Life at the Joneses – by Rachel Jones Martens


Barnsdall, Oklahoma in the 1930?s

Food was plentiful. We kept fresh milk and churned butter in galvanized aluminum buckets down in the well to keep cool. In the summer we had plentiful vegetables and fruit.

Since a freezer was nonexistent, we couldn?t butcher until it was cold. Then we had meat for the winter. We canned beef and cured hams in the well house. Root beer in the cellar didn?t fare so well one year. The bottle tops popped off, sounding like gunshots on the floor of our house.

Mom did most of the cooking. What a crowd to cook for!

We began to pick cotton at a very early age. It was very hard work! Everyone had jobs to do.

In my early teens, my main job was laundry. Mom and I washed all day long one day and ironed all day long a second day. We would drag up our own wood and haul water from the creek.

When we lived at Barnsdall, Grandma Huckaby would visit once a year from the other side of Pryor. When I was eight, she brought dolls to Madeline, me, and Juanita. Lois was too young for dolls. Mine looked like a little girl, with painted-on black hair in waves around her face. Her head, boots, and arms were made of China, and her body was stuffed. I treasured her. We each had a cardboard box to contain our ?possessions.??? Johnnie or Wes got mad one day and kicked my box. The doll of my head was smashed into little pieces. I was broken-hearted.

The older girls took turns staying with Grandma Huckaby while the boys were in the field. She had a bad heart.

I had two church dresses. I did not have proper undergarments. Sometimes I had shoes. We didn?t get shoes until cold weather in November, and they had to last us all year. By spring, the shoes were worn out (and too small). The re-emergence of flour sack dresses has no fashion appeal to me!

The Cheorettes were neighbors. They were good neighbors. Mom and Mrs. Cheorette would sit for sometimes hours–and hardly ever talked. Doris Cheorette and I talked about everything. We were friends–went to school together–played together. She was a lot of fun. At one time Doris dated Earl, but she ended up marrying Wes.

Mom wanted me to promise to stay home and help her when I became of age. I told her I had nothing to stay for–no clothes–one friend. I wanted to work to have money to do things for people. I felt that so adamantly then, but now I regret my words and actions. Mom had so much of a load on her, and she really needed my help.

Ruth and Orpha were already married at this time. Madeline and Juanita stayed in Pawhuska during the week to work at the tent factory. They came home on weekends.

At age 17, I moved to Sperry. Orpha worked at Seaton?s, and Ruth worked in Gaddy?s Grocery store. Madeline and I rented a room in a lady?s home and worked in Tulsa at Spartan Aircraft. Doris started working with us later. Jim Selvidge?s Dad drove a car, and we car-pooled. We went to school for a while to learn how to do our jobs. This was during World War II, and I ended up in the department where they overhauled a part of the wing of airplanes that had been built at other places. I was ?Rosie the Riveter??? at first. You?d make a hole and rivet again. The rivet gun was incredibly loud. I would jump at the sound and mess up the rivets every time. I hated it, and they would get so mad at me. They gave up and transferred me to a job tightening screws with a screwdriver. I worked there a couple of years. It was very tense, but I got paid $31 a week. When I got paid, I enjoyed taking things home, such as furniture for Mom and shoes for Bill. I was able to purchase a couch and chair for Mom by making payments and paying them off.

While Mom and Dad still lived in Barnsdall, I would go home on weekends. We would ride the Greyhound bus to Barnsdall, and then walk 5-7 miles home from the bus station.

This is home life as I remember it–we had a lot of fun, and there was never a dull moment!

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