How I wish they were still with us so they could write their own story. I don't know how or where they first met, or how long they dated before they married. However it must have been love at first sight and it lasted all their lives. Mom, I know, was engaged to marry another man when she met Dad, because she told me once that she had a beautiful engagement ring that she gave back. Didn't mean a thing when the right man came along.
Mother was born October 26, 1898 in Sciotoville, Ohio to Sarah Lena (Bennett) Allen and Silas Allen. The youngest of eight children, six boys and two girls. She grew up around Sciotoville, graduated from the eighth grade, and won a scholarship to go to high school. In those days, that was about like going on to college. In most States, at that time, you could take an examination for a teacher's certificate when you finished the eighth grade. Even with the scholarship, she didn't feel like she could afford to go on to school. She instead found a job in a shoe factory.
Uncle Curt told me one time that Mother was a beautiful young lady. She was about 5' 6" tall, had dark curly hair that reached below her waist, a beautiful light olive complexion that never had a wrinkle or a blemish. I remember Mother as a heavy woman, she put on weight after she started having her babies. She weighed close to two hundred pounds most of her adult life. She was a quiet, kind woman, not given to gossip. She truly practiced the old adage of speaking only good of a person.
We never knew Mother's family well. I only remember seeing Grandma and Grandpa Allen one time, when I was six years old and the folks went back to Ohio on vacation. Grandma Allen died when I was about seven. I remember Mother's grief when the letter came telling of her death. Grandpa Allen died about seven years later, and I believe he committed suicide, but am not sure.
Dad was born April 28, 1895 in Salyersville, Kentucky to Amanda (Whitt) Conley and Garfield Conley. He had six brothers and two sisters. His oldest brother, Luther, was killed in a motorcycle accident, his baby sister was standing in front of an open fireplace and her gown caught on fire and she burned to death. The family lived in Kentucky until Dad was in his teens, they then moved to Ohio.
Dad attended school until, like Abe Lincoln , he learned to read, write and cipher, which was all the schools deemed necessary in those days. I believe this was about the third grade. He then quit to help his father. He learned what work was early in his life and there wasn't much he couldn't do. Give him a chance and he could learn anything. He didn't have much patience with anyone that said he couldn't do something without first giving it a try. He was determined that all his kids would have a high school education.
He was about 5' 8" tall, stocky built, dark curly hair that grayed early, good looking, quick tempered, a good talker. He was a good baseball player and loved to play. I remember much of his free time, when I was a small child, was spent at a ball game. I remember a tragic automobile accident that happened when we were coming home from a ball game. Uncle Olly, Dad, and a man by the name of Dick House got into a car race. They all had their families along and Dad dropped out after a short while, but Dick and Uncle Olly continued to race. Dick rolled his car over and was killed and his small daughter was badly injured. I had nightmares about that accident for years.
Dad went to Kansas as a young man and worked in a Shoe Factory. He heard about the oil boom in Oklahoma and went there and worked in the oil fields. He learned the barber trade and barbered on the side.
He went back to Ohio and went to work in a shoe factory. I imagine that was where he met Mother. They were married July 27, 1917 in Sciotoville Ohio. I was born the next year, May 9, 1918, they were living in Portsmouth, Ohio at the time. When I was about six months old they moved to Oklahoma where Dad worked in the oil fields. They lived in a tent, at one time, that was put up to house the workers. The tent was floored and walled halfway up. I got very sick and they thought they were going to lose me. They were living somewhere around Hominy at that time. They decided to take me, by train, to a doctor in Tulsa. They got rooms in a boarding house and Theda was born there on May 26, 1919. Mom said when they took us home on the train everyone thought we were twins because I had lost so much weight and was so tiny. I had to learn to walk all over again and I imagine it was worse than having twins. Dad was wonderful to help.
They made another trip back to Ohio and lived there awhile, but the West was in Dad's blood and he just wasn't satisfied in Ohio. They returned to Oklahoma when Theda was about two years old. They traveled in style, pullman and all. I remember Dad laughing and telling about not knowing how to put out the light in their bunk. I guess Theda stole the hearts of everyone on the train with her version of the Charleston (the big show-off), Dad and Mom were proud parents. Dad went back to work in the oil fields. Jack was born January 29, 1922, their first son. Dad was so proud that he named him for Jack Dempsey, the great prize fighter.
My first memories were of living on an oil lease on an Indian reservation at Wild Horse, Oklahoma. We lived way out on the prairie by ourselves, no other house in sight. Dad had an old stripped down Ford for transportation, the roads were just trails across the prairie. I remember Dad telling about the bootleggers that used to slip a jar in his car every so often, Dad knew where his still was. I remember hearing panthers scream and coyotes howling at night. There was a bad prairie fire while we were there, and the pipe line walkers came running into the yard yelling fire! Mom and Dad started fighting the fire away from the house. We did a lot of our living off the land, and I remember the squirrels, rabbits, and ducks that dad would bring home. There were lots of wild blackberries and strawberries. I remember how pretty the hills looked covered with wild strawberries. I remember Dad telling about a washing machine he made while we lived there. Somehow he took an oil drum and put it on rockers so it would move and hooked it up to a rod line. At night they would fill the drum with clothes and hot water and the next morning the clothes would be clean. Norma was a baby when we lived there, she was born on February 26, 1923 at Hominy, Oklahoma.
We moved after that to an oil lease on the Osage Indian Reservation out of Hominy. There were about twelve houses on the lease with a bunk house and a boarding house for the unmarried men. Board sidewalks ran the length of the camp. Each house had its own outside toilets with board sidewalks that ran out to them. The camp was all fenced with high chain link fence and it had a community storm cellar and a bathhouse. If I remember right there was just one long garage outside of the fence in the back for all the cars and equipment. The houses were very nice for those days. The oil companies took great pride in keeping their lease houses up. Dad bought his first new car, a Ford touring car with side curtains. When it rained you had to get out and put on the curtains which snapped to the top of the doors. We made a trip to Ohio in that car the summer I started to school. It was mostly dirt roads and most weren't too good. We stayed at hotels at night and I remember how exciting it was. Oscar Jr. must have been a tiny baby at that time, because he was born May 15, 1924.
The Osage Indians were wealthy with all their oil money. They had so much money they didn't know what to do with it. In Hominy the merchants had one prices for the Indians and another price for the whites. They drove big cars, had long braided hair and still wore their colorful Indian blankets. I remember one Indian settlement we passed going into town, they had fine houses, but still had their tepees in back.
I started to school in Hominy and I remember the Indian girls with long braids that went to school with me. The people in camp got together and took turns driving the kids into town to school. It must have been quite a job because there weren't any bridges across the creeks and they would have to ford the streams and at times it was impossible to cross.
The next year Theda started to school and we walked to a country school. I believe it was about two miles. I remember the swinging bridge we had to cross, climbing persimmon trees, throwing our lunch pails off the bridge on the thin ice so we would have an excuse to go onto the ice. We both have a vivid memory of sliding down a frozen hillside and not being able to get back up. A man heard us crying and came and rescued us.
Dad had always had terrible migraine headaches, but otherwise he was very healthy. About 1925 he started having trouble with his stomach. He hadn't been feeling well for some time and I remember his hemorrhaging and falling into the kitchen. Some of the men in camp came running to help lift Dad, but he got up and fell across the bed. We were terrified! I don't remember much more about that except the doctor decided Dad had an ulcer and put him on a strict diet. He had trouble with his stomach the rest of his life.
Lota Ann was born there November 28, 1925. When she was about a year old we had our first sorrow. Oscar Jr. took pneumonia and died November 7, 1926. Dad had set up with him all night the night before he died and I remember him falling asleep in his chair and the dream he had. They had been using Vicks to rub on Jr's chest and Dad dreamed that a tiny Vicks bottle took wings and flew away and a bigger Vicks bottle tried to follow after him, but fell back. When he awoke he said he knew Jr was going to die. Jr is buried in the cemetery at Hominy, Oklahoma. His headstone is one Dad made himself out of concrete.
After they lost Jr. they couldn't stand the house any longer and Dad asked for a transfer. They moved to Tulsa around the first of the year. Bill was born there June 21, 1927. How glad they were to have another boy. They lived at Tulsa ten years. During that time five more children were born. Twin girls Florene Sue and Lorene Lou born January 15, 1929, what a thrill to have twins. Wanda Jean was born May 30, 1931 and we thought she was more beautiful than Shirley Temple and was always afraid someone would kidnap her. Next was Gerald Allen born December 19, 1933. He was always such a good sweet little boy, nothing like his ornery little brother Richard Arthur born August 30, 1935. Mother almost died when Jerry was born and he was her first child born in a hospital.
Mother and Dad joined the Baptist Church while they lived in Tulsa. Mom taught a Sunday school class and Dad became a Deacon of the Church. They had many friends, the young people all loved Mom and Dad and they were always welcome at our house. We usually had company for dinner every Sunday.
While we lived in Tulsa Grandpa and Grandma Conley came out and spent a Winter with Uncle Everett and us. They seemed to prefer our house, I think because we lived out of town and Grandpa could walk the river fishing. Our neighbors were friendly and visited with them more. Grandma was an invalid, crippled with rheumatism. She had to be lifted in and out of bed and spent her days in a wheel chair. She was a very sweet lady and we loved having them. Uncle Dola drove them out from Ohio.
Norma was about four or five the year they visited us. One day we had been over to Uncle Everett's and on our way home Norma fell out of the car. Mom was riding in the back seat with her and she grabbed her dress as she fell, but she was unable to hold on to her. When Dad picked her up her head was all bloody and she was unconscious. He took us by the house and put us out and rushed her to the hospital. He sat by her bed three days and nights until she regained consciousness. He was the one that noticed that she wasn't using her arm. He called the doctor's attention to it and they discovered it was broken in the elbow. She never had full use of her arm. He drove her to a doctor in Sepulpa for many weeks for treatment. Someone recommended a famous bone specialist in Tulsa. Dad took her to him and he did surgery on Norma's arm. He suggested to Dad that he let him get her into a crippled children's home where he could see her every day and supervise her treatment. Norma spent several months there until Mom and Dad were convinced nothing more could be done. Norma was a wonderful little girl and she never let anything stump her. Lots of people knew her for a long time before they realized she didn't have full use of her arm.
One of Mom's brothers, his wife and family, came to visit us at Tulsa. Uncle Ed and Aunt Ollie, Mom was so proud to have some of her family visit. Some of Dad's family came quite often. Uncle Otis, Dola and Charley (Aunt Frona's husband) worked for the railroad and got free passes. Uncle Curt worked on construction projects and was always passing through Tulsa. Uncle Everett lived in Tulsa. Uncle Olly had moved to California and we didn't see him for years..
Shortly after Dick's birth Dad was transferred to Cushing, Oklahoma. I was a senior in high school and I wanted to finish at Sand Springs. The folks made arrangements for me to stay with a neighbor by the name of Bachlor and Theda stayed with another neighbor. We were able to finish that year of school in Tulsa.
The folks lived in Cushing about two years, they lived on an oil lease way out in the country. The young kids went to a nearby country school and Theda, and Jack rode the school bus into Ripley to high school. Mom and Dad joined the Council Valley Baptist Church where Joe's folks belonged. I remember Dad teased me about the country being infested with Boyles and I should be able to land one. I wasn't home much while the folks lived at Gushing. I came to California with Uncle Curt the Summer I finished high school and spent the Winter of 1936 and 1937 with Aunt Maggie and her family. Uncle Curt had gone back to Ohio on a Job. I got to see a lot of Uncle Olly and Aunt Dora and their family.
Dad was transferred again, this time to Billings, Oklahoma. It was the first time they didn't have their house and all their utilities furnished. Dad started to have a real hard time trying to make ends meet. They lived in several different houses in Billings. Finally they found this real nice house out in the country they all really liked. They had to burn wood for the first time in many years. One morning Mom had a big fire in the cook stove, I believe she was getting ready to do a wash. The wind was blowing real hard that day and Dad just happened to step out in the yard and saw the roof was afire. The house burned in minutes with practically all their belongings. I will never forget the look on Dad's face when he came in town and told me. I felt so sorry for him. They moved back to town into the only house they could find, which was much too small for such a large family. There Charles Ray was born April 18, 1938.
Dad was transferred again this time to Geneseo, Kansas. He had hoped to move into a company house (Conoco Oil Company), but he wasn't given one. I guess he had too big a family. They lived in town for a while then found a house out in the country. Joe and I were married April 25, 1939. I was the first to get married and my Dad cried....now with children of my own of an age to get married I know why he cried, Jim was born September 4, 1939. Again Mom had a real hard time.
Dad bought the old farm house and moved it into Lyons and made a real nice house out of it. They lived there awhile and Dad sold it. They lived in several houses in Lyons after that. Theda came out to California to work for Aunt Maggie in her restaurant. She met Cecil and they were married September 6, 1941. Joe taught school one year in Lyons. Dad hadn't been in good health for years, he had another hemorrhage while they lived in Geneseo and was in the hospital at Halstead, Kansas. It was ulcers again, but it really scared Dad and he thought he was going to die. The doctor told him he should slow down and change his way of life, He began to think about quitting his job. He had worked for Continental Oil Company for twenty years and it was a hard decision to make. Pearl Harbor changed all our lives. Joe decided to go to California and try to get into defense work. This seemed to help Dad make up his mind to quit his job and make the move. They settled in Porterville, California where Uncle Curt and Uncle Olly lived.
Life wasn't easy for the folks after they moved to California. Dad never had a steady job again with a dependable monthly income. He stayed with me awhile during the war and worked in the shipyard, but he didn't like being away from Mom. I remember how he always bought her some little gift before he went home. They all worked in the fruit and the girls hated it. Mom never complained.
They had another tragedy about a year after they moved from Kansas to Porterville, They had a little girl Karen Ruth April 28, 1943. She was a lovely little girl and Mom wrote in her baby book, she resembles her Mother. They soon realized something was wrong. She never developed like a normal baby. Mom had been very sick all the time she was pregnant and had to stay in bed most of the time. Her blood pressure was dangerously high and the doctor wouldn't let anyone in her room but Dad. I am pretty sure Mom had diabetes at that time, but didn't find out until later. Karen lived less than a year and died March 22, 1944. She is buried in Porterville in the same cemetery as her Mother and Father.
Dad and Mom made their home in Porterville the rest of their lives, Mom's health began to fail and she found out she had diabetes. Dad always gave her the insulin shots. She had a bad stroke and by sheer will power learned to walk again. She always had a bad leg after that. She got a sore on her foot that wouldn't heal and we found out it was gangrene. She went to the hospital and they were able to get that first sore healed up. Several years later, at Christmas time, she got another sore on her foot. She didn't tell anyone because she didn't want to ruin their holiday. Dad found it out by chance when he went into their room and she had her socks off and crying, he was shocked when he saw her foot. She had to have her leg amputated and we were all heartbroken. She was so brave and set a wonderful example for the rest of us. She made a good recovery from the surgery and was determined to make the most of her life. Lota and Dale moved in with the folks and Lota took care of Mom after surgery. They built a new house across from the folks and moved as soon as Mom and Dad were able to look after themselves.
Joe and I had bought six acres of land and subdivided it into lots. It was on this land that Lota and Dale built their house. Dad also built a house next to Lota and Dale. It was the first new house Mom ever had and she was so proud of it. She would do the dishes and dusting and help with the cooking from her wheelchair. They made trips down here (Lakewood, California) and began to make plans for the future. Mom had another bad stroke and was never able to talk much after that. We loved her so much and it was hard to see her that way. Dad was always so good to her and this was very hard on him. Mom died July 26, 1959. We all knew it was a blessing as she didn't have to suffer anymore, but it still wasn't easy to give her up.
Mother was able to see her children graduate from high school and all were married before she died, Nine children graduated from Porterville High School; Lota, Bill, Lorene, Florene, Wanda, Jerry, Dick, Charles and Jim.
Dad lived three years after Mom died. It was awful hard on him to try to adjust his life without her. He bought a little red Renault and made one trip back to Ohio all by himself. He stopped over and visited with Uncle Everett in Tulsa. I remember how thrilled we were when we saw that little red car drive up.
He spent several weeks with us in the Spring of 1962 and seemed in better health and spirit than we had seen him in for a long time. He went fishing every day and was so tan and healthy looking. We had a big fish fry and he cooked all the fish and made hush puppies. We enjoyed him so much.
I remember a conversation I had with him one day. I asked him if he thought we would ever go to the moon? He said, "Certainly I do". "When you think of all the wonderful things that have happened in my lifetime a trip to the moon doesn't seem so far fetched." "When I was a boy no one would have believed we would ever fly. I saw the automobile, airplane, radio, and television developed. Its been a wonderful time to live."
Dad died suddenly of a heart attack June 23, 1962 while on a fishing trip with Bill and his boys at Quincy, California. None of us were ready to give him up and it was a shock we were a long time getting over.
Wherever Dad and Mom lived it was home and all their children knew they were always welcome. They set a good example for us all, one that is hard to live up to.