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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Remembering Roosevelt





It’s 6:30 PM on a beautiful May evening in Henryetta, Oklahoma.  May 12, 1959 and thirty one students have arrived early to get their group photo taken and prepare for an evening performance; their last at Roosevelt Grade School.

Prominently scrawled in a large arc of glittering characters on the wall behind them is “Class of 1959”.   All are dressed and groomed for the talent show and graduation program.  Almost half of the students are seated on white oak classroom chairs, arranged in an arc across the stage, while the remainder of the 31 students stand posed behind them.  Some appear relaxed and smiling.  Others seem solemn and possibly tense.

The floor of the multi-function stage, situated on the south end of the auditorium, is stained dark, its varnish freshly polished and shining in the photographer’s flash.  Two wooden steps lead up from the auditorium floor to the front center stage where, momentarily, the program will begin.  Long time janitor Opal Lynch stands proudly in a far corner of the hall remembering when most of them were first graders, not so long ago.

Parents, siblings, teachers, and neighbors begin arriving through the main entrance at the opposite end of the auditorium.  The sounds of their voices and the clatter of shoes on the hardwood floor add to an air of excitement and anticipation as they greet one another and search for the best available seat.  Mothers and fathers look proudly toward the stage in search of their own 6th grader.  How did those first six years pass so quickly?

Marie Schurch, 6th Grade teacher and producer of the program, rushes into the classroom after conferring with the photographer and admonishing the students on posture, making last minute preparations to ensure that props and instruments are in place and nothing has been overlooked.

Helena Cameron, the petite silver haired principal, is busy greeting parents and thanking the PTA mothers who have provided cookies, punch, and coffee for the occasion.  The aroma of the refreshments mingles with the perfumes and aftershaves of the crowd wafting on the gentle evening breeze carried from large open windows of adjoining classrooms. Tonight will be a special night.

Finally it is 7:00 PM.  All thirty one students have taken their seats on stage.  Miss Schurch crosses the floor from the sixth grade classroom, her heavy shoes giving an authoritative note to match her stern expression, and takes a seat on the front row with the audience.  With an affirmative nod, she signals toward the stage.  Let the program begin.

WELCOME:

Marilyn Bissett, the lively little leader of the class, rises from her seat among the students and steps forward confidently to present opening remarks, welcoming everyone to the program.  She invites the audience to join in singing the invocational hymn, Fairest Lord Jesus, accompanied on the piano by Mrs. Mable Black, another Roosevelt teacher.
 

OUR POETS:

Next on the program, the following students present readings of their original poetry:                 

Jewel Kirby
Jane Bryan
Gail Hamilton
Beverly Bevan
David Black
Joyce Dudley
Barbara Kaler
Linda Johnson
Jimmie Shepherd
Linda Youngblood
Marilyn Bissett

 
FOUR GIRLS PERFORM PIANO SOLOS:

Linda Johnson………………….Drifting

Jane Bryan………………….…….Pioneer’s Band March

Gail Hamilton……………….…..Waltz

Bette Linda Davis………..…..Vaya Con Dios
 

CLASS HISTORY:

Helen Fisher presents a reading of the class history

 
SONGS BY CLASS MEMBERS ACCOMPANIED BY BAND INSTRUMENTS:

            The Bagpipers

            Go On, Train
 

OUR AUTHORS:

Gary Merryman highlights our class authors by reading excerpts from stories they have written:

 Marilyn Bissett
Joyce Dudley
         Linda Johnson

 
THE FRIENDLY FREAKS – PUPPET SHOW

Featuring the Chipmunk Song with Alvin’s Harmonica

            By:      Linda Johnson

                        Marilyn Bissett

                        Joyce Dudley

                        Darlene Childress

 

OUR DANCER:

Frances Crunk presents a lively tap dance routine

 
The Roosevelt Band:

-         Our Boys Will Shine Tonight

-         Faith of Our Fathers

-         Down In The Valley

Band Members:

            Cornet:         Jimmie Alston

                                   Gary Merryman

            Trombone:   Tommy Langwell

            Drum:            Robert Ruth

            Flute:             Darlene Childress

            Clarinet:        Jane Bryan

                                    Marilyn Bissett

                                    Joyce Dudley

                                    Bette Linda Davis

 
A LOOK INTO THE FUTURE:

            Presented By:          Linda Youngblood


THE NINE OF US:

            Skits with songs:     Tea For Two

                                                The Alphabet Song

             Featuring:                 Catherine Rounsaville

                                                Frances Crunk

                                                Linda Youngblood

                                                Joyce Dudley

                                                Darlene Childress

                                                Jane Bryan

                                                Marilyn Bissett

                                                Bette Linda Davis

                                                Linda Johnson

FAREWELL:

            Presented By:          Linda Johnson

 

CLOSING SONG BY ENTIRE CLASS:

            Oklahoma!
 
   CLASS MEMBERS:
Jimmie
Alston
Beverly
Bevan
Marilyn
Bissett
David
Black
Jane
Bryan
Darlene
Childress
Frances
Crunk
Bette Linda
Davis
Joyce
Dudley
James
Duty
Helen
Fisher
Donald
Gaither
Gail
Hamilton
Kay
Harjo
Lenda
Johnson
Donald
Jones
Barbara
Kaler
Jewel
Kirby
Tommy
Langwell
Roy
Maghe
Gary
Merryman
James
Middleton
Alfred
Moore
Sandy
Odom
Kenny
Powders
Catherine
Rounsaville
Robert
Ruth
Jimmie
Shepherd
Jimmy
Tarwater
Jimmy
Wesson
Linda
Youngblood

                                                              
“James, where are you?   I thought we were going for a walk!” 

Startled, I jerked abruptly hitting my head on a rafter.  It was my wife, Judy, calling from downstairs.  I had been in the attic looking for some old bank statements when I noticed the dusty faded box.  I brought it back from Kansas several years before, not long after Dad passed away.  The box contained papers and photos covering my childhood, mostly school related; things my mom had saved for me.  There were report cards, awards, etc.  And there among those things was a photo of my sixth grade class at Roosevelt School along with the accompanying program for the talent show and graduation event.  For the past hour I had been there in the attic traveling back in time.  For a short while I was in Henryetta revisiting the sights, sounds, and people that were once a very important part of my life.

The high quality black and white 10 x 10 glossy showed each of us thirty one students in clear detail.  Gazing into each face, I could hear their voices, sense their unique personalities, and recall specific occasions and incidents when I had been directly engaged with or observing them during those formative years.

I brought the box down and put it in my office, intending to go through all the contents at a more convenient time.  This was around April, 2005.  It was several weeks before I once again opened the box and gave the contents a more careful going over.   My reaction to looking through the stuff was mostly disappointment in my poor academic performance and the underlying behavioral issues presented in the report cards and notes to my parents.  Not much has changed in the area of behavior.  But I did find the opportunity to atone somewhat for my poor academic past during my time in the military and later when I returned to college thanks to the G.I. Bill.

Throughout my life, I have been fascinated with my past and the people who were a part of that history.  Like the daydreamer at Roosevelt School, staring out the big classroom windows at the neatly landscaped houses along the south side of Clegern Street, much of my adult life has been spent thinking, reflecting, and remembering people, places, and things of the past.

Fortunately, I have found many opportunities to put my reflective nature to good use by expressing myself in writing, singing, and carousing/socializing.  The gift of gab is enhanced by the use of memories and stories of events from the past.   I am not unique in this way.  Many people share a great interest in not only reflecting on important moments in their lives but in actually remaining connected with old friends or reconnecting through reunions and get-togethers with former classmates and co-workers.  Surprisingly, there are also many folks who have little interest in such things.

Around the “turn of the century”, the early social media systems were coming into common use.  Classmates.com and MySpace gave me the first opportunity to find that people I had known years before but whom I hadn’t heard from in years were now only a few keystrokes away from contact.  The digital technology allowed me to bring back reunion videos and post them online and to share my musical interests with others.  The rapid advancement of Google and Facebook eventually provided tools I could use to connect with most of the thirty one students from my sixth grade class at Roosevelt School.

I moved away from Henryetta in 1960 following seven years in the schools there.  Eventually, I lost all contact with people from those days.  There was little news from Henryetta other than letters exchanged between my mom and her sister and friends back home.  My visits to Henryetta involved a few family reunions at Nichols Park and funerals for aunts, uncles, and parents.

And so it was, through social media, several years ago, that I made my first connection with someone from Henryetta.  I think it was through Classmates.com that I communicated with D’Ann Marshall Simons.  She was not one of those thirty one students from Roosevelt but had been one of my fellow students during 7th Grade at Henryetta Junior High School.  It was D’Ann who put me in touch with Lenda Johnson Peters by sharing Lenda’s email address.

Lenda and I go back a long way.  We were born and grew up in the Roosevelt District along Jefferson Street.  From a young age, we were in Sunday school together at the First Church of God on Barclay Street.  Our families were acquainted.  A photo taken on Lenda’s 5th birthday shows me and three of my sisters with Lenda and other party goers posing in her front yard on West Jefferson Street.

Lenda shares my passion for singing and writing.  We were soon exchanging memories of those younger days along Jefferson Street.  She shared with me a very interesting series of stories she had written describing those days on the south side of town along the little creek that was a tributary of Coal Creek, and which played an important role in the lives of neighborhood kids of the 1950s.  Lenda also related stories of her close friend and our classmate, Jane Bryan.  Jane’s family lived a couple of miles east of Roosevelt School on the New Lake Road but Jane’s grandmother lived nearby on Jefferson Street allowing many fun times for the two of them to share when Jane visited her grandmother.  And sadly, Lenda told me of Jane’s illness and death in the prime of life.

Through Lenda’s references and Facebook, I soon found myself in touch with another Roosevelt student, Roberta Benson, and several of the members of the Henryetta High School Class of 1965. 

Roberta was two grades ahead of us at Roosevelt but several of us in the Class of 1959 were introduced to her when she moved to Henryetta from Indiana during our 3rd grade school year.  Because our 3rd grade class size was large and the 5th grade not so much, the decision was made to take some of us 3rd graders into Miss Schurch’s 5th grade class where she would teach both groups in one room.  As fate would have it, Roberta and Marilyn eventually married a couple of Benton brothers, Eddie and Garland.  Because of that family relationship, Roberta and Marilyn were very close and shared many Holiday seasons and happy moments of laughter and shopping while raising their children together.  Roberta has been generous in sharing precious memories of Marilyn with me the past several years via email.

Although I was not part of the HHS Class of 1965, they welcomed my sharing in Facebook photos and stories of school days in Henryetta.  Through those contacts, I became a member of the Facebook page “Class of 65” and by way of that connection, got in the loop and aware of plans for the 50th Reunion of the HHS Class of 1965.

After deciding to attend the reunion, I, once again, turned my attention to that Roosevelt graduation photo.  I had already learned about the untimely deaths of several.  I had contact with some class members online, mainly via Facebook.  But what about the others?  My interest and curiosity led me to begin a search to contact as many as possible.  My hope was to organize a mini Roosevelt reunion in conjunction with the HHS reunion.

Eventually, I was able to contact most of the Class of 1959 directly or indirectly.  As of this writing, there remain four whom I have been unable to contact.  Of these four, it is likely that three still reside in Oklahoma.  However, they are all women and more difficult to locate because of name changes due to marriage.  Here are the four individuals with whom I have no contact along with possible clues and information on attempts made to contact them:

No Successful Contact:

Helen
Fisher
Barbara
Kaler
Catherine
Rounsaville
Linda
Youngblood

Based on the obituary of a relative, Barbara may be Barbara Fogle and possibly living in Hanna, OK.  Although I had no mailing address, I mailed a letter to Barbara Fogle at General Delivery, Hanna.  No results yet.

I found a brother of Catherine in Okmulgee and mailed a letter to him asking for information.  No reply at this time.

Helen Fisher lived on Louise Street a little east of 6th.  Her house sat up on a rise above the creek.  I think she had a brother and perhaps her dad drove a big truck.  On the Facebook page, Class of 65, I saw a reference of her last name being Baker.  Both names, Helen and Baker are fairly common.  I did find a Helen Baker about our age in Muskogee.  I left a voice message at the listed number and mailed a letter.  So far no success.

When I was born, my family lived on Louise Street between 6th and 7th.  Behind our house on Wayne Street lived Walter and Myrtle Youngblood whose son was in the U.S. Air Force.  The son was married and had a daughter born at about the same time that I was born.  Being friends and neighbors, the two families shared the joy of the newborns together.  Being a career military family, the younger Youngbloods moved often.  However, there were assignments where the family could not join the father.  During those two or so school years, Linda would be a part of the Roosevelt Class of 1959.  Through the years, into the 1980s, my mom kept in touch with Myrtle through occasional letters and cards.  One day in 1980 something, I stopped by the folk’s house in Independence, Kansas where we both lived.  It was a day when mom had received a letter from Myrtle.  In the letter, Myrtle wrote that Linda was living in California and had recently divorced.  Unfortunately, it did not occur to me at the time to get some basic information about Linda’s last name and address.  It would have been helpful this year.

Here is additional information on Roosevelt Class of 1959:

Deceased:

Marilyn
Bissett
Jane
Bryan
Bette Linda
Davis
Joyce
Dudley
Roy
Maghe
Alfred
Moore
Robert
Ruth

Unfortunately, Marilyn’s death and the circumstances surrounding it were publicized and the subject of much discussion, even now among old friends.  She was dearly loved by many.  Her charm and infectious laughter were among the traits that touched the lives of all who knew her.

Marilyn’s close Roosevelt friendship with Joyce made the two of them inseparable at times along Jefferson Street.  Some personal memories of those days are noted in an article available here:  http://a-chelsea-guys-life.blogspot.com/2015/07/four-friends-and-elvis-in-oklahoma.html

Bette Linda also lived along Jefferson Street as did Darlene Childress, David Black, Jewel Kirby, Beverly Bevan, Lenda, and I.  A special memory of Bette Linda is a birthday party she had at her house at the end of 7th grade.  From her house at Jefferson and Lake Road, a good sized group took a hayride on a wagon towed by a tractor out to Nichols Park.  After a party at the park, the hayride traveled west to the Dustin Road then north to Corporation Street and on to her house again.  It was a memorable occasion for me and others I am sure.

Roy was a strong, tough, athletic kid who had a great singing voice that was featured in school programs through the years.  On the football field and at the annual track meet at Cameron Field, Roy was always a standout. 

Alfred lived a block north of me on West Madison Street.  His family kept a cow and other farm animals for a few years after the rest of our families in that area of town had abandoned the practice.  He often joined me and others on our walks to and from school.  The walks were a fun adventure through the woods and across the creek.  Alfred was my long time neighborhood friend.

Robert Ruth was not with us at Roosevelt for all six years.  But he obviously was with us in sixth grade.  I don’t recall much about Robert or exactly where he lived.  My search for him was helped greatly by information I received from Roberta Benson Clinton.  Through local relatives she learned that Robert had passed away in Arkansas last year.  With that bit of information, I was able to locate his obituary and learn that he had had a career as a carpenter.

Attended Our Mini Reunion on 9/5/2015:

Jimmie
Alston
James
Duty
Gail
Hamilton
Lenda
Johnson
Tommy
Langwell
Gary
Merryman
James
Middleton
Sandy
Odom
Kenny
Powders

Oklahoma Residents-Expressed Interest in Attending/Were Unable to Be There:

David
Black
Donald
Gaither
Kay
Harjo
Jewel
Kirby
Jimmie
Shepherd
Jimmy
Tarwater
Jimmy
Wesson

Live Out of State- Likely Reason For Not Attending:

Beverly
Bevan
Darlene
Childress
Frances
Crunk
Donald
Jones

My search for Roosevelt classmates yielded some happy surprises.  Jimmy Tarwater and I were good friends at Roosevelt but I had not seen him or spoken with him since 1964.  Finally, I was able to talk to him on the phone around the middle of August.  He had returned my call telling me he was in an air-conditioned tractor moving hay bales around for his cattle operation near Eufaula.  We enjoyed a good talk and he promised to attend our Roosevelt gathering.  I am sure he had a good excuse for being a no-show!

Through Google, I found that Jimmie Alston was listed as living in Henryetta in the Turkey Pen Hollow area.  Unable to find a phone number for him, I wrote a letter and mailed it to the address on Hedge Road.  A few days later, I got a call from Jimmie.  We talked for three hours until his phone died.  Then he called me back on his wife’s phone and we talked for another hour.  What a great feeling to be able to refer to and discuss all things associated with our days at Roosevelt.  And he was a great resource for learning about other classmates.  For example, his wife Pat is a relative of Sandy Odom’s husband.  They gave me Sandy’s home phone number.

Johnny Klimek answered the phone when I called Sandy’s number.  Soon I was talking to Sandy and sharing our memories of the neighborhood along south 7th Street.  Sandy had lived at 7th and Dixie.  My house was a couple blocks north of there.  We talked about walking to school and about the path along Clegern and the foot bridge crossing the creek there.  Sometimes there was flooding, forcing her to walk around to Madison Street in order to cross the creek.  The most heartwarming part of my conversation with Sandy came when she related a story about getting lost in the neighborhood as a little girl.  She had begun to cry, afraid she would not be able to find her way home.  Soon a car stopped.  It was my mom who comforted her and took her home.  Mom knew where she lived.

As the Labor Day Weekend grew closer, I exchanged emails and Facebook messages with Gary Merryman, Tom Langwell, James Duty, Lenda Peters, and Jimmie Wesson.  Also sent messages to Darlene Childress Delaney and Frances Crunk Lorz.

Gary was happy to hear about the idea for a Roosevelt reunion and took the lead in arranging for a place to meet and to encourage others to join us.  Gary had hoped that David Black could be with us.  However, David was recovering from knee surgery and was unable to attend.

Lenda Johnson Peters made several attempts to contact her old friend Kay Harjo, knowing that she is Kay Massey and lives in Okemah.  Through a message to her husband, Lenda got the information to Kay about the gathering at Cowboy Corner.  However, Kay was not able to attend.

Lenda told me she thought Gail Hamilton’s married name was Pilgram.  Through Google searches, I found references to Gail and husband Mitch along with a phone number.  A morning phone call the week of the reunion found me talking to a very surprised Gail who wondered how I was able to find her.  The timing was good.  Mitch and Gail would be passing through Henryetta September 5th on their way to the OU football game in Norman.  So she thought it would be great to stop by Cowboy Corner and visit with the group.

Through Facebook and the Class of 65 group, I saw a reference to Joyce Gaither and inquired if she was the wife of our Donald Gaither.  She was and agreed to let him know about the reunion plan.  He was happy to know we were thinking of him but was not able to attend.

Several years ago, I became Facebook friends with my old school buddy, Jimmie Shepherd.  We exchanged emails and brief notes on Facebook.  However, recent attempts to contact him were unsuccessful.  On Facebook, I noted that he had a Facebook friend/relative living in the Houston area.  I communicated with her about Jimmie.  She agreed to get the message about our reunion plan to Jimmie who I believe lives in Oklahoma near Jay.  Unfortunately, I have had no response from him.

Of special significance to many of us from the Roosevelt Class of 1959, were our thoughts of Jewel Kirby.  Early on in my exchanges with Gary, Lenda, and Tommy, several years ago, Jewel’s name was quickly mentioned.  Seems we each carry a sense of guilt and shame for how we treated Jewel.  Through our eyes today, we know that we participated in acts of bullying which we deeply regret.  Over several years, I used Google and Classmates to look for Jewel.  Eventually, I learned she was a member of the Holdenville Class of 1965.  Later, I located her on Classmates.com and sent her an email through that system.  It was some time later that I received a reply.  Was so good to learn that Jewel had a rewarding career and is now retired and living in the Tulsa area.  We have exchanged a few emails, the last one in January, 2015.  More recent emails informing her of the gathering at Cowboy Corner resulted in no reply.  I will continue efforts to maintain contact.

Beverly Bevan had moved away after sixth grade.  Through Google and a family obituary, I learned she lived in Florida and was able to find a business phone number.  After speaking to her daughter, I got a home phone number.  On the phone I enjoyed a nice talk with Beverly’s husband who told me Beverly was out to take her granddaughters to some kind of lesson.  He gave me her cell phone number saying he was sure she would enjoy hearing from me.  I left her a voice message.  Although I didn’t get a return call, Beverly did reply to my Facebook message a couple of weeks later as follows:

Hello,

Sorry I missed getting to talk with you, sounds like you had a good time.  I can't believe after all the years this would happen. I remember your name even. I lived next to Darlene Childress and Betty Davis. We were best friends all those years. Betty I know passed away several years ago and Darlene, I saw her last when her son was around 7.  She lived in Tulsa.  No contact since then.  I had just come back from KC about the time you called.  A family member had passed away. I married a guy and he joined Air Force 20 years and then moved to Florida and he worked at Lockheed Martin for 20 years. We got to travel and enjoyed the military life. We had 2 girls.  They both married and live in Florida. We also have adopted 2 girls. We are foster parents and have done this for some time.  I love children and we try to do the best we can for them.   We've had over 200 children in our home. We only have 1 family member left in the Henryetta area.  Others have passed away.   Seems like we do have family still in Tulsa.  We were in that area 4 years ago.  Also family in Texas and we’ve been there a few times. I have a sister in Decatur, Il.   Of course she was older.  My brother, dad, and mom are all gone now.  Now at our age we live on memories and they are so special. It was good to think about school that many years ago. Thank you for calling and enjoyed seeing the e-mail.

Beverly Seitz

While visiting with Kenny Powders at the Cowboy Corner gathering, I brought up the names of Roy Maghe and Donald Jones.  Kenny was pretty sure that Roy was deceased.  About Donald, Kenny told me that after 7th grade Donald had moved to Carlsbad, NM.  Upon returning home to Texas, I used Google to find a Donald Jones in Carlsbad.  I phoned the listed number and left a message.  Within a few minutes, I got a call back from THE Donald Jones of the Class of 1959.   He described the shirt he is wearing in the class photo.  We enjoyed a nice talk, sharing life stories and discovered we had both done some private pilot flying.  In fact Don once owned his own plane and would fly back and forth between his Los Angles home and Carlsbad over the years.

On Friday, September 4, 2015, my wife Judy and I arrived in Henryetta and checked in at the Days Inn where the official HHS Class of 1965 reunion would be held.  Soon I saw a note on Facebook posted by Kathie Moore Blackmon saying she was in the hotel bar.  Kathie had been one of the most active members of the Class of 65 on Facebook and had been important in encouraging my participation.  So Judy and I joined Kathie and had a great time visiting at Baby Ruth’s before heading back to our rooms.  Along the way we encountered some guys from the Class of 1965 who invited us up to their room to visit.  In a short time I felt like a true part of the reunion as Kathie, Richard, Charlie, George, and I shared stories of our lives during and after those days in Henryetta.  When they learned about the Roosevelt reunion to be held at Cowboy Corner the next day, they were all determined to crash it.  I thought that was a great idea and would add to the enjoyment of all involved.

Saturday nine of the Roosevelt Class of 1959 gathered at Cowboy Corner in Henryetta.  Those attending were:

Jimmie Alston of Henryetta….Retired from U.S. Postal Service

James Duty, Mayor of Eufaula and all knowing historian of Roosevelt and HHS

Gail Hamilton Pilgram of Bixby….retired nurse and OU Sooner Football fan

Lenda Johnson Peters of Antlers….Owner of a jewelry business and MMA fan

Tommy Langwell of Broken Arrow….Tennis Tom, an active tennis team member

Gary Merryman of Broken Arrow….Retired AT&T, a godly dedicated volunteer

James Middleton of The Woodlands, TX….Retired pipeline office boy

Sandy Odom of Henryetta…..devoted wife, mother, and grandmother

Kenny Powders of Okmulgee…Retired pipeliner, union rep, and volunteer

In addition, the following guests/fans of the Roosevelt Class of 1959 were there:

Kathie Moore Blackmon

Bruce Jones (Henryettan)

Charlie Blackmon

George Lawrence

Michelle Broome

Judy DeMoss Middleton

Sky Thomas Merryman

Patricia Alston

Mitch Pilgram

Johnny Klimek and grandson Levy
 

The moment Bruce Jones entered our meeting room at Cowboy Corner was a unique experience in my life.  Bruce started out first grade with our class at Roosevelt but was so much smarter than the rest of us that they promptly moved him up to second grade.  And I had totally forgotten about Bruce.  Yet, as soon as I saw his face at the door I felt an instant recognition.  It was like, “Hey, I have no idea who this guy is but I know him.  In fact I know him from a long time ago.”  It was fascinating to learn about his education and career in journalism and to meet the person behind The Henryettan.  Like many boys of Henryetta, Bruce got his start in the workforce at the Henryetta Daily Freelance.  My cousin Robert delivered the Freelance as did my Roosevelt buddy, Jimmy Tarwater.

Some of us weren’t as fortunate, and so delivered the Tulsa World, Tulsa Tribune, or Okmulgee Daily Times.  Jimmie Alston delivered the World in our Roosevelt district.  Following the Class of 1959 graduation program, I took over a Tribune route from Kent Santee, who was moving to Oklahoma City.  That afternoon route was in the northwest area of town around St. Michaels and out toward the future site of the “new” high school.  Recalling Kent Santee brings to mind the day he rode on his bicycle up to me on the sidewalk near the southwest corner of 5th and Main.  Kent was very excited as he pulled up the pant leg of his jeans and exclaimed, “Look, I’ve got hair on my legs!” 

Those Tulsa papers were heavy and had to be rolled rather than folded in the old tradition of small town papers.  Before long, I got an Okmulgee Daily Times route.  But it was a morning route.  Mom would wake me up each morning around 4:00 AM.  She would have a snack ready for me before I rode off on my bicycle toward town in the darkness.  My Times route covered most of the east side of town.  It started around the former John Taylor Hospital, where many of us were born under the watchful eye of Doctor Kilpatrick, and north past the high school then west to about 5th Street.  By that time the hospital had been converted into a nursing home.  I delivered a paper there.  The route included Main Street from 4th Street down to the tracks where there were old hotels and boarding houses in the vicinity.  Downtown on Main, one of my customers was a bar.  I think it might have been the Olympic or Olympia Bar.  It was on the north side of Main between 4th and 3rd, a little west of the former Morgan Theater.  What an experience as a twelve year-old to be authorized, for business purposes, to go into a smoky old bar.  I recall some interesting pin-up photos hanging above the bar but most of all I remember the dank smell and darkness of the place.  From the lower end of Main along the tracks to Broadway and to the area in the neighborhood around the present location of the Territorial Museum, my Okmulgee Daily Times route continued over to 6th Street. 

Over Labor Day Weekend I drove my old paper route in a rental car and observed with sadness how the homes of my former customers, which once were nicely kept, have deteriorated.  But similar conditions are found in older communities around the country.  Still it is nice to recall the nice homes and landscaping that once prevailed.  The sight of Cushman Eagle motor scooters parked on front lawns, the songs of the Everly Brothers and Elvis running through my mind as I rode along the sidewalks and across the lawns throwing papers in the early dawn, remain as pleasant and wholly nostalgic memories for me.

Sammy Wren was a year older than me.  Our dads worked together as auto mechanics at Progressive Chevrolet.  Sammy had the Okmulgee Daily Times route next to mine to the west.  Sometimes, after we finished delivering the papers, we would meet at the Henryetta Bakery just west of the Patty Ann restaurant to enjoy hot fresh donuts, the sugar still dripping from them,  before going home to get ready for a day at the junior high school.

Another wonderful surprise from Cowboy Corner was the opportunity to meet Gary’s wife Sky.  A big surprise because she grew up in my neighborhood at 7th and Clegern, about half way between mine and Sandy’s houses.  But because of a slight age difference, I was not aware of Sky during my Roosevelt days.  However, she knew my younger cousin, Paula Middleton.  Sky told me that my cousin Robert used to drive her and Paula to school during junior high.  That was after I had moved away.

For a couple of fun hours the group at Cowboy Corner chatted it up, sharing common memories and photos.  Miss Schurch had been our teacher for three of the six years most of us spent at Roosevelt.  Although she was a stern and demanding teacher, we remember her fondly and with the deepest respect.  So I was proud to share with the group, something about Marie Schurch that my sister Geraldine Middleton Williams, HHS Class of 1959, had shared with me several years ago.  It was part of an account written by Marie’s niece, Karen Strom.  Here is a link to that story:


The story of Marie’s life is a stark account of how some have sacrificed and endured much for the benefit of family and the greater good.  We were right to hold Miss Schurch in such high regard. 

For some of us the memory of Miss Schurch’s story time after recess is among the best.  In particular, a book by the title “The Little Grey Men” was a favorite for many, not only in our grade but for others who came before and after us.  The book is a fantasy adventure story of gnomes who lived in the forest unseen by the giant human inhabitants of the land.  Here is a link to the book on Amazon:


A summary of the book on Amazon goes like this:

The last four gnomes in Britain live on the banks of the bubbling Folly brook. They are perfectly happy with their quiet life, except, that is, for one ...Cloudberry. Restless and longing for adventure, Cloudberry sets off to follow his dream. But when he doesn't return, the remaining gnomes must set off on their own adventure to find him. This is the story of the brothers' epic journey in search of Cloudberry and is set against the background of the English countryside, beginning in spring, continuing through summer, and concluding in autumn, when the first frosts start to arrive. This enchanting tale was the winner of the prestigious Carnegie Medal and features the author's own beautiful illustrations throughout.

 As Miss Schurch read the story aloud, I visualized every scene in my mind.  For me, the whole thing took place along that creek in the woods between Clegern and Jefferson Streets, right there between mine and Lenda’s homes.  The book was among the first topics Lenda and I discussed when we began corresponding in 2009.  Both Lenda and Roberta ordered copies of the beloved book as a result of our common enthusiasm.  Lenda brought her copy to the reunion but had little time to share it.  But I certainly appreciated seeing it.

For our 4th grade year at Roosevelt, we were fortunate to have a very lovely young woman as our teacher.  In every conversation I’ve had with my fellow Roosevelt classmates, the name of Mrs. Rampey is soon mentioned along with comments about how pretty she was and how much she was liked as a teacher.  A Google search revealed that Laura Jane Rampey passed away in Lawton earlier this year.  Here is a link to her obituary:


Our memories of Roosevelt would not be complete without mentioning some friends who shared those days at Roosevelt but for whatever reasons were not there at our graduation program.

Richard Elias was my classmate in 3rd grade but soon moved away.  Our friendship was happy and easy.  I hated when he had to move.  He was a very well behaved kid who lived up 2rd Street near the south side of Coal Creek in a fairly nice house just north of where the big concrete drainage ditch cuts across from Scott Street to the large culvert under 2nd Street.  And though he was well behaved, one day my silliness got the both of us in trouble.  We were gathered in a small group around Miss Schurch taking turns reading from our reader books.  The story was about a cobbler in a European village.  His name was Pierre.  In our Oklahoma way of pronunciation, the name to Richard and me was Pee Air.  Of course it didn’t take much to make me laugh and before long Richard caught the giggles from me.  Soon, we found ourselves in the cloak room at the end of Miss Schurch’s paddle.

Phil Hayes joined us at Roosevelt for a year of two and was a very smart and well liked kid.  He was the first person I recall wearing sport safe glasses for football.  He was a great kid.  I was unable to track him down recently.  Someone said he came from Mississippi or Louisiana and the family later returned there.

Bobby Louchery lived on the corner of 2nd and Dixie Streets and attended school with us at Roosevelt a couple of years.  Apparently both he and Phil Hayes moved away during our 6th grade school year since both of them appear in our Roosevelt Rockets football photo from the fall of 1958 but are not included in our graduation photo.  Until recently, I was not aware that Bobby had returned to Henryetta to live after I moved away.  I was sad to learn that he passed away a few years ago.
Kamora Martin Sains joined us at Roosevelt for the 4th grade year.  We sat next to each other in class in alphabetical order.  It was interesting to see her on Facebook a few years ago and know that she had remained in the area.  At the reunion, I got the opportunity to visit with Kamora.  She told me of the circumstances that brought her to Roosevelt that year.  I had forgotten that during 4th grade she lived on Wayne Street sort of behind Helen Fisher’s house and the block east of the Youngblood place.

Earl Gordon is another who was part of our Roosevelt class until his family moved up in the Washington School district.  Not sure what grades Earl attended with us but was likely through 3rd or 4th grade.

Following our small but happy Roosevelt reunion at Cowboy Corner, it was nice to be a guest at the official Class of 65 reunion on Saturday and Sunday.  It was good  to be remembered by many and to meet folks who had been such good Facebook friends for a few years.

On Saturday night, I was happy to visit with an old friend, Kathy Farrill Lingenfelter.  Kathy moved from Henryetta to Claremore in 1964 before her senior year.  She met my friend Larry Delozier on Labor Day Weekend 1964 when he and I drove from Chelsea to Henryetta to enjoy the festivities.  During that visit I got together with several old Roosevelt and other future HHS Class of 1965 people at the new roller rink that was built in the former Morgan Theater building.  Kathy, Larry, and I became good friends.  Claremore is not far from Chelsea where Larry and I were part of the Chelsea Class of 1965.  After graduation, Larry, Kathy, and I attended Northeastern State College in Tahlequah along with friends from Henryetta, Claremore, and Chelsea.  It was a fun day in September, 1965 when Kathy, Larry, and I ran into Gary Merryman, Alfred Moore, Marilyn Bissett and likely others from Henryetta on the campus at Northeastern.  We all piled into a car and happily cruised down the main drag of Tahlequah.  That was the last social time I recall with those folks from Henryetta.

The Saturday night reunion program was a good one.  Rev. Tom Shaw made a very inspirational talk remembering those class members who have passed on.  Afterward, Charlie Blackmon honored Clifford Pinkston’s outstanding military service and heroism in Vietnam and had all the Vietnam Veterans in attendance to stand and be recognized.  This set up the perfect opportunity for Spike Board to embellish the time in 1968 when we saw each other at DaNang Airbase. 

For me it was an awesome experience to see someone in Vietnam that I had gone to school with in junior high.  And I am sure it was the same for Spike.  But although Spike remembered having met a Henryetta boy in Vietnam, he could never recall, during the intervening years, just who it was he had seen there.  And so it was on Saturday night just moments before Rev. Tom gave his inspiring talk, that I visited with Spike and told him how great it had been to see him in Vietnam.  He was floored, and recounted to me how all through the years he had wanted to remember who that guy was he had seen in Vietnam.

And Spike really laid it on thick as he stood up to address the crowd, telling a fantastic story of enemy sniper fire and rockets landing as he and I met for a few moments in the chow hall.  He did a great job of tying it all in with the story of Julius Lavendusky making his way through DaNang on his way to an R&R in Australia.  I really appreciate Spike’s gift for storytelling.  And it truly was great to have seen him at DaNang even though my actual time there was not quite as harrowing as Spike’s.

And speaking of Julius Lavendusky, although I did not run into him in Vietnam, I did happen to see him at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on March 30, 1967.  I know it was that date because it was the day my first son was born in the base hospital at Vandenberg.  I had gone to a base exchange store to get something related to the birth of my son when someone called out my name.  It was Julius.  It is hard to match the warm feeling of seeing an old friend when sojourning far from home.  And sad to know that Julius passed away at a young age.

Another highlight of my participation in the reunion was the opportunity to visit with Linda Radebaugh Atkins, my 7th grade prom date.  Attending that prom was my one and only time at Teen Town.

Thanks for running through the years with me.  These brief references barely scratch the surface of all that we recall from those days at Roosevelt and life in my original hometown, Henryetta.   Proud to have been part of the party.

CLASS PHOTO:

Row L-R Last First
1 1 Kirby Jewel
1 2 Crunk Frances
1 3 Powders Kenny
1 4 Shepperd Jimmie
1 5 Tarwater Jimmy
1 6 Hamilton Gail
1 7 Youngblood Linda
1 8 Fisher Helen
1 9 Bryan Jane
1 10 Bissett Marilyn
1 11 Merryman Gary
1 12 Moore Alfred
1 13 Duty James
1 14 Jones Donald
2 1 Alston Jimmie
2 2 Ruth Robert
2 3 Odom Sandy
2 4 Gaither Donald
2 5 Black David
2 6 Maghe Roy
2 7 Wesson Jimmy
2 8 Childress Darlene
2 9 Johnson Lenda
2 10 Davis Bette Linda
2 11 Harjo Kay
2 12 Kaler Barbara
2 13 Bevan Beverly
2 14 Langwell Tommy
2 15 Dudley Joyce
2 16 Middleton James
2 17 Rounsaville Catherine