In my last blog post, Something You Won’t Regret, I mentioned interviewing my maternal grandmother before she passed away. Following is most of that interview. It’s been edited a little to make an oral interview make sense in written form. As you can see, it helps during the interview to have someone who knows enough about the person’s life to ask leading, open-ended questions. This interview focused more on stories because we already had most of the pertinent dates of birth, full names of parents, etc. Just to give you some context, she was born in 1912 and lived her whole life in and around Morris, Oklahoma with the exception of the few years during the Dust Bowl that they went to California for work. Enjoy!
The following is a transcript of tapes made by Ollie Mae Hurt Stafford on January 2, 1998. Interviewed by Barbara Stafford Moss and Regina Moss Beardsley.
Q. What games did you all play back then?
A. Flying Dutchman. Did you ever play Flying Dutchman? You would have two strings of people, one on one side and one on the other, facing each other. You would hold hands and somebody would call for someone to come over and break the string (Note: If they could not break through, they had to stay on the side where they couldn’t break through. If they could break through they chose someone to go back over to the other side. They kept going until everyone was on one side. This game is also known as Red Rover.) We played hide and seek and Annie Over, a game where some would stand on one side of the house and the others on the other side. They threw a ball over and the one that threw it would try to get it and run around to the other side before they would get caught. Sometimes the older ones could play Rack Jack (maybe Rap Jack?). They would cut switches; Mr. Vaughan would keep the switches cut for them. They would form a ring and if they caught anyone out of that ring they would hit them with that long switch and put him back in the ring. Ola Faye Vaughan used to play it; Albon Vaughan and all of them. They would hit them around the legs. It was too rough for me. Of course Gayle Vaughan and Albon Vaughan was in on it; Daddy (“Pete” Stafford) and all of them; Zelan and Ola Faye Vaughan.
Q. What is the story about the Limburger cheese?
A. It smells like when you go to the bathroom. Someone put some on Bro. Hamilton. I wonder where the Hamiltons went?
Q. How old were you when you got married?
A. I was 17.
Q. How did you two know each other?
A. We were raised up together, just across the field.
Q. They didn’t move there until Daddy (Pete) was a good-sized boy?
Q. Did Aunt Fannie get married before you did?
A. Yes. Me and Lucy stayed with Fannie when Alma was born. She was born on Christmas Day. She was a doll. She was so sweet.
Q. What was the story about Grandma falling off the car into the mud?
A. A long time ago after we got into the church, Dad and all of us, were wanting to go to church one night, and Dad didn’t know if we could make it, so he said, “I’ll go out and see how muddy it is.” He went out and we didn’t have a sign of a light. We had those old mag lights. It wasn’t a battery light. They wouldn’t last very long. The roads were real bad, the ruts and all. Dad hadn’t been driving very long, and he went just as fast in a crooked rut as he did on a straight road. We were going from one side to the other in the car. Momma said, “I’ll tell you what we can do: We have a lantern. I can shine the glow in front of the car and I can stand on the fender and hold the lantern.” We wanted to go to church that bad. People now don’t want to go that bad. Well, we started. Mud, my there were big mud holes between our house and the church. We were going down the road. Dad was jerking us from one side to the other. The roads were crooked and like I said, he went just as fast down a crooked road as he did a straight. So Momma was on the fender holding the lantern. Of course Dad was going, not paying any attention. Well, she fell off in a big mud hole, lantern and all. So Dad kept right on going. I said, “Dad, Momma’s away back there.” He said, “Where?” I said, “Away back there. She fell off.” He didn’t even know she fell. The lantern was in the mud, with Momma right on top of it. Well, she got up. We always carried a bunch of rags so when we got to church we could clean our feet off. We didn’t want to go in there with mud all over us; our hands too. Well, so Dad finally stopped. He just hadn’t learned to drive very long. Finally, he stopped and backed back to where she fell off. She got back on again and held the lantern. She wasn’t going to be outdone. Well, we made it to church with her holding that lantern. Now, don’t you know that was a light from that lantern. Dark. We got to church and cleaned our feet off. We all went to church and had a good meeting.
Q. I wonder how you got back home.
A. Roy Wesley (Grace’s husband), he was working for the cotton gin here in Morris and he happened to come down to church. He said, “Did you all make it all right, and dad said, “Yes, we made it,” and he said “I can drive you home without any light,” so he did. He drove us home without a sign of a light. He said, “I can see,” so we made it home that night.
Q. One time did Grandma Stafford fall out of the car?
A. It was Gussie and Jake. They went to church. They had to pick up something at the store. They were parked there on the side of the street. Jake had already gone in there and Mrs. Stafford kind of leaned on the door and it came open and she fell out. And Gussie fell out on top of her. After they went to church they both got tickled in church and they both had to get up and go out and stay there until they got their laugh out.
Q. Did one time Grandma Stafford go to church without her shoes?
A. She forgot. She went without her shoes in the wagon. She wore her dresses clear down here (Note: to the floor). I stepped on her dress tail many a time. She said, “Oh, I don’t have my shoes on. I don’t care. I’m going on anyway.” So she went on without any shoes and I don’t guess anyone ever noticed it. Yeah, people had a time then, but they went just the same. I’ve seen Momma lift the back end of that old car by herself and Dad was just pulling. Of course he would kill the engine and stop right in a mud hole. He didn’t know too much about it. Momma would say, “Quit killing your engine.”
Q. Was it Grandma who got in it and Grandpa was sitting by the porch?
A. Momma said, “I believe I can drive that thing” and Johnny said, “Well, get in it and I’ll get in there with you.” Dad was leaned back against the corner of the house reading his Bible. He always got out there late of the evening and read. So Momma did real good. She drove around the house and when she came back around she just made a straight lunge for Dad. He was leaned back, looking up and saw her coming and took his chair, his Bible and all and away he went and that car hit right in the corner where he sat and skinned a place on the house. If he had sat there it would have mashed him. He sure went. He saw her coming.
One time he was driving and we had to go down a lane with a fence on each side and he was headed for the fence and he hollered, “Whoa, Whoa,” like he was driving the horses. He was used to driving the horses. We had a time, but we made it.
Q. Name off your kids and the dates they were born.
A. (Note: To respect the privacy of those still living, I have left out this section.) (The last two children were twins weighing 9 lb 2 oz and 8 lb 4 oz.) I could hardly walk before the birth of the twins. Daddy had to bring water to me. Jr. had to tie my shoes. We lived out in the country. All of our children were born at home. I had a Dr. when they were born. (Her second child, Raybon Dale, died at about 14 months old) We thought Raybon Dale was healthy but he was hydrocephalic (they called this condition water head baby then).
Q. Did you get sick after the twins were born?
A. Part of the afterbirth did not come; part of it was left, and Dr. Burnett confessed he goofed. Dr. Burnett fixed it in his office, which was very painful.
Q. Was there a time when you were blind?
A. Yes, it was when Bro. and Sis. Parks were pastors.
Q. What happened?
A. I don’t know. I just got to where I couldn’t see. I don’t know what was wrong. But then I went to the doctor when I was able to go and he didn’t know either. The pastor and his wife and a bunch of the people from the church prayed all night nearly one night, and the next evening I got to where I could see, so I have been through it; just a little bit.
Q. Tell about Junior and the Korean War.
A. He was drafted. He was about 18, just a boy. He got hurt really bad. He went right to Korea after basic training. While in Korea he stepped on a land mine. It blew up. Behind him a soldier was killed, and the soldier would have gotten to go home the next day; he had a little girl. It broke both of Jr.’s arms and legs and tore one of his toes off and tore one of the muscles out of his upper legs. They took him to Okinawa Hospital.
Q. How did you find out about it?
A. They sent telegrams notifying me. I got more than one telegram. One of them was notifying us of a minor injury. One of them arrived while we were out in the cotton field picking or chopping cotton on Charlie Schultz’ land; (we had that land rented). I don’t know who brought the first one; maybe George Adkins. He brought the telegram and he said, “Don’t worry. I’ve already looked at it. He’s going to make it.” That was when he just had a minor injury. George Adkins brought the telegram when he got hurt bad. I said “Good or bad?” He said, “Well, good and bad too,” and then that way I had hope that he was still living. That’s bad, I’ll tell you. While he was in the war I lost weight down to about 128 lbs.
One night while he was in Korea I had a bad dream. I said “Daddy, there’s a monster on my bed.” It had big eyes and claws, and I don’t know what all. I said, “What are we going to do? I see something that’s going to get me,” but it didn’t. I was worried so bad. I would just go to bed at night and I would say, “Lord, you know where he’s at and you know you can take care of him,” that’s what I’d say. He did His part.
Q. Tell about the tornado.
A. It was in 1984. I hunkered down all right. I was scared to death. Daddy was too. We were just squatted down on the floor.
Q. How did you know it was coming?
A. We heard it coming; from the Southwest. We were standing on the front porch of the little house that blowed away where this one is now. Daddy said, “I don’t know what it is, but I hear something coming,” and we came in the house and we sat down by the big buffet, right flat on the floor, next to the wall. Dishes were falling from the cabinet and busting wide open. I don’t want to go through that again.
Q. Did it blow the chickens away?
A. It blew away my chicken house with all the chickens. (Note: none were ever found.)
Q. Did it blow your house away, too?
A. It took part of the roof and blew part of the windows out. The dishes would fall out of the cabinet and bust and I thought, “Well it’s our time next I guess,” but it didn’t. Daddy was praying and I was too.
Q. What happened right after the tornado?
A. We got a big house in Okmulgee with Sheron Kay and Freddie; a big old house. We all lived in it until they could get our new house built. We had a good time over there; all of us and Joey. But we were wanting to get back over here. It was about 3 months until the house was finished. After that Daddy had a cellar built.
Q. In the confusion in getting up in the middle of the night you got your dress on inside-out didn’t you?
A. That’s what it was. I didn’t know it until the next day. Somebody noticed it, and I said I hadn’t noticed it.
Q. You were on TV, weren’t you?
A. I told the man who was talking to us that we hunkered down by a big old buffet when the tornado came. He said, “You hunkered down?” and I said “Yes.”
Q. Tell about the Red Cross helping.
A. Yes, they did. They came and they said, “Have you had anything to eat?” and I said, “Yes, we had a little something to eat.” Of course, there wasn’t any grocery store. It was gone.
Q. So the Red Cross helped you out?
A. The Red Cross gave us $75 and some new sheets and things like that for the house. I never was so scared so bad in my life.
And one more story:
A. A long time ago we were moving to a different house. I had all of my dishes in a big tub with towels around them to keep them from breaking. I had them in Johnny’s pickup and we were following behind him in the car. He was going about 90 miles an hour and the tub tipped up. He would go over a bump and a plate would fall out. He would go over another bump and a bunch of glasses would fall out and Daddy couldn’t catch him. When I got home I didn’t have hardly any dishes. Hazel (his wife) said, “I said Johnny, slow down.” He lost all of my dishes nearly and I had to buy some new dishes. I got home with some knives and forks. They were the heaviest. They fell to the bottom.
Notes in parenthesis are added for clarification.
In this narrative, “Dad” is Ollie’s father, Josiah Hurt. “Momma” is her mother, Georgia Weaver Hurt. “Johnny” is her brother. “Grace,” “Lucy” and “Fannie” are her sisters. “Jr.” is her son. “Daddy” is her husband, Arvey Olen “Pete” Stafford. “Gussie and Jake” are “Pete’s” sister and her husband. “Grandma Stafford” was Pete’s mother.
To read another blog about my Grandma Stafford, go read A Tribute To (My) Grandparents.