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Chapter 2 - Yes, Mom, I do Remember
Depression Refugees: Okies R US
We Did Not Know We Were Poor...
I don't remember celebrating any holidays or birthdays. I didn't know my correct birthday until I was in the eighth grade. I ask Mom and she told me she didn't know to go ask Aunt Jane because she knew everyone’s birthday. So I have made it a point to keep records of my children and my grandchildren. I am now trying to find more about my ancestors.
My Grandfather and Grandmother Gladwell came from Germany to Chicago Illinois and from there to Missouri and homesteaded land. My mother Gladys Gladwell Rucks Yocom was born there May 11, 1897. My Grandfather Gladwell went to visit Germany when she was very young and while there a war broke out in Germany and he wasn't allowed to return. Mom had one brother, Uncle (Berdie) Bernard or Bertrand I'm not sure which was his name.
Grandmother Ida Buckhouse Gladwell eventually married a man named Lawrence Reese or (Reece).They had three girls Julie, Cassoli and Cathola. They called one of the twins Buck. I went to see her in Weber Falls, Oklahoma in May of 1991.
Mr. Reese was so mean and cruel to my mother and molested her. She soon ran away from home when she was about sixteen and went to live with Jesse and Nannie Campbell. Mr. Reese came after mom. Jesse Campbell told him if he came one-step closer he would shoot him. Mom stayed with them until she married my father, Homer Simeon Rucks in 1918 or 1919.
My Grandfather and Grandmother Rucks was Prussian (Germany, Austria Belgium, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary). Grandfather Rucks had a medal: Order of The Red Eagle, from Prussia Company B 49th infantry.
My father was born in 1889 in Alabama and then they came to Arkansas. My Grandfather Rucks farmed in the Mulberry, Arkansas area and also raised his own meat. I remember the Smoke House he had with all the meat hanging and curing. I still don't understand what kept it from spoiling.
I think the Campbell’s, Rucks, Meadors, Mullins, Molders and Whitlocks must have made the community around Mulberry.
The Campbells told Mom that Homer Rucks was a good man and that it would be good for her to marry him and she took them at their word . I guess they stayed together for about twenty-five years. He was about ten years older than Mom. They were complete opposites. Mom was ambitious and wanted things and my dad moved slow and was really laid back , like the country gentleman you hear about. Mom was the head of the house and shouldered most of the responsibility. She was the oldest child in her family and my dad was the youngest and hadn't had the responsibility that mom had. Mom had helped raise her brother and half-sisters and then had taken care of the youngest Campbell children and worked in the fields.
My dad was just not a match for her because he was the youngest of ten children and they had all taken care of him. So as they say, this match was not made in heaven. You can never really show love or affection when you don't know what it is. Sex seemed to be only a duty to perform for the women or an instrument to use to benefit or obtain something from one or the other. Mom tried to find real love and affection all her life and never really found it. She seemed to look for it in all the wrong places-most of the time.
When we lived in Pope (Mulberry), Arkansas, we would go to church in a wagon. I always thought it was really exiting. Mom would play the guitar and sing and Schuler Meadors would play the guitar and run up and down the sawdust isles. They used to call these the Arbor Revivals because they would, build these Arbors and then spread sawdust on the dirt to keep the dirt and dust from flying around so bad when people would shout and holler amen, praise the Lord and hallelujahs all over the place and roll in the sawdust and run around all over the place.
This may have been where the word "Holly Roller" came from. People would come from everywhere for miles around. They all seemed to lay all their troubles and worries aside. I guess it could be compared to how people react when their team wins the World Series. My father had a beautiful voice. He sang songs by reading the shaped notes and could sing either bass or tenor. He led and directed the choir at a church national convention when he was in his late seventies. My father’s brothers and sisters all had musical talent.
A big decision had been made, we are heading for Oklahoma, it must be around 1934. My Dad sells all the crops and our cow and I don't know what else and goes to town and comes back with a Model 'A' Ford. He takes the lid off the rumble seat to make more room. They get gunny sacks to put the pots and pans in and tie them on the bumper and I guess if we were lucky we had a change of clothes that Mom packed somewhere. They put Ed, Esther, me and the prized 'Feather Mattress' in the rumble seat. Pop, mom, Evalee, and the twins were in the front and off we went. It started raining so Pop had Ed set on the fender with a lantern when it got dark so he could see. It took us all day and most of the night to get to Aunt Carries in Wainwright Oklahoma. If my memory serves me right it was gravel road all the way. I remember doing everything we could to keep the feather mattress dry and thinking, "it must have taken a zillion chicken feathers to make it so valuable (I'm associating it with the two or three baby chicks I stepped on and how much trouble I got into).
Somehow we make it to Wainwright and Aunt Carrie and Uncle Willy have found us a house rent free. I don't remember how that worked unless we were supposed to sharecrop. I remember thinking, now we will have enough to eat. Food was always on our minds. If we had an abundance of food, we were rich. We never thought about houses, cars, or land. If we had a place to sleep and food in our stomachs, we were happy. I guess at that time of my life the old saying, ignorance is bliss, was true.
Esther got a job chopping cotton and bought a banjo, she must have been about twelve or thirteen. I thought she made heavenly music. Ed was knocking down pecans and got enough together to buy a car, but he had to get some tires for it. He was about fourteen or fifteen. Esther would sometimes walk seven to Boyton, Oklahoma to our Uncle Berdies house to stay there and pick or chop cotton. I don't know how far Ed had to go to work. My Dad would also have to walk seven or eight miles to work for the W.P.A.
Sometimes we didn't have any food at all. Esther went to school three days without food and fainted in school. She said at that time we had two feather beds and a change of clothes and a few pots and pans. I remember having cornbread and wild turnip greens and watery gravy.
I remember living in this two room house with a shed built on the back (the shed was almost ready to collapse) that we rented from a Mr. Angel about three miles from Wainwright. He used to come down and visit us and bring fruit. It was the first fruit I remember tasting. I must have been about six years old. We had this well with a pump and a long skinny stove pipe looking thing for a bucket. I am thinking, this is great, it is much better than the old well we had in Arkansas, but soon changed my mind. It has to be primed continually and froze up in the winter. I tell my Mom, "I don't see why they don't have a little thing you can just turn and get water." Not ever dreaming that people really did have such a contraption.
Evalee got real sick while we lived there and one of the neighbors came and took her to live with them until she got better. She had rickets and pellagra. They said it was because she was almost starving. I had boils all the time and still bear the scars. I think the family was named Stone and had a daughter named Jewell. Mr. Stone came over in a real shiny black Model 'A' and brought us an all-day sucker. I promptly climbed on top of his car and started to work on my sucker and was soon disappointed. I guess I climbed on top of his car to have a place of quiet and privacy to enjoy this wonder of wonders.
In the wintertime Mom put the kitchen table over the top of the old potbellied stove that burns coal and puts me and the twins on top of the table to bathe us and keep us warm. Wonders of wonders she didn't burn the place down. Many times she would put us to bed and wash our clothes and dry them and put them back on us. She always wanted us to have clean clothes, especially underwear. I remember it snowing once in Wainwright, and Ed was the only one that could get through this big mud puddle that was at the bottom of the hill that you had to go over to go to Wainwright. We thought it was quite an accomplishment.
Wainwright was the most desolate place I ever remember living. We must have been in the middle of the dust bowl. The wind and dust blew constantly everywhere; there was nothing left but bare ground. People must have dry farmed because there was nothing left of what they planted. I'm surprised we didn't have more sickness in the family.
I started school in Wainwright, Oklahoma and passed from first to second grade in one year, I give Ed a lot of credit for that, he taught me spelling and arithmetic before I started to school. He taught me how spell superintendent (he would never have guessed he would be the youngest superintendent working for Atlantic Oil company in California!) before I started school and I would spell it to anyone who would listen. After I started school, I never had any more boils. The government had started a lunch program at school and I would really stuff myself with whatever they served. It never entered my mind to say, “I don't like this or-that.” I tasted my first celery and carrots in a stew they served and thought it was the best stuff I had ever had.
Ed had been working very hard. He had gotten the car and finally gotten enough money to get some tires. He gave Pop the money to go get some tires and instead of getting the tires, Pop paid off the grocery bill. Ed had been trying so hard to get us a car to go to California and was really disappointed. He and Pop had an argument and Ed decided to hitch hike to California. Mom packed him a small bucket with food (she had put in some Whipperwill patties). I envied him; I thought whipperwill paties were the best thing in the world. Ed must have been about fifteen years old.
The next time we hear from Ed, he is in Weedpatch California, has a job at Di Georgio farms, had rented us a cabin made of box car lumber and put dishes, stove and bedsteads. Well here we go again, looking, as always for a better way of life.
A relative of ours comes back to Oklahoma in an old panel truck to take us to California. I suppose Ed has paid him something. Water bags are tied on the radiator, the running boards are filled with gas cans, oil cans and water and whatever we can poke here and there-and of course the famous feather beds. Sonny Boy is petrified, at three years old he doesn't remember being in a car. He screams, kicks, yells and grabs hold of everything around.. Mom is trying to think of something to distract him and decides to give him his first haircut. This stirs his curiosity, so off comes his beautiful blonde curls, Sister Girl calmly gets in the car and is ready to go. Sonny Boy sees Sister Girl get in so he thinks, well this must be all right and gets in also.
Here goes the Rucks family again, headed for the land of plenty, where money grows on trees and the sun is always shining. We had an axel to break while going thru the Globe Mountains in Arizona. We camp beside the road for a week. I don't remember what we ate or how we got it, all I remember if bologna, it was the first time I remember tasting it. I thought bologna and crackers was a real treat. We are still carrying this famous feather mattress around with us. It is a real survivor. It has survived the trip in the rain from Arkansas to Oklahoma so I guess Mom will have it to sleep on when we get to Weedpatch, California. We arrive in Weedpatch in April 1936.
We have found a haven in this area of Weedpatch, Lamont and Arvin. It seems like all of our friends and relatives have arrived here before us. There are people here from Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and New Mexico.
We move into the cabin Ed has rented for us. There are about twenty or thirty more cabins and tents. I found and outside community water hydrant that had a handle that you could just turn and get water. I was so excited, I started running as fast as I could to tell my mother and fell flat on my face skinning my nose, knees and elbows, which didn't seem to dampen my spirit much. I was thinking, no more pumps to prime or frozen wells and I guess Esther was glad she didn't have to go to the creek to wash (there were no creeks, only canals). There were community bathhouses I think I must have been the cleanest kid around.
Our friends Jess and Nannie Campbell owned Weedpatch and their oldest child, Bud owned a little grocery store and a gas station that had two gasoline pumps. It was called the 'Jot-em-down Store; we would get groceries and gas and Bud would just 'jot it down', and we would pay later. It was the first grocery store I remember being in and to top it off, it is where Ed bought me my first ice -cream cone.
I was feeling real good about things. We had food in the house and in our stomachs. Ice cream was a nickel, a loaf of bread was ten cents a loaf, and gas was fourteen and sixteen cents a gallon.
I had started to school in April when we arrived in Weedpatch and had skipped from the second to the third grade. The third grade was the most difficult grade for me because I only spent about six weeks in it until school was out in June and they passed me on to the fourth grade for the following school year. Melba Campbell had been held back in the fourth grade (she just couldn't seem to learn her times tables). This put us in the same grade on thru grammar and high school. She was always my childhood buddy.
Di Georgio Farms was a savior to many of the dust bowl people. These were the times of the movie, "The Grapes of Wrath. The DiGiorgio Fruit Corporation was the largest of it's kind in the world. In 1937, his acreage was 40,000 acres.
It was a fitting title. People were fighting for jobs in the grape fields of Di Georgio and were being run off their campsites by farmers. There were people camping along canal banks, under bridges and trees along the hi-way. Our family seems to be working with no problem. Ed, Esther and my dad worked there. Ed wanted to do something with his life so he and our cousin Willie Frank Jeffers decided to join the army.
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