If It Had Not Been For

As I remember, it was in 1933 when I was seven years old that I accompanied Daddy to a big barbeque in down town Wynona, Oklahoma to celebrate the opening of the new city hall.  K. C. Coleman was the mayor and took credit for forcing through what was needed for the new concrete block building.

I don’t remember anything about the speeches or other activities for the event.  What I do remember is my tasting barbequed goat.  There was an abundance of other meats and food but I wanted to taste the goat.

The depression had really hit Oklahoma had by this time.  The town taxes were fairly low and the price of water was something like two dollars for a month’s supply of water per household.  The town’s population was about 1200 so there was not a lot of money for its operations.

Me at two years old with  my mother on an outing at the city dam; on the right, my dad and me playing on the family car

Me at two years old with my mother on an outing at the city dam; on the right, my dad and me playing on the family car

My dad was the elected city clerk.  His duties encompassed almost all of the town’s activities.  He was not the town constable but he was the jailer and the head of the volunteer fire department.  When the fire alarm sounded, the telephone operator would call him.  He would load the fire hoses into the trunk of his car and meet the other volunteers at the fire.

He ran the water department.  I remember seeing him in grease and grime repairing a pump on the town water well.  The loose pump was dangling in the air and hit him on his head.  He claimed that the hair would not grow in that area of his head after that.  He may have been a little confused about his hair.

I am not sure whether he had help in sending out water bills and collecting the money or not.

We were a happy family.  Mother and Daddy belonged to a bridge club.  Mother was a part of the Eastern Star Lodge and she played the piano for the First Christian Church.  Daddy was the Sunday School Superintendent at the church.

Daddy was from a family of eight children.  The most of them lived in nearby Pawnee County across the Arkansas River from our home in Osage County, home of the oil wealthy Osage Nation.  We often visited the big lovable family.

After a few months of the inability for the town to pay for K. C. Coleman’s folly, the town declared bankruptcy.

Soon, Daddy was not being paid for his services.  Our first refrigerator was repossessed.  There was no money for food and rent.  Mother’s patents, Jim and Alice Otwell, sent money for train tickets for us to go to their home in Snyder, Oklahoma in Kiowa County about two hundred miles away.  By that time our family had grown to four with my eight month old sister, Alice Melinda.

Our furniture was stored in a friend’s spare room and we took off for a new life never to return to the old life in Wynona.

I felt that we had moved to a town where I was related by blood or by intermarriage to half of the community.  Granddad had two brothers and two sisters who had followed him from Alabama and Grandmother had a sister from Texas who lived nearby.

Granddad had been blind for several years so Daddy drove him around his farms and worked part time in the insurance and real estate office of his and his partner, Charlie Portwood.  He was paid twenty-six dollars a month for his services plus room and board.

Mother was now busy helping keep my baby sister from her usual crying every night for a few months and keeping me out of trouble.  She also helped Grandmother with her chores.  In addition to the usual housekeeping, there were the duties connected with a town farm home.  This included a garden with its canning, pens of chickens, rabbit hutches, a cow and a large barn.

Mother with us kids returned to her family church, The Methodist Church (North). Daddy found an excuse to be busy on Sunday mornings for many years.

In a couple of years, Mother went back to college and then returned to teaching.  Daddy was the water superintendent for many years and then worked at multiple jobs.

The Otwell family was very happy but not as carefree as the Pershalls.  The Otwells appeared to me to require stricter discipline and had a greater emphasis on education.  I would say that our family resulted in matriarchal leadership but I equally loved each of my parents.

I now wonder what my life would have been like if K. C. Coleman had been content with the run down Wynona City Hall building and there would not have been a bankruptcy.

It appears to me that politicians still like to exert their powers and this often results in many lives being changed, whether good or bad.

JIM PERSHALL

MAY 2013