number and we would go over and give him a message. 

Just before Carol and Ed were married, a call came for Wilbur.  So Carol took Ed with her and drove over to give him the message.  Ed went up to the door with her.  She had to introduce herself as it had been years since she had seen him.  She then introduced Ed and told him they were getting married.  Ed tells the story that Wilbur said, "Him good man." However, Ed left out two key words.  Wilbur actually said, "Him look like good man."

Mother belonged to Eastern Star.  They met once a month in a large room above Awtrey's Grocery store in Greenfield at night.  During the school year, when we went with Mother to "Eastern Star", we would take our school homework and had to finish it before we could play with each other.  We had full use of the store to run and play "Hide and Seek", try on the shoes, etc.  We also enjoyed the candy that Mr. Awtrey treated us to.  When the meeting was about over, we would hear marching music upstairs.  We would climb the outside stairs and wait for it to be over because we knew we would get some refreshments.

Mr. Awtrey had a "3-Holer" outhouse back of his store and he tells the story about how one Halloween he kept watch over it as the local boys would delight in turning all the outhouses over.  The outhouse was getting pretty old so when he saw them start to turn it over he said, "Let her down easy boys, she's pretty rickety."

Daddy was a member of the American Legion, since he was a veteran who fought in France during World War I.  On "Poppy Day", which was usually the Saturday before Memorial Day, the Legionnaires' children would sell red, paper poppies for $0.10 each in the various towns.  The money received was to benefit the disabled and needy veterans.  All we  children, who sold poppies, received a big Hershey bar of candy at the end of the day for our service and we were delighted.

Every fall the Legionnaires put on an oyster fry for their families at the high school in Greenfield.  They used the Home Economics room at the high school and cooked up huge amounts of oysters.  The women had furnished salads and desserts for everyone.  All the children looked forward for this event, as it was a chance to all play together.

When we were small, the folks took us to Greenfield for our hair cuts.  John Ridenaur was the barber.  Mother always gave the same instructions: Cut the bangs just above the eyebrows, shingle in the back, and sides with just the tip of the ears showing.  We always enjoyed the "tonic water" he put on last.

If you have been around any of us after we married and went our separate ways, you can be sure we were always "on the look out" for a "Rawleigh Man".  As "kids", we delighted in seeing the Rawleigh Man drive in.  He was from our church and drove the countryside selling spices, vanilla, tapioca, ointments, fly spray and many other products.  He would open two large suitcases in the middle of the room, undo the divider that held everything in place and we sat around them.  Mother had always used their vanilla and lemon extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.  We all used them even after we were away from home.  Usually one or more of us had someone selling the products.  Now Carol has a supplier she found in Phoenix and supplies Betty, Donna, and Renee, as they need anything.

Before electricity, we had to depend on an "ice box" to refrigerate things.  The "ice box" would hold a 100-lb slab of ice.  When we went to town to get it, daddy would put a large tarp on the back floor and seat in the car.  The ice would be put on the floor in the back seat, and wrapped the tarp around it.  Since there was no room for our feet we sat on them.  If it were a hot summer day, we would each pick a spot in the ice and see who could make the deepest hole in it with our tongues before we got home.

Our telephone was on a "party line".  That meant six to eight people all heard each other's rings.  Our number was 26F13.  That meant it was 1 long and 3 short rings. 

Mother always told us never to say anything we wouldn't want everyone to know about.  It seems there were some who listened in on every call.  One time we were all in the yard one summer evening and we heard the phone ring a neighbors ring.  Mother told one of us to run in and listen as Mrs.  Dickens had been sick and she wondered how she was.  It was all right to do that she said.

Another time our Uncle Ernest called from Grandpas.  He was home from Rush Springs where he was the Principal.  He and mother always chatted a lot.  Mother was not at home but in Greenfield.  When she got home she told us a neighbor saw her and said, "Merle your brother is home.  Then she said, "You know I wouldn't miss one of your and Ernest's conversations for anything!" So we knew some people always listed to our calls.

We had very few, if any, real toys to play with so we had to make our own fun.  We did have "jacks", a game played by tossing a small ball in their air and moving the jacks in a specified order.

We were only allowed the card games called "Rook" and "Old Maid".  "Old Maid" is a series of pairs of women and men's faces and one really ugly old maid.  We never were happy being stuck with her.  We played " Andy Over" the house with a softball.  We also played dominoes, marbles, climbing trees, "Tag, Your It", hide and seek, and making mud pies.  Daddy put a long hollow steel rod about 3" in diameter in the crotch between two trees.  It was pretty high so he took the head of an old bedstead that had bars on it and when he stood it on end against a tree we could climb up and reach the rod.  Occasionally, we would fall flat off the rod and it knocked the wind out of us.  In the evening, we would do cartwheels and when it got dark enough we would try to catch fireflies.


Uncle Ernest gave us our first dolls.   Oh how we loved to play with them and when he gave us ones with hair we were doubly excited.




Butchering a hog or calf was a usual fall event.  One or two neighbors would come to help.  After the hog was killed it was hooked up to a pulley that lowered it into a barrel of scalding hot water.  It was lowered in and out of the water enough times so it could be scraped clean of the hair.  The next process was to cut it up into various cuts.  Our parents knew how to cure and smoke the cuts to make ham and bacon.  We had a smokehouse called the "old house" for that curing process. 

Mother also made sausage.  She would then make the patties and fry them.  They were then placed in a 5 gallon stone jar.  The fat was poured over them When the jar was filled and fat covered all the sausage patties, a plate was placed on the top and taken to the cellar. When mother wanted some for breakfast she would scrape away the fat get the number of patties she wanted and seal the fat down on the uncovered ones On a cold winter morning, mother would make biscuits and gravy to go with the sausage Mother also made liverwurst and we sure enjoyed that sandwich in our lunchThe four of us had our tonsils out one summer Betty and Ernestine had them out one day, and Mattie and Carol the next All went well except for Carol She got very sick from the ether.  Dr.  Cox took them out for $25 each.  $100 in 1935 was very hard to come by I'm sure.

The summers were extremely hot so we usually moved mother and daddy's bed outside and we four girls each had an army cot to sleep on at night.

If a thunderstorm came up we had to scurry to get everything inside the house before the bedding got wet.  We learned a lot about stars and could identify the Big and Little Dipper and the Seven Sisters.  The story about "the Milky Way" was interesting to us because we milked cows.  Supposedly a young woman was carrying two buckets full of milk and as she walked the milk spilled out on either side of her thus forming "the Milky Way".

The fourth of July was always a day to look forward to.  We usually invited two families from church, with their children our ages, to come out for a picnic supper and ice cream.  Then the fireworks began with fire crackers, sparklers, and roman candles when it got dark.  One time one of the city girls had a Roman Candle backfire and her hand was rather severely burned.

Summer storms were not too frequent in the summer time but when they came, what a scare!  At one time we had some poplar trees, which were tall slender trees, on the south of our house.  When the wind blew hard enough to bend them almost to the ground, we knew it was time to head for the cellar.  Mother would grab her purse and daddy would get the axe.


In the cellar we kept a jar with matches and candles.  Occasionally, the storm hadn't materialized over us, and Mother and Daddy would send us back upstairs to bed.  Mother said, "I'll call you if we need to go to the cellar." Carol was a real "scaredy cat".  She would lay awake and as soon as mother opened the door and said, "Girls", Carol was up and downstairs in a flash before mother finished saying, "I think we need to go to the cellar.  " Storms took trees down from time to time.  One took the roof off our huge chicken houses.

We lived about eight miles from Grandpa Geeslin where a tornado tore through just west of him.  One woman a mile west of him was killed as she tried to get to the cellar.  One of Mattie's classmates luckily had a basement they were down in when their house blew away over their heads.  They never found anything to identify as they lost everything.

Grandma Uerkvitz made a "Sun Bonnet Girl" quilt for each of the four girls.  The blocks were from fabric left over from making our dresses.  We each had different taste in colors.  So each of the quilt blocks was from leftover scraps.  Mattie's quilt in the shades of green, Carol's in lavender and rose, Ernestine's in shades of green, and Betty's in shades of blue.

We loved to go to the movies.  However, we had to be very selective because of the cost.  We saw all the Shirley Temple movies and also Sonja Henie.  Others we enjoyed were Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Our Gang, Deana Durbin, and Gene Autrey.  In the summer if there was a movie we wanted to see, we would do all of our chores plus the ones daddy always did.  When he got in from the field, we would ask if we could go and tell him we had his chores already done.  We don't remember ever being turned down.

Before Daddy had his own threshing machine he and other neighbors relied on the traveling "threshing crew".  We did not know until perhaps the day before which meal we would be responsible for.  Besides a few women of the neighborhood and us, there would be at least a dozen men to feed.  Breakfast was the worst to have to prepare a meal for because we had to get up so early.  Mother would have biscuits, ham or bacon, scrambled eggs, pancakes, coffee and milk.  The crew always said farm women were very good cooks.


CHORES

Oh my, where do we start? It seems we always did chores, but I'm sure a few years we were free!  Our first chore was on wash day when we were to learn how to fold the handkerchiefs in half and hang on the hog wire fence around the yard fence.  We also hung the anklets there.  When we were old enough to reach the clothesline, we hung up all the clothes on the line.  Of course, everything had to be ironed back then, so mother taught us early how to do that.  We each had to iron our own things and divided up ironing such things as daddy's shirts, pillowcases, dish towels, table cloths and sometimes even the sheets.  No fine polyester cotton then so everything was starched during the washing process to make them look nicer.

Sometime while we were in high school a laundry business opened in Watonga so you could take your clothes there to wash.  It had six electric machines set up with three tubs around each of him.  Hoses were by each area and each person could wash and rinse their clothes.  Mother was so grateful we didn't have to carry water, heat  it, etc.  We, of course, took the clothes home to hang out to dry on the clothesline.

We took turns setting the table, clearing it after dinner and washing and drying dishes.  A chart was made to keep track of who did what when and whose turn it was for each job.  We never fussed.  We just did our job.

Another job was keeping the two-gallon wooden water bucket filled for drinking water.  We had a well at the edge of the south porch.  It had a two or three-foot long cylinder about six-inch diameter attached to a long rope.  The rope went over a pulley attached to a 2x4 frame.  We had to lower it into the well, wait until it filled and then pull it up quickly.  We would hold it over the bucket and lift a plunger to let the water into it.  None of us like to get water after dark.  So when we had our wits about us we would volunteer during the day, so we would not have to get it after dark.

We always worked in the garden.  When very young, we would help pull weeds.  This is when we learned to tell the difference between weeds and plants!  As we got older we would pick beans, snap peas and then wash and get them ready for cooking.  We also hauled water from various wells in 10-gallon milk cans on our little red wagon to water the garden.  Harvesting and canning for the winter was also a usual summer chore.

One job we really enjoyed was hauling in the watermelon and cantaloupe to the house area.  We would place them in the shade of a tree and Daddy would cover them with a big canvas tarp.  It was kept wet so the melons were cool.  If someone came to visit and they didn't have any melons, we always shared. 

Speaking of melons reminds me of a job we sometimes had in the summer.  Occasionally, the cows would not come up for the evening milking, and one of us would have to take off for the pasture.  It was a short cut to go through the melon patch.  We couldn’t resist stopping to look at the ripe melons.  We would pick up a melon and drop it to split it open.  We would dig out the heart to eat as we brought the cows in.  We had so many melons we only ate down to the seeds and then gave the rest to the chickens.

We raised a few pigs so we had one or two to butcher every Fall.  They were kept in a pen north of the west chicken house.  We kept their water trough full to overflowing, so the pigs would have a muddy place to wallow in.  We fed them ears of corn after daddy harvested the corn when mature and dry.  They chewed that corn off the cob very easy leaving the corncob in the muddy area.

It was our job to take burlap sacks and pick up the corncobs.  They were used to start a fire in our big pot-bellied stove in the winter.  As you can imagine it was a dirty job, so we sure took turns on that.

Summer meant more jobs for us since daddy worked in the field until almost dark.  That meant we had to take care of the chickens.  There were two large chicken houses with each holding 500 or more chickens.  They ranged in ages from about 1 year old (called pullets) to some 4-5 years old.  Besides gathering the eggs each evening, we had to feed them.  Two long feed troughs in each house were where we put the "Egg Mash".  It was a powered feed to make the chickens lay good eggs.  On the ground, between the two houses we scattered corn.  It was corn that daddy grew.

When the corn matured ( dried on the cob ), we put the ears into a machine and when we turned the handle, the corn came off the cob and fell in a bucket.  We sacked the cobs for use in the wintertime and fed the corn to the chicken.  Also in a 5-gallon milk can, daddy stored some oat grain in water.  We drained the water off and then tossed the oats out on the ground for them.  When the young pullets started laying we would get 400 to 500 eggs a day.  During the Depression, we used the eggs to pay for more "Egg Mash".  Later on an egg hatchery was started in Watonga and we sold eggs to them.  Only the clean eggs were sold to them and they had to be placed in the egg trays with the small end down.

Before the hatchery came to Watonga, we ordered our baby chicks and they were delivered by our mailman.  They were in cardboard boxes.  The inside had four compartments each holding a dozen baby chicks.  Small round holes were around the sides so they could get air.  We probably got 200 or so every year.  They arrived in early Spring and were starting to lay by September or October.

By August, they were large enough to butcher and can.  We all learned how to cut up chickens.  When a freezer rental unit was established in Watonga, we would put at least 100 fryers there in a space we rented.  We would catch the young roosters and mother would chop their heads off.  Then we dipped them in almost boiling water in order to take the feathers off.  We had to clean them good, remove the insides, cut them up before packaging, and then rushing them to Watonga for fast freezing.

Summer was also canning time.  By the end of the summer, we had canned 400 to 500 quarts of vegetables, fruits, jams, jelly, pickles, relishes, tomato juices and grape juice to put in the cellar for winter.  After daddy had plowed the garden area every spring, it was planted.  It was up to Mother and we four girls, when we were older, to take care of it since daddy was working the fields.  It was a large garden because we had to have enough to use during the summer and also can enough to take us through to the next summer crop.  Before we could handle a hoe we pulled weeds and carried water since rains were not always that forth coming.  We would put a couple of 10 gallon milk cans on our little red wagon to haul water from a well by the barn to the garden.  The garden was south of the house and toward the road.  We raised snap peas, green beans, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, cucumbers, okra, cabbage, cantaloupe and watermelons.

In June, we knew it would soon be cherry picking time.  Grandpa had a huge Montmorency Cherry orchard.  At first, it was fun because we couldn't reach high enough to pick many.  Then besides picking them we learned how to seed them.  When enough were picked they were put in a large tub with water in it to wash them.  The tub was on a stool and we four sat around it with a large kettle on our lap to put the seeded cherries in.  We soon became very good at removing the seed without squashing the cherry too much.  We got our cherries free but we had to seed cherries for Grandma Geeslin to can.  We seeded enough cherries for us to can 75 to 80 quarts and about those many for Grandma Geeslin.  It was a real chore but often became fun.  You never knew when you put your thumb into a cherry to extract the seed whether you would squirt juice in your face or someone else's face!  Cherry pies along with cherry cobbler and cherry preserves became our favorites.

This next chore or summer job was two-fold.  It brightened the rooms and kept the cold out.  You would never guess, it was wall papering.  It seemed that every summer one or more rooms needed new paper.  The old paper was not always removed, unless it had pulled away from the wall.  Several layers of paper provided insulation, since those homes were not insulated between inside and outside boards.  The paper was usually a print so it had to be matched together.  Cutting the long strips had to be exact and we all became very good at it.  Next mother would mix the paste and set up a place to lather each long strip.  It was tiring but someone would get paste on themselves or someone else so laughter was part of the day too.

Excerpt from Mattie's diary of notes on wallpapering...

“When we were all too small to help, we watched our parent’s cut the wallpaper in to strips and put paste on.  One stood on a stool and the other on the floor and smoothed it on the wall.  As we got older, Mat tie and Carol, being the oldest got to help by putting the paste on the wallpaper and getting any tool’s that were needed.  Later, we all got into the act and it didn't take us long to do a big room with mother's help.  The wallpaper went on the ceiling first, which was really hard on your neck and shoulders.  Sometimes it would tear and hit the other one smack in the face.  There were times that we were so tired that we did silly things...like the time Mattie wrapped apiece of wet wallpaper around Carol 's leg while she was standing on a barrel putting a strip on the wall up near the ceiling.  Carol got real mad for a bit, but then we all had a good laugh.  We were very proud of what we could help do, it made a room look so new and clean.  Betty complained, since she was the smallest one that all she ever got to do was put the paste on the paper and that was al!  Only did she get to help with the whole thing was when we older girls were off to college."


CHRISTMAS

Although we never received much for Christmas, it was a holiday that was eagerly waited for.  As soon as school was out for the holiday season, we began getting things ready to decorate the tree.

We were always able to drive to our neighbor to the north of us for our Christmas tree as they had a canyon full of them.  There were only cedar trees and the smell of cedar in our later years reminded us of those early Christmases.  Mother usually sent the four of us off with Daddy in our car to get the tree.  Her parting words usually were "now don't get one too tall, Robert!"  As we tramped through the trees first one, then another would yell, "I've found one!" All would take a look decide no and continue the tour of trees.  After a half- hour or so, we would come to a decision that Daddy would cut this tree.  We would haul it to the car, tie it on top and proceed home.  After a wooden brace was attached it was set up in our living room.  It was then time to pop the popcorn and make long strands of it using a needle and very long threads.  When we had enough of that strung we would do the same with cranberries.  Mother cut red and green construction paper in small strips.  We would paste ends together.  One red one inside a green until a long chain resulted.  We had purchased some strands of red and green rope that was in use many years and did show its wear.  The best time of all was having mother undo the silvery icicles and give each our share to place carefully on the branches.  When finished we admired it and would pronounce it the prettiest tree ever!

Making candy and cookies came next and the Divinity , Fudge, and Peanut Brittle were our favorites.  The candy we made when all the relatives arrived was the most fun of all.  The candy was clothesline taffy.  Even when in college or away teaching we always wanted to have a taffy pull when we came home for Christmas.  It was called "Clothesline Taffy" because when it reached a certain stage in the pulling process the long strands were carefully looped over the clothesline.  When it hardened in the cold air, the strands were brought in.

They were placed on the breadboard and Mother cracked it into pieces with the handle of the table knife.  Oh my it was good!  We kept it in Mother and Daddy's bedroom, which was unheated, on a card table.  Oh how we loved to sneak in and get a piece!

On Christmas Eve we'd go to church.  There was always a play and choral groups, e were always in.  Then came Santa Claus handing out a red mesh bag with an orange, an apple, some whole nuts and peanuts in their shell.  But best of all were the several hard candy.  We were several years old when Mattie told Mother that Santa had Grandpa’s shoes on!  Of course we were much older when we realized that he really was Grandpa.  When Mattie was in college she started playing Mrs.  Santa and enjoyed handing out bags of candy.

There was rarely enough money for gifts.  Mother often made us something.  Although mother made all of our clothes, we always loved something new.  Uncle Ernest always gave us our dolls and when we got ones with hair we were overjoyed.  Grandpa usually gave us one dollar, and boy was that a really great gift.  One year Uncle Ernest was quite late getting  to church for the Christmas program.  It was years later when we learned why.  It seems he had bought we four girls a "Little Red Wagon".  He took it over to our home to put it to surprise us when we got home from church.  Putting it together became a bigger job expected.  So he left it partially put together and left a note saying Santa didn't have finish it!  The wheels and other pieces were all spread out on the floor.  Daddy put it together and we enjoyed it for years.

After we opened our family gifts on Christmas morning, we would get ready to go over top Grandpa's house.  After breakfast, we would get all bundled up for the ride in our car.  It was usually very cold so many times mother would have daddy bring in four bricks.  would heat these on the stove and wrap them in a towel.  They were put on the floor put our feet on them.  With a blanket to snuggle in, we were ready for the eight-mile ride.

Since we crossed a river with trees all along it, we girls would always sing "Over The River And Through The Woods To Grandmother's House We Go".

Grandpa had a very large home.  It had five bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen with a pantry at one end.  But, most of all, he had an indoor bathroom!  They had running water so we enjoyed the big bathtub and a commode that would flush!!!

After a huge turkey dinner, we would open the gifts.  After that, it was upstairs to play for the four of us with our cousins.  Christmas always meant so much to us when we were little and it carried on into our adult lives.  There was seldom a Christmas that went by when we were not all home.  Even after we married, we always tried to make it home.  Mattie's husband's parents were in Massachusetts, so they visited them in the summer instead of Christmas.  Carol living in Citrus Heights, California made it impossible to make it to "the farm" every year.  Ernestine's husband was from Henryetta, Oklahoma so they would either go there first and then to "the farm" or vice versa.  Betty and John finally located in San Antonio, Texas and were able to be there most of the Christmases.  Without family around at Christmas, it just didn't seem right.  So we were all thankful for the closeness we shared.  Each carried that into each of our families.


4-H CLUB

4-H clubs were started in 1920.  The 4-H's stood for "Head, Heart, Hands, and Health".  In the beginning it was mainly for rural children and was nationwide.  Each state had a 4-H program run by each County Home Demonstration Agent.  She worked with young girls and women and a Farm Agent worked with the young boys and men.  There was one for each county in each state.

Because mother already knew how to sew very well, she started early to teach each of us girls.  We joined the local 4-H Club when we were 9 or 10 years old.

Other than sewing we took Home Improvement.  We could not afford a chest of drawers in our bedrooms so we learned how to make dressing tables out of 2 egg crates.  We stood them on end and put a board across the top.  After finishing the top in the same way we made a gathered skirt to attach to it.  We then had a place for some of our folded clothes.  We also made window curtains, braided rugs out of fabric left over from our dresses, and embroidered on feed sacks that we made into pillowcases.  We embroidered our dishtowels made from chicken feed sacks after mother bleached out the writing on them.

Food preparation was one we excelled in because mother was such a good cook.  Her mother died when she was 12 years old.  So she and her brother, Ernest, undertook to duplicate things their mother made.  They both became accomplished cooks.  We entered food such as cakes, cookies, muffins, and pies in the County Fair.  Some were chosen to go to State Fair.  We went to the State Fair along with our products and were taught more about how to judge the different products.

Clothing was another area that we excelled in.  We were making a lot of our own clothes by the time we were in high school, and even made wool suits out of men's suits.  Our Uncle Ernest wore suits when teaching school and usually bought 2 pair of pants with each suit.  Because we were tall it took 2 pair of pants to make a suit for each girl.  We loved going to Oklahoma City ( 60 miles) to Brown's Department Store to pick out our wool fabric as the Watonga store did not carry many wool fabrics.  Betty, Ernestine, and Carol all went to 4-H Round Up at Oklahoma A&M at Stillwater several times with their garments or demonstrations, after having won blue ribbons at the County Revue. 

Ernestine excelled in public speaking and twice went to 4-H Round Up with her Timely Topics.  She and Carol also went to 4-H Round Up three times with their Team Demonstrations.  They were: How to Make Cheese, Bug Exterminations In Your Home, and How To Use Color In Your Wardrobe.  Betty and Ernestine also won trips to 4-H Round Up with their demonstrations.  Betty went in Health twice.

Ernestine won a trip to Chicago for the National4-H Congress.  Betty also won a trip later to National4-H Congress in Chicago, Illinois.  Although, she didn't get to go, since the war was on and it was cancelled.

All in all, we gained a great deal through our work in 4-H.  The money we made by entering our projects was helpful in buying material for our next projects.  Being one of 10 girls from our county to go to 4-H Round Up in Stillwater gave us a lot of confidence.

One trip that Carol and Ernestine took to the 4-H Round Up at Stillwater, Oklahoma, in August 1936 ended in tragedy.  There were 5 of us riding home from Stillwater in a car driven by our Home Agent, Miss Armstrong.  We were some 30 miles from home.  As Miss Armstrong was rounding a curve a large truck was coming from the opposite direction.  It  was a gravel road and the truck was somewhat on our side of the road.  Dirt obscured her vision and her car hit a cement abutment at one end of a short bridge.  Miss Armstrong was knocked unconscious, Ernestine, sitting beside her, hit her head on the metal piece down the middle of the windshield.  The girl next to Ernestine went through the windshield and was killed.  The three of us in the back of the Club Coupe were not seriously injured.  Carol was behind the driver and because of the short distance in the back seat her knees hit the back of the front seat.  They were severely bruised and she had a broken elbow.  We four girls walked a short distance to a filling station.  The first thing a woman there did was asking Ernestine if she could get a mirror to show how bad her forehead was cut up!  They took some 40 stitches in it when we got to the hospital.  They set her broken wrist and put a cast on it.  Carol had to wear her arm in a sling with her left arm bent so her hand rested near her right shoulder.  The break was in a place that could not be put in a cast.  Miss Armstrong had a concussion and broken ribs.  She remained in the hospital for quite some time.  Several years later, Miss Armstrong took a job with the Home Economics Extension Department in Stillwater at Oklahoma A&M College.  We girls visited her when we were in college, and she would cook us a good home-cooked meal.


SCHOOL DAYS

We all attended school in Greenfield, Oklahoma just 3 ½ miles from our house.  In 1926, during Mattie's first year, there were no buses.  She rode a private car that picked up as many students as possible, with no seat belts!  However, when Carol started, a year later, they had buses.  They were not new by any means.  The windows did not fit securely and on bumpy roads, the windows would fell down and let the elements in.  If cold and rainy, it was a rush to get them up.

Mattie and Carol first attended a four-room school for the first four grades.  Each classroom opened onto a large hall.  One part of that area was a "cloak room", which is where we hung our coats, put our "overshoes" during bad weather.  There was a shelf above the coat rack, where we put our lunches.  Large double doors were between the  1st  and 2nd  grade and also between 3rd & 4th grade that led down 8-10 steps to the outside of the building.

Each classroom had a large pot-bellied stove.  The teacher, and sometimes the boys, had to keep the fire going in it during cold weather.  Some of the mothers took turns bringing big pots of soup, so we had something hot at lunch times on those cold days. 

There was no indoor plumbing.  Quite a distance from the school, there was an "outhouse" for the girls and one for the boys.  Each was a "6 holer" -3 low ones for the younger children and 3 a little higher for the older children.  Our toilet paper was the Sears & Roebuck catalogs turned in to the school, if they weren't needed at home for their own use!  The paper was more like newsprint and not the slick type they put out today!

Recess was a fun time, although the only play equipment was one small swing set.  The girls played "jacks", jumped rope, "tag you're it" around the building, hopscotch, and marbles.  The boys played ball, chased the girls to annoy them, and marbles.  Also at recess we enjoyed taking the erasers we used at the chalkboards and "dusted them" to make them clean for wiping the chalkboards.

Since there was no running water, there was a large barrel-like container of water in the hall.  Each student had their own cup.  It was a collapsible cup made of aluminum with metal bands about 1" wide each smaller than the one above it.  When it was opened, it was probably 4" high.  It collapsed down and had a lid and we each kept it in our desk.

When Mattie was in the 4th grade, Carol in 3rd and Ernestine in 1st, we had a very exciting, although, sad day.  Our school sat on a hill at the southwest edge of the little town of Greenfield.  While at recess, we saw a huge plume of smoke way across town.  We soon  learned it was the new grade school, that was under construction, burning to the ground.  The four teachers were crying in each other's arms as we all watched.  There was no need to worry because the new school would be ready by next fall.  It was one time everyone looked forward to going to school.  There were 8 classrooms, a principal's office, a library , and a large gymnasium.  At one end there was a balcony, large enough to seat quite a few people at basketball games, plays and other school functions.  A large stage was at the other end for plays and musical programs.

The best feature of all was the bathrooms.  Each had six stools with partitions and a door to each one.  There were three or four sinks with running water to wash hands.  The drinking fountain in the hall that ran the length of the building always had a line because only the few children who lived in town had running water.

The new school was across the football field from the high school.  We had a large play area between the school and football field, with more play equipment.  So, of course, we really enjoyed recess.  After the ride home on the bus, we girls would race home running about a half a mile to our house.  Each was anxious to tell Mother the interesting things about school that day.  Also, we were ready for whatever snack Mother had for us.

Mother always baked bread once a week.  The bread was usually just out of the oven when we arrived home.  A slice of warm bread spread with butter and then sprinkled with sugar was lip-smacking good.  (Carol & Betty each have a bread machine now and will cut off a warm slice to enjoy with butter and sugar!) Occasionally, Mother would rollout some dough, cut it in rectangles and let it rise.  Then she would fry it in deep fat.  Frosted with caramel icing was magnificent.  One of those the next day in our lunches was special.

As we ate our snack, we would listen to our battery-operated radio.  Our favorites were "Jack Armstrong, The All American Boy", "One Man's Family", and "Ma Perkins".  After that we would have our chores to do.  If time permitted, we got to play games before suppertime.  Then it was time to do our lessons.

Every morning was rather rushed with four girls getting ready for school, getting our lunches made, and watching for the school bus.  Our sandwiches were not too varied -peanut butter and jelly was rather standard.  Occasionally we would have a bologna sandwich.  If we had cheese on it, that was a treat.  Many times we would have a piece or two of fried chicken.  When we butchered in the fall, Mother made liverwurst and we certainly enjoyed that.  Perhaps, you would never think about this next sandwich.  Since every Monday was wash day, and it took all day, Mother would put a big pot of navy beans on to cook.  That night we would have a salad, navy beans and cornbread to go with them.  The next day, we would mash the beans, spread them on the bread, and then top them with some of mother's sweet pickle slices.  This was not too bad, although, it was not our favorite.  Our favorite, of course, was to buy lunch.  We never did that until high school and not too often at that.  There was a small restaurant just across from the high school.  For $.10 we would get the greatest tasting hamburger and a soda.  For dessert in our lunches, we would have cookies or cake and sometimes an orange or an apple.

A new high school was constructed during 1939-40 by the WPA for $33,000.  During that time, all the high school classes were held in the grade school.  Partitions were built and placed in the gymnasium to section off classrooms.  The curtains were drawn on stage and a class held there.  Even the hall was used for a room.  Carol's class of 1940 was the only one to graduate from the grade school.  Ernestine and Betty's classes started in the new school in the fall of 1940.

During high school, Ernestine played in the band and was also a majorette.  Betty also remembers playing in the band.  Although we all took piano lessons, Ernestine displayed real talent and learned to play quite well.  She perhaps got that from Mother's brother, Ernest, who played by ear and for whom she was named.

Mattie was the one who watched over all of us at school and on the bus.  Our cousin, David Uerkvitz, who is about Betty's age, lived on the adjoining farm.  He could never keep his shoes tied so when we were near where he got off the bus, he had Mattie tie his shoes so he wouldn't get a spanking.  One time she only got one tied and he told her the next day he got a spanking anyway!  When Mattie became a kindergarten teacher, learning to tie your shoes, was one of the first things she taught them !

Betty and Carol both played basketball.  When Carol first played the court was divided into three sections.  Two guards at one end and two forwards at the other.  In the middle court were two centers, one from each team.  After a basket was missed if the guard got the ball, they passed it to their center teammates, who in turned got it to their forwards so they could score.  When Carol was a senior, the court was divided into two parts -three forwards and three guards.  We thought we were really being worked hard.  Now, of course, girls run the full court and only have 5 players.  Betty played Varsity ball all four years with the court divided in two parts.

Mattie graduated in 1939 from high school and in the fall started college at Oklahoma A&M (Agricultural & Mechanical) in Stillwater, Oklahoma, which was some 100 miles from us.  Mother's dad, Grandpa Geeslin, gave each of us $50.00 for the tuition for each semester we were in school.  He did it reluctantly, because he said we would never use it but get married and raise a family.  When we each graduated and began working we paid back the $400.00.  He was proud of us for sure !

Carol graduated in 1940 from high school and started college in the fall.  She and Mattie roomed in a four-story women's dorm called Willard Hall.  They worked in the cafeteria three hours every morning before classes for their room and board.  Breakfast and lunch were served cafeteria style but dinner was a formal "sit-down" meal with white tablecloths.  You were assigned a table and we sang "Doxology" before being seated.  The eight girls took turns being hostess and co-hostess.  The hostess served the food onto the plates and passed down to each girl.  The co-hostess served the dessert.  We thought the food was very good.

We only went home at Christmas.  Partly because our parents could not afford to drive the 100 miles to get us and also the dorm was kept open during Thanksgiving so we had to work.  It was certainly good to get home that first Christmas.  Mattie and Carol had both been so homesick.

The next year, of course, the Pearl Harbor attack shook us all up in more ways than one.  Our campus was immediately transformed by the military.  At one time we had Army, Navy, and Air Force men training on campus.  Also, the women's groups, WAVES and WACS always marched in formation to classes.  So our campus streets were hard to cross at times.  They were also housed in the men's dorms as the men students were enlisting right and left.  Because we were no longer on campus, we found new jobs.  Mattie and Carol worked in the campus library.  Ernestine worked for the college newspaper.  It was difficult to find a place for four girls, but we finally found a duplex apartment.  It was much easier to prepare our meals, etc.

In the fall of 1942, Mattie, Carol, and all the girls at Willard were moved to Murray Hall as the WAVES were given our dorm.  We still got up at 5:00AM to work our three hours for room and board, which continued the remainder of that year in the cafeteria for the WAVES.  Our dorm was very crowded.  Rooms that once held two girls now had four in them.

Ernestine graduated from high school in 1942 and was Salutatorian of her class.  She joined Mattie and Carol in the fall of 1942.  Mother and Daddy made arrangements for us to move out in town to live.  The three of us, and a friend, found a room upstairs in a private home.  We could prepare simple meals in the small kitchen.  There were two beds in one room and another bedroom was a living room and study room.  We took lots of canned food from home to cut costs on groceries.

A Business and Professional Women's club founded a U.S.O. in the large basement of a home several blocks off campus.  They needed hostess, so Mattie, Carol & Ernestine helped out.  There was a snack bar with sandwiches, cookies, soft drinks, etc.  Also, there was a dance area, reading area, and several tables for writing letters, playing cards, and other fun games such as "Spoons"!  The fellows were all very nice and polite -none seemed nervous or upset about heading off to war.  We met boys from all over the United States.  There were a number of married men who waited anxiously for their wives to come join them.  It was there that we became acquainted with a young sailor from Massachusetts by the name of Edward H.  Holland.  You know the rest of that story!  He was nicknamed "Dutchie" and became a regular visitor at our apartment.  When he shipped out he was assigned duty on the aircraft carrier U.S.S.  Randolph.  It was about that time we needed a new dog on the farm.  Mattie suggested he be named "Randy" after Dutchie's ship.  Randy was not the smartest dog, so Carol commented on it from time to time.  A long time later when Carol was teaching in Illinois and after Ernestine met and married William T.  Shirley "Buster", Carol would receive Christmas, Valentine and other cards from "Randy".  They would ink his paw and "sign" the card!  Occasionally, "Buster" would talk with Carol by phone and say, "Hello Carol.  This is "Randy!" It was a very special joke.

Mattie graduated in 1943 from college and got a job teaching Home Economics in Watonga.  She and Dutchie married the spring of 1946.  They returned to Stillwater, Oklahoma, where Dutchie entered college and Mattie worked at the college library.  She later taught kindergarten for 23 years in Houston, Texas.

Remember, gas and sugar rationing? Of course not!  Betty helped in the issuing of these stamps at Greenfield High School.  Each person in the family had a sugar-rationing stamp.  When Mattie and Carol were in the dorm, their books of stamps were given to the dorm cafeteria.  They received them back when they moved off campus.  Each family received gas-rationing books for car and tractor use.

Our canning fruit and making jams and jellies took so much sugar it was often difficult to make all the desserts we liked because of sugar rationings.  During the summer, Mother experimented with melting different candies for the sweetener.  A caramel nut candy was good and we even melted orange slices!  Of course the minute rationing stopped after the war ended in 1945, we quickly went back to all sugar!

During the war, the government sold Savings War Bonds to aid in the war effort, as the government needed more money.  The person who buys a savings bond agrees to lend his money to the government for a certain length of time and the government would pay interest on the money it borrowed.  Betty sold some $5,000 worth of bonds during the war years at her local high school on certain days.

Carol graduated in August 1944.  She always thought she would like to be a nurse.  Learning of the Cadet Nurses Corps that was started to train nurses for the war, she joined that program and in January 1945 started training at the University Hospital in Oklahoma City.  The war ended August of that year.  She finished the year and then decided to teach after all.  Illinois was a state that paid teachers better than Oklahoma.  A friend of Mothers worked in the College Placement Bureau and was able to find an opening at Ridge farm.  She taught in Illinois 12 years before becoming a Home Advisor for the county she had taught in so long.  She met Ed that year and they married in 1959.

As you can see Betty was by herself for three years with Mother and Daddy on the farm, while the others three girls were in college.  Since all we girls worked, we were in summer school at least three summers in order to graduate in four years.  This left Betty with a lot more work to do, with Mother and Daddy, of gardening, canning, yard work, and harvesting.  She drove the tractor, greased the wheat combine twice a day during harvest.  Also, drove the truck full of wheat, to town to be sold at the grain elevator.

She and her classmates went out in the community with their family trucks and hauled in 22,000 pounds of scrap iron during the Scrap drive to aid in the war efforts.  The government was asking for the publics help.

Betty graduated from high school in 1944 and entered college the fall of that year.  Since Mattie and Carol had graduated, she and Ernestine roomed together.  They still had to live off campus in a room and boarding home for one year as the military were still occupying the dormitories.  Betty walked 10 blocks to work downtown at a "5 and Dime" store for $.25 an hour for her spending money.  Later she worked at the college library for $.35 an hour.  Ernestine continued to work on campus for the school newspaper.  The next year, 1945, they moved into Murray Hall dorm, on campus, as the war was over and the military had moved out.  The campus was back to normal.

Ernestine being the "smart one" of the four, graduated from college in 1946 in Social Science and Journalism with top honor scholars.  She was listed in Who's Who In The Colleges of Americas as an " A " student.  She was tapped to become one of thirteen pledges to Mortar Board.  The highest status a senior woman on campus could obtain.  She then worked for the Red Cross in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma as a Social caseworker.  She met a sailor while in college, Buster Shirley, and they married in 1947.  They lived in Stillwater while Buster finished his degree at the college.  Both Buster and Betty graduated from college in 1948.

Betty graduated in 1948 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education.  She taught school a total of 12 years in Kansas and Illinois.  It was in Chicago that she met and married John S. Tillman in 1960.


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