WILLIAM EDMUND DAVIDSON
PAULINE ROLLER DAVIDSON
WILLIAM EDMUND “Bill” DAVIDSON, first born child, son of Samuel Mordecai “Mord” and Meta Pauline (Clarke) Davidson, was born 10 November 1901 near Hardy, Sharp County, Arkansas. His sister, Mary Arabella, was born 29 September 1903 near Hardy.
Bill (also known as “Willie” by his mother and father) married Mary Pauline Roller 8 May 1925 in Pauls Valley, Garvin County, Oklahoma. Pauline was born 1 March 1905, the daughter and second child born to Dillmus Elias Roller and Arlie Luvida (Jones) Roller.
Bill and Pauline had five children: (1) William Lee, born 3 March 1926; (2) Bobby Joe, born 11 May 1927; (3) Donald Jean, born 7 December 1928; (4) Meta Luvida born 1 July 1931; and (5) Samuel Marvin born 20 January 1933.
Bill Davidson died 7 December 2005 at the Gazebo Convalescent Center in Brenham, Washington County, Texas. His wife, Mary Pauline, died 25 December 1988 at home in Brenham. She is buried in Section 12, Lot 114, Space 2 at Memorial Park Cemetery, 13400 North Kelly Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma 73131. Bill is buried in Space 1 next to Mary Pauline.
When Bill was born Mord and Meta lived on Meta’s homestead, a 160-acre farm in Section 17, T19N, R6W. It was on Big Otter Creek adjacent to and north of the original Clarke homestead near Hardy, Arkansas. Meta homesteaded this place before she married Mord. Meta’s father and brother, Norman, helped Mord and Meta build a house on the farm. Bill was born at the Clarke home near Cedar Spring close to Little Otter Creek.
In January 1908 Mord and Meta packed their belongings and loaded them with their two children, Bill and Mary, into a covered wagon. They hitched a team of mules and headed for western Oklahoma.
This is a story Bill told during this time about the first automobile he saw:
We were traveling by mule-drawn wagon from Arkansas to Western Oklahoma. We stopped in Muskogee and Dad went into a store to buy some supplies. Mary and I were playing around the wagon. Across the street we saw what looked like a buggy without shafts. We went over to look at it. A man wearing a long coat and a cap with goggles came out and got something from the floor of the buggy. He walked around to the front and started winding it up, or at least that is what we thought. All of a sudden it made a loud bang and then a loud noise. It scared us and we ran for the wagon. We watched the buggy go down the street in a cloud of dust. We couldn’t understand what was making it go.
That was my first time to see a car. It didn’t have a steering wheel. It was guided by a hand lever.
John Collins, a relative, had a farm on Salt Fork of Red River near Sayre, Oklahoma. Mord and family stayed a short time with John until they located a farm at Welk’s Corner eight miles north of Sayre owned by a Mr. Welk. He also owned a store and cotton gin.
Mord had a share crop arrangement with Mr. Welk to plant cotton on his farm for a share of the proceeds from the crop. The cotton crop was hailed out in June. Mord again loaded his family and belongings into the wagon and headed for Oklahoma City to seek work.
Bill told the following:
Somewhere between the Welk farm and Oklahoma City we camped for the night. When we woke up the next morning the mules were gone. We could not understand how it was the mules got loose. Dad set out to track them so he could catch them and bring them back to the campsite. He left Mother, my sister, and me alone on the prairie with only the wagon.
Late that afternoon a man on horseback stopped at the campsite. He asked Mother for something to eat. We didn’t have much but she served him what little we had. He asked why we were alone in the middle of the prairie with only a wagon and no man around. Mother told him the mules got loose and Dad had gone to look for them. The man said he was a federal marshal and he thought he knew what happened. He said he would get the mules and rode off.
The next afternoon Dad returned with the mules. It turned out the marshal knew about a man in the vicinity known to take things that did not belong to him, including mules and horses. I don’t really know exactly what happened but apparently the marshal found Dad and took him to the man’s place where Dad identified his mules. I don’t know what happened to the man.
At Oklahoma City Mord located on a 55-acre farm about a mile west of Saint Mary’s Academy on SW 29th Street owned by the Voltz brothers. They also owned a major plumbing company. Mord planted a corn crop and worked in and about Oklahoma City doing odd jobs. Bill remembered that his father made a good corn crop on the Voltz farm because he remembered a Mexican man coming to get corn shucks to make tamales. Bill and Mary attended Lee Elementary School located at the southeast corner of SW 29th and South Walker Streets. Sometime in 1909 Mord moved the family from the Voltz farm to a house at 429 West Washington Street in Oklahoma City. Mord used his wagon and team of mules to haul brick, sand and gravel during the early day construction boom in Oklahoma City.
Bill and Mary attended Washington Elementary School. Bill was acquainted with a boy his age whose father was the janitor at the school. Saturdays Bill and his friend helped the father at the school. He let them slide down the enclosed curving fire escape from the second floor to the ground outside.
Bill was also acquainted with the King boys whose father owned King’s Laundry on South Walker Street. Saturdays when the laundry was closed Bill and the King boys roller skated inside the laundry building among the washers and dryers. The floor was smooth concrete and it was great fun to skate around and through the building.
Bill’s father took him to the Selz Brothers Flowtow Show at Delmar Garden on south Western Avenue. Delmar Garden was on the north bank of the North Canadian River. The Selz Brothers Flowtow Show was a two-ring circus under a big tent. It was there Bill first saw an elephant. It was also about this time that Bill’s father took him to Delmar Garden to see Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. Bill shook hands with Buffalo Bill as he walked around the arena shaking hands with all the youngsters.
This is a story during this time Bill told about seeing an airship:
My sister, Mary, and I one day in 1909 slipped away from the house at 429 West Washington in Oklahoma City and went to Delmar Garden where there was a show and carnival going on. We saw a big tent so we pulled the side up some to see inside. There was some kind of a machine in there. Didn’t know what it was. Looked like a big long bag with a little house under it.
About then a big man grabbed us and said in a gruff voice, “What you kids doing?” We were scared. Couldn’t run. He had a hold of us. He says, “Scared?” I said, “Uh, huh.” He says, “Do you know what I am going to do?” I said, “No, please don’t hurt us.” He said, “We’re going in there and let you see that thing.” I was still scared and Mary began to whimper. But, he said, “Don’t be afraid. I’ll take care of you.”
He took us inside and let us climb up in the little house and look it all over. He said, “This is an airship, and it goes way up in the sky and flies.” He took us outside and said, “You kids better get on back home, but always be careful about crawling under tents.” I guess we thanked him by the way we looked. He told us, “Bye-bye” and we took off for home.
Bill’s family led a nomadic life from October 1911 until February 1914. They lived in a covered wagon as his father traveled from place to place in Eastern Oklahoma and Western Arkansas looking for work at any kind of jobs he could find. Bill and his sister did not attend school during this time.
Something about this period in Bill’s life was bothersome to him. In his later years he told over and over that:
I don’t know why Dad suddenly pulled up and left Oklahoma City. He had a team of mules and a wagon. He was doing good hauling building materials around Oklahoma City. Mary and I were in school and we lived in a house. Dad joined the Teamsters Union.
I was only ten years old but I remember there were problems with the Teamsters getting unionized and recognized by the contractors. There were a lot of disputes about work rules and payment. One day a man was killed in a melee with unionists. We left Oklahoma City the next day. I’ve often wondered if Dad had any thing to do with that.
In 1913 Mord became very ill. Meta with the two children drove the mules and wagon to Hardy, Arkansas, to the home of her parents. It was there that Mord recovered. In 1914 Mord and Meta once again loaded their belongings in the covered wagon with Bill and Mary and moved back to Oklahoma. Only this time they located on a farm near Noble, Oklahoma.
This is a story Bill told about that time in his life when they lived on the Gray Place southeast of Noble:
I was fourteen years old and we lived on the Gray place northeast of Lexington. On Sunday mornings before church I would walk about a mile to the Methodist Church. I would get a fire started in the stove to warm the building, dust off the pews and chairs, arrange the hymn books, and make sure everything would be ready for the Sunday service.
One day an itinerant traveler showed up riding a jenny with his few personal belongings in saddlebags across the jenny’s backside. He always dangled a carrot or some other goodie on a stick out in front of the jenny to make her go. He hung around the community and was soon working at odd jobs. We soon learned his name was Benjie. He was a good worker and always very helpful. A neighbor let him stay in a little shack way over on the back part of the farm. He built a small stall for the jenny to stay in.
Benjie was friendly and likeable. He appeared to be about thirty-five years old. He seemed to be knowledgeable about a lot of things. He was also handy with his hands making things and repairing them. Everyone liked Benjie, but knew very little about him. He was very closemouthed about his past or where he came from.
One Sunday morning when I arrived at the church, Benjie was there. He had already started the fire and done the other little chores to get ready for church. Benjie never stayed for the church service. The next several Sundays when I went to the church Benjie had already been there and done what needed to be done. So, I quit going to the church early on Sunday mornings.
Then, one Sunday when we arrived for the regular church service there was no fire in the stove and nothing had been done to get ready for the church service. Benjie had not been there. A few days passed and no one had seen Benjie. Some of the men went over to where he lived in his little shack. The jenny was in her stall with the saddle and bridle hanging nearby, but no Benjie. A few of his personal belongings appeared to be missing, but no sign of Benjie. For the next several days we all hunted everywhere for Benjie. We searched fields, old abandoned buildings, the forest, gullies and ditches, but no sign of Benjie.
Some of the neighbors cared for the jenny, and for the next few months we occasionally would go out and search for Benjie. We never found him. There was much speculation as to what happened to Benjie. No one ever knew. He vanished as suddenly as he appeared. I’ve often wondered what happened to Benjie.
The first two days in January 1916, Mord moved the family to a fifty-five acre farm known as the Smith Place on the east bank of the South Canadian River southwest of Noble. Bill remembers the old house and barn were “like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.” Bill and Mary attended Canada school. Mord planted twenty acres of cotton and thirty acres of corn. That fall he made ten bales of cotton and harvested about sixteen hundred bushels of corn. The soil was a good sandy loam and the rains that year came just at the right times.
This is an account Bill told about moving to the Smith Place:
We had to leave the farm where we had lived for two years. Dad had rented another farm about seven miles away. The day was warm and the snow and ice were breaking up. It was so foggy that you could only see about three hundred yards. Dad was driving one team pulling a wagon and Mom was driving another team pulling the other wagon. As the mules walked their feet would break through the ice. It made terrible walking for them, and the wagons were hard to pull. It was bad for us because we were all walking to take as much load off the mules as possible.
Before we got to the other place we came to a creek. The creek was running almost bank full from the melting snow and ice. We all got on one of the wagons to cross. When we got right into the stream the wagon lurched to one side. The creek was swift and what should happen but the tongue to the wagon broke. That meant you could not guide the wagon. Dad told Mom and Mary to take the other team and wagon and go on to the house. He and I would put another tongue in the wagon.
Dad took the axe and cut down a small tree growing on the bank. He cut and shaped the tree and bored a hole where the pole could be placed and a long pin put through it. Dad got in the creek and we had a hard time holding the pole so we could fasten it to the wagon, but dad finally got it done. We sure did have a time getting the mules back into the creek. They didn’t want to go into the water. Dad finally got them hooked to the wagon and out it went, and on to the house. Everyone was wet and cold.
January 1917 Mord and family moved to the Boggs Place southeast of Noble, Oklahoma. It was a hundred and sixty acres of upland with twenty acres of pasture. The rest was under cultivation. It did not have much of a house or barn. It was owned by Frank Boggs, the sheriff for Cleveland County. The years 1917 through 1919 were good years, and Mord got good prices for his crops. Bill and Mary went to Canada school.
In 1918 and 1919 Bill was a teenager. He worked part time for a man in Noble known as “Peg Leg” Davis. He actually had a peg leg. He owned a McCormack farm equipment dealership and a small hardware business. He sold various kinds of farm implements including binders, cultivators, and planters that were shipped to him in large wooden crates.
When Peg Leg received a shipment for a local farmer he would get in his Model-T Ford truck and go get Bill. They would load the equipment on the truck still in the crate and haul it to the farmer’s field. There they uncrated the equipment and assembled it. Bill helped assemble about thirty binders during this time. They sometimes would go to farmers’ fields or barn lots to repair various kinds of implements. Peg Leg paid Bill twenty-five cents an hour.
The winter of 1919 Mord bought the Kline Place near Willow View northeast of Lexington, Oklahoma. This was the year Mord’s brother, Fred, and his wife, Nora, and their family moved to McGuire, Oklahoma. By this time Bill was no longer going to grade school. He took the County Educational Equivalency Exam and received a certificate that entitled him to attend high school. Bill was eighteen years of age.
This is about the time Bill started to date local girls. One such girl was Susy Garner who lived a half mile south of the Kline Place. He didn’t date her very many times. Bill said, “All she wanted to do was talk about a former boy friend, so I quit going with her.” He also dated May Umphree and Buela Ewing. They usually walked the several miles to dances or parties at different homes in the community. Bill’s sister, Mary, dated the Arnold boys, Leonard Jones, Leonard Ewing, and Albert, a school teacher at Willow View.
Bill thinks it was Albert who encouraged Mary to go to high school at Edmond to further her education. It was through her acquaintance with Leonard Jones that Mary later met Jim Dunahoo who eventually became her husband. Jim lived in Oklahoma City. He and Leonard Jones were friends. Jim would come to Lexington to visit Leonard and thus he eventually met Mary. Jim and Mary were married 17 January 1925.
The spring of 1920 Mord let Bill plant thirty acres of cotton on the Kline Place. This is a story Bill told of an event that occurred during that time:
When I was nineteen years old I went to the schoolhouse where they were giving what they called a literary meeting. Children reciting poetry and doing plays by acting. People came in buggies, wagons, on horseback, and walking. While everyone was busy watching what was going on in the building, some boys put a horseshoe under the saddle of the horse that one of the men rode to the schoolhouse. Everything was all right until the man got on his horse. Then all hell broke loose. The horse went bucking all over the schoolyard, and bucked him off. Was he mad. The horse ran off, but another man got on his horse and caught it. The man was madder when he found what made the horse buck. After he stopped cussing he said, “I’ll kill the blankety-blankety boy that put that under my saddle.” Word soon got out that he was riding around to all the boys in the community questioning them, and he was carrying a gun.
I was plowing cotton with a riding cultivator one day when he rode up to the end of the row I was plowing. He commenced asking me about the ruckus at the schoolhouse. Some of the boys had told me he got real nasty about it and threatened them. Well, I told him I was inside the schoolhouse and didn’t know a thing about it. He pulled his rifle out of the saddle holster, so I reached in my toolbox and pulled out my old blunderbuss. I couldn’t hit the side of a barn with it, but he didn’t know that. The gun was a .38 on a .45 frame and kicked like a mule. I laid it across my lap and looked at him. I said, “You know how you came in here so you better leave the same way.” I don’t know what he thought, but he turned and rode away without saying a word. Boy, was I glad.
I decided I better get in some practice with my blunderbuss. So, one evening a neighbor boy and I went out in the pasture and picked a big cottonwood tree to shoot at. I pulled the old pistol out and was going to throw down on the tree. Well, when I raised it up to throw down, it went off and I blowed a large hole in the brim of my hat. Some marksman I was. So much for my Wild West actions.
By the fall of 1920 the price of cotton was so low it would cost more to pick it than it would bring at market. So, Bill left it in the field and left home to go to high school at Oklahoma Central State Teachers College in Edmond, Oklahoma. That same year Mord’s brother, Cyrus, had twenty bales of cotton and couldn’t sell it. So, he and his family packed up and went to California.
This is Bill’s account while he was in school at Edmond:
When I was going to school at Central State Teachers College in Edmond, I worked for several different families doing housework and yard work, washing dishes, windows, floors, and beating rugs.
You hung the rugs over a clothesline. Sometimes eight-foot by ten-foot rugs. They sure were hard to handle. The beater was about four feet long made out of heavy wire, a wood handle, and a big wire paddle. You beat the rugs for about an hour to get the dirt out of them. They didn’t have electric vacuum cleaners. I did this for twenty-five cents an hour.
I did all the housework for one of the families. It was a job. They had three small children and I don’t think she ever did one bit of housework. I did the house and yards for three teachers from the college. Four wash days a weekno washing machine, just a wash board and tub.
On occasional weekends when Bill went home to visit his parents he rode the train from Edmond to Noble, and then walked the several miles to their house. Here is a story Bill told about the time he was at Edmond:
I was staying with a family in Edmond while I was going to school. There was a boy in the family about thirteen years old. His name was Bob. We were near the public school one day and found a baseball lying in the gutter. We picked it up and took it home with us. We would play catch with it bare handed. He wanted a glove to play catch so his mother gave him some money to buy one. We went to the store and got a nice glove for him.
There were some boys in town who were stealing things. They had been in this man’s store and “copped” a few things. One day we were in the store and Bob had his glove with him. The merchant accused Bob of stealing it. We said, “No, he did not steal it”, but when we got home the police were there and was Bob’s mother mad. I asked her, “What’s the matter?” She said, “Bob storied to me. He took the glove instead of paying for it.” I said, “They are wrong.” She said, “Bob does not have a receipt.” I said, “Yes, but I do”, and went and got it. I showed her where the storekeeper had written a receipt and even wrote the glove number on the receipt and marked it “Paid in Full.”
Man! Did some police and a storekeeper ever have to eat crow! The storekeeper had to give her another glove, a new baseball, and a bat to get her to hush up. She also made the storekeeper give her a receipt for them.
Bill became acquainted with another young man, Paul, who was a singer and interested in religion. Paul was a little older than Bill. He was a teacher and came to Edmond to further his education. On Sundays they would walk four or five miles west of town to a small country church. They would lead the singing and conduct part of the church service. One time Bill was asked to preach the Sunday sermon, which he did. Bill thinks the church was Pentecostal.
Bill worked at a local bakery called Perfect Systems making breads and pies in return for his board–no other pay. The oven was like a large barrel about six feet in diameter with gas burners underneath. The barrel had multiple tiers where bread, pies, and other pastries were placed for baking. The tiers rotated inside the barrel oven.
Bill worked from ten o’clock at night until six o’clock the next morning. He had to be in class at eight o’clock. As a result he more often than not would nod off in class. One day Bill was napping in class. The professor severely chastised him, and said, “If you weren’t spending so much time staying out all night with the girls you might be able to stay awake in class.” Bill told the professor that he worked all night at a bakery. The professor didn’t believe him. Bill suggested that if he didn’t believe him that he should drop by the bakery at three o’clock some morning.
A few days later, sure enough, the professor knocked on the back door of the bakery at three in the morning. Bill invited him in and they had a piece of pie and a cup of coffee. That day in class the professor apologized to Bill.
A short time later Bill was fired from his bakery job for drinking two cokes. Bill considered his board at least included cokes as well as staples. The owner, an ex-Navy man named Young, didn’t see it that way. So, they had a parting of the ways. Bill went to work at Morrison’s Cafe. It had six tables and a counter that would seat twelve people.
It was at Oklahoma Central State College where Bill and Pauline met in 1923. Actually, Pauline became aware of Bill before he knew her. They were students in the same civics class taught by Mrs. Nash. One Monday morning as a pop quiz, Mrs. Nash asked the students to stand before the class and tell some important event they had read in the Sunday newspaper.
When it was Pauline’s turn to recite she stood up and struggled trying to think of something of importance. She finally stammered out a few words about the Teapot Dome scandal. The teacher said, “You get a ‘C’ for that.” In those days teachers were not so much constrained as to what they said to their students.
When it was Bill’s turn to recite he stood up and bashfully dug his toe into the floor, hung his head and said, “I read the funny papers.” Mrs. Nash said, “True confession is good for the soul.” She gave Bill an ‘A’ for being truthful. Pauline was furious at the smart aleck and angrily muttered to her desk mate, “Teacher’s pet!”
It was a short time later when Bill met Pauline. He was working at Morrison’s Cafe on Broadway Street in Edmond. He was cook, dishwasher, and sometimes waiter, cashier, and part-time baby-sitter for the two Morrison children. For this he got board and room in a small storage room in the back of the cafe which he shared with an occasional rat or two.
Mrs. Morrison sometimes left Bill alone at the cafe with the two children while she went elsewhere. The kids gave him fits. A young woman, Bertha Johnson, was a part time waitress at the cafe. She and Bill became acquainted. As it was, Bertha and Pauline were friends. Bertha came from the same area west of Pauls Valley where Pauline did. One day Pauline came to Morrison’s Cafe to see Bertha. It was then and there that she more or less officially met Bill, though she already knew who he was. It was the first time Bill really become aware of Pauline, though he had seen her in class.
Shortly thereafter they began to date. Late one afternoon Bill and Pauline went walking west of Edmond. They walked hand in hand alongside a large field of wheat. The wind was gently blowing the waves of grain. The sun was a large orange ball just setting on the western horizon.
They stopped to take in the beauty of the moment. Pauline said in a most romantic mood, “Oh, what a beautiful sight. The sun setting in all its glory over the waves of grain make me think of an ocean. What does the sun make you think of?” Bill studied a few moments and replied, “A big ball of cheese.” So much for Pauline’s romantic mood.
The Belle Isle Lake and Park near North 50th Street and Western Avenue was a few miles south of Edmond. It was a favorite spot for young lovers. There was a small amusement park and a row boat concession for romantic boat rides on the lake.
One day Pauline had a date with another boy. She and her date took a boat out onto the lake. Bill was there that day and he watched the two from shore with a little envy in his heart. Pauline’s date didn’t know how to row a boat so Pauline did all the rowing. Later when Bill confronted Pauline about her date she said she would never go out again with a man that couldn’t row a boat.
It was about this time Bill first became acquainted with Jim Dunahoo. Jim lived with his parents in Packing Town, an area in Southwest Oklahoma City. Jim had become acquainted with Leonard Jones, a friend of Bill’s. Leonard lived near Bill’s parents north of Lexington. Jim had a Model-T Ford and he let Bill drive it one day. That was the first time he ever drove an automobile. Through his friendship with Bill and Leonard Jones, Jim met Bill’s sister, Mary. They were soon dating, and Jim later became Bill’s brother-in-law.
Bill completed high school in the spring of 1924. He went with Mr. Morrison to Slick City, a little oil boomtown near Seminole, Oklahoma. Mr. Morrison had the intention to open a cafe in Slick City for the rough and tumble oil field workers. Bill was to be his cook.
Mr. Morrison had a Model-T Ford and they drove to Slick City arriving late one evening. They slept overnight in the car. The next day they ate breakfast at the only eating establishment in town. It was housed in a large tent with board sides about three feet high. The sides of the tent were rolled up several feet above the boards. Inside were large plank boards laid across barrels for tables. Seating was heavy plank boards on wooden kegs resting on the dirt floor. A large wood-burning cookstove was at the back. It was definitely a temporary arrangement. After breakfast they looked around Slick City for a desirable location for a cafe.
The next day Mr. Morrison and Bill talked with the man who owned the eating establishment. He offered to hire Bill as his cook. Mr. Morrison said, “I thought you had a cook.” The man replied, “Yes, I did yesterday, but this morning he made a bad batch of biscuits and got shot dead.”
Bill turned that thought over in his mind a few seconds and decided Slick City was not for him. If the cook was going to get shot over a pan of bad biscuits Bill had no intention of being a cook in Slick City. He went to Norman where he met Mr. Edwards with General Engineering. He hired Bill to work for him. Mr. Morrison went to Seminole and opened a boarding house.
The fall of 1924 found Bill working as a ‘grease monkey’ for General Engineering. They operated a dragline dredging and straightening Pond Creek eight miles east of Lexington. As ‘grease monkey’ Bill did a variety of jobs. He kept all the machinery fueled, oiled and greased. He filled and maintained the acetylene lights. He helped move and reposition the pontoons and he dynamited stumps when needed. He was paid three dollars a day and board.
When he first went to work on the dragline the company had him quartered with an old lady eighty years old who rented out rooms in her home. She about drove Bill crazy because all she would talk about was how and why her late husband hung himself from the peach tree on the north side of the house. This lasted only a few weeks. The company soon provided a large crew tent for the dragline workers and contracted with local farm women to provide meals.
The dragline operated twenty-four hours a day. Bill worked the shift from midnight to eight o’clock in the morning. In November it turned very cold. One cold day a bunch of hogs got into the crew tent. They turned the place into a shambles and knocked over the heating stove. Bill and the other crewmen were so tired and so cold when they came off their shift they didn’t straighten up the mess. They just layed down and slept with the hogs because they were warm.
On weekends when Bill had time off from his dragline job he would ride with Mr. Clark, the dragline operator, to Edmond to see Pauline. Mr. Clark lived near Edmond and would travel there to visit his wife and family. But, Bill would stay so late on Sunday evenings with Pauline that he couldn’t ride back with Mr. Clark.
Bill would catch the last departing interurban trolley from Edmond. That put him in Norman at one o’clock in the morning. He would buy a nickel hamburger at a nearby hamburger stand and walk from Norman to Pond Creek munching his hamburger. He arrived there at an early morning hour. He would sleep during the day and be ready to go to work at midnight.
Bill’s parents lived on the Kline Place during the years 1919 through 1925. Mord became well acquainted with John Abernathy who owned a wholesale grocery business in Purcell, Oklahoma, across the river from Lexington. Mord had several teams of good mules. He and John decided to become business partners and go into the roadbed construction business.
In 1924 they bid and got a contract with the State of Oklahoma to build two and a half miles of roadbed for U.S. Highway No. 77 south of Noble. Bill had finished his schooling at Edmond and had been working on the dragline. General Engineering Company ceased to operate. Bill came home to work for his father as plowboy, straw boss, and powder monkey blowing out tree stumps.
When the Noble roadbed construction job was completed early in 1925 Mord bid and received a contract for a four mile roadbed construction job on U.S. Highway 270 between Holdenville and Wewoka.
Bill lived with his parents in a tent and worked for his dad on the construction job. Pauline was still in school at Edmond. On a weekend visit to Edmond Bill proposed to Pauline. Bill returned to Holdenville. He and Pauline exchanged letters and agreed to meet May 8th and be married.
Bill and Pauline were married May 8, 1925, by a justice of the peace in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. They traveled the eighteen miles from Pauls Valley to the Roller home place on Panther Creek. There for the first time, Bill met Pauline’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. D. E. Roller. Their marriage was a complete surprise to Bill’s new in-laws. Mary and Jim Dunahoo had married the previous January 17th.
This is Bill’s account of his and Pauline’s wedding day:
I was working for Dad on the Holdenville roadbed construction job and we lived in a tent at the site. Pauline and I had exchanged letters and agreed to meet on May 8th and get married. After work the day before, I left about seven o’clock in the evening with only thirteen dollars in my pocket to walk to Wewoka and catch a train to Oklahoma City.
I soon met up with a man who was having trouble with his Model-T Ford. He was cussing and raving at the car because it wouldn’t start. It was obvious he had been drinking too much. I told him I’d take a look at it and see if I could fix it. The fuel sediment bowl was full of sediments. He had been using casinghead gas. I cleaned the bowl and the fuel line. The car started.
He told me he would take me to Wewoka, but he first needed to check on some oil wells. He was a pumper. We drove all over the countryside to a dozen or so oil wells. Every time he stopped to check a well he would take another drink. He was getting pretty tipsy and I was getting concerned. We finally got to Wewoka about 2:00 a.m. and only about five minutes before the train arrived. I had just enough time to buy a ticket and board the train.
When I got to Oklahoma City I hung around the depot until after 8:00 a.m. I then went to the office of General Engineering on North Harvey to collect twenty-five dollars they owed me for some cottonwood logs I sold to them to use as pontoons over on Buckhead Creek. The guy at first told me he didn’t have the money. I got a little mad and told him I wasn’t leaving until I had my money. He said he would write me a check. I told him that was okay, but he was going to go to the bank with me to cash it.
After I got my money I called Jim Dunahoo. He and Mary were married and living in Oklahoma City. Jim had a Model-T Ford. He came and took me to a jewelry store in the Hightower Building. I bought a wedding ring for twelve dollars. Jim took me to the depot and I bought a ticket for one dollar on the noon southbound Santa Fe train for Pauls Valley that Pauline was to be on. I walked through the passenger cars until I found her.
In Pauls Valley we went to the courthouse to get a marriage license and then to the Justice of the Peace. He was down by the gin cutting weeds. The clerk sent someone to get him and he came to his office and married us. He charged me three dollars. The clerk and another man were our witnesses.
We planned to catch the train from Pauls Valley to Maysville, but it had left by the time we got there. I paid two dollars to ride the bus from Pauls Valley to Maysville. It was a hearse with folding chairs. Pauline’s dad was to meet her in Maysville with a wagon and team of horses. When she wasn’t on the train he thought she wasn’t coming, so he left for home without her. In Maysville I hired a man for two dollars to take us to the Roller home on Panther Creek. He took us within two miles. We walked the rest of the way.
Everyone was surprised to see Pauline and even more surprised to see me, her new husband. My new father-in-law just said, “Humph, she’s yours now. You take care of her.” We spent the night there and it rained all night. I slept on the floor. Pauline’s Uncle Robert was there in his Model-T Ford.
The next day we rode with him to his house four miles south and two miles west of Maysville. The roads were muddy and we came to a big ditch. He went to a nearby farm house and got two big planks. He laid them over the ditch and drove the car across. Rush Creek was flooding and we drove through the water over hubcap deep.
We spent the night with Uncle Robert and his family. That evening Uncle Robert wanted to play checkers with me. Pauline whispered in my ear that he would beat me unmercifully. I beat him six straight games.
The next day Uncle Robert took us to Maysville where we caught the train to Pauls Valley. There we caught the Santa Fe northbound to Oklahoma City. I gave Pauline ten dollars and she went on to Edmond to finish the school year. I caught the train to Wewoka and went back to work with Dad. I had one dollar left in my pocket.
When Pauline finished the school year later that month, she went to live with Bill and his parents in a tent at the construction site between Holdenville and Wewoka. Bill continued to work for his dad. Pauline helped Meta prepare and serve meals for the work crews. This arrangement didn’t last long. Bill and Pauline soon moved to Oklahoma City to make their own life.
In September 1925 Bill and Pauline moved to 1900 NW 28th Street in Oklahoma City. Bill had three hundred dollars in back wages for working with his dad. They rented a very small three-room house with only a ‘monkey-stove’ in it. Pauline’s father gave them a cotton mattress. They had no chairs or table. They used wooden boxes that Jim Dunahoo got from a local store.
William Edmund Davidson – 1924
That same month Bill enrolled at Hill’s Business College on West Main Street in Oklahoma City. He took a business course of bookkeeping, business math and grammar. After four months of study a man from Lexington, John Robinson, came to Hill’s College looking for a ticket seller for the Oklahoma Railway Company. Though John did not previously know Bill he hired him because he was from near Lexington. Bill worked the shift from two o’clock in the afternoon to midnight.
Bill’s sister, Mary, and her husband, Jim, lived in a small house on NW 30th Street near where Bill and Pauline lived. Jim worked at Choctaw Mills at SW 2nd and Western Avenue ‘coopering’ railroad boxcars used to transport flour. The railroad cars were fully lined with a heavy paper secured to the sides, top and bottom with wood laths. Then they were filled with flour. After the boxcars were used, the paper and laths had to be removed and new installed before flour could be loaded. The used laths were scrap.
When Bill got out of school he went to where Jim worked. When Jim got off work they gathered large bundles of laths and carried them on their backs three miles to Jim and Mary’s house. Jim used the laths to build a chicken pen. They did this almost every workday for several months.
Jim built his chicken pen, raised some chickens, and gave Bill and Pauline fresh eggs. Jim and Mary also had a garden and gave them produce. They were a big help to Bill and Pauline in the early days of their life together.
After a few months Bill and Pauline moved to another place which was a small hut on the back of a lot behind the house at 1909 NW 28th Street. Bill described it as a “chicken hut” converted to living quarters. It was very primitive compared with today’s standards. It had no running water and an outhouse toilet. It was here their first child, William Lee, was born 3 March 1926.
Bill dug a basement by hand for the landlord who lived in the house at the front. He had to crawl in through a crawl space opening, dig and haul the dirt out the opening. The landlord paid him twenty-five cents an hour.
Bill also worked part time for Mr. Edwards who he knew from General Engineering. After the demise of General Engineering Mr. Edwards went into the house building business. Bill worked for him sawing boards and nailing them together to make fence panels.
Bill had a steady job as Ticket Seller making sixty dollars a month. Early in 1927 he and Pauline moved to a small three-room house at 3204 NW 13th Street. Leonard Jones, the friend from Lexington, moved them in his old truck. The house was a small white wooden frame house near the back of the lot. It had a large front yard. Bill and Pauline made a garden in the front and had vegetables for the family table. It was here their second child, Bobby Joe, (Robert) was born 11 May 1927, and their third child, Donald Jean (Gene), was born 7 December 1928.
In 1929 Bill was promoted to Assistant Ticket Agent with a salary of ninety dollars a month. In October the stock market crashed but had little effect on Bill and Pauline. Bill had a good steady job.
Bill’s parents, Mord and Meta, lived in Oklahoma City. Mord worked at various construction jobs. He helped build a beautiful stone wall and entrance to a new cemetery, Memorial Park, north of Oklahoma City and south of Edmond. At the time he said he wanted to be buried there.
In 1930 Bill and Pauline bought a house at 2709 NW 40th Street near the Oklahoma Railway Company interurban line from Oklahoma City to El Reno. The interurbans were large electric passenger trolleys. This house was also a wood frame house, but larger than the previous one. It had indoor plumbing (septic) with hot and cold running water supplied by a private water company from a local well. It had a living room, dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms, a screened back porch, and a covered front porch. There was a detached garage and a chicken house. They had a telephone. The number was 5-5913.
There was half an acre of land with the house. They had a large garden, kept chickens, and milked a cow. Bill’s mother loaned them the money to buy a milk cow that was half Jersey and half Guernsey. She was a good milk producer. She was called Bossy.
That same year they bought a 1928 green Chevrolet sedan with solid metal wheels. It had six cylinders and 46 horsepower. Bill and Pauline would occasionally get a neighbor teenager, Maureen McCaskell, to baby-sit the children while they had an evening out. Maureen had flaming red hair and ample freckles. She was good with the children, even when she was on crutches with a broken leg.
During 1930 Mord and Meta once again moved back to Arkansas. This time they located on the upper Herron Place west of Hardy. It was near a steep rocky bluff across Cow Ford on the west bank of South Fork River and next to Raccoon Spring. Sometime in the past the Herron Family had been good friends with the Davidsons at Evening Shade. A lady fondly known by all as Aunt Kate Herron leased the farm to Mord at a very reasonable rate.
In 1930 a man named McGuire worked with Bill at Oklahoma Railway. He knew a man (whose name Bill could not recall) that touted himself as the inventor of a new and improved pump used to clean out oil wells. McGuire convinced Bill and Smitty, a streetcar conductor, to invest in the venture to manufacture and sell the pumps.
Thus, the Red Devil Pump Company was formed. McGuire was president, Smitty was a vice-president, the inventor was a vice-president, and Bill was secretary-treasurer because he was good with figures and had experience with bookkeeping. In essence, Bill actually ran the company. He hired a machinist in Okmulgee to make ten pumps. The pumps were 3.9 inches in diameter to run into 4.0 inch casing. They were 20 feet long. The pump had a special unique type of plunger and release mechanism.
Bill hired an out of work production superintendent to sell the Red Devil pumps. He sold six at $1,250 each. Bill had four more made. He paid $100 to a patent attorney to secure a patent on the pump. Bill kept all the records and financial accounts for the company. He rented out two of the pumps for $125 a day.
They ran a pump in the Alva #1 in the East Capital Hill Field and one in the Harold Davis #1 near Southeast 29th Street. They lost the pump in the Davis well. It was during the prohibition era and Bill knew of a kid that hung around the terminal and sold bootleg liquor. Bill paid him five dollars for a gallon of bootleg whiskey and gave it to an old production man he knew to get him to fish the pump out of the well. He retrieved the pump on the first try. One time they were running the clean-out pump in the Alva #1 and pulled up the ‘shot-can’ from the adjacent well.
Bill and Pauline lived at the 40th Street address when their fourth child, Meta Luvida (Ann), was born 1 July 1931 at Wesley Hospital in Oklahoma City. Bill took Pauline to the hospital and then went to work. During his lunch hour he came to the hospital to be with Pauline. Much to his surprise when he walked into the room Pauline was about to deliver. Bill and a young nurse’s aide delivered the baby before the nurses or doctor could get there.
Though the nation was in a serious depression, things were not too bad for Bill and Pauline. Bill had a good steady job. They raised vegetables in a large garden and canned some for later use. They had a milk cow, raised chickens and had fresh eggs. They occasionally butchered a calf or a hog they raised for fresh meat.
Bill once brought home a large metal drum. He intended to cut out the top and use it for scalding a hog he planned to butcher. He cautioned the boys that the drum had been used to store denatured alcohol and to leave it alone.
Bobby Joe wanted to see what denatured alcohol looked like. He removed the bung and looked in, but it was dark. He couldn’t see anything. So, he struck a match and held it up to the bunghole to look in. Before he could get his eye over the hole the residual vapors of alcohol in the drum exploded and severely burned his forehead. Luckily he didn’t have his eye over the hole, or he may have been blinded in that eye.
William Edmund and Mary Pauline Davidson – 1925
Bill made a big kite about five feet tall. He and the boys would fly it on nice windy days. One day they had about two thousand feet of string out when a small bi-wing airplane flew through the string and broke it. Bill and the two older boys jumped in the car and spent the next several hours looking for the kite. They finally found it, but it was badly damaged.
The three boys attended school at Sequoyah Elementary at 2400 NW 36th Street. They walked under the interurban trestle on Turkey Creek and crossed 39th Street which was part of old U.S. Highway 66. They cut across Log Cabin Park to the school. Log Cabin Park was not a park in the usual sense. It was a series of several small log cabins to rent overnight to travelers. Such places were called “motor parks.” The term “motel” had not yet been coined.
There was a large open field west of Log Cabin Park near the busy intersection of May Avenue and NW 39th Street. Various traveling entertainment enterprises would set up large tents in the field to attract customers. Some were traveling exhibits of various kinds, some were dog and pony shows, some were wild animal shows, but the most popular at the time were the ‘Dance-a-Thon’ shows. These were contests on a temporary dance floor under a large tent. Couples danced to a small band until they dropped from exhaustion. The last couple dancing won the contest and prize money. There would also be entertaining specialty dance contests in which the contestants could win extra prize money. People would actually pay to watch these contests. Bill sometimes got free promotional passes to these shows and took the boys to see them.
In 1932 John Robinson, the Ticket Agent, quit Oklahoma Railway Company to go to work for a candy company. Bill was promoted from Assistant Ticket Agent to Ticket Agent with a salary of one hundred and fifty dollars a month. His office was near the northeast corner of the downtown streetcar terminal pavilion. His duties included overseeing the sale of streetcar tickets and tokens. They also included the management of a small newsstand selling a variety of newspapers and magazines, as well as, cigarettes, cigars, chewing gum, candy and other small merchandise items. Lester Winters, Johnny Hightower, Louie Stalken and Johnny Sasser worked for him.
Johnny Sasser was interested in the new phenomenon known as radio. He was good at making and repairing them. He put together two transceivers that were small, portable and battery powered. To test them he talked Bill into taking one and going to the bridge on South Western across the North Canadian River while Johnny stayed in his apartment about a mile away. They transmitted and received voice transmissions–the beginning of the ‘walkie talkie’ era.
A police cruiser came along and the officer saw Bill standing on the bridge talking into a hand held device. He stopped and asked Bill what he was doing. When Bill explained the officer became very interested and asked a lot of questions. He obviously saw its possibilities in police work.
The streetcar terminal was a busy hub of downtown Oklahoma City activity. Streetcars and interurbans were the main mode of transportation from the 1920’s into the late 1940’s for Oklahoma City and surrounding areas. The terminal was located at Grand Avenue between Hudson and Harvey Streets. It was a large covered pavilion over numerous streetcar tracks. It was a major transfer hub for most of the various streetcar lines.
The west side of the terminal consisted mostly of the freight and interurban part of the business. The east side was where the Ticket Agent’s office was located and where agents sold streetcar tickets and tokens. There was a multitude of various small retail business shops all along the east side concourse selling all manner of things like hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, peanuts, candy, novelties, tobacco products, etc.
Punch cards were very popular and most of the retail businesses had several kinds. For a penny, nickel, or dime a punch patrons could win various items of merchandise. There was an arcade (or mall as they are called today) extending east from the terminal concourse to Harvey Street. There was a barbershop, florist, antique store (owned by the Turk sisters), costume jewelry, State Theater and other small business on the arcade.
In 1932 Bill, Pauline and the four children visited Bill’s father and mother while they lived on the Herron Place near Hardy. They traveled by train on railroad passes that Bill was able to get as a benefit of his employment with the Oklahoma Railway Company. They rode the Rock Island from Oklahoma City to Memphis, then the Frisco from Memphis to Hardy.
Their fifth child, Samuel Marvin, was born 20 January 1933 at Wesley Hospital while they lived at the 40th Street address. Mother and child were brought home from the hospital in a tan and white ambulance with orange wheels. Pauline had major surgery, a hysterectomy, while in the hospital. She was in no condition to care for a new baby and four other rambunctious kids. Pauline’s teenage sister, Beatrice Roller, came to live with Bill and Pauline to help care for the children. The years she was there she attended Classen High School where she graduated.
In 1933 President Roosevelt by executive order established the National Recovery Administration (NRA known as the “Blue Eagle”) under the National Industrial Recovery Act as part of his New Deal Program. The NRA prepared and enforced codes of fair competition for businesses and industries. Roosevelt abolished the NRA in 1935 after the Supreme Court ruled the recovery act unconstitutional. But the damage had been done for Bill and many other workers whose wages were reduced drastically under the provisions of the NRA.
The summer of 1933 Bill and Pauline at different times visited Bill’s Uncle Cyrus and Aunt Emma Davidson in Oxnard, California. As an employee of a railway company Bill was able to obtain railroad passes for the vacation trips. It was their first times to visit California and see palm trees, citrus groves, and the ocean. Pauline’s sister, Hazel, stayed with and cared for the children while Pauline was gone.
The summer of 1934 Bill, Pauline and children again traveled by train on vacation to visit his parents near Hardy. They would usually visit Pauline’s parents on occasional weekends and holidays since it was only a two-hour trip by car to the Roller’s farm home.
The Red Devil Pump Company had been active since 1930 and was on the verge of breaking into a financially sound business. Then in 1934 things fell apart. Bill learned that the man who was the inventor had unknown to the others sold the patent rights for the pump to the Mid-Continent Oil Tool Company. In the meantime the patent attorney Bill hired had not yet secured a patent. Thus, the Red Devil Pump Company expired and Bill chalked it up to life’s experience.
In October 1934 Pauline was driving the ’28 Chevy north on May Avenue south of 10th Street. It was after dark. All the children were in the car. As she approached the Rock Island railroad grade crossing she slowed down. An employee of Baash-Ross Tool Company driving a company car plowed into the left rear of the Chevy knocking it over a steep embankment. The Chevy rolled over onto the right side and then hung up on a large tree stump. Otherwise, it would have rolled into water at the bottom of the embankment.
Bill settled with Baash-Ross Tool Company for $1,250. He traded the wrecked Chevy plus $50 to Jim Robinson, brother to John Robinson from Lexington, for a 1929 Windsor automobile. It was a four-door sedan with a flathead straight-eight cylinder engine, wooden spoke wheels, hydraulic brakes (a new innovation for the day), and a travel trunk on the back. It was a ‘running jessie’ and could easily and quickly accelerate to 60 mph. There were very few of these cars made. The company was organized in 1928, manufactured a few cars in 1929, and went bankrupt with the Crash in October of 1929.
The summer of 1935 Oklahoma’s two most famous sons, Will Rogers and Wiley Post, were killed in an airplane crash in Alaska. They lay in state in the rotunda of the state capitol building as Oklahoma mourned their deaths. Pauline and the children stood in their front yard and watched hundreds of small airplanes fly over the capitol building dropping huge bouquets of flowers.
Under the NRA act in December 1935 Bill’s salary was cut from $150 a month to $90 a month. That was a huge reduction and caused financial difficulties for Bill and Pauline. They were unable to make the mortgage payments on the house at NW 40th Street. Kruger Investment Company foreclosed on the property in January 1936.
Bill used part of the settlement from Baash-Ross Tool Company to purchase a modest four room wood frame house at 3608 NW 13th Street on a 50 x 150-foot city lot. He paid $900 cash and financed the balance on a note co-signed by Pauline’s sister, Hazel.
The house was on a dirt street and it was muddy when it rained. The house had a living room, dining room, kitchen and one bedroom. It did not have indoor plumbing. An outhouse served that purpose. It did have running water provided by the city utility. It also had an unattached garage. Bill built a small shed on the back for Bossy, the milk cow.
The four older children attended Linwood Elementary School on 16th Street. The family attended the Linwood Methodist Church with Rev. R. J. Palmer, pastor, at NW 17th and Drexel Streets, from 1934 through 1937.
In the summer of 1936 Bill and Pauline with the children and Pauline’s father, Dillmus E. Roller, traveled in the 1929 Windsor from Oklahoma City to Ava, Missouri, to visit the old Roller home place and some of Mr. Roller’s relatives. They then went to Hardy, Arkansas, to visit Bill’s parents.
This was always great fun for the children. South Fork River ran along the east side of the farm only a hundred and fifty yards from the house. The Clarke cousins lived only a mile up the rocky bluff and over the hill to Cedar Spring. Raccoon Spring was nearby. Everyone played in the spring water, swam in the river, fished, and boated. There were hills, rocks and deep woods to explore.
June 19, 1936, Joe Louis and Max Schmeling met in a boxing match. Schmeling won by a knockout. Bill had a one-dollar bet on Schmeling with Mr. Yarbrough, the next door neighbor. Bill and family listened to the fight on an old RCA box radio. When Louis was counted out in the 12th round, Bill ran out the front door, jumped off the porch, dashed across the driveway, jumped a three foot high white picket fence, ran onto Mr. Yarbrough’s front porch knocking at the door to collect his one dollar bet. In the return bout June 22, 1938, Louis knocked out Schmeling in two minutes and four seconds of the first round.
Bill was fired in December 1936 from his job as Ticket Agent at Oklahoma Railway Company. It had to do with a labor dispute between management and the workers trying to organize a labor union. Since the unconstitutional NRA drastically cut his salary forty per cent Bill considered he was one of the workers, not management. Thus he participated in the unionization activities. Management considered him a part of management and fired him for his union associations. This was catastrophic for a provider with a wife and five small children and no job or other source of income at the height of the Great Depression when jobs were scarce and difficult to come by.
Bill secured employment in February 1937 with the Meadow Gold Dairy as a route deliveryman. His take home pay was six to eight dollars a week. The Meadow Gold Dairy plant was located at NW Fourth Street and Western Avenue. The horse barn was nearby. Claud Roller, Pauline’s uncle, worked there. He harnessed the horses and hitched them to the milk wagons. Bill’s route was on NW 18th and 19th Streets from Indiana Street to Portland Avenue, a distance of two and a half miles. He delivered milk, butter, cream, eggs, chocolate milk, and orange juice to household customers from a horse drawn wagon. Potatoes were penny a pound. Bacon was fifteen cents for two pounds. Bread was ten cents a loaf. Haircuts were fifteen cents. Though prices were low a salary of six to eight dollars a week was barely subsistence living for a family of seven.
The spring of 1937 another of Roosevelt’s New Deal work programs (WPA) constructed a sewer line behind the house at 3608 NW 13th Street. Bill paid a neighbor, Mr. Allred, a carpenter, to remodel the bedroom into an indoor bathroom and a closet, and to build a wood frame lean-to on the back with two bedrooms and a closet in between.
By the fall of 1937 Bill and Pauline had exhausted what money remained from the settlement with Baash-Ross Tool Company and what little they had in the way of savings. They needed a place where they could raise a garden for food, keep the cow for milk and raise chickens for eggs and meat.
In November 1937 they moved to a forty-acre place south of Oklahoma City and three miles northwest of Moore. It was known as The Johnson Place. The house was on the southwest corner. Today there is a Mazzio’s Pizza shop on that corner at the intersection of SW 104th Street and South Western Avenue in Oklahoma City.
The Johnson Place had a small two-room wood frame house set on concrete blocks. Bill and Mr. Johnson used scrap lumber to build a lean-to porch on the back. That was where Billy, Bobby Joe, and Gene slept. Meta Lu slept in a closet, and the youngest boy, Marvin, slept in the room with Bill and Pauline. The other room served as the kitchen and dining room.
The house had no running water or indoor plumbing. Water was hauled in ten-gallon milk cans from a deep well at the Nu-Way Laundry in Oklahoma City. Also, water was toted in five-gallon buckets from a water well at a cemetery about a quarter of a mile away. There was no electricity. Kerosene lamps were used for lighting. Pauline had a three-burner kerosene stove for cooking. A small pot-bellied stove was used for heating the kitchen. The other room and the lean-to had no heat. Bathing was in a ‘No. 8’ wash tub. Pauline and children did the washing on a rub board.
The children went to school at Moore. They rode in a flatbed truck modified to be a school bus. The driver was “Tiny” Spencer, a local farmer. The family attended the Moore Methodist Church, Rev. W. T. Pugh, pastor, in Moore from 1938 until November 1942.
Bill still worked at the milk route job with Meadow Gold. He got up at 3:30 a.m. each work day and drove the old Windsor to Oklahoma City, ran his milk route, and returned home late that afternoon.
Mr. Johnson, the landlord, hauled scrap lumber to the place. Bill and the boys helped him build a barn. This was in lieu of paying rent. They also built a chicken house and a shed for Bossy.
The spring of 1938 Bill bought a horse named “Ribbon.” She was used to plow and cultivate a garden. Pauline and the children planted the seeds, tilled the soil, and gathered the vegetables. Pauline had an old pressure cooker and she canned as much of the harvest as she could for the coming winter. Bossy was milked twice a day and provided milk and butter. Chickens were raised for fresh eggs.
Hospital bills accumulated. Chickens were raised, slaughtered, plucked, dressed, packed in tubs of ice and taken to the hospital as barter to pay the bills. This was a weekly ritual for most of the summer of 1938.
Bill made a large 2×10 by 12-foot board with twelve wire hooks supported by two wooden posts at each end. The chickens were snared with a long wire hook, hung on the board, and their throats slit. After bleeding they were plucked, gutted, cleaned, dressed, packed in a tub of ice and taken to the hospital.
One nice day in the summer of 1938 several neighborhood boys who were Gene’s friends came by the house. They wanted Gene to go play with them. Pauline told them Gene had chores to do and could not go. Bill and a neighbor were cleaning out an old dug well to see if it could be made to draw water for the cow, horse and chickens.
About half an hour later one of the boys came running breathlessly to the house. He told Pauline they were swimming in a nearby pond and one of the boys was about to drown. Pauline sent Gene running to tell Bill. She went out to the highway and flagged down the first motorist to come by. She asked him to stop at the first place he could and call for emergency help.
Bill and the neighbor ran as fast as they could to the pond about two hundred yards away. The boy was nowhere to be seen. The other boys pointed to where he was last seen in the water. Bill and the neighbor dove in. After a few minutes they found the boy on the bottom of the pond in about eight feet of water. They pulled him out and tried artificial respiration to no avail. When the fire department arrived it was too late to save the boy, Arbrey Lee Davis, one of Gene’s classmates.
The spring of 1939 Bill hired a neighbor, Mr. Lagali, who had a tractor and planter, to plow about two acres and plant cotton. The boys used a one-horse double shovel to cultivate the cotton. They chopped and hoed it. In the fall they picked it. Bill made about twenty dollars from the cotton crop.
They also raised a large garden and continued to barter fresh dressed chickens to pay hospital bills. Bobby Joe went outside after dark, tripped, fell into a wash tub and broke his left arm. Shortly afterwards Gene fell about four feet backwards off a stack of scrap lumber and completely dislocated the two lower bones from the upper bone in his left elbow. His arm was a pitiful sight and very painful. Bill rushed him to the hospital in Oklahoma City where the doctor and a nurse set his elbow. It was very painful. He carried it in a sling for the next several weeks.
Bill and Pauline continued to raise chickens to help pay hospital bills. They bought baby chicks at weekly intervals and raised them to fryers. Each Saturday when Bill was off from his job they slaughtered, plucked, cleaned, and dressed several dozen chickens. Bill iced them down in a tub and took them to the hospital as payment.
Davidson children with Great Great Aunt Eve Bunyard – 1936 L. to R. Gene, Marvin, Bobby Joe, William, Meta Lu
In the meantime Bill changed jobs. He went to work for Consolidated Motor Freight as a dockhand loading and unloading trailers at a freight dock. It was a deal where a worker showed up and if they needed him, he punched-in on the timeclock and worked until not needed. Then he punched-out and waited until needed again. The work was irregular and more physical but Bill made from twelve to fifteen dollars a week. This was more than he made delivering milk.
The fall of 1939 Bill and Pauline moved to the Turk Place, two miles south of the Johnson Place. The Turk sisters of Oklahoma City owned the farm. They had an antique store in the arcade next to the Oklahoma Railway streetcar terminal. Mr. Collins of Moore had the farm leased from the sisters. He sub-leased the house, barn and pasture to Bill at a very reasonable rate just to have someone living on the place. The house set on the southwest corner of what is now SW 149th Street and South Western Avenue in Moore. The house was a white wood pitched roof frame. It had two small bedrooms in the attic. Downstairs were a living room, dining room, kitchen, pantry, and a bedroom. It had a large front porch and a back porch. The house did not have running water or indoor plumbing. There was, however, a waterwell and a windmill. No more hauling water for household use. There was a reasonably good barn and a chicken coop.
By now Old Bossy had produced two heifer calves which were now milk cows with their own calves. Ribbon, the horse, was still used to plow and cultivate a garden. They also had chickens and a few turkeys. Thankfully, the hospital bills were all paid. No more killing and dressing chickens, except for the family table. The children attended school in Moore. Mr. J. C. Fishburn, a neighbor, was the school bus driver.
Mr. Collins planted cotton, corn and oats. Bill had an agreement with Mr. Collins for him and the boys to hoe the cotton and corn for a part of the oats crop. Mr. Collins also let Bill clear a few acres of weeds and plant kafricorn. Mr. Collins used his tractor to plow the ground. Bill used Ribbon and a double shovel plow to lay out the rows and a one-row planter to plant the seed. Henry Janko, a neighbor who did custom grain thrashing, was hired by Mr. Collins to thrash the oat crop in June. His thrashing machine blew a large haystack west of the barn. Bill got two hundred bushels of oats.
Pauline and the children had a traumatic experience in June of 1940. Bill was at work. It was late afternoon. It was obvious bad weather was coming from the west. The clouds were dark and threatening. The boys did the chores earlier than usual as it was getting dark. The wind blew, the lightening flashes were brilliant, and claps of thunder were loud. It definitely was going to be a stormy evening.
Pauline did not light a fire in the cook stove. She served a cold supper of leftovers. She lighted a kerosene lamp and set it on the table for light. She finished the prayer and the children had just started to eat when it slammed into the house. The entire house shook. Plaster fell from the ceiling and walls. Pauline quickly blew out the lamp. It was too late to even think about going to a storm cellar. She quickly herded the children into a small closet under the stairway to the attic. There they huddled and Pauline prayed while a tornado swept over them.
Tornados do strange and unusual things. There was only minor damage to the house except it ripped the back porch apart. The barn and the chicken house sustained major damage. Most of the chickens were killed. Those not killed were without feathers and soon died. The other animals were okay except for cuts and bruises.
Tree limbs were twisted and broken. The new straw stack west of the barn was scattered everywhere. Straws were matted into a field wire fence so thick and tight a person could not thrust a fist through it. Thousands of straws were driven through the limbs of trees.
Actually, the straws are not driven through the limbs, it just looks that way. What happens is the twisting and pulling action of the tornado on the tree limbs causes them to split a little. With thousands of straws swirling through the air at a high velocity they become clogged in the split openings in the limbs. When the tornado moves on what’s left of the tree limbs return to a near normal position. They pinch down on the straws in the splits and trap them there. Thus, it appears they were driven through the limbs.
Later in the summer of 1940 was also a traumatic time for the boys. Bossy was getting old. She had difficulties calving that spring. She had a nice heifer calf out of Mr. Gamble’s Jersey bull. They named the calf Chang. Bill and Pauline decided to take Bossy to market after she weaned her calf. It was a sad day for the boys when they loaded up Bossy in a trailer and took her to market. She was a good gentle cow. The boys had grown fond of her. She was an easy milker. They learned on her how to milk a cow by hand.
Bill and Pauline moved once again in the fall of 1940–this time to the Sullivan Place a mile east and a quarter mile south of the Turk 104 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 105 WILLIAM EDMUND DAVIDSON
Place. It was located on what is now Santa Fe Avenue a quarter of a mile south of 149th Street in Moore. The Sullivan Place had a hundred and sixty acres with forty acres of pasture and the rest in cultivation.
The Sullivan Place at Moore – 1941
The house had a living room and bedroom downstairs, and a large room for dining in one end and a kitchen in the other end. Upstairs were two bedrooms, one large and one small. The boys slept in the large room. Bill and Pauline slept in the small room. The daughter slept on a day-bed in the only downstairs bedroom. There was a small back porch and a rickety storage room attached to the side. It also had a small covered front porch with six large cedar trees in front. The house did not have electricity or indoor plumbing. Kerosene lamps were used. An outhouse served the other purpose. Water for the house was carried from the well with a windmill. A large wood burning stove in the living room provided heat.
The Sullivan Place had a very good barn with milking stanchions in the south part, horse stalls in the north part and two granaries in between with access to one from the east end and access to the other from the west end. It had a large hayloft overhead. There was a waterwell with a windmill and a large stock tank for watering the livestock. There was a rickety shed used as a garage, a shop and part of it for storage. There was a small hut for chickens.
By this time Bill and family had accumulated several good milk cows which the boys milked twice a day. One of the cows was Chang that was a cow Bossy had raised. She was gentle and had Bossy’s disposition. Bill bought a Guernsey cow which the boys named Chow. She was a kicker. She would kick at anyone who got anywhere close to her. Milking her was a challenge even with stanchion and hobbles. The boys built a special stall and stanchion for her. Once in the stall and the boards put in place she was unable to lift her foot to kick.
The milk was carried to the house and run through a hand turned centrifugal cream separator. The cream was sold or used for household use. The skimmed milk was mixed with bran shorts and fed to the hogs. Bill had bought a sow and she had sixteen piglets and raised twelve.
A neighbor had a large pecan tree he wanted removed. Bill agreed to saw it down and cut it up for firewood. Part of the deal was to also dig out the stump and level the ground. Bill and the boys worked on this project over several weekends.
Clouds of war loomed over Europe and Asia. Prices for commodities, livestock and farm produce were higher than they had been in years. Bill was working regular at Joe Hodges Motor Freight in Oklahoma City. Pauline and the boys were doing the day to day things to run the farm.
Bill borrowed three hundred dollars at the bank in Moore and bought a team of mules named Pete and Jack. A neighbor, Henry Janko, co-signed the note at the bank. Part of the deal with Henry was to sublet sixty acres to him so he could plant oats, which he did.
The first night the mules were at their new home they managed to open a gate and get out. They ran away looking for their old home. Late in the night they got onto Highway #74 about two miles away. They were just over a small rise in the highway. A car came over the hill at a high speed. The driver frantically applied his brakes but still hit the mules. One rolled onto the hood of the car and then fell off. The mules were frightened and ran through a barbed wire fence into a field. When Bill finally got them home they were badly injured, especially Pete. He stayed in his stall several weeks. The boys doctored, fed and watered him nursing him back to health. After two months he was eased into a harness and hooked up with Jack.
One day a stray mixed breed female dog came to the house. She was pitifully under fed and very hungry. The boys put out food for her and she found a home. They called her “Lady.” The Rupe family lived on the farm across the road. They had a beautiful full blood Collie male dog. It wasn’t long before Lady had a litter of eight half Collie pups. Soon half grown dogs were running all around the place. Attempts were made to give them away to good homes. They gave one to Pauline’s mother on Panther Creek. The boys kept one of the male dogs. They named him “Laddie.”
One day Gene and Laddie were walking through a field across the road from a neighbor’s barn, but not on the neighbor’s property. The neighbor was a crotchety old man and had accused the dogs of chasing his sheep. Gene heard a gun shot, but didn’t think anything about it. It was not uncommon to hear gun shots in the country. Laddie was in front of Gene about thirty yards when he heard a second shot. He heard Laddie yelp and saw him suddenly spin around. Gene first thought Laddie was bitten by a snake, but then realized he had been shot. Gene and Laddie ran to the house.
The small caliber bullet entered Laddie’s chest just behind his front left leg. It exited the other side barely missing his heart. The boys doctored and nursed him back to health.
Laddie became a very good stock dog. On command he would round up the cows and bring them to the barn if he could see where they were. So, it was not unusual to hold him up to where he could see or get him up in the barn loft so he could see where the cows were. He would jump down, run get the cows and bring them to the corral at the barn.
December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The “Day of Infamy” and the nation was at war with the Japanese in the Pacific and the Germans in Europe. Prices went up and shortages prevailed. That Sunday evening Gene was at the Price’s, the closest neighbors, listening to a radio program with his friend, Willis. A commentator broke in and announced the attack on Pearl Harbor. Later when Gene got home he told the rest of the family about the attack. No one believed him. They thought he was joking around. Bill and Pauline did not have a radio so it was the next day before they learned Gene was not joking.
Bill continued to work in Oklahoma City during 1942 and work the farm along with the boys. They planted several acres of corn, about thirty acres of cotton, and about ten acres of kafricorn. Henry Janko planted sixty acres of oats. The weather was favorable to the crops and the harvests were good. They had several good crops and had accumulated a good team of mules, a few farm implements, several good milk cows, and some pigs. Ribbon, the trusty old horse, died suddenly during a severe lightning and thunderstorm. It appeared she was struck by lightning while standing in the pasture. William and Bobby Joe bought lambs and raised them as their FFA projects to show at the county fair. Bill let Gene raise some piglets as his 4-H project to show at the county fair.
By this time Bill and family were fairly well situated in the rural community surrounding Moore. Though they had moved several times, the children had been attending school in the Moore Consolidated School District five years, longer than any time in their lives at any other school. They were well assimilated into the educational system, had many friends and participated in school activities. They rode School Bus Route #4 to school. Mr. Fishburn was the driver.
Bill and family were regular members of the Moore Methodist Church. Bill was recognized as an honest and respectable man in the community. The boys were considered to be good solid workers. When they could be spared from the farm they worked for other farmers earning money to help pay their way.
The summer of 1942, after much discussion, Bill and his father decided to go together in a farming partnership and rent the Cochran Farm on Strawberry River about three miles north of Evening Shade, Arkansas. The Cochrans were related to the Herrons. It was through Aunt Kate Herron they were able to rent the farm. Bill’s parents lived on the Herron Place at Cow Ford near Hardy until December 1942.
Bill bought a 1933 Chevrolet sedan in the summer of 1942. The old 1929 Windsor was worn out and dispatched to the scrap pile to aid the war effort. That September Bill bought a used two and a half ton 1937 Ford V8 truck with dual rear wheels from a neighbor, Mr. Price. Bill made a large cattle frame on the back of the truck. He also made a small trailer to tow behind the Chevy. Then once again began the process of preparing to move.
After the crops were harvested in November 1942, Bill and family moved to Evening Shade, Arkansas. They made two trips from Oklahoma to Arkansas. One to move the mules, cows, sow hog, and Laddie. Bill took William and a friend, Junior Janko, with him to move the livestock from Moore to Mord’s farm near Hardy. William stayed with Mord and Meta. Bill and Junior came back to Moore to move the implements and household goods. Pauline, Bobby Joe, Meta Lu (Ann) and Marvin (Sam) traveled in the Chevy pulling the trailer. Bill and Gene traveled in the Ford truck which was heavily loaded, and not without incident.
Near Afton, Oklahoma, a rear dual tire blew out. Pauline in the Chevy with the other children went on to Hardy. Bill left Gene with the truck and hitchhiked to Afton. He found a man that had a used tire to fit the wheel. Tires were rationed during the war and difficult to get. They changed the tire and were soon on their way.
Near Halltown, Missouri, the truck was pulling hard and could barely go. Bill drove into a mechanic’s garage in Halltown. The left rear wheel bearing was burned out. It took three days to fix it. Bill and Gene slept in the truck.
The first night a blue norther blew in with wind and snow. They were chilled to the bone by morning and for the next two mornings. The cafe across the street opened at six o’clock each morning. It was a wonderful and warming sight to see each morning when the lights turned on. It was here Gene wrapped his bitterly cold fingers around a hot cup and drank his first coffee. They got to Evening Shade two days later and spent the night with Aunt Kate Herron.
Arrangements were made with Aunt Kate to temporarily move into a house she owned two miles southwest of town. The tenants on the Cochran Farm did not have to vacate until the last day of the year. During December Bill and the boys cut and split stove wood for Aunt Kate as payment for house rent. Early January 1943 Bill and family moved into the house on the Cochran Farm.
The Cochran house on Strawberry River was an old two room wood frame house. The two rooms had a stone fireplace in each end for heating. At one time there was a ‘dog-trot’ between the two rooms, but it long ago was enclosed and made into a small room and storage area. A plank front porch ran the full length of the house.
A lean-to of plank construction with no space for insulation had been added to the back. It served as a combination kitchen and dining room. The planks long before had been papered with several layers of newspapers to help keep out the cold. An old round oak table served the family for meals. Each had their individual place at the table which was situated such that directly over Bill’s head was a worn newspaper banner headline. It read: “Cunningham Sets Mile Record 4:4.4.” The paper was worn so only the year “1938” showed in the dateline.110 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 111 WILLIAM EDMUND DAVIDSON
A large garden was west of the house as was a chicken house. The barn was across the road from the house. It was a conventional looking barn of fairly good construction. A passageway ran the full length through the middle with a hay loft overhead. Both sides were enclosed granaries and storage areas. Sheds were constructed on both sides. There was a large corral and several smaller holding pens. The barn still stands today in good shape, but the house has long since deteriorated to nothingness. A modern paved highway now runs over the site.
Bill’s parents packed their belongings and moved to the house north of Strawberry River on the Cochran Place. Bill and the boys helped move the livestock, farm implements, and household goods from the Herron Place to the Cochran Place. The house was an old two room wood frame with a lean-to kitchen on the back and a small front porch. It set on a small rocky hill about a quarter of a mile from the ford crossing of the river.
The Cochran Place was a thousand and eighty-three acres of mostly hilly upland covered with timber and rocks. However, there were three bottoms along the river. One was about sixty acres behind and north of the barn. Another was forty acres across the river opposite the sixty acres. The Big Bottom was on the same side of the river as the barn, but because of a large rocky bluff and the way the river flowed, it was necessary to cross the river twice to get to it. The Big Bottom was about a quarter of a mile wide and a little over half a mile long. It was about three hundred and eighty acres of good bottomland soil. Bill and his father subleased the north part of the Big Bottom to a neighbor, Mr. Kunkel.
The children attended school in Evening Shade. The family attended the United Methodist Church in Evening Shade from December 1942 until September 1943. Bill’s great-grandmother, grandparents and father attended this same church the latter part of the 1800’s.
Bill and his father pooled their resources and purchased a used Farmall F-20 tractor with steel lug wheels and some farm implements. With Mord’s mules and Bill’s team they had three spans of mules plus “Old Bill.” He was a tall lanky contrary mule that could not be teamed with another mule. But, he was stout as an ox and twice as stubborn as a mule. He was used for jobs that required only a single hitch.
The boys milked the cows twice a day by hand. The morning milk was run through a separator and the cream flowed into five-gallon milk cans. The cans full of cream were set beside the road. The milk truck came by early each morning, picked up the full cans and set off the empties. The cans of cream were taken to a creamery in Batesville. There it was used to make butter and cheese. This was a source of a modest weekly income when the check came from the creamery. The milk from the evening milking was used for the household, and the surplus mixed with feed and fed to the hogs.
Bill, his father, and the boys did the spring plowing. They planted corn in the sixty-acre bottom north of the barn, cotton in the Big Bottom, and cut hay in the small bottom. Bill and his father gambled all their resources on one good crop. The nation was at war and prices for farm commodities were good. But, “Lady Fortune” did not smile favorably on them.
They were flooded, not once, but twice. The cotton and corn was barely planted and starting to germinate when the first flood came. It destroyed the entire crop. The water receded in a few days. The tractor had been left in the field and was almost buried out of sight. It had to be dug out and overhauled.
Everyone got busy and re-planted. The cotton and corn were several inches tall when the second flood came. This one was much worse than the first. It came in July. That was practically unheard of so late in the season. The floodwaters came to the back of the barn and covered the fields for a week.112 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 113 WILLIAM EDMUND DAVIDSON
When the waters finally receded, large sandbars were washed over the fields. The second flood was a total disaster for Bill and his father. It was much too late in the season to even try to plant another crop, even if they had the money to do it. They tried to recover some by cutting and stacking hay. They had totally expended their resources and had no recourse but to give up.
They sold what little hay they harvested, sold the cows, the mules, the tractor, and the farm implements that could be salvaged. It was a dreadfully low point for Bill and Pauline. Laddie took up residence at a Boy Scout camp located on South Fork River. When Bill’s cousin, Joe Clarke, returned from World War II he became the camp manager and kept Laddie. He became a favorite pet at the camp and lived there the rest of his life.
Everything had gone so badly the boys were so disheartened by all the work and the failures that they wanted to leave Arkansas for good. Late August Bob (Bobby Joe) took the old truck as a parting token for his labors and went to Missouri to haul hay and work at a dairy. Gene left to go to school in Thayer, Missouri, and work at the YMCA for his room and board. William stayed a few weeks longer and helped cut and stack hay. He hitchhiked to Moore where he stayed with the Morrow family.
The Morrows were friends from the earlier days at Moore. Mrs. Morrow, a widow with five children, was post mistress at Moore. She also had a janitorial contract with the school. William worked for his room and board sweeping floors at the post office and the school.
After a few weeks at Thayer things were not working out for Gene with his custodians, an elderly couple, at the YMCA. They bought a train ticket for Gene to go back to Hardy and thence to Evening Shade on a bus. No way was Gene going back to Evening Shade. He got up very early that morning and left. He hitchhiked from Thayer to Oklahoma City where he went to work at the YMCA as a clean up and janitorial worker for Louie Stalken. Louie was the manager of the steam room, athletic and recreational areas of the YMCA facility. Louie had worked for Bill when he was Ticket Agent at the Oklahoma Railway Company. Gene lived the next several weeks with Louie at the Travelers Hotel on North Robinson Street.
Pauline returned by bus to Oklahoma City in September 1943. She and Bill still owned the small house at 3608 NW 13th Street. She had to do what was necessary to get the renters to vacate the house so she and Bill could move in. Pauline obtained employment at a restaurant located on NE 23rd Street to earn some money to help relocate the family back to Oklahoma City. She temporarily roomed with a fellow worker.
A few weeks later Bill with Meta Lu (Ann) and Marvin (Sam) returned to Oklahoma City in a pickup truck driven by Bill’s Uncle Cyrus Davidson. A few weeks later Mord and a man he hired with a truck arrived in Oklahoma City with the few household goods Bill and Pauline had left, including an old upright piano that was Pauline’s one luxury item.
Bill went back to work as a dockhand at Joe Hodges, his former place of employment. He joined the Teamsters Union, Local No. 886. In the meantime they were unable to move into their house until the renters moved out. Rent controls were in effect during the war. It wasn’t a simple matter of just asking them to vacate the house. There was a bureaucracy to deal with.
Alvin and Wilma Teel, friends from Moore, let Bill and Pauline store their meager household goods in their garage. Alvin was a fellow worker at Joe Hodges. Bill and Pauline with Meta Lu (Ann) and Marvin (Sam) lived with the Teels until November. Gene reunited with the family in October.
Bill and Pauline were finally able to move into their house in November 1943. Marvin (Sam) attended school at Linwood Elementary. Meta Lu (Ann) and Gene attended Taft Junior High School. Bob returned and attended Classen High School. William continued to live at Moore and attended school there. He went to 114 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family work at the Moore Messenger newspaper for a small wage and a place to live.
Bill and Pauline rejoined the Linwood Methodist Church January 5, 1944, at NW 17th Street and Drexel Boulevard. Rev. Donald F. Harrell was the pastor. Meta Lu (Ann) joined the Linwood Methodist Church April 2, 1944. The three older boys did not rejoin.
By early spring 1944 all but William had rejoined the family in Oklahoma City after the traumatic experiences from the move to Evening Shade. All the family except Marvin (Sam), the youngest, were working to earn money to regain some financial stability. Bill worked at Joe Hodges. Pauline was working at a local restaurant. William worked at the newspaper in Moore and went to school there. Bob and Gene worked at the Union Bus Station at 4th and Walker as baggage checkers and handlers. Meta Lu (Ann) worked at Veazey’s Drug Store at the soda fountain.
Bill’s parents continued to live on the Cochran Place until summer of 1944. They first moved to a place near Highland. A few months later they moved to the lower Herron Place below Johnson Bend on South Fork River near where Otter Creek flows into South Fork River west of Hardy. They moved to Kansas City, Kansas, in 1947 to live with their daughter, Mary Arabella, and her husband, Jim Dunahoo.
William was drafted into the U.S. Navy March of 1944 and sent to San Diego for basic training. During a leave home he married Mary Elizabeth Grisham, a neighborhood girl.
When Gene started the ninth-grade in junior high school at Taft he began to use his first name, Donald, and went by “Don.” Meta Lu (Ann) attended Taft Junior High School. That summer Don worked at Joe Hodges with Bill as a dockhand loading and unloading long-haul trailers.
Don attended Classen High School that fall in the tenth-grade. He played football on the B-Team and later fourth string on the varsity championship team with Bob. Meta Lu still attended Taft and Marvin attended Linwood Elementary.
At the start of 1945 it was still full mobilization for the war effort. All the family was working at various jobs. Bill continued to work at Joe Hodges. Pauline worked at a factory sewing tents for the army. Don worked the graveyard shift at a war plant as a jig rigger and later as spot welder making bomb racks.
That summer Don helped his Uncle Henry, Pauline’s brother, farm the Roller place on Panther Creek in Garvin County. Hostilities ended August 1945. That fall Don attended Classen and played football on the varsity team that won the conference, but lost in the championship playoffs. Meta Lu attended Taft Junior High School. Marvin attended Linwood Elementary School.
At the start of 1946 Bill still worked at Joe Hodges with Alvin Teel, Chester Williams, John Fitzgerald and Bobby Willard. Bill was a member in good standing of the Teamsters Union Local No. 886 in Oklahoma City. William was in the Navy serving in the Pacific. Bob had been drafted into the Army Air Corps. In March Don was inducted into the Army and processed at Camp Chaffee near Fort Smith, Arkansas. He was assigned to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, for basic training. He was later assigned to the Corps of Engineers Yuma Test Branch about thirty miles north of Yuma, Arizona, on the Colorado River just below the Imperial Dam. He later served thirty months occupation duty in Japan with the Army Paratroopers.
July 1946 World War II was officially declared ended. That fall Meta Lu (Ann) attended Central High School. She legally changed her name to “Ann.” Marvin attended Taft Junior High School. Pauline worked at Boulevard Cafeteria at 10th and Walker.
During 1950 Bill and Pauline still lived at 3608 NW 13th Street. William was out of the Navy, married to Mary Elizabeth Grisham, and had a son, Johnny Lee. Don was out of the Army, married to Patricia Paschall, a neighborhood girl, and enrolled at Oklahoma A&M College. Ann was married to Fred Melton, a neighborhood boy. Marvin (Sam) was in the Navy and had started using his first name, Samuel, and went by “Sam.” During July 1950 Sam was home on leave. The entire family gathered at Will Rogers Park for a family picnic.
Bill and Pauline owned and operated a twenty-seat cafe during 1952 and 1953. It was in the Voss Building on Washington Street across from Joe Hodges. They served breakfast and lunch only. William worked for them as their cook. Pauline managed the cafe and handled the cash register. Bill worked at Joe Hodges.
Early in 1953 Bill and Pauline moved from 3608 NW 13th Street to 3223 NW 11th Street. They attended St. Johns Methodist Church. Bill was a deacon.
For the next several years Bill and Pauline cared for and raised two of their grandchildren, Paula and Steve. Bob’s wife, Dorothy, left the children with Pauline for the day, but never returned. It was later learned she ran away with another man to California. Bob divorced Dorothy and lived at home with Bill and Pauline the next several years.
In June 1953 Bill got the sad news his father had cancer. Mord and Meta were living with their daughter, Mary, and son-in-law, Jim, in Kansas City. Don worked as a brakeman on the Rock Island Railroad out of El Reno. Jim worked for years on the Rock Island. He managed to get Don transferred as a switchman in the Armourdale Yards in Kansas City so he could live with him and Mary to help Meta care for Mord.
Mary worked for Singer Sewing Machine Company. She and Jim worked days. Don worked the graveyard shift from midnight to eight o’clock in the morning. He helped Meta with Mord during the day and took him to his doctor appointments. Mary and Jim were home by six o’clock to help Meta in the evening and at night. Don slept from six o’clock until eleven. Then he got up and went to work at midnight. Mord passed away August 29th. He was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery, Edmond, Oklahoma. He helped build the cemetery stone fence and entrance in 1929.
By 1953 Sam was out of the Navy and married to Martha Rowena Vance. He met her at Melton’s Drugstore at 14th Street and Portland Avenue. All four boys served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Sam served on several destroyers and was injured when a gun mount exploded while firing at the coast of North Korea. The children were all married and making lives for themselves.
Bill and Pauline sold the cafe in 1954. Pauline worked at Street’s, an upscale ladies ready-to-wear clothing store in downtown Oklahoma City. Street’s later opened a store in Shepard’s Mall in North Oklahoma City. Pauline transferred to work at the new store. She thoroughly enjoyed helping ladies, especially the younger ones, try on and select fine dresses and clothing that she had never been able to have for herself. Bill worked at Joe Hodges and was an active Teamsters member. Don graduated from Oklahoma A&M and went to work for a major oil company in Texas.
The next several years the family occasionally gathered at Bills and Pauline’s house for family get-togethers. There was always much discussion about a variety of things and a lot of spirited conversation. William and Bob always argued about which car, Ford or Chevrolet, was the best. Don, the always-irreverent third born little brother, would insist Plymouth was the best just to be antagonistic, not that he really believed it. Nothing he loved better than to ‘egg’ his two older brothers into going at each other. Bill almost always remained aloof to all the harangue. He would much rather tell tall tales to the grandkids. After a few years these family get-togethers became less and less frequent as some of the children’s careers and lives took them to other states to work and live.
Bill, Pauline and Meta, Bill’s mother, traveled to Brownsville, Texas, in the summer of 1955 to visit Don and his wife, Pat. Bill and Pauline flew on Mexicana Airline from Brownsville to Monterrey, Mexico. This was their first time to fly. They spent a few days sight-seeing in Monterrey and then took a return flight to Brownsville.118 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 119 WILLIAM EDMUND DAVIDSON
Don and Pat took Bill, Pauline and Meta deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Don and Pat with their friends, Leonard and Doris Holland and Tom and Janice Hill, rented a forty-two foot cabin cruiser for the day. Captain Williams took them out thirty-two miles offshore. They trolled with three lines out. They caught king mackerel, ling, and bonito, a kind of tuna. They weighed from fifteen to twenty-five pounds each. Bill had never caught such large fish. It took a lot of effort to reel in one. They caught a total of twenty-seven. Meta sure wanted to land one of those fish. It took a lot to convince her that it was too much for an eighty-year old woman.
In 1960 the Teamsters became involved in a labor dispute over seniority rights and work rules with the local motor freight companies. Bill no longer worked at Joe Hodges. Another company had bought them. He worked at Braswell-Hall. The Teamsters struck some of the local motor freight companies including Braswell-Hall. Bill was on strike.
Bill and Pauline flew to Salt Lake City in the summer of 1963 to visit Don and Pat. They took several sightseeing trips around Salt Lake City and into the mountains of Utah. They visited Pauline’s sister, Beatrice, who lived at Price, Utah.
Bill walked the picket line until 1965 when he suddenly collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. He suffered a major stroke and was hospitalized at St. Anthony’s hospital in Oklahoma City under the care of Dr. Warner for six weeks. He was discharged and went through a lengthy rehabilitation at home to regain muscular use.
Pauline was constantly at Bill’s side and worked diligently with him during this long rehabilitation. It was several years before he was completely recovered. In the meantime he retired and started drawing his Teamsters pension. The road to recovery was long and tedious, but by 1968 he was pretty much back to normal. Bill’s mother, Meta, suffered several small strokes during the 1960’s.
Early in 1969 Bill and Pauline went to a place near El Centro, California, in the Imperial Valley for several months. Carl Self, a friend from Pauline’s childhood, was in the real estate business in California. He came into a citrus orchard through some kind of real estate deal.
The orchard had been neglected for several years. It needed someone to take charge and get it into shape so Carl could sell it. Bill and Pauline agreed to take on that responsibility. They lived in a house trailer on the property. They hired laborers to do the clean up work and take care of the orchard to get it back into good condition. They learned a lot about living in the desert, irrigation, and citrus grove management and production.
Late in 1969 Bill and Pauline moved from 3223 NW 11th Street to an acreage on the south side of Shawnee Lake ten miles west of Shawnee, Oklahoma. They owned ten acres and started a Christmas tree farm. They planted five acres of pine tree seedlings. They kept a large garden. They attended Bethel Methodist Church.
William E. Davidson Family – 1952
Front L. to R. Ann, Pauline, William E.
Back L. to R. Don, Bill, Bob, Sam120 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family
Several years later at Christmas time they advertised in the local newspapers for people to bring their children to select and cut their own Christmas trees. Bill and Pauline enjoyed very much helping the young people pick out their trees and cut them down.
Bill’s mother, Meta, suffered a stroke 6 July 1970 and passed away. She was ninety-three years old. She was buried next to Mord at Memorial Park Cemetery at Edmond, Oklahoma.
Bill and Pauline celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary 9 May 1975. They rented a large room at the Holiday Inn in Shawnee. They had a ceremony and repeated their wedding vows. They had a catered sit down dinner served for the guests. A professional photographer took color photos for an album and of the several family groups. Pauline liked to write poetry. She assembled some of her poems and published them in a booklet, “Whispering Leaves”, to commemorate the occasion.
Afterwards, they had a reception at their home west of Shawnee. Bill’s sister, Mary, and her husband, Jim Dunahoo, attended. Pauline’s sisters and brothers-in-law that attended were: Jewel and Tom Gardner, Blanche (Gardenhire) and Larry Stewart, and Dixie and Ed Huffman. Pauline’s sister Hazel Roller and her brother Henry Roller also attended.
Bill and Pauline took a trip to Europe in November 1975. They landed at Gatwick Airport south of London and visited Ann and Fred who lived in Bristol, England, at the time. They went sightseeing in Southern England and Wales where they visited Chepstow Castle. They went to Scotland where they toured Tulloch Castle and Dingwall Castle, the hereditary castle of the Clan Davidson. They traveled to Belgium and Germany where they visited with Don Stevenson, grandson of a neighbor and childhood friend of Gene (Don) when they lived at Moore. Don Stevenson lived in Germany and had a business interest there. He took Bill and Pauline touring many interesting places in Germany and Austria.
Bill and Pauline moved from Shawnee to Brenham, Texas., in July 1978. There they joined the United Methodist Church. They made many new friends. They had a large lot and each year Bill and Pauline planted, cultivated, and harvested the fruits of a well-kept garden. They often gave produce to friends and surrounding neighbors.
They celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary in May 1985 at the United Methodist Church. Many friends and relatives attended. They thoroughly enjoyed the next ten years together cultivating their garden, caring for the flowers and plants, and remodeling part of the house.
Pauline always wanted to be a writer. She spent a lot of time writing about religion and life. Bill liked to read and work crossword puzzles.
William E. Davidson Family – 1956
L. to R. Sam, William E., Bill, Pauline, Ann, Don
Early in December 1988 Pauline was hospitalized at The Trinity Medical Center in Brenham with a heart condition. She was released after a few days and returned home.
Early Christmas morning of 1988 the local EMS rushed her to the hospital. Bill called Don and Pat, in Bartonville, Texas, about two o’clock in the morning. They rushed to Brenham and arrived at the hospital about eight o’clock only to find Pauline had been discharged and sent home. Later that afternoon about four-fifteen o’clock Pauline died at home in her own bed. She always said that was where she wanted to die, “at home in my own bed.”
Pauline was religiously devout. She wanted so very much to do so many good things for so many people. This was a compelling influence in her life. Others often misunderstood the things she did because she did not possess the delicate communication skills and finesse commensurate with her desire and zeal to do good for others. Yet, she never asked anything of others for herself and she never wanted to be a burden to anyone. She was a very independent person and very strong willed in that way.
She truly picked her place and time to die. She died quietly and peacefully in her own bed in Bill’s arms without pain or suffering. She went quietly and quickly with head held high and in her own way asking nothing from anyone. She brought life to her children and she went on ahead like a good mother to prepare the way for the rest of those whom she loves so dearly.
Two funerals were held for Pauline–one in Brenham and one in Oklahoma City for relatives and friends. She was buried 31 December 1988, at Memorial Park Cemetery, Edmond, Oklahoma, in the same lot with Bill’s father and mother.
Bill continued to live alone at the home in Brenham. In November, 1991, when he was ninety years old, his sons, Don and Sam, and their wives, Pat and Rowena, planned and held a large birthday celebration at the United Methodist Church recreation center in Brenham. It was thought this might be the last birthday celebration for Bill. Many relatives and friends attended. Pauline’s sisters Jewel, Blanche, and Dixie attended. Many photos were taken and a video made of the event.
November 1996 Don, Pat, Sam and Rowena again planned and held a ninety-fifth birthday celebration for Bill at Don and Pat’s home near Brenham. It was thought this would probably be the last birthday celebration for Bill, so Don, Pat, Sam and Rowena went all out to make it an eventful birthday. Again, many relatives and friends attended. A friend flew William and Mary from Liberal, Kansas, so they could attend. Bob and Bonnie, and Ann and Fred attended. Many photos were taken and a video made to record the event.
November 10, 1998, Bill’s friends held a ninety-eighth birthday celebration dinner for him at the K&G Restaurant in Brenham. The following Saturday evening the family held a birthday celebration for him at the same restaurant.
In June 2001 Bill traveled with his daughter, Ann, and her husband, Fred, to the Clarke Family Reunion at Rose Edna (Clarke) French’s home near Hardy, Arkansas, only a few miles from where Bill was born. Rose Edna is Bill’s first cousin. Bill traveled home to Brenham with Don and his wife, Pat. Bill made the trip very nicely and without incident. He enjoyed very much meeting and visiting with his Clarke cousins.
By September 2001 Bill lived alone in Brenham at the home he shared with Pauline all those precious years. He was ninety-nine years old and continued to enjoy reasonably good health considering his age. His mind stayed keen and very alert. He busied himself reading, working crossword puzzles, watching TV, and visiting with friends. He occasionally attended church at the United Methodist Church. He sometimes attended the Methodist Men’s Club and met with a group of seniors known as “Keenagers”. He sometimes attended Saint Pauls Lutheran Church in Brenham with friends.
Bill’s son, Don, and his wife, Pat, planned and handled all the arrangements for a one hundredth birthday party for him Saturday, 10 November 2001 at St. Peters Episcopal Church Parish Hall in Brenham. Some of Bill’s children and grandchildren helped defray the expenses. Various family members pitched in the last day or two and helped. Many friends and family attended.
Trumpets sounded and a long red carpet was rolled out by two of Bill’s great grandsons, Casey and Daryl Davidson, as all sang “For He is a Jolly Good Fellow.” He sat in a king’s chair as Sue Johnson sang personal songs. The choir from the Methodist church sang for him. Certificates of Recognition from President Bush, Governor Perry, Congressman Brady, State Representative Lois Kolkhorst and State Senator Steve Ogden were presented. County Judge Dorothy Morgan issued a Proclamation commemorating his 100th birthday. Family members told stories and anecdotes about his life. Photos were taken and a video made by Greg, his grandson, to record the event. Don was the master of ceremonies.
Bill lived alone until 5 September 2002, when Don took him to Trinity Medical Center with an angina attack. He was in the hospital several days. September 9th he was released from the hospital and checked himself into the Gazebo Convalescent Center. Sally Boehm, a social worker at the hospital, convinced him that he needed to be in a nursing home. Bill signed a legal document at Trinity Medical Center giving Don and Ann medical power of attorney. Ann handled his trust as the executrix and Don handled his financial affairs. Bill was not too happy at Gazebo. After a few days he commented, “There’s nobody here but old people.”
Paula, Bill’s granddaughter, and her husband, Gary Lynch, agreed to live with Bill at home and care for him for the same amount he was paying to stay at Gazebo. He came home 31 October 2002. This arrangement was satisfactory until Bill had a serious angina attack 25 February 2004 that went into atrial fibrillation. Bill slumped unconscious at the breakfast table. Gary summoned the EMS. Bill had no vital signs when EMS arrived and was not responding to their efforts, but they were able to revive him and transported him to the Trinity Medical Center. Don stayed with him until he was released to go home that evening.
The angina attack anxiety and other factors prompted Paula and Gary to discontinue their service caring for Bill. Paula and Gary took him to Gazebo 12 March 2004. That is where he lived until he passed away December 7th 2005. He gave some of his household goods to family and friends. The rest was sold at an estate sale. The home Bill and Pauline knew for so many years in Brenham was put up for sale. Don coordinated the remodeling and Ann handled the sale.
Bill lived the rest of his days at Gazebo. He watched television and played dominos and bingo. Up until the last few months Bill played six bingo cards at a time. He won a quarter for each bingo. He won so often the other clients complained so that Bill was allowed to play only three cards at a time. He kept a daily diary though his penmanship was getting weak and shaky. A few friends sometimes came to visit, though his friends had mostly passed away. Other than Don and Ann the rest of the family seldom came to visit. Don handled his financial matters and ran errands to take care of things he needed. Ann was trustee for his trust fund.
An interesting sidelight to Bill’s life is he said he had been declared dead five times, yet much to everyone’s surprise, he came back alive.
Pauline and William E. Davidson – 1978
First, he was born at his grandparents’ house. They thought he was stillborn. His parents and grandparents were discussing where to bury him when his mother noticed him take a breath.
Second, when he was three years old his father was carrying some timbers to the other side of a creek. His father told him to hold onto his pants leg as he waded across the creek. When he got to the other side Bill was nowhere to be seen. His father frantically looked downstream only to find Bill at the bottom of a pool of water. His father carried his limp body over his shoulder to the house. His parents thought he was dead and were discussing where to bury him, when again his mother noticed him take a breath.
Third, when he was seven years old a mule kicked him in the head. Bill’s father carried his limp body to the house. His parents were discussing what to do when again his mother noticed him take a breath.
Fourth, when he was sixty-two years old he had a massive stroke and was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. A few minutes later a nurse noticed him wiggle his toe.
Fifth, when he was a hundred and two years old he had a heart attack at the breakfast table. His granddaughter called 911. When the EMS team arrived he had no vital signs. They worked with him a few minutes and he was not responding. Paula thought he was dead. Then he came around and the EMS technicians noticed he took a breath. They transported him to the hospital. He recovered and lived another two years.
Bill died at 1:35 a.m. December 7th 2005, Don’s birthday. The nurse at Gazebo called Don at 1:40 a.m. Bill had been failing noticeably the past several months. About six months ago he began to have severe pain in the left side of his neck, jaw and head. Several different pain medicines were tried to find one that would give him relief. None seemed to work very well.
The day before Bill’s 104th birthday Don took him to Dr. Maraist, a neurologist in College Station that specialized in pain management. He gave Bill a cortisone shot in the left side of his neck and a prescription to start taking a few days later. The cortisone shot gave him good relief for only about twenty-four hours.
They had a small celebration at Gazebo for Bill on his 104th birthday. Bill’s friends, Leo and Mariann Strom, Josephine Helm, Ruth Peters, Evelyn Lueckemeyer, Alice Hein, several of the Gazebo residents, and Don attended. Ann came later after the party. Bill felt fairly well.
The next several days Bill had a few reasonably good days and some bad days. He was perfectly lucid, alert, and talkative. The morning of November 21st he fell hitting his head on the floor. Gazebo called Don and he rushed over. Bill was on his bed limp and lifeless like. The nurse said his vital signs were weak.
This is an email Don sent November 22nd to all the family:
A note to let you all know about Dad.
He has deteriorated markedly the past few days. He has excruciating pain in his head, jaw, and neck. He mumbles and is incoherent most of the time. He has trouble recognizing me even though I see him at least once and sometimes two and three times a day. He keeps his eyes closed. He hallucinates at times. When a little water or milk trickles down his chin he thinks he is drowning. He won’t eat. This evening I had to help the Gazebo aid almost force feed him some chicken noodle soup, a small amount of ice cream, and about a third of a small glass of milk. At times he says he is dying. He says over and over, “It hurts. It hurts. It hurts.” It is heart wrenching to be at his bedside at a time like this.
Last month I insisted an MRI be done on Dad’s head and neck. The doctors said the results showed his brain to be normal–no tumors, water on the brain, etc. It showed he had severe arthritis in his neck. I think this is where the pain comes from. I think the nerves that come out of the spinal column in the neck area to the head are inflamed or under some kind of pressure or irritation from the arthritis. I haven’t been able to convince the doctors I am right.
November 9th I took Dad to a neurologist in Bryan. He referred Dad to another doctor (neurologist). I took him to the second doctor November 15th. He gave Dad a shot of cortisone in the neck. It relieved the pain for about 24 hours. Then it resumed. November 21st we started a regimen of Tegretol twice a day. It is a very strong medicine. Today the doctor doubled the dosage. He is still in severe pain. The past two months Dad has been on a number of strong pain medicines like Hydrocodone, Vicidin, Ultram, and Neurotrin. None have brought him relief.
William E. “Bill” Davidson’s 100th birthday party – 2001
I don’t think Dad is going to be with us much longer unless he experiences a dramatic turnaround in the next few days. However, he has fooled us before. He is one tough old guy.
Sorry I can’t send good news. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.
This is a fax Don sent December 4th to Dr. Maraist:
I am William E. Davidson’s son. I have a Medical Power of Attorney from Dad on file at the Trinity Medical Center.
I am very concerned about the sudden dramatic change in Dad’s condition. Prior to November 20th he was lucid, alert, talkative and able to feed himself and go to the bathroom without assistance. The only serious problem was the persistent excruciating pain in the left side of his neck and head, and pain in his left jaw. Dad and I visited your office November 15th. You gave him a cortisone shot in the left side of his neck. It lasted about twenty-four hours during which he was virtually pain free. You prescribed Tegretol (100 mg) twice a day to start November 20th if the pain had not subsided. That regimen was started. The next day (November 21st) I called you because Dad was in excruciating pain. You faxed the Gazebo to double the dosage which they did starting November 21st.
Something sudden and dramatic happened November 21st. Dad fell and hit the left side of his head on the floor causing an abrasion near his eye with a nasty looking blackeye. I first thought he had a stroke because he was limp as an old rag, could not or would not speak, and could not or would not open his eyes. He was totally non-responsive. His vital signs (as taken by the Gazebo nursing staff) were weak. Consequently, I called you and you instructed the Gazebo staff to reduce his Tegretol dosage back to 100 mg twice a day. I called you a few days later and you instructed the Gazebo staff to reduce the Tegretol dosage to 50 mg three times a day. They now give him that dosage at 9:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. daily.
As of today Dad will barely eat or drink. He sometimes nods his head for “yes” or “no.” I have to really coax him to say my name. I ask him if his head hurts and he shakes his head “No.” I am very concerned, especially since there was such a sudden and dramatic change in his condition.
Do you think he may have had a stroke? Is there some way to test for that? Do you think the Tegretol could have had such a sudden and dramatic effect on him? Do you think it advisable to gradually wean him from the Tegretol and see if his condition improves? If so what other medication do you advise?
Don thinks Bill had a stroke and fell. He was never quite right after the fall. He had to be really coaxed to open his eyes and look at anyone. He could not talk, just made sounds. He would not, or more likely could not, eat or drink. He could not swallow food or liquid. Don and the nursing aids would try to force him to swallow, but he couldn’t. He had very little use of his arms and legs.
Bill’s daughter, Ann, visited him about this same time. She tells that as she was leaving she kissed him and told him she loved him. She said he managed to weakly whisper, “I love you.”
Bill died at 1:35 a.m. December 7th 2005 at Gazebo.
What follows is Don’s account of events following Bill’s demise:
We had a funeral at Brenham Memorial Chapel December 9th in Brenham, Texas. The afternoon of December 11th we had a wake at the Smith and Kernke Funeral Home in Oklahoma City. The morning of December 12th we had a funeral service at Memorial Park Cemetery in the mausoleum conducted by my son, Greg, and Dad’s grandson, Steve Davidson. Greg is an ordained Presbyterian minister and Steve is an ordained minister in his church. Burial was that day next to Mom and with Dad’s parents, Mord and Meta Davidson.
The past year I came to know my father in a way I had never known him. I went to see him almost every day and sometimes two or three times in a single day. Nice days I would push him outside in his wheelchair around the Gazebo grounds. We would talk about a lot of things. We would sometimes stop and watch the traffic zipping along on Highway #290 in front of Gazebo. We would speculate about the different vehicles and where they were going. One day a pickup went by pulling a fishing boat. Dad said, “Well, we know where he is going.”
Dad loved to tell stories. He was a great storyteller. He loved to spin a good yarn. Years ago he told some people of an incident for which I had personal knowledge. Later I told Dad, “That wasn’t exactly the way it was. You embellished it somewhat.” Dad looked me square in the eye and said, “Son, if a story is worth telling it is worth embellishing.”
He often told stories to kids at the Brenham elementary schools, the library or when a teacher brought kids to Gazebo. He had an entire litany of stories about his dog, Spot. I asked him one day if he ever really had a dog named Spot. He said, “No. He was just an imaginary dog.” I sat in on some of Dad’s story telling sessions with school kids. One of his many stories was about a bear he met one day in the woods near his house when he was a kid. He told how he played peek-a-boo behind trees and bushes with the bear. He told how he would play hide-and-seek with the bear. He told how he played tag with the bear. He would chase the bear and sometime the bear would chase him. He told of going out the next day to play with the bear, but it was gone. He never saw it again.
There always was an element of truth to Dad’s stories, but with considerable embellishment and outright omission. What he did not tell the kids was that when he was a kid traveling medicine shows were commonplace. They were horse drawn and often had a trained performing bear as an attraction to draw a crowd to sell the various tonics and salves for aches and pains. The bears were accustomed to people, usually very old, almost toothless, and declawed. This particular bear escaped one night from a traveling medicine show nearby. Dad actually played with the bear the next day in the woods. And, of course the medicine man went looking for his bear. When he found it he took it back to the show wagon. Dad never saw the bear again. The kids loved it!
The people at Gazebo, staff and clients, liked Dad. Even family members that came to visit other clients got to know Dad and liked him. He was a willing conversationalist and told them stories. Everyone marveled at his advanced years and often asked him the secret of his long life.
The program director, a young woman, at Gazebo tried to conduct sitting physical exercise classes for the elderly clients, but not too successfully. Dad and one or two others attended her classes. One day Dad volunteered to conduct the classes. She agreed but was skeptical. After a few sessions twelve to fifteen people began to attend. They felt intimidated that a man over a hundred years of age was conducting the classes and thought they should at least make an effort.
One day the program director suggested that Dad make some changes in his routines and the times. Dad told her, “I volunteered to do this. If you are going to tell me what to do and when to do it you will have to pay me.” That ended that. She let Dad run the classes his way.
I began to see a different personality in Dad than the one he had around our family. There were too many old memories of bad times in the family. Other people never knew about that “baggage” Dad carried, so he was much more relaxed and gregarious with others. He had a friendliness and openness with a dash of wit I had never experienced when I was with him around others at Gazebo. I think this is what attracted Mom to him when they were so young. He came to accept me more as his good friend than as his son from the past. Thus, we came to have a close camaraderie I had never before had with him. He was always thoughtful of me and always appreciative for what I did for him. He always without fail thanked me when I took my leave.
So, Dad, I’m glad I had the opportunity to get to know you in a way I think was your true self unencumbered by the bad times. I wish others in the family could have known you as I came to know you. I truly miss you. I pray you are with Mom and at peace.
MARY PAULINE ROLLER
MARY PAULINE ROLLER, second child and first daughter of Dillmus Elias “Dill” and Arlie Luvida (Jones) Roller, was born 1 March 1905 near Antioch, Indian Territory (I.T.), in what is now Garvin County, Oklahoma. Pauline married William Edmund “Bill” Davidson 8 May 1925 in Pauls Valley, Garvin County, Oklahoma. They had five children: (1) William Lee born 3 March 1926; (2) Bobby Joe born 11 May 1927; (3) Donald Jean born 7 December 1928; (4) Meta Luvida born 1 July 1931; and (5) Samuel Marvin born 20 January 1933.
Dillmus “Dill” Elisa Roller, son of Henry Harrison Roller and Mary Ann (Osborn) Roller, was born 15 October 1877 at Ava, Douglas County, Missouri. He married Arlie Luvida Jones, daughter of Cornelous Coats “Trick” and Sarah Lugaine (Jones) Jones, 10 February 1901 at Johnsonville, McClain County, I.T., now Oklahoma. Dill died 28 December 1965 at Maysville, Garvin County, Oklahoma. Arlie died 14 October 1961 at Maysville, Garvin County, Oklahoma. They are buried side-by-side at Antioch Cemetery, Garvin County, Oklahoma.
Mary Pauline had two brothers and seven younger sisters. Her older brother was Loyce Elmer born 5 April 1903. Her sisters were: Margaret “Marge” Ellen born 7 December 1906; Hazel Pearl born 26 October 1908; Cora Jewel born 8 May 1911; Edna Blanche born 22 May 1913; Emma “Bea” Beatrice born 5 May 1915; Naomi “Dixie”
Elizabeth born 22 October 1920; and Elsie Alice born 31 October 1923. Her brother, Henry Cornelous was born 17 June 1917.
Dill Roller’s parents were Henry Harrison Roller (1848-1915) and Mary Ann (Osborn) Roller (1851-1935). Henry Harrison Roller’s parents were Dillmus Elias Roller (1812-1887) and Elizabeth (Paine) Roller (1817-1882). Dillmus Elias Roller’s parents were Jacob Roller (1766-1860) and Eve (Zirkle) Roller (1774-1858). Jacob Roller’s parents were Johannes Roller (1725-1816) and Anna (Ocher) Roller (1730-1786).1
Mary Ann Osborn’s parents were Etcyl Osborn (1815-1886) and Cyntha (Nelson) Osborn (1817-1848)
Arlie (Jones) Roller’s parents were Cornelous Coats “Trick” Jones (1843-1929) and Sarah Lugaine (Jones) Jones (1848-1897). Cornelous did not like his name and went by “C.C.” or “Trick” Jones most of his life. His parents were Wiley E. Jones (1804-1885) and Elizabeth H. (Talley)2 Jones (1805-1877). Lugaine Jones’ parents were Rev. James Madison Jones (1819-1892) a part Cherokee and Matilda (Cook) Jones, a Cherokee. It is believed that James Madison Jones was of illegitimate birth.
Nothing is known about our Cherokee heritage except they came to Indian Territory from what is now Georgia on the Trail of Tears and Sarah Luganie was born somewhere in Northern Arkansas. Matilda’s father, John Randall Cook, was half Scot and half Cherokee. His wife was full Cherokee. Their daughter, Matilda, was three-fourths Cherokee. She married James Madison Jones. He was half Cherokee. His mother was full Cherokee. His father was unknown, except according to family folklore it is thought he was one of the Federal troops that escorted the Cherokees on the
1 (See Appendix 6, Roller Six Generations Chart)
2 (There has been a long-standing family controversy as to the correct surname. Some say it is Butterworth, while others say Talley. Arlie [Jones] Roller told Don, her grandson, years ago that it is Talley. This is given more credence by the fact one of the children [Zachariah] has the middle name of Talley.)Trail of Tears from Georgia to Indian Territory. He claimed his name was “James Madison Jones”, so that was what she named her child. Its ironic that James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, died in 1836 about this same time.
Pauline’s parents, Dill and Arlie, lived most of their married life on the banks of Panther Creek in the shadow of the Table Hills1 in what is now western Garvin County, Oklahoma, a few miles southwest of the community of Antioch. They were married 10 February 1901 at Johnsonville (which no longer exists) in Indian Territory (in what is now McClain County, Oklahoma). They first lived in a house which Dill and his brothers built near Alex, Oklahoma. That is where their oldest child, Loyce, was born.
Pauline’s father was a farmer. Her mother was part Cherokee. They lived at three different locations along Panther Creek. The last place was a 120-acre farm Dill bought about a mile south of the earlier location.
Following is a transcript taken from typed and handwritten papers written by Pauline as an account of her life, philosophy and beliefs as well as her family history. She started this years ago but never finished it before she died December 25, 1988. The original sheets were given to her son, Don, by his father in July, 1998.
There were numerous typographical, grammatical and spelling errors that were corrected. Parts were edited to make it more comprehensible, but the context was not altered.
A ROLLER/JONES FAMILY HISTORY
Historians dress up the events of our history until we have to dig for the undesirable aspects that make daily news as it is happening. This possibly is best for youth that have to study it.
1 (The Table Hills are geologic plateau escarpments several hundred feet high.)138 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 139 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
But, when they arrive at maturity and have to take the reins of government in their own hands, they need to know the true facts in order to know what to expect and learn how to best cope with the pitfalls of state and nation.
I’m thinking of a president and a governor whose political lives were ruined by crooked deals. In the literature of my school days, books like Thereau’s “Walden” and William Cullen Bryan’s “Thanotopsis” and “To A Waterfowl” were expounded and none of the pitfalls and erring ways of our leaders were brought to the foreground.
Only time can tell if revealing all the wiles of men is better for our great society or will the people just come to accept graft as a part of life.
It seems that outwitting the law always has been considered smart. I’ve heard my mother tell about two of her brothers-in-law trapping quail in Territorial days. It seems they were allowed just so many birds. If the law caught them with more than the law permitted they would be jailed. That happened to these two men, and they were being taken to jail. They were traveling in a spring wagon to reach the jail. The men were riding in the back of the wagon where the birds were cached in crates. Although they were handcuffed, one of the men managed to raise the trap door. Since it was dark by this time, the birds quietly slipped out of the trapdoor and fluttered to the ground without being detected. When the officers got to the judge they had no evidence so had to let the men go. That was a small incident, but they felt elated.
There were also men of God who were concerned about the morals of mankind. I’ve heard much about the old circuit riders of Territorial days. One of my great-grandfathers filled such a capacity in Texas soon after the close of the Civil War.
This great-grandfather was christened James Madison Jones and was married to Matilda Cook, a Cherokee. Their daughter, my grandmother, Lugaine Jones, was born on the Trail of Tears after the Cherokees arrived in what is now Northern Arkansas. How it is they reached Texas is a story I never heard. They may have been running from the Civil War conflict.
Another of my great-grandparents was also named Jones. He was Wiley E. Jones, born February 15, 1804. He died November 29, 1885. His wife, Elizabeth H. (Talley) Jones was born May 12, 1805. She died March 14, 1877. They are buried in the Jones Cemetery about five miles south of Eagan, Johnson County, Texas. Their children were: Calvert (1828); Lafayette W. (1830-1883); Jack Hall (1832-1920); Elizabeth H. Tennessee (1836-1867); Wiley Sumner (1839-1907); Zachariah Talley “Zeke” (1841-1931); Cornelous Coats “Trick” (1843-1929); Eudocia M. (1846); William (1849); and Robert A. (1851).
They first lived in Sumner County, Tennessee. About 1840 they moved to a farm near Conyerville, Henry County, Tennessee, near the Kentucky stateline. They farmed a plantation there with slaves. They also owned and ran a grain mill a Conyerville.1
When this wise old sage saw the storm clouds of the Civil War gathering, he sold all his holdings, loaded his family in wagons and headed for Texas in wagon-train fashion.2 My grandfather, Cornelous Coats Jones, and his older brother, Zeke, took on the job of driving their livestock through by herding and grazing them
1 (This mill was located at what came to be known as Jones Mill, a very small village in far north Henry County, Tennessee, very near the state line.)
2 (They apparently arrived in what is now Johnson County sometime after July 1854 and settled near what is today known as Egan, Texas. The Registrations of Deeds in Henry County, Tennessee, shows that on September 8, 1853, Wiley E. Jones conveyed 50 acres to E. A. Atchison for the sum of one thousand and twenty dollars such deed recorded July 1, 1854, pages 178 and 179. A Texas Land Grant granted 320 acres on the waters of the North Fork of Chambers Creek to Wiley E. Jones, filed November 1, 1859, and recorded December 15, 1859, signed by H. R. Rummels, Governor, and recorded in Book A, Vol. 19, No. 87, Johnson County, Cleburne, Texas. This grant is today known as the Wiley E. Jones Survey for legal descriptive purposes.)140 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 141 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
on open land all the way from Tennessee to Texas. They had no sooner completed their task than the Civil War began.
C. C., or “Trick” as he was nicknamed, and his brother Zeke, returned to the South to aid in the war against the North leaving their parents and older married brothers and several younger siblings whose names are listed above.1
Many were the tragic stories told by Grandfather Trick Jones. One story was of him contracting a fever of some sort and of being given a discharge and sent on his way to avoid contaminating the rest of the army. He traveled for days, part of the time semi-conscious. He finally arrived home but his mother was afraid they would all die from the fever, so he was housed in a small building by himself and given his old Negro mammy to look after him. She nursed him back to health. He was no sooner well than he headed right back into the war where he stayed by his brother’s side until the end of the war.2
When they were told they would have to surrender their horses to the North, the Jones boys along with some others slipped away in the hours of darkness and headed for Texas–this time on the run. By the time they reached Texas the Federal troops were hot on their trail. Their next destination was Mexico. I have heard
1 (The military records for C. C. Jones show he was mustered in to the Confederate Army, 12th Cavalry, Texas, at Camp Hebert near Hempstead, Texas, October 28, 1861, as a Private, age 19, by W. J. Neal. C. C. Jones traveled 260 miles to rendezvous, his horse, named Maco Mano, was valued at $140, and his personal equipment valued at $15. He acquired the nickname “Trick” as a result of several escapades during the war where he tricked his captors and escaped. At first he was called “The Trickster” which later just became “Trick.” The horse’s name probably was a derivative of “Macho Mano” meaning strong hand in Spanish.)
2 (The military record for C. C. Jones, 4th Cpl., Co. C, 12th Regiment Texas Cavalry, shows he was Present on the Company Muster Roll for the period September 1 to December 31, 1863. at Hempstead, Texas, by Lt. Sparks, last paid August 31, 1863, by Capt. Terrell.)grandfather tell of almost starving of thirst as they crossed the plains.
I don’t know what route they took to Mexico. I have studied the map of Texas and it seems to me there were rivers near enough to each that a day’s journey from one to the other even on horseback would be possible. Of course, if they went via a western route and entered Mexico in the Big Bend country, or even farther west around El Paso, that would have been a different story. This is a more likely scenario.
However they went I’ve heard grandfather tell of being so very thirsty. They were veering to the right as they went but his horse kept trying to go left. They wanted to go right for some reason. After they were returning from this journey grandfather followed his horse and found a huge lake of water. Thereafter he followed his horse instead of guiding him. He loved this horse almost as much as life.
As they journeyed on this safari they finally came to a huge gorge which looked as if there would be water in the bottom. So, they climbed down into it and indeed found water. Grandfather said he carried a hat full of water to his horse before he drank any for himself. They remained there to drink water and refresh their horses for several days before journeying on to Mexico.
Right after the Civil War a disturbance arose between the United States and Mexico. The United States government did not want any Americans down there stirring up strife.1
After the Southern men returned from Mexico, my grandfather took a job as an Indian fighter guarding the cattle drives that went north to Dodge City. They had many skirmishes with Indians. I’ve heard grandfather tell how he thought he may have given Geronimo the scar that he carried to the grave.
1 (They later obtained official Federal paroles to return to the United States with their guns, horses, and saddles.)142 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 143 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
They were on a cattle drive and the scouts were trying to draw the Indians away from the cattle by bantering them into following them so the cattle wouldn’t be scattered on the plains. A terrible looking chief in war paint came dashing up to grandfather with a lariat to rope him.
As the chief raced alongside grandfather he was so certain he had his man that he raced right up beside his prey. Just as he threw the lariat circle grandfather raised in his stirrups, bent over his saddle horn, and laid his head against the neck of his steed. The loop slipped harmlessly over grandfather’s shoulder.
In the meantime, grandfather had jerked his sword from its scabbard. He made a vicious back slash at the chief’s head not waiting to see if his blade had taken its toll. The Indians dropped back and in a few moments were seen loping off in the direction from which they had appeared.1
Another story I have heard grandfather tell was about a West Texas village that was fearful of an Indian attack, so the men all banded together and went out to meet the onslaught. The doctor was the only man left in the village. The following morning the doctor’s wife awoke bright and early. She told her husband of a terrible dream she had in the night. All of the men except one had been killed and he was near death. She told him exactly where this battle had taken place and that this man was lying under a mesquite bush. She dreamed she walked out there carrying a pitcher of water and gave him a drink.
Later in the day when they had heard nothing of the men, she finally persuaded the doctor to take her to the place. There lay all
1 (The Indian probably wanted Trick’s horse. A continuing part of the story as told by his daughter, Arlie, is that when Trick sat back up in his saddle he looked around to see where the Indian was. He didn’t see him. Then he saw the Indian’s horse gallop out of a deep gulch. At first Trick thought he had knocked the Indian from his horse, but taking a second look he saw the Indian clinging to the underneath side of his horse as it galloped over a ridge and out of sight.)the men dead and scalped except for one who insisted the doctor’s wife came to him in the middle of the night with a drink of water when he was dying of thirst.
It seems rather ironic that C. C. Trick Jones would marry a half Indian when he had spent so much time fighting them. Luganie was the daughter of a Methodist circuit rider. Luganie’s mother was Cherokee.1
This grandfather, C. C. Jones, was born into a home of slave owners. He never really learned how to work and manage a home or family without a helping hand from someone. Neither did my mother know how to keep house as my grandmother had moved from one district to another as the daughter of a Methodist circuit rider. When she married C. C. Trick Jones they were a pitiful pair to begin life on the prairies of Texas south of what is now Fort Worth.2
1 (C. C. Jones married Sarah Luganie Jones who is believed to be three-fourths Cherokee. She was the daughter of James Madison Jones whose mother, Matilda Cook, was Cherokee, an Eastern Indian. Trick spent his time fighting Plains Indians.)
2 (The severe hardships endured by the Cherokees in their trek from their eastern native lands to the foreigh lands of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas are well documented. This grandmother, Sarah Luganie Jones, was born somewhere in Northern Arkansas during the forced relocation of the Cherokees in 1838 to about 1849 from their homelands in parts of Georgia and Alabama. This was known as The Trail of Tears. These people had to be very resourceful just to have survived.
The hardships endured by the men of the Texas 12th Cavalry [Trick’s unit} during the Civil War are utterly unbelievable as documened by diaies, letters, and detailed accounts written by the soldiers. They had to be hardy and resourceful just to survive the entire ordeal of war with the lack of food, clothing, medical care, etc., not to mention engaging the enemy in battle. Also, a man who not only served well during the struggle, but also spent several years as a cattle herd guard, mostly as an Indian fighter, would be savvy and resourceful in the ways of life on the Texas prairie in 1868.)144 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 145 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
Another great-grandfather was Etcyl Osborne1 who lived in Georgia at the time of the Civil War. He was a Baptist minister and against slavery. This made him very unpopular. He had two sons that were drafted into the Confederate Army. Their names were Mack and George. I can remember admiring their pictures when I was a small child. They were very stately gentlemen.
Although they were in the Confederate Army, the first opportunity they got they surrendered to the North. They were suspected of being spies for the South and were kept in prison for some time. Finally, assigned to the medical corps, they learned to be doctors and that was their profession the remainder of their lives. John, a younger brother, was also drafted into the Southern army and defected to the North.
The father, Etcyl Osborne, was so unpopular in Georgia that he had to disappear for the duration of the war. That left the mother, Cyntha Nelson Osborne, three girls, one of whom was my grandmother, Mary Ann Osborne, and a small boy I have known only as Uncle Cobb. The girls were drafted into the cotton mills to weave cloth to make uniforms for the Southern soldiers. My grandmother told of working in the mills while shells were exploding outside.
I have studied great-grandmother Osborne’s picture and imagined what it must have been like to live alone with a small boy and three young girls in an unfriendly atmosphere with a war raging outside, and not even knowing where any of the men of the family were. She must have been a brave woman to stay in the house in an area where men were fighting and dying while she had no one to depend on to protect them. But, I suppose all people in that area lived rugged lives when we realize that the United States was only eighty-nine years old at the end of the Civil War. We had fought
1 (Mary Pauline spelled Osborne throughout with an “e” at the end. A photograph of Etcyl’s burial headstone spells Osborn without the “e” at the end.)the War of 1812 and were continually fighting skirmishes with the French to the north and Mexico to the south.
I often wonder how we can call ourselves a peaceful nation when we have fought the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam in this Century, and we still have one-fifth of the Century to go. It is my opinion that any country that instigates a war is an ignorant bunch of renegades or a bunch of greedy thieves that will gamble with men’s lives against a dollar.
If a nation of men and women are intelligent and filled with empathy for their fellow men, they will find ways of surmounting problems of any country with which they are drawn to do business. The above statement does not mean that I am against our country. We have one of the greatest constitutions of this world. But, how we do need some brave, honest, upright, intelligent people to set examples for the rest of the world. We could be the greatest nation that has ever been established. But, it is up to us as individuals to work to make it so.
I wish I knew how the Osbornes escaped from Georgia. It seems I heard grandmother tell of escaping in the middle of the night. All this time the mother and girls knew nothing of what had happened to or where the men were. It seems I have heard that grandfather wrote to them using grandmother’s brother’s name. He got together a wagon and team, and on a certain night he slipped into town, loaded them and all their belongings. Daybreak found them well on their way toward the Mason-Dixon Line.
They began to inquire about the men who had defected to the North. I don’t know how they got in contact with George and Mack, but John, if I remember correctly, had been shipped to a concentration camp in Illinois. He was finally released and they all got together in the little town of Ava, Missouri. That is where they spent the remainder of their lives, except John, Cobb, and two of the girls who moved on to Indian Territory with their families.146 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 147 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
I have photographs of the tombstones of my great-grandparents, the Osbornes and the Rollers, taken in a country cemetery. I believe the name is The Jackson Cemetery, near Ava, Missouri. These are the inscriptions taken from the photographs:
Elias Roller Elizabeth Pain Roller
Born Sept. 12, 1812 Wife of Elias Roller
Died March 3, 1882 Born May 10, 1817
Died December 19, 1882
Etcyl Osborne Cyntha Nelson Osborne
(dates obscured) Wife of Etcyl Osborne
Born May 16, 1817
Died February 24, 1884
This is a poem I wrote after my first visit to that little town in 1936.
I found a little inland town
Where no rattling trains go by,
No clanging streetcars screech over streets,
Nor skyscrapers dot the sky.
No hit and run drivers roam their streets.
No robbers make raids by night.
No glaring midway lights their streets,
But the moon is shining bright.
No First Lady stops to visit their town,
Probably knows not that it exists.
But, oh! The peaceful tranquility
Our First Lady has missed.
No newspaper loudly acclaims
The town’s most worthy citizens.
But, everyone knows what everyone does
And praises are handed down.
Kind deeds and acts of mercy for man
That man has done for man
For generations past to the present
Have lived again and again.
A rising sun with the song of a bird,
A friendly home in a grove on a hill,
A tall pine tree in a country graveyard
Are memories that linger still.
I know very little about the Roller Family. Great Aunt Eve (Roller) Bunyard told me in 1936 that they came from Rogersville, Tennessee. I later met a Roller in Ava, Missouri, who told me some of Aunt Eve’s and my grandfather Henry H. Roller’s brothers remained in Virginia. After consulting a map, I found Rogersville to be very near the Virginia line. So, it is possible that some had married and lived in that state.1
As I stated previously, Mary Ann Osborne married Henry H. Roller. They were one set of my grandparents. They reared ten children, eight of whom were boys.
The two youngest boys were like older brothers to me. My own brother didn’t like his younger sister tagging along with him when he went to parties and square dances. But my two uncles, Don and
1 (Rogersville is in northeast Tennessee about thirty miles south of the Virginia border. The early Roller family settled about 1750 on a tributary of the Clinch River in southwest Virginia. There are still many Rollers living in the area. Jacob [1767-1861] and Eve (Zirkle) [1774-1858] Roller were the grandparents of Henry H. Roller. They are buried on a steep hilltop near Clinchport, Virginia.)148 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 149 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
Claude, were more mature and quite often took me places, or if they found me in the wrong crowd often rescued me and set me straight on whom I should be out with.
My grandmother having been reared in a Baptist minister’s family was quite staid in her beliefs, and having been handed eight boys to rear in Indian Territory days was quite frustrated at the antics of the environment her children became involved with. I remember one time I was staying with them, and the youngest boy, Claude, sat down in the kitchen while fastening his supporters to his fancy silk sox. Grandmother eyed the sox and supporters with a sort of disdain and said, “Hummm, some get up you are using for those fancy sox.” Claude said, “Yeah, Ma. Girls wear a supporter that goes plum around their waist.” “See”, said grandmother, “I’d like to know how you would know about that.”1
The South Canadian River was the territorial line between Indian and Oklahoma Territories. When it was at flood stage it was a death trap to both man and beast. No bridge in those days had spanned this mile wide expanse of drifting sands and shifting water currents which have now been tamed to some degree by a few dams which partially control the flood waters. When this river is at low ebb it looks more like a massive sandbar with a narrow ribbon of water meandering to and fro as it seeks it way to the sea.
My husband, Bill Davidson, lived near this river when a young lad, and he tells of seeing a three foot wall of water rolling down that sandbar with a cloud of sand and leaves rushing ahead of it like a mighty roaring wind.
Alcoholic beverages were not allowed in Indian Territory. Anyone wishing to so indulge had to cross that treacherous river to
1 (She was a feisty little old woman. After her husband died she lived with my grandpa and grandma Roller. I often visited my grandparents on Panther Creek. One day when I was about five or six years old I sassed the “old woman.” She promptly threw a dipper of water in my face.)get into Oklahoma Territory to buy whiskey. Lexington at that time was a border town. It was to this point that most whiskey was shipped and from there found its way across the river and into many lives of both Indians and early day settlers alike. At this writing a building still stands in Lexington that has what looks like portholes. I have been told this building housed the old Porthole Saloon in Territorial days.
My mother’s mother was Cherokee. They came to Indian Territory from down Texas way. My mother, Arlie Luvida (Jones) Roller, was born 27 February 1881 in Parker County, Texas, while my father’s family drifted out of the Ozarks and onto the Oklahoma plains, crossed that treacherous river and settled in the same community near my mother’s family. My mother told this story years ago:
When I was ten years old my dad packed all our belongings in a covered wagon and we left our home near Egan, Texas, and headed for Indian Territory. My mother was part Cherokee and she had a ‘headright’ that entitled her to claim her right for land in Indian Territory. This was the attraction for my dad–to own land.
We traveled several days and then crossed the Red River into Indian Territory. We camped near the old Washington Ranch that was located several miles west of what is now Marietta to rest the horses and stock. My dad worked several weeks for the Washington Ranch. My sisters and I made a playhouse in some of the trees near our campsite where we played with our few toys and rag dolls.
One day my dad said for us to load up in the covered wagon because we were moving further into Indian Territory. We hastily gathered all our things, put them in the wagon and left the campsite by mid morning.
After we traveled five or six miles I remembered I had forgotten and left my ragdoll in our play house in the trees. I begged dad to turn around so we could go back and get it, but he was not about to do that. It was too great of a trek to go. It would take too much time and effort. I was tearful about 150 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 151 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
the loss of my doll, but my sister and I talked about it and we decided that maybe an Indian would find it and take it for his little girl to have and play with.
After my parents began dating my father, Dillmus, asked permission to take Arlie, my mother, to a Woodsman of the World dance in Lexington. After much cautioning on how he must care for her he was given the honor. Men in those days were held responsible body and soul for the welfare of the women whom they escorted. Dill, short for Dillmus, had borrowed his brother’s spirited team of horses and shiny new buggy for the ten-mile journey.
They arrived safely to the dance, but noticed there was more water in the river than usual. Dances in pioneer days were mainly square dances, not like we see today on television, but boys in cowboy boots or stodgy shoes. Very few neckties were worn. Even some shirttails were flapping as they swung their ladies and do-si-doed.
The dance was reaching a lively point when Dill came over and warned Arlie that they had better leave in order to get back across the river because some late arrivals had said, “She is rising fast.”
They made a quick departure and headed for the river. A full moon had risen which was casting enough light on the water to make it visible. Dill scanned the darkened waters for a moment or so then warned Arlie that it was dangerous to attempt a crossing. “I’ve got to get back! Pa will kill me if I am out past midnight”, exclaimed Arlie.
Dill, with many forebodings, jumped from the buggy and with a strong rope in hand began to tie the buggy bed to the frame and axles so it would not float away when they reached deep water. A mile of water so deep that the horses would be swimming part of the time wasn’t an enticing thought. But the longer he waited the deeper the water rose around the feet of the horses.
So, jumping into the buggy with a “Giddy up” to the team they started on an experience they would long remember. Dill turned to Arlie and admonished her to climb into the seat, kneel and hold tight to the side and top of the buggy as water would presently be coming into the floor of the buggy. He braced his feet, one on either side of the buggy bed. He wound the left rein around his left hand, and with the other around his right hand, began urging the team steadily onward. He gradually pulled them to the right to keep them from drifting downstream.
Higher and higher the water rose until it filled the bed of the buggy, and now it seemed to be floating. The horses were swimming, not in slow easy strokes, but in lurches and lunges that sometimes seemed it would capsize the buggy. Then, after what seemed like ages, the horses were stumbling along in water too deep to wade and too shallow to swim, when Whamo! A huge tree trunk hit the upstream horse causing him to loose his footing. Dill yelled, “Oh, God, Arlie! If that breaks the buggy tongue we are sunk!” He simultaneously jerked the rein of that horse which raised the heads of both horses enough so the log floated under the buggy tongue and between the other horse’s front and back legs, and again they were pawing and snorting to get to the other bank. In all the excitement they had missed the crossing and didn’t quite know where they were.
Dill scanned the shoreline in the semi-darkness and finally decided they were above the crossing. So, they began easing along looking for a place to try to pull out of the water. They were afraid to stop for fear quicksand would get them. They soon came to a bank that looked as if it was cleared of underbrush enough to permit them to rise onto good old terra firma once more.
Dill shoved the reins into Arlie’s hands demanding, “Hold these reins tight! Here, take this whip and lay it to ‘em! I’m getting out to push.”
Before Arlie realized what was happening, she was in the buggy alone grasping the reins tight and lashing those poor horses like a muleskinner. Up the bank they lurched with Dill lifting, pushing and sometimes holding on for dear life.152 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 153 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
Now they were once more safe and to give the horses a chance to get their wind, they just sat there. Dill dripping wet and Arlie so tousled and bedraggled and still trembling with fright that neither of them had a thing to say. They had enough excitement to last them for quite some time.
We have so modernized life for youth today that they have to go in search of excitement. Whereas, the pioneer youth lived with it daily whether it was fording swollen rivers, taming wild broncos, going for a buffalo hunt, or catching a wild runaway team. Pioneer life was a character building experience that made men of the boys or broke them, sometime physically, other times morally.
Outlaws moved into territories where there was less law and order. Some came to reform and get a new start in life. Others were just laying low until another opportunity to make a haul presented itself. I’ve heard my grandfather speak of the Dalton Gang, Belle Starr and the James Boys.
My mother told of living near a family with several young people. The mother seemed to manage for them. The father drifted in and out. When he was away the children always said he was away working. One time he was in jail waiting to be returned somewhere for trial. He asked for permission to write to his family and to send his wife an extra sheet of paper to send him an answer. Such items were scarce in territorial days. What he actually did was write a note with a pen dipped in alcohol instead of ink on the blank sheet of paper. Now, I don’t know if this actually works, but the story goes that his wife knew to hold this paper up to the lamplight so she could read the writing.
He told her to bring his horse to a certain place and leave him tied. Also, bring a bedroll, some clean clothes, especially socks, roll all this in the bed roll, tie it securely to his saddle and come to the one window in his cell which was above the office of the federal officers. There she would find a long yarn string, unraveled from his home knitted sock with his knife tied to it to weight it to the ground. (He had already learned what these western prairie winds could do to upset plans.) She was to tie one end of his lariat to the twine, stick his knife in the front and leave as fast as she could to make a safe get away.
All this she did alone which took her most of the night as they lived a half days journey from the federal jail. Of course, she saddled her husband’s horse and led him while riding another. This story could have inspired the old song, “Riding Old Paint Leading Old Bald.” The object was to get his rope through the window, secure it inside then slide down the rope to freedom. There were no bars on jail windows in Territorial days. He then took the knife, cut his rope loose minus twenty feet, and away to the wild blue yonder he loped. I think this man may have inspired the song, “Don’t Fence Me In.” The wife told this story to my grandmother, who being Indian, knew how to keep secrets. Many years after this family had moved away in the darkness of night the story was handed down to me.
There was a federal officer named John Swain that roamed Indian Territory chasing outlaws and trying to keep bootleggers away from the Indians. He was a crack shot, but some outlaws lived by their guns, too. He had an outlaw pinned down in one of our prairie gulches, but the outlaw also had Swain pinned down. They were shooting it out in a late afternoon battle when John exposed himself a little too much and the outlaw got in a fatal shot. John knew this, so he raised up, took dead aim and fired. They both dropped back dead.
John’s wife, Sue Swain, had him buried at Wayne or Paoli. I’m not sure which place. She also sent a picture of John back east and had a replica of him made into a statue. She placed it at his grave as a marker, but outlaws and other renegades continued to shoot at it. They just couldn’t let him rest in pease. Sue finally took it to her home. None of my family ever seemed to know what happened to it or her.1
1 (The Guthrie Representative newspaper, October 4, 1894: Deputies Matt Cook and John Swain came to Purcell last Tuesday with two whiskey peddlers named Lee Masters and James Julien, whom they caught. I know very little about my parent’s courtship, only that they were married February 10, 1901 about ten o’clock at night in a snowstorm at my mother’s family home.
My mother’s mother from whom I get my Cherokee heritage had departed this life when mother was only sixteen. Mother was twenty and father twenty-three when they married. She had an older sister, Viola, who I believe was ten years mother’s senior that had held the family together and made a home for all. So, she planned the wedding, including making my mother’s wedding dress. They had made arrangements for a minister to be there at a certain hour. They had invited all the neighbors and relatives in for the wedding. Wedding cake and all, I don’t remember who made the wedding cake, but it was certainly home made. The hour came and no minister. Six o’clock and still no minister. They finally ate the wedding dinner, cake and all. The minister finally arrived at ten o’clock that evening.
The minister said a child had died in a community farther away and he had been called upon to conduct the funeral. There were no such things as telephones in those days. He figured the young people waiting to get married could wait just a little longer. He thought it was important that he take care of the funeral first. Some of the guests had given up and gone home. The ones that did stay spent the night sleeping on the floors or feather beds and hay straw beds. Some took turns keeping the fireplace roaring. There was lots of timber in those day, and free for the cutting. It was a very cold night and they had a roaring fire outside in front at Tom Ike’s Crossing on the Canadian, about fifteen miles southeast of town. They had a wagon and team and had just crossed over from the Oklahoma Territory side, where they had been to Lexington and stocked up with a plentiful stock of alcohol which they had in jugs and were prepared with coloring, canteens, funnels, etc., a regular peddler outfit, all of which was captured by the marshalls and bear unmistakable evidence of their intentions. The canteens were made to slip on a belt and buckle around the body, being somewhat new and novel. They were tried before Commissioner Gates and set to jail in default of $500 each.)of the house. The preacher stood between Arlie and Dill and the fire. His back was plenty warm, but Arlie and Dill were chilled to their bones.
There were no such events as honeymoons for pioneer people. They did have shavarees or chavarees. Webster calls that a loud and noisy serenade for newlyweds. I don’t recall mother ever telling if they were chivareed or not. In a snowstorm I doubt if they braved the weather. Back in those days they did such things as ride the bride on a rail and duck the groom in a river.
The first year mom and dad were married they lived with dad’s parents. Thus, began the first instructions for my mother on how to become a wifely housekeeper. My grandmother having been reared in the fastidious South and though not a slave owner family (you recall their experiences of the Civil War as the daughter of a Baptist minister) some of the Southern traditions had rubbed off on the family.
Housekeeping was still carried on by my grandmother though in a real pioneer setting. She could make a pioneer shack or log house look like a mansion. Walls may have been papered with newspapers or canvas that was similar to unbleached muslin if they were wealthy enough to buy it. I remember a roll of heavy paper similar to what is used today between walls that are not insulated. It was a dull pink or pale blue (instead of black), and was tacked to walls with tacks that were punched through a silvercolored tin the size of our halfdollars.
A few years ago we were roaming through the woods on some rangeland owned by one of our sons and we came across an old pioneer shack that was covered with those tacks. But, we had nothing to pry them off with, not even a pocketknife. They would be valuable now as relics of the past
I remember going to grandmothers and seeing a common pine table with a white skirt around it with a white cloth spread over the top. There were books and papers stacked beneath on a shelf and antique dishes on the top. One that I remember was a white milk 156 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 157 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
glass butter dish with a hen sitting over the top for the lid. A large mirror was hanging on the wall at the back of the table. I can still picture that mirror with everything reflected in it from the table. A kerosene lamp sat in the middle of the scene.
There were always jellies from wild plums and home baked loaves of bread. Sometimes we arrived while the bread was still hot, and how good it was! Mother would say, “Now don’t ruin that loaf while its hot”, but grandmother would always say, “They are hungry after walking all that way”, which was a mile or more.
With all the above examples for my mother, she began to learn some from what she was seeing. I’ve heard mother tell that in her girlhood home no supper dishes were washed until the following morning. When she and dad moved into their own house, after supper she stacked the dirty dishes in a dishpan. Dad said, “No, Arlie, we wash the dishes now. Pour the hot water from the teakettle over them and wash. I’ll dry them for you.” From that day on the kitchen duties were not finished until dishes were washed and put away.
My mother began copying from grandmother. I remember some wall paper company that dad had talked with gave him some old sample wallpaper books. He and mother papered one whole inside wall with those samples. I’m sure it looked like a hen with a flock of mixed breed chickens. It was difficult to find two sheets 30” x 30” of the same pattern and never two the same color. The outside walls were canvassed. It was also held on the walls with those same round things the size of halfdollars. The ceilings were also covered with canvas tacked to the ceiling joists. Very few pioneer houses had solid ceilings. But, how bright and happy the white canvas walls were with all those beautiful pieces of sample wallpaper decorating the inside walls. We kids didn’t look at the wall as a whole. We picked out each piece and tried to decide which wall was the most beautiful.
We lived in several different houses from pine to warped cottonwood lumber. None were beautiful, but they were homes and our father’s mother played her part in making them so. She never worked outside the home, but she worked as best she could to care for her home and always cared for and welcomed her grandchildren.
My mother became the same type of grandmother to her grandchildren only she became even closer to them than did my grandmother to us.
The second year of marriage my father worked with a crew to build part of the Santa Fe Railroad. It had its origin in Kansas or near Bartlesville, Oklahoma. I don’t know the exact place but it ended at Lindsay, Oklahoma. While dad worked on the railroad mother boarded the crew that worked with my dad.
My older brother, Loyce, had made his arrival by then and dad’s brother, Walter, came to live with them and go to school. After school he came home and cared for the baby while mother cooked for the railroad work crew. I’ve heard mother tell how Loyce cried and cried so much of the time, and Uncle Walter would jump behind the door with him in his arms and say, “Listen, listen! Wild cats.” Wild cats were the first words Loyce spoke as a baby.
After their part of the railroad was finished, dad took the money they had saved from the year of work and bought a team and farming equipment. He and his parents and family moved to an area east of Pauls Valley that is now the county seat for Garvin County. Mom and dad rented Indian land. I don’t know what land his parents rented, but a place near by. They lived there one year and dad followed the railroad almost to its end. I believe mother’s family had also moved to this vicinity.1
1 (I recall the summer of 1949, shortly after I was discharged from the army, I went with my grandparents and Uncle Loyce to show me where their early life began together. I recall that a few miles northwest of what is now Alex, Oklahoma we came to a cornfield. Much to grandpa and 158 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 159 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
They lived there one year then my father’s younger brother, Robert, came to live with them and they moved farther inland onto a creek known as Rush Creek. What my father lacked in good judgment was filled with beauty on that notorious Rush Creek which isn’t as notorious now as then. It is a creek that has its source on the north side of the Table Top Hills that range back into Grady and Stephens Counties and extend their range well into Garvin County. This Rush Creek is so named, I presume, because the waters come rushing out of those hills and find their way into the Washita River just on the south side of Pauls Valley.1
Many times when the headwaters on the Washita collided with the headwaters on Rush Creek, Pauls Valley received the brunt of the waters. Stores were flooded and homes in the lowlands were inundated. Even the courthouse has had to move some of their valuable papers to second floor landings.
After spending one year on Rush Creek Dad pushed inland still another six to eight miles across Rush Creek and onto Panther Creek, a tributary to Rush Creek. This is where I was born in 1905. Dad continued to live in that area fifty-five years on the same creek but about three miles further upstream near the foot of the Table Top Hills.
I visited that same little piece of God’s Green Earth in 1981. It has changed ever so much, but given time and a little help from nature it may reclaim the same beauty it had when I first saw it.
My earliest impressions were received right there and I have many times congratulated my dad for having an eye for beauty if nothing else. For to me that was truly a beautiful place. Wild redbuds lined both sides of the creek. Tall cottonwoods lifted their branches to the heavens with sturdy oaks and spreading elms filling the spaces in between. What we lacked in comforts was cergrandma’s surprise the house grandpa and his brothers built, and in which Loyce was born, was still standing. It had been added on to but the basic structure was still there and in fairly good condition.)
1 (The creek is named after a man with the name Rush.)tainly filled with natural beauty. Every kind and color of bird that nested in Indian Territory was on that creek—bluebirds, wild canaries, natural cardinals, and another red bird that we see only in the Rockies now along with cocky jays, and saucy robins. Rabbits and squirrels were our daily wild pets. They ran when we pitched them corn to eat, but if we got quite and still Mr. Squirrel soon came sniffing out of hiding, and when he got near his prize food we would jump and watch him take off again, sometimes grabbing some of his food as he went. If we got real still after placing a handful of corn for Mr. Squirrel, he would sit and take the grains in his paws and quite efficiently eat all the heart from each kernel.
All the pastureland at that time was open range and many were the brands that roamed the hills and dales. One cattleman that we knew was Deat Brown. He branded his cattle with a large “D”. Many of my older brother’s play hours were spent pretending he was Deat Brown rounding up his cattle. He would get on his stickhorse and come dashing up to the front gate, stop in front and begin calling “Hello” and the longer he called the louder he got until my mother would go to the door. He would call out, “I’m Deat Brown. Have you seen any of my cattle on this range this week?” Then mom would tell him how many she had seen and what area they were grazing, and when she saw them last. Off he would dash with his stickhorse pitching blue circles with him.
Our little cabin in the wilds of Indian Territory with all its beauties also had many fears. Many kinds of fur bearing animals, a few mink, opossums, raccoons, wolves, prairie coyotes, an occasional panther and wild bulls roamed the prairies.
I think the worst blood curdling fear of my early life was to hear a herd of cattle gathering around spilled blood. I don’t know what triggers it, but when one is attracted to it then here came the whole herd. They put their nose to the ground and formed a circle each fighting to get its nose to the spot, and with all the bellowing, bawling, and screaming put into one sound. It makes a sound that no one wants to hear.160 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 161 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
My dad and uncle had butchered a young beef in the fall and unthinkingly butchered it on the open range. Many times I was awakened in the middle of the night to this distracting noise. My heart would pound and my blood would run cold. I’d cover my head and crawl as far down in the bed as possible. That didn’t take away all the noise, but I felt more secure anyway.
In 1905 I made my appearance on this tributary to Rush Creek. It is still called Panther Creek and is to a certain extent returning to its original existence. The land was cut up into 160-acre farms and farmed to death for about 30 to 40 years. By then erosion of wind and rain had ruined it for farming. Much of it was never terraced which made huge gullies and washes that we never dreamed of. For instance, the old farm dad bought has recently washed out a huge gully that partly uncovered a prehistoric animal with tusks like an elephant.
We lived in this same cabin in 1908, the year that all old timers know as “the wet year.” Panther Creek overflowed as often as twice daily that year. Dad and Uncle Robert had built an extra box room near the log cabin with a hallway between with rocks for a floor. Our abode was just across the road from the creek and many times I’ve seen the water come up and cover that roadway.
Sometimes when feeding time came, the creek was at flood stage and the cows and pigs were across the creek from the house and barns. When the men began calling them at feed time the stock would all come running to cross the creek, but the water would stop them momentarily. The cows would walk up and down the banks and survey the situation, then cautiously ease themselves into the water and slowly go deeper and deeper until their heads were all that were sticking out, then slowly swim to the other bank.
Not so with the pigs. They ran up and down the bank squealing and finally with a woof! woof! woof! into the water they went with a big splash. They would go out of sight and sometimes come up against a high bluff that they couldn’t struggle up. So down the creek they would go until they reached a sloping bank where they could struggle up, shake off the water and run for the feeding pen. Some would be so winded they would lie down for a while to get their breath, then take off for the feeding pen.
I had a humorous experience that wasn’t so humorous at the time but is quite comical now. My grandkids get a bang out of it yet. We had an unframed picture of a barnyard scene with a house and barn in the background. There were white horses and a flock of beautiful white geese in the foreground. I had never seen tame geese and I often stood and admired that picture, especially the geese. When my baby sister was about six months old my mother took my brother, baby sister, and me to Pauls Valley to have our pictures made. I kept asking if the picture would have a goose on it. I was disappointed because it just had us kids on it.
A woman who lived farther up Panther Creek owned a large flock of geese. The creek got up once and some of them floated farther down stream than usual. Some came down too far. When the stream got too low for them to swim back they became disoriented.
Mother and her sister who was visiting permitted her children and us to go across the creek into a pasture where wild flowers were blooming. We were having a great time gathering flowers when we heard the most awful scream we had ever heard. My brother grabbed Cousin Ruth and me around the neck. We were screaming louder than the noise. Sam who was a little older took off toward the house screaming, “Good God! Panther! Good God! Panther!” every time his feet hit the ground. Mother and auntie just knew a wild bull or some other wild animal had some of us down. But, when they couldn’t see or hear anything they were about ready to spank all of us. But, later that afternoon we were playing near the house when this beautiful white gander came into the yard. We were all admiring it, and called our mothers to come see the beautiful bird. But, suddenly it flapped its wide wings and let out that awful scream. Sam said, “That’s that damn thing we heard.” It all but sent us into another panic. I couldn’t feature my great beautiful white bird making such a terrible noise.
When we stop to consider, life is very much like that. All the beauty isn’t bound up in any one thing or person. The peacock is a beautiful sight to behold, but oh my! Such an ugly voice. The parrot has beautiful plumage, but such ugly head and feet. The nightingale is a homely bird, but has a melodious voice.
So it is with life. We all have some ugly things in our lives, but we also have some beautiful thoughts, smiles, and memories like golden sunsets and fishponds with lovely lily pads. The first robins of spring, rain on the roof, and the first flowers of spring, the first snowfall of winter and sweet childish faces to kiss good night at bedtime.
My grandfather was deaf. He couldn’t hear the mocking bird sing, nor the strains of melodious music. He could enjoy lovely flowers, pictures and scenery, but the noise of the grandkids didn’t bother him at all. The trouble with most of us is we take beauty for granted. We don’t create lovely friendships. Many years ago we started out for a beautiful autumn drive in the sunshine. On our way we drove by a cheap picture show. People were lined up waiting to get inside to spend two hours of fantasy when there was real life and beauty and warm sunshine beckoning them to come outside and enjoy the natural beauty.
Sometimes nature can play some mean tricks on everyone. We first moved into this cabin abode which was used as a living and bedroom. The kitchen and eating-place was about seventy-five feet away. It was dug back into a bank and partially walled with logs. Mother had set up a cot in one corner for me to lie on while she worked.
One morning when it was raining and all the creeks were flooded, brother and I were lying on the cot. Brother Loyce let out a scream. A long centipede had all its feelers buried up and down his spine. Mother said dad and Uncle Robert almost pounded him soft getting the thing off of him. They just knew he would die, but what could they do? It was miles to a doctor, no telephones, and the creeks were flooded until not even a horsebacker could get through, and for sure not with a child in his arms.
So, there they sat watching expecting Loyce to fall over any moment. I’m sure my mother was crying. Possibly dad was applying turpentine as poltices that would draw out the poison. Loyce never showed any ill effects, but I’m sure that was when pressure was put on dad to build another room. I don’t know who paid for the lumber (we were renting, you know), but I’m sure dad and Uncle Robert furnished the labor.
In the early winter of 1906 on December 7th, a beautiful baby sister came to be my playmate. She had all the beauty of both families and none of their flaws. At age 75 she still has the most perfect features of all eight of us girls.1 The following Christmas my father’s family arrived from southeast Texas where they had gone to prove up on land, but the swamps, mosquitoes, chills and malaria had driven them off the land. There were four teenage boys in the family and they thought I was something to behold. “A little girl in the family at last.”
I was small for my less than three years, and when one of the boys bought a pair of boots I crawled into the cardboard box and they pushed me all over the house and yard. When Christmas came, the older boy bought me the loveliest set of china dishes with gorgeous flowers painted on them. The next boy bought me a beautiful doll with real hair, a head made of exquisite wax with rosy cheeks, red lips, and the bluest glass eyes. It also had a body made of kid leather with arms and feet of china. I don’t know what my parents bought for me, but I was on cloud nine with my dishes and doll.
I’m sure I had no training on how to care for a doll so gorgeous, and before spring arrived the head had come loose from
1 (This sister is Margaret. She died 1 January 2001 at age 94 years in Phoenix, Arizona.)164 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 165 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
the body. So, I persuaded my mother’s cousin, Ida Jones, a teenage girl, to sew the head back to the body. While she was sitting by the fireplace preparing to sew the two parts together, she dropped the head on the rock hearth and broke it. I flew at that girl with all the fury a three-year-old could muster, kicking, hitting, pulling her hair, and screaming with all my might. Mother finally had to take me in hand and apply some of her force to calm me down. I still had my beloved dishes. I thought they were the most beautiful possession I had and I wanted more and more of them.
Come spring when my parents were preparing to plant potatoes, they explained that each piece they planted would come up and grow making lots of potatoes. Well, I wanted more dishes, so unbeknown to them I dropped a cup here, a plate there, and they were covered to make more and more dishes. That reminds me of the goose that laid the “Golden Eggs.”
The fall of 1908 brings another vivid memory of another baby sister. Mother’s cousin was hurrying us off to the neighbor’s and I was poking along as a three-year-old can. I looked back and saw the doctor coming across the creek in his buggy. I wanted to go back and see who was coming to see us. Cousin Lugani said that’s the old sewing machine salesman. He is just bringing your mother’s new sewing machine. All day I wanted to go home to see our new sewing machine. When we were finally permitted to return home, we were ushered in to see the new baby. I said, “But I want to see the new sewing machine.” This same cousin who escorted us to and from the neighbor’s died before Christmas that year. That was my first experience with death.
The next few years I’m sure were the most difficult years my father ever faced from a financial position. He had a good start in livestock, but he had made the mistake of investing in horses instead of cattle. He had one of the most beautiful teams of pure white mares I have ever seen. They must have been from the Clydesdale strain, at least they were built like them, but there was not a blemish to mar their color. Their manes and tails were also pure white. Their names were Lucy and Anny. Mom said they could belong to my younger sister and me. So Margie took Lucy and I claimed Anny.
Anny took sick and I awoke one morning to find her dead. The men were preparing to drag her off to be devoured by coyotes and wild dogs. When they tied her hind legs to the back of the wagon and started dragging her off, I screamed. To see her poor head bumping along the rough ground, I just knew it was hurting her. I went up on a little hill back of our house and watched them drag my beloved Anny out of sight. No one had ever explained to me about death. So, I cried and cried. When my father came back he came up and got me, took me to the house, washed my face and put me to bed. After a sleep I felt better, but the hurt was still there.
The Graham Family farmed the upper side of our place and when they moved away in the winter of 1908, Dad rented the whole place. We moved into the upper house that had some barns, but I can’t say it was a more comfortable house. It was up where the north winds could strike us full force in winter and no shade trees for summer, but mother and father both worked hard.
There was a family of six to cook and wash for. The washing was all done by hand on a washboard. Water was drawn from a well and heated in one of those big black iron kettles that people prize so today as antiques. I have never had a desire to own one. They mean too many hours of hard labor to me. There were fires to keep burning to heat the water to wash in and then more water to draw from the well to boil the clothes. More cold water to pour over the clothes when taken from the boiling water. If any dirt was left in anything, some more washing on the scrub board, then put through rinse water before hanging on a barbed wire fence to dry. There were always two or three and sometimes four pots of clothes to boil.
Dad never thought of a clothesline and clothespins, and mother being of Indian descent always left things like that up to dad. (My husband after we were married bought and strung the first 166 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 167 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
clothesline my mother ever owned.) I can see till yet three sides of our garden fence draped with various clothes, sheets, pillow cases, blankets, towels, tea towels, panties and bloomers, men’s overalls, shirts, girl’s slips, dresses, and all the odd pieces that make up a household. By the time I was married our family had grown to twelve (ten children), but all of us were never living at home at once by then.
Of course, there was ironing to do–not with electric irons, but with flat irons of various models. First, the old flat irons that we set on the cookstove with a roaring fire to keep them hot. Sheets were folded and placed on the dining table as beds. Sometimes two of us girls were ironing from either side of the table. It took a whole morning for two of us to get that all done. In the meantime, dinner (our noon meal) was cooking. Ham with brown beans and cornbread was a standard meal.
I’m not too sympathetic with all the heart breaking stories of hardships of the ghetto people and Third World peoples (except the ones in war torn areas) when I look back at the way we survived in the early 20th Century.
I became very ill in the fall of 1910. Things were still going downhill. Dad had lost some more livestock, including a colt I claimed. We called her Black Bess. She was a beauty with a star in her face just below her eyes and again I lost out. I had begun to adjust to losses in life. I was a big girl, so I thought–all of five and a half years by then.
The doctor finally had to be called in when home remedies didn’t make the fever go away. After the doctor examined me and asked a few questions, he fixed me some medicine. He then turned to dad and said, “Dill, I’d like to talk with you outside.” After the doctor drove away dad came in and by the look on his face mom knew it was bad news. She said, “What did the doctor say?” Dad got that fighting expression on his face, cleared his throat, and in a clear voice said, “Typhoid!” I’m sure mother went into the far end of the kitchen, or slipped outside and cried.
All of the nearby relatives and some not so nearby assisted in caring for me. My grandmother was one of my favorites. She brought food I didn’t want, but tried to eat. My mother’s sister who always came to the rescue came from 20 miles away and left her family to help me through the crisis. The boys of dad’s family that I’ve spoken of before pitched in and helped dad finish picking cotton. They were young men by then and I was always admiring their fancy jewelry, imitations I’m sure.
One day grandmother came in and said, “Is there anything I could bring you that you would like to have?” I said I would like to have one of the uncles’ pretty pins. I know she had reference to food for me to eat. She said, “I’ll see”, and bade me goodbye for that day. I don’t know if she came back the next day or a week later. My mind was tattered from semi-conscious to consciousness as the days drug on. But, when grandmother returned I don’t know what else she brought, but there was always home churned butter, buttermilk and various other foods showing up when she came. But, she came in and said, “Now, Pauline, I don’t know who this belonged to, but this is the only pin I could find”, and she held out to me a stick pin that was worn in men’s ties in those days. It looked like yellow gold. It was what was called a friendship pin in those days, and was shaped like the swastika that was adopted by Germany as their emblem in 1935. It was also known as a good luck pin. Maybe that is why I survived. But, survive I did and God has been looking over and guiding me ever since.
There were several incidents in connection with my illness I must mention. This was in late autumn before the weather was cold enough to butcher fresh meat and keep it without spoiling. Hence, chicken was about the only fresh meat there was. I got so tired of chicken I refused to eat it.
One night the old mother cat came in with a quail she caught for the kittens. Dad grabbed it away from her, pulled its head off and began cleaning it. Mother gutted it while dad got a sharp stick, raked hot coals into the hearth of the heating stove and began 168 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 169 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
broiling it. As the juice dripped onto the coals the aroma filled the whole room. To this day I can not think of any aroma that was so appealing. I don’t remember how it tasted.
I asked my younger sister recently if she could remember that incident and if she resented it that the quail was given to me. She said, “Yes, I remember, and I didn’t resent it although I was less than four years old. I realized you were sick and we learned to do without for you because we wanted you to get well.”
Another plus for grandmother was that she told mother to boil our drinking water. We had a dug well that was walled with rocks. Rats would get under the flooring at the top of the well. Some would fall into the water and drown. Mother thought that was so horrible that we started drinking water from a stock pond. I’m sure that is where I picked up the typhoid germ.
All in all, I survived and have had a very healthy life. The only other thing I remember about that year was at Christmas. I don’t remember what we got for presents except that my older brother, Loyce, got a little red wagon. We went to grandmother’s house for dinner. The family was walking, but baby, my second sister, and I were riding. I was still too weak to walk very far. So, dad and brother were taking turns pulling us in his little red wagon. It was about a mile and a half to grandmothers.
Our fourth baby girl was born the following spring. The year 1911 also ushered in the toughest year we ever experienced. Just as 1908 had been referred to as “the wet year”, 1911 was “the dry year.” I remember how hot and dry it was. The ponds dried up and the well failed until it barely furnished water to drink. Dad and a neighbor went together and dug a well in the bed of Panther Creek that ran along the lower edge of both farms. They would take turns watering at the well.
Our father, like most renter farmers, borrowed from the bank to make a crop and pay it off in the fall. But, that year no farmer could begin to pay all his notes that fall. When the bank started pressing dad for money he sold all his livestock to pay off the bank notes. We had Old Lucy and a balky mare called Mag that no one would buy. Our cows were gone. We had one sow left. She and the two mares almost starved before grass came out the next spring.
We ate oatmeal without milk for breakfast, beans and cornbread for dinner, biscuits and sorghum molasses without butter for supper. It was a real treat if grandmother got enough milk ahead to send us some milk or butter or eggs. We had a few hens that survived by eating droppings from the two mares. But, of course, there were no eggs. They ranged the pastures searching for grass and weed seeds. Dad found a general store that promised him the bare necessities of food and clothing–flour, sugar, corn meal, oatmeal, and some coffee, and occasionally a piece of salt pork and a box of snuff for mother. I still have mother’s old snuff box to remind me of those days.
We had an early spring in 1912, and our grass was good since we had no grazing on it all winter. Dad’s brother, Robert, had extra cows, but no pasture left since they had grazed it all through the winter. So, he let us have some cows to milk for the grazing. So, by March we were getting milk to drink and was that ever a treat. When I think of kids today and what they would consider a treat, I can’t worry very much for them when we are spending millions on third world people and welfare programs. There were no such things in 1911-1912.
Dad couldn’t even borrow money to start a crop in 1912. It was one of those bank moratorium years when the banks had borrowed all they could and had no more to lend. The banks told dad they simply had no money. He would be the first to get it if they had it. Since we were in the broomcorn belt and that was the earliest crop to mature, dad got enough seed to plant from our general store.
Years later when I had a family of small children, dad was spending a night with us in Oklahoma City. I said, “Dad, it seems to me that 1911 was the worst year we ever went through.” He got a long look on his face and said, “Yes, that was a booger!” But, he 170 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 171 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
brightened immediately and said, “Yes, but we really made it in ‘12. We made twelve tons of broomcorn and I got $100 a ton for it. I hadn’t borrowed money to live on so all we owed was our grocery man and the harvest crew! I had all our corn crop and a little cotton extra.”
So far this has sounded like a grim life. Some of it was grim, but there were days when we had fun. My younger sister, Marge, and I were laughing recently about a game we used to play that we more or less made up. It was “The Last One on Wood is a Mad Dog.”
We had a neighbor who owned a Jersey bull that was a holy terror for all of us. Their pasture fence came very near our house. When he was on a rampage we all stayed near our own back door. So, we changed our game to “The Last One on Wood is Mr. Hardeman’s Old Bull.” Our older brother was the “bull.” He caught one of the younger kids and had her down pawing, bellowing, and mauling her to death. Marge seemed to think that he was the real bull and was really killing our little sister. There was a piece of broken crockery near her piece of wood. So, she jumped off her base, grabbed the broken crockery, and threw it with all her might at brother as she yelled, “Hi there!” It landed squarely on his head and really got his attention. He came up screaming and yelling for mama. Poor mother, I don’t know how she lived through all the squabbles we kids created.
Marge declares to this day that she really felt that he was that real bull. It took so little to entertain us in those days. We played house with broken pieces of dishes and corncob dolls. Once when Dolly Parton was telling about their corncob dolls I knew exactly what she was talking about. We would cut cute faces from Sears Catalogs and paste them on our dolls. It didn’t matter if one was lost or torn up, we just got busy and made more.
It was quite an excursion for mother to take all of us a half-mile to the creek to hunt wild greens in the spring. We also found sand rock in that same area to scrub our kitchen floor. We pounded it up and used it like we use commercial cleanser today. There wasn’t such a thing as linoleum for kitchen floors. When greasy spots fell on the floor it soaked into the wood and nothing but lye soap and sand rock with a lot of elbow grease got it up. But, how those boards did shine when they were washed, rinsed and dried which took most of an afternoon on a sunny day.
Machinery for harvesting was another exciting time at our house. We lived in the broomcorn belt and at one time Lindsay, Oklahoma was known as the largest broomcorn market in the world.
The very first broomcorn seeder that thrashed our corn was powered by a horse drawn bullwheel. It had a circular platform ten or twelve feet across. Beneath it was a mechanism attached to the seeder that turned the rollers of the seeder. It had long teeth that looked like long spike nails driven into it. These teeth stripped the seed from the broomcorn head before it was baled and shipped to the broom factories.
Horses walked in a wide circle to make the energy to turn the machinery that powered the bullwheel. That, I’m sure, is where our high powered engines get the tag “400 H.P.” Even lawnmowers have 3 H.P. After the bullwheel powered machines came the steam engines. They moved five to ten miles per hour over all sorts of bad roads, but the lightweight bridges could not hold up under their weight. So, they had to go several miles around sometimes to get to a farm.
The old steam engine had plenty of power, but it was slow moving on roads, and their steam whistles let you know several miles away they would be arriving. It was really exciting for us kids to climb up on that engine and pull that whistle. It took wood or coal to heat the water that generated the steam. I talked with a younger sister the other night and she said that old Waukeshau steam engine scared her almost to death, and to this day she is afraid of machinery. She didn’t ever learn to drive a car.
The horse-drawn equipment was finished by 1913. That is when the steam-powered engine came into our area. Remember, 172 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 173 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
Oklahoma was only six years old in 1913. Our school equipment and way of life was quite ancient at that time. No roads were even graveled, but we caught onto modernization fast. In 1914 the great First World War started in Europe. Prices for farm produce began to rise and farm equipment started to improve.
In 1915 my father put most of his land into grain. My uncle bought a binder to get the grain cut, but it turned out to be one of those wet years and the binder bogged down in the fields. Much of the grain fell down and the binder couldn’t pick it up. It rained all summer and into the fall. It would have been a good year for corn, but not small grain. I can’t remember what was done with the grain as it was thrashed. We had no graineries. They must have hauled it twelve miles to a railroad and put it into railroad cars to be shipped.
I can’t remember very much about farming that year (1915) as my mother was ill most of the time. Although I was only ten years old, I did most of the housework before and after mother recovered enough from having another baby girl to care for. Mother was plagued with gallstones and that was one of her worst years. The idea of surgery was unheard of in our area. It was a hundred miles to Oklahoma City which had very little in hospital equipment, and the only way to get there would be by lumber wagon and train.
After the steam engine came the gasoline engine. It was drawn by horses. All the power went into the bull wheel. This engine was drawn by horses and had to have wheels set down in holes dug into the ground to hold the engine in place while it was pulling the seeder to thrash the seed from broomcorn.
My grandfather, my father’s father, died October 17, 1915. It rained all summer and into the fall. The night that grandfather died it came the most terrible rain and storm. The roads and bridges were washed out and fences had to be torn down to get the wagons to the cemetery. But it was a clear day and we had a beautiful autumn.
We kids went to grandmother’s and stayed to pick cotton for the two boys left single to care for grandmother. We had very little cotton that year as dad had gone too heavy on small grain. I can’t even remember the time we started to school that year. World War I started in Europe in 1914. The war years took all the young men of the community and left boys. My older brother and father had to register for the draft.
These war years caused a lot of changes which included land rental. Dad had never rented any way except thirds and fourths, a third of feed crops and a fourth of cotton and other money crops. When his landlord demanded $250 cash rent for the farm, dad refused. She had not demanded this in time to give him the legal time for farmers to move which was before the first of the year. So, we stayed there through 1916. Incidentally, dad had a good crop year and paid more crop-rent than if he had of paid cash rent. However, he had received the legal notice to vacate. So, we had to move.
Dad looked and looked but could not find a crop rent place. Finally he heard of a place about fifteen miles away where the owner wanted a year off for him and his family. So, dad agreed to buy his livestock if he would rent the farm for crop rent. They finally agreed on a price and we were ready to move. But, we had lived on this same farm all my life. I was eleven years old by then and had never lived anywhere else. It was a traumatic move for us older children.
There were days of moving feed. One day they had loaded the wagons the night before to be ready to roll by sun up, but one driver never showed up. So, dad finally said, “Pauline, I guess you will have to drive this other wagon.” I was excited because I had never driven a wagon off the farm.
My first problem was when I approached a long slope entering Rush Creek bottom. I was atop a double deck wagon of corn. Dad said, “Put on your brake.” I put it on as far as I could which wasn’t tight enough, and I didn’t know how to tighten the reins to make the team hold back. So, down the slope we went. Dad could just see the team slamming the wagon tongue into the rear end of his wagon, busting the end out of his wagon and spilling half of his load. So, he crawled to the back of his wagon and began beating 174 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 175 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
at my team with is old felt hat. This forced them to hold back. Dad was really perturbed with me because I hadn’t put on my brake tight enough. He just didn’t realize I wasn’t that strong and that my legs were not long enough to push it down with my feet. That was my first mistake.
I tried to stay real close to dad for fear of the traffic in the little town of Maysville that was only farm wagons and a few cars, buggies and horsebackers. But, I knew I wasn’t an experienced driver. When we reached the farm we had to turn into a very narrow lane which meant we had to circle far to the right in order to drive straight into the lane. That I was unable to anticipate, and again dad let me make the mistake before telling me. So, I drove straight into the garden corner post and broke it. This embarrassed me to no end for there were children and adults that saw me do it.
We all caught the measles that winter, including mother. Of course, dad had them years before, but again he had to do all the chores and wait on sick kids, as well as on mother who was pregnant again. I was always in fear of mother dying with gallstones or some other ailment. I couldn’t think of anything worse than a family being left motherless. If I had only realized it, we would have fared far worse if we had lost our father. Years later I realized that father had almost lost his life with tuberculoses, but he kept going and finally whipped it. Years later when x-rays were taken it showed that he had deep scars on his lungs as a result of that bout with tuberculoses.
Before we were completely well from the measles we all took whooping cough which was a mild case for most of us. We had always lived in prairie upland and now we were living on lowland to a tributary of the Washita River and we got chills.
In the meantime in 1917 a little baby boy came to live in our home. There had been six girls born into our family and now a baby brother. Dad was still having trouble adjusting to cash rent farming. He had always farmed on the thirds and fourths, a third of feed crops and a fourth of cotton and other money crops. So, he was trying to find a farm to rent again. He made quite a good year on this farm he had rented by buying the livestock from the owner. He had resold some of the teams at a profit and still had more cattle and horses than when we left the old hill country farm.
Dad finally found a 120-acre farm for sale that he could afford to buy, but it was right back to the hill country again on the same old Panther Creek, but closer to the hills this time. Dad had come from the Missouri hills and I guess the level valley farms just weren’t a part of his “cup of tea.” Again we moved into a log house and not a very comfortable one at that. A log cabin about eighteen feet square with a lean-to on the north side that served for kitchen and dining room.
They show pictures on television now of how terrible people live without running water or indoor toilets, and I say to myself, “So what!” We lived through that era right here in the good old USA and there were no food stamps, no welfare, and no aid of any kind. What we got was by the labor of own two hands.
We cleared this land, rented extra land, farmed corn, cotton, broomcorn, and various kinds of hay. In less than ten years we had a new six room house, still not modern, but a place that we could feel proud to invite our friends into. Years later it took the R.E.A. to bring electricity into these remote areas.
Two more baby girls were born into our family making ten children in all. There were trying times during the flu epidemic after World War I when many families lost loved ones. Naomi, the one younger than our baby brother, had flu along with the rest of us. Then she came down with pneumonia. We were afraid she was going to die. But, she survived that only to get whooping cough and again pneumonia before she was a year old. She finally pulled through that. Remember, there were no miracle drugs then.176 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 177 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
My brother, Loyce, and I finished the eighth grade and passed the county examination to enter high school. We hear so much about Third World economies and federal aid for this and that, but there were no such things in those days. We got by on our own. A man’s word was as good as cash. So, when I started to high school, dad took me to the bank and let me borrow $100 for a semester in school. There was no tuition. We had a five-dollar entrance fee that admitted us to all games. It was a state school where high school and college were both taught in the same buildings and by the same teachers. We had no “fandangled” teachers then. The Three R’s plus penmanship, history and grammar was our daily “cup of tea.”1
Yes, I came into the “new world” in a hurry when my father loaded my trunk into a lumber wagon, and with our country school teacher drove us twelve miles to the train station. There we caught the train for Edmond, Oklahoma. I saw my first streetcar that day, and was introduced to my first modern bathroom. But, we learned fast in modern methods as well as classroom knowledge. After one semester in high school we could take a county exam and get a third class certificate to teach school. I taught school two years at Parks School in Garvin County.
Oklahoma was a new state. I was only fourteen years old when I started teaching. But, I grew up fast, also politicians along with other things. Alfalfa Bill Murray was an uncouth unkempt sort of man, but he knew citizens rights and called out the state militia on more than one occasion to enforce what he believed to be citizens’ state rights. He was instrumental in forming the state constitution. One provision was that no foreigners were permitted to own land in Oklahoma. I am not certain that provision is still on the statutes.
1 (Oklahoma Central State Teachers College at Edmond, Oklahoma.)
At least one governor was impeached and another one was sent to prison on some fraudulent issue. I studied Oklahoma history but much of it has slipped my memory.
In 1925 I married an Arkansas boy who like myself had come to Edmond to get an education. Neither of us realized the problems that were in store for us.
William Edmund and Mary Pauline Davidson – 1953
Over the years Pauline and and her sister, Marge, became close and often exchanged letters and phone calls. Marge never quite accepted religion the way Pauline did, but they respected each other’s viewpoint. To celebrate and honor Pauline’s eightieth birthday Marge wrote a poem, “The Boat Sails On.” Over the years it since became the hallmark of the Roller Family tradition. It was read at the eightieth birthday celebration for each. A symbolic boat paddle was made and handed down to each until Elsie, the last of the siblings. She gave it to her nephew, Don, Pauline’s son. He gave it to Jewel’s daughter, Norma, to keep it in the Roller Family.178 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 179 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
FROM THE YESTERDAYS
THROUGH THE TOMORROWS
THE BOAT SAILS ON
They blazed many trails;
And They built a good boat,
Knowing the time soon would come
When They would set it a-float.
So their crewmen were trained
To be honest and strong;
And the banner They chose
Said, “The Boat Sails On.”
The mast They built
Stands tall and strong.
It must sail the High Seas
When the nights grow long.
It must serve through the dark nights
When hope was very low;
And reflect the first rays of sunrise
To its crewmen below.
Then They let down the anchor
And said, “We will let the boat be–
The next generation will
Take her out to sea.”
The Captain they trained
Was steady and strong;
Decisions were made
So it didn’t take long.
He put out to sea
Knowing each crewman aboard
Had it’s own destination.
And, His confidence didn’t falter,
When hope was remote.
He knew not a crewman aboard
Would desert the Old Boat.
As each one must serve;
So, each must depart;
And, the next to take over
Must man the Old Ark.
The next Captain stepped aboard
With a pain in Her Heart;
It was time to take courage
And preserve the Old Ark.
She approached her station,
Brushed a tear from Her eye;
She turned to Her crew
And the crew stood by.
She looked to the mast
Standing tall and strong;
And, the banner it flew
Said, “The Boat Sails On.”
Heading into storms
Where sailing gets rough,
Demanding the oars,
But, the crewmen grew tough.180 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 181 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
Being tossed this way or whether
They would hold it together.
On to the time when the
Last crewman is gone.
But the Old Boat won’t sink,
It can go it alone,
Though her decks may grow silent,
It won’t be for long.
With sails stayed to the sunset,
The Boat sails on.
To a place beyond sunsets,
Into the great unknown.
There will be other generations
To sail the Boat on and on.
“And Cap, when you hit Port, don’t forget
To swagger as you walk down the street.
You have manned a Great Boat
With a crew that is hard to beat.”
Eighty years is a long, long, journey.
–Margaret Roller Weldon
Pauline had two brothers and seven sisters. All, except one, married and had children. The third girl, Hazel, never married. She was a devoted teacher. Of all of Don’s aunts he knew Jewel, the fourth one, the best. She and Don were soul mates. After adulthood Don was never around his Aunt Hazel very much. He often wondered why she never married, but never asked.
At a Jones Family Reunion on the Cimarron River in North Central Oklahoma Don visited with his Aunt Elsie from Arizona. She told him she had a story Jewel wrote about Hazel. Don asked her to send him a copy which she did. It is a very touching account of a part of Hazel’s life he had never known. The story follows:
OF LOVE AND SERVICE
“FROM YOU KNOW WHO”
The chain clinks along the flagpole as Old Glory nears the top. A slight breeze unfurls the flag as the sun breaks the horizon. Another Memorial Day is beginning in this little rural cemetery.
As I stroll through the markers memories come flooding back; memories that will be lost when my generation has gone to join those already here–memories of gallantry, bravery, beauty, and love.
It’s hard to tell when they fell in love, although it was a time when falling in love and getting married needed no coaching or lecturing. They neither seemed to fit that mold. Hazel and Roy, though both under twenty, were among the older of the unmarried group. They seemed to accept a responsibility to keep us younger ones in line. This they did without seeming too straightlaced.
The Black Bloomers, a girl’s basketball team, benefited both from Hazel’s talents as a player and a peacemaker. She had a way to exert authority and calm a fight without anyone realizing that his or her cause had been neither won nor lost.
Roy saved many a Saturday night square dance from becoming a knock-down-drag-out free-for-all. If there was too much white lightning smuggled in and a fight was brewing, Roy could always persuade the fiddlers to get the music going and the dancers back on the floor.182 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 183 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
It seemed a natural thing for Hazel and Roy to walk home together as those in authority always seemed to stand together. I always thought of it as just being convenient for them, never in romantic terms. Even though they did seem to dance together a lot, there were no outward signs of romance. The one night that I saw Roy kiss Hazel I was shocked. Here they were, the two who were too old and too tight-laced, acting like the rest of us. Then Roy backed away and said, “Race you to the gate.” This seemed to take away the romance of the moment and I didn’t relate to any possibility of a love relationship.
In 1925 the self-imposed responsibility that Roy had assumed became much more so. His parents were killed in a freak accident. He was left with two younger sisters, a brother, grandmother, and the family farm to run. Any thoughts of marriage that Roy and Hazel may have had were pushed aside.
Hazel left for college and Roy busied himself with the planting and harvesting of the crops. A full year soon passed and Hazel was home from school. A community pie supper to be followed by a dance was planned to raise funds for the little rural cemetery as Memorial Day was soon approaching. Burial sites in the cemetery were never sold. The only money for the cemetery was collected through charitable events and donations.
At the supper Roy bought Hazel’s pie. They paired off to catch up on the recent happenings in their lives. As others finished and milled around to visit Roy and Hazel continued their private chat. Later when the music began Roy offered his hand and led Hazel to the center of the dance floor. There they danced until only a few couples were left on the floor. Then they walked home hand-in-hand.
That summer as Roy’s work on the farm continued Hazel worked at home with the younger kids and fieldwork. It was soon broomcorn harvesting time and Roy needing money got a job running a broomcorn seeder. This meant twelve to fifteen-hour workdays as rain could ruin a crop if it was not cut, seeded, and stored all in the same day. Roy would move the seeder from farm to farm working each farmer’s crop.
After several long days the seeder broke down. It was clogged with dirt and seeds. In a hurry to get it back in working condition, Roy tore into the engine using gasoline as a cleaner.
No one really knows what happened, but the gasoline exploded and Roy was engulfed in flames. He threw himself to the ground and rolled out the flames. His clothes were charred into his flesh and dirt covered his burns.
He was carried to his home where he was attended to by his grandmother and sisters. The country doctor was called but there was little they could do other than try to ease his pain.
When we heard what had happened, Hazel asked me to bake a cake and go with her to take to the family. When we arrived friends and family had gathered. The house was small and many sat around in the yard. I remained outside while Hazel took the cake and went into the house. She sat almost an hour at Roy’s bedside.
I looked up as she stepped through the door. The expression of grief she wore has remained vivid in my memory. She walked past us as if we were not there and went straight to our old truck. Once inside she bowed her head over the steering wheel and gave way to great trembling sobs. I was surprised at her open expression of grief and didn’t know what to say or do. After a while she turned her grief inside and only low almost silent sobs remained.
I finally asked, “What’s the matter?” She looked out into nowhere and replied, “I’ll never see him again.” Only then did I know the extent of their love.
The next day Roy was buried in the little cemetery for which he had helped raise funds. The graveside service was short with only a few words, a song, and a prayer.
Family and friends passed by the casket including Hazel. She could not suppress her grief entirely and folks could not hide their surprise at her show of emotions. No one realized the extent of the 184 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 185 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
relationship between Hazel and Roy so no one stepped forward to comfort her.
Hazel threw herself into work more than ever. She was the first to volunteer for any job that needed to be done. She found work where there was really none to do.
A revival was announced and a brush arbor built. On the second night Hazel made her confession of faith and dedicated her life to service.
From then on Hazel never attended the dances or engaged in the younger peoples’ social activities. Instead, she turned to her books and the study of the Bible. She never talked with me about Roy, and I not knowing what to say never mentioned him either.
That fall Hazel returned to school. She had dedicated herself to a service and it was teaching. She gave up basketball as she thought her time was better served at study. She gained weight with the inactivity and knew her peers considered her a country hick. I heard her say she really didn’t care what they thought because she could show them all with her grades–and she did.
The following year on Memorial Day our family went to the cemetery as we had always done in the past. As we were finishing our work on the family plot I looked up to see Hazel with a small handful of wild flowers making her way to Roy’s grave. It was marked by only a small wooden cross. She stood there a moment and I could see her lips move as if she was talking to him. Then she laid the flowers on his grave and turned back to us.
In 1927 Hazel graduated and began her teaching career. Although the school was small she was back among the rural people she so wanted to help. Her duties not only included teaching but also the upkeep of the schoolhouse. Any repairs she took care of herself. The winter months were often very cold but she always had a fire built and the classroom warm by the time her students arrived.
Her talents were soon recognized and she gained a reputation as an excellent teacher.
The Great Depression hit hard and many of Hazel’s students could not afford pencils and paper. She always managed to have supplies for any of her students who were in need.
The years passed and Hazel’s services to her students and community left little time for a personal life. Reflecting back, I believe that was the way she wanted it. If the subject of men or marriage was ever brought up she would always have an answer. I once heard her asked if she was a man-hater. Her reply was, “Of course not. I have the most wonderful man in the world for a father.” Then the inevitable question was asked, “Did Roy’s death have anything to do with you not marrying?” She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, we did have plans but they probably wouldn’t have materialized anyway.” I noticed a hint of moisture veil her eyes, but it was completely unnoticed by the others.
During World War II Hazel was relentless in her service. She helped raise money for War Bonds and the USO. Gasoline was rationed and any trip to town she made she either took along friends and family or ran errands for them.
After the war she felt she still had a duty to fulfill. We were all surprised but not shocked when she announced she was going to Japan to teach the children of the soldiers stationed there.
On her return everyone could see the years were adding up and like the story of Evangeline, “each had taken from her youth and beauty.”
That year she didn’t wait for Memorial Day. She went to the cemetery a few days after her return. There she found Roy’s grave overgrown and the little wooden cross missing. Roy’s family had moved away and no one had worked his grave since she left. She ordered a small headstone and asked me to accompany her while it was being placed.
After the workers left she stood there for a moment and as she bent to place a small bouquet of flowers, I saw her lips move. In a barely audible voice I heard her say, “These are from you know who.”186 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 187 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
Swiftly the time was passing. During the Korean and Viet Nam wars she did all she could to ease the pain and loneliness of families whose loved ones were in the service. Many of her nephews and former students were called to serve. They were all her sons.
When she retired she built the home she had always dreamed of. Stones she collected from around the world were mortared into the fireplace. She planted trees and flowers and welcomed all who visited.
As her health began to fail she began to put her affairs in order. She had all her legal work finished and instructions about all of her possessions. She made regular trips to the cemetery, but if she had any special instructions where she was to be buried she never made that known.
She died like she lived most of her life–alone. We found her with her boots on which was just the way she had always said she wanted to go. She never wanted to be a burden to any one.
We laid her to rest in the family plot of the cemetery as no one was sure about her wishes. I would have liked for her to be placed alongside Roy, but others thought it wouldn’t be proper. Maybe not, but I felt they were lovers and should have been laid side-by-side.
When I place flowers on Hazel’s grave I always remove a single posy and make my way across the dew covered grass to Roy’s grave. As I stand there I can almost see them once again walking hand-in-hand, and hear Roy challenge Hazel, “Race you to the gate.” As I lay the posy on his grave I whisper, “These are from you know who.”– Jewel (Roller) Gardner (Hazel’s little sister)
Don wrote this account January 1989 after his mother, Mary Pauline Davidson, died Christmas Day, 1988:
The phone rang at 2:15 a.m. It was Dad. The paramedics had just left to take Mom to the Hospital. She had awaken Dad at about 2:00 a.m. gasping for breath and he couldn’t get her awake. The paramedics said she had a very weak pulse. They gave her some oxygen. It caused her to rally. She was awake when they took her to the hospital. I told Dad that Pat and I would get ready and be there as soon as we could.
We quickly got dressed. Pat hastily packed an overnight bag in case we had to stay over with Dad while Mom was in the hospital. We had called Mom and Dad Saturday evening and told them we would spend a few hours Christmas Day with them–that we would not stay overnight since Mom was still recuperating from her stay in the hospital earlier in the month.
We had planned to get up at 5:00 a.m. Christmas Morning and drive to Brenham, spend a few hours with Mom and Dad, and drive back home late Christmas Day evening. When we called Saturday evening (Christmas Eve) Dad said Greg had called and he and Donna would like to come to Brenham Christmas Day and spend a few hours sharing Christmas with them.
Pat and I left for Brenham at 3:30 a.m. We arrived at the Bohne Hospital at 7:45 a.m. After a few minutes the nurse told us they had sent Mom home. We stayed a few minutes longer and talked with the doctor who treated Mom in the emergency room. He said there was nothing different about her condition except she had 210/90 blood pressure and a slow heart beat rate of about 42. The doctor said he talked with Dr. Landgraff (Mom’s personal physician) and he said her usual heart beat rate has been low for years.
We left the hospital about 8:15 a.m. and drove the few blocks to Moms and Dad’s house. Dad saw us drive into the backyard and greeted us at the door. He said Mom was asleep and she was feeling better since he brought her home from the hospital. We told Dad we came by the hospital and they told us they had sent Mom home.
We visited a while with Dad and he updated us on Mom’s condition. Pat re-programmed Dad’s phone to get the correct number for Dr. Landgraff at the clinic. When she lifted the receiver the life-line device in Mom’s room sounded a short, but very audible tone. Dad said it did that every time someone 188 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 189 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
picked up the phone receiver. Then Pat auto-dialed the number to be sure it was right and the tone sounded again.
Since those tones sounded I figured they must have awakened Mom. In a few minutes I tiptoed down the hallway to peek in on her. She heard me coming and had turned her head to where she was looking at the doorway when I stuck my head around the corner. She said, “Come on in. I’m awake. I want to visit with you.” I bent down and kissed her and she kissed me. I wished her a Merry Christmas.
I stood by her bedside and we visited a few minutes—just small talk about how she was feeling, and about our trip down, and our conversation with the doctor at the hospital. I apologized for the life-line tone waking her and said for her to get some rest. About then Dad and Pat came into the bedroom. Pat greeted Mom and wished her a Merry Christmas. Pat asked Mom how she was doing and we talked about water buildup in her legs. I checked her feet for any signs of fluid buildup. Found none. Mom said she was okay, and that she needed to get up and go to the bathroom. Dad helped her to the bathroom and I joined Pat in the living room.
In a few minutes I went to the back part of the house and as I came by the bathroom the door was open. Mom was standing at the lavatory brushing her false teeth and putting them in. I stopped a few seconds and watched her to see how her coordination was. I went on into the living room and joined Dad and Pat.
In a few minutes Mom joined us. She had combed her hair and she looked nice in her red robe. She sat on the sofa in the living room and we visited. Dad asked Mom if she wanted to eat breakfast. She said she would like some oatmeal. Dad and Pat fixed the oatmeal and some toast for the rest of us. I helped Mom to the dining table and Dad held her chair for her. She asked for a glass of fruit juice that she had left over from the day before. I got it out of the refrigerator and set it on the table for her. When we were all seated we all joined hands and Dad said the Blessing I have heard him give so many times: “Father, we thank you for this day and its many blessings, we ask you to bless and keep our friends and loved ones. We ask you to bless this food as we take its nourishment to our bodies. We ask all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Mom ate most of her bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar and cream. She drank most of the fruit juice. We talked about Mom’s low sodium diet, the various foods and their sodium content. We looked at some of the cereal boxes of her favorite cereals and read the sodium content to see which ones she could eat and which ones to avoid.
The phone rang and Dad answered. It was Sam. He talked briefly with Dad and then asked to speak with Mom. I helped her turn a chair to the phone and get seated. Sam wished her a Merry Christmas and they visited a few minutes. I talked briefly with Sam before we hung up.
Mom said she was a little tired and that she was going to go in the bedroom and rest a little while. Dad, Pat and I sat in the living room and visited. Two or three times I got up and tiptoed to the bedroom door and peeked in to see how Mom was doing. She was sleeping and breathing very gently.
About eleven o’clock Greg and Donna arrived from Austin. We sat around the living room talking and telling them about Mom’s condition. I guess all the talking woke Mom because she came in to the living room wearing her red robe, and said she had to get in on all this conversation since most of it was about her.
For the next two hours we all had a rousing good time talking and reminiscing about when Mom and Dad first met and their early life together. Mom told about how angry she was with Dad one day in their civic class they had together at Edmond. The teacher had a surprise pop quiz on Monday morning. Each student had to get up before the class and tell about something they had read in the newspaper over the weekend. While the other students were telling about what they had read, Mom said she was racking her brain to think of something really significant she could tell about. She said when it came her turn she told, as best she could with a lot of stuttering and stammering, something about the Teapot Dome scandal in Wyoming. She said she thought she got a ‘C’ grade. When it came Dad’s turn Mom said he got up in front 190 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 191 MARY PAULINE ROLLER
of the class, hung his head, dug his toe into the floor and said, “Well, I read the funny papers.” Mom said the teacher said, “Confession is good for the soul. You get an A.” Mom said she was really angry that Dad got an ‘A’ for just reading the funny papers.
Dad told about how he worked nights in the bakery to earn his way through school and how one day the teacher caught him napping in the class. The teacher chastised him and said if he wasn’t so interested in “campusology” and staying out late at night with the girls, maybe he could stay awake in class. Dad told the teacher that he worked from midnight to eight o’clock each morning at the bakery and then came to class, but said he didn’t much think the teacher believed him. The next morning at 3:00 a.m. there was a knock at the back door to the bakery. When Dad answered it was the teacher. Dad invited him in and they visited about half an hour while Dad worked. They had some pie and coffee, then he left. The next day in class the teacher apologized to Dad and said anyone that wanted an education that much could sleep in his class any time he needed to.
Mom told about one evening she and Dad went walking west of town in the countryside. She told how the wind was gently blowing and the grain was swaying in the breeze. She said she was feeling so romantic and the orange sun was setting on the horizon over the swaying grain and it looked just like a sunset over the ocean. She said to Dad in the most romantic manner she could say it, “What does that big orange sun look like to you?” Mom said Dad kind of studied it a few seconds and said, “A big hunk of cheese.” Mom said that just totally ruined her romantic moment.
We all had a big laugh and Dad said, “Can you imagine someone wanting to marry a guy that thought the setting sun looked like a big hunk of cheese?” Greg said, “Yeah, I guess she just wanted some ham to go with her cheese.” Then we all had another big laugh.
We talked about when Mom and Dad first got married and how they lived in a tent on the road construction site near Wewoka, and how Dad worked with the road construction crews and on the dragline, and how Mom helped cook for the crew workers. Dad told about when he was working on the dragline that the crew lived in a tent with a wood burning stove for heat. He said that one cold wintery day they returned to their tent after dark. A bunch of hogs had gotten into the tent and knocked the stove down and generally made a shambles of the place. Dad said they were all so tired and cold that they just bedded down with the hogs for the night for warmth. We all had a good laugh on that one.
During all this Mom was very alert and talkative. She always liked being in on a good conversation. Her mind was very active and she related several good stories. There was only one time when I thought for just a few moments she got a far off pensive look in her eyes like she was a million miles away. She snapped out of it very quickly and continued to join in the conversation.
About 2:00 p.m. we said we needed to go so Mom could rest and regain her strength. We each bid her a fond farewell and kissed her good-bye as she sat on the living room sofa. I told her I loved her and to take good care of herself and to get plenty of rest. Then we left.
Outside we had a brief conversation with Dad. We told him to be sure and call us if he needed anything. We told him we would call when we got home.
Dad said there was a pretty rose in the garden that he wanted to cut and take to Mom because she loved roses so much. I walked to the rose bush with Dad. He cut and trimmed the rose. Dad walked to the car with us. He gave us a big hug and told us he loved us. We told him we loved him and to take good care of Mom. As we backed out into the street Dad stood there forlorn holding the rose and waving good-bye.
When we got home the telephone was ringing as we walked through the door. It was Greg. He was calling from Austin to tell us Dad called him and said Mom had died about 4:15 p.m. Christmas Day.
What I remember most about Mom is she wanted so very much to do so many good things for so many people. This was a compelling influence in her life, and the things she did were often misunderstood by others because she did not possess 192 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 193
the delicate communications skills and finesse commensurate with her desire and zeal to do good for others. Yet, she never asked anything of others for herself and she never wanted to be a burden to anyone. She was a very independent person and very strong willed in that respect.
I truly believe she picked her place and time to die. She died Christmas Day, 1988, quietly and peacefully in her own bed without pain or suffering. She went quietly and quickly with head held high and in her own way asking nothing from anyone.
She brought us life and she has now gone ahead like a good mother to prepare the way for the rest of us whom she loves so dearly.
For whatever Pauline was, she was the mover, the shaker, the motivator–she was the one that made things happen. A lot of people didn’t like the things she did and the things that she made happen, but she was not one to sit still and watch the world go by. Her mind was never idle. She was constantly thinking, planning, preparing, and doing–right up to the day she died. She was the motivating force that urged, no insisted, that Sam and Don plan and organize the Davidson Family Reunion the spring of 1988.
She knew her life on this earth was nearing an end, and she wanted so much to see positive steps taken to bond and preserve The Family. Her last written words were to tell Sam and Don that she was giving them the responsibility and duty to care for their Dad and to carry on and preserve the family unity.
Mary Pauline had two brothers and seven younger sisters
LOYCE ELMER ROLLER
MARGARET “Marge” ELLEN ROLLER
HAZEL PEARL ROLLER
CORA JEWEL ROLLER
EDNA BLANCHE ROLLER
EMMA BEATRICE “Bea” ROLLER
NAOMI “Dixie” HUFFMAN ROLLER
ELSIE ALICE ROLLER
HENRY CORNELOUS ROLLER