by Edna Florene Burnam Francis
Daddy was working for the Santa Fe Railroad when he and mother met
and married. He was with the Bridge Building and Repair Department and
his crew was located just outside Sweetwater, Texas where mother lived.
I don't remember how they met, but I do remember them telling us that
most of their courting was done sitting on the porch swing, with daddy
playing his guitar and singing to her.
After their marriage daddy was transferred to Childress, Texas where
L.S., Jr., was born, July 6, 1916; Jess Douglas, July 18, 1918 and William
Desmond, March 5, 1920. Later, daddy was promoted to car inspector and
sent to Chillicothe, Texas sometime between 1920 and 1925. It was there
that I was born, November 7, 1925 and Earl Henry, February 20, 1929.
What a year - 1929 - the year of the great depression. Economically
speaking, there was great depression, although I don't remember ever being
depressed. We really didn't begin to feel the effects of it until daddy
lost his job a year or so later. To me it was a wonderful life growing
up in that little town as the only daughter of Lon Stiver and Pearl
Elizabeth Johnson Burnam and the only sister of my four brothers!
In recalling my earliest memories, a little story mother told me
many times comes to mind about how excited my three older brothers were
to have a new baby sister and would not come into her room to see me
until they were groomed to perfection! I can't imagine what my growing up
years would have been like without my brothers. They influenced my
life for good, each in his own way and I am grateful for their love
L.S., Jr. had a quality of kindness about him that endeared him to
everyone, especially me. In his compassion for me, after I had an
accident of scrapes and scratches common to all growing up kids, he
would rock me in mother's high back rocker, singing funny little songs
until my pain went away. If my plans didn't always work out the way I
thought they should his disappointment for me, was greater than mine.
I remember the silent movies - I really liked them, but being too young
to read, Brother would read every word to me explaining the story line
He was so patient!
By the time I was ten he left home to join a CCC Camp in New Mexico.
I really missed him and looked forward to his visits home. The best visit
was when he brought Louise home with him and I had my very first sister-
in-law! I was twelve years old. This floods my mind with countless,
beautiful memories of another time, another place and another chapter in
my life. I will never forget about my trips to Arizona with Lonnie,
Louise and Ronnie. Meeting Lou's lovely family - mom and pop, Bonine,
Martha, Ruth and Gordon, Bill, Earl, Zillah and Fred - and all of Lonnie
and Lou's many friends was overwhelming. Each one captured my heart
immediately with their warmth and acceptance of me - Lonnie's little sister!
Doug, the family clown, made me laugh as he did everyone. He still
likes to make people laugh. Being friendly as well as funny, all the
townspeople liked him. As he walked down the sidewalk, he would dance
a little jig waving and speaking to everyone. Then very quickly, he
would let out a yelp like a hurting puppy and it sounded so real, heads
would turn. He was born with a natural talent for dancing and could do
a perfect imitation of Fred Astair. Doug was soon to follow Lonnie in
joining the CCC and he was missed. On his first visit back home he
brought gifts for the whole family. After he left the CCC, I think he
spent some time in Tiger, Arizona before going to the Army.
W.D., being five years older than I, was my chief advisor, counsellor
and protector. He had a lot of friends and they also became my
friends. all our friends would get together at our house, turn on the
radio or the old time Victrola and dance to the big band of the "Hit
Parade", the top ten of our day. Mother and Daddy, when he wasn't
working, had as much funas we did. They opened their hearts and our
home to our friends and were loved by all of them.
After high school, Des worked as an usher and lobby attendant at our
local theater until he joined the Air Force in 1942. Two of his best
friends joined at the same time. One of these friends was Olyn Audrey
Francis, Kenneth's brother, and they hoped to be stationed at the same
air base. Just before they received their orders to report for basic
training, Des took the mumps, and so did I. This kept him home for a
while longer, however, eventually they all were sent to Lowes Air Force
Base in Littleton, Colorado. They served together there a few months
until Des was transferred to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls,
Texas, about 70 miles east of Chillicothe.
Soon Des began to bring his Air Force buddies home for weekend
visits, different buddies at different times, so we met several of them.
Of course they met many of my girl friends - which was fortunate for
three of my friends - as well as Des' buddies. Romance was in the air,
cupid was at work and these three couples were happily married within
the year. Des stayed at S.A.F.B. for the reaminder of the war.
Now, for my little brother, Earl Henry - where do I being? I
remember well the night he was born. Mother and Doug take me to a
neightbor's house until after his arrival. I was three years and three
months young. He was a cutie and he grew real smart, real fast. Seems
he was always a step ahead of me. We had a lot of fun growing up,
doing all the kid stuff kids do.
Earl and I saw lots of movies together. One I especially remember
was "The Werewolf of London". This was about as frightening as movies
got back then. It was late and almost dark when the movie was over.
In walking home we had to pass an alley or two. Were we scared? You
bet we were! I don't remember any conversation, though there may have
been. I think we were too scared to talk. If we had not been scared
stiff, our bones would hae been rattling! We were sure letting our
imagination run away with us when we grabbed hands, and started running
to get up speed, a block before we reached that alley!
Of course that experience was only the imagination of two
frightened kids, but I am remembering another childhood experience
when our danger was real.
We were visiting Granpa Burnam's farm in Oklahome. This was
the first and only time that we had Earl's white collie dog, Dixie, with
us. Earl and I were in the backyard romping with Dixie and Granpa's
big German Shephard, Bob. Suddenly, Bob started to have a fit, foaming
at the mouth, growling and running directly toward us ready to attack.
Dixie, in sensing the danger, ran between us and Bob, giving us time to
run for the haystack that was closer to us than the house. Somehow we
managed to climb that stack of hay faster than ever before, and I can
picture the two of us on top, crying and screaming for help, with Dixie
holding her grownd between that big mad Bob and the haystack. I do
believe our faithful little Dixie would have fought to the death for us
if daddy and granpa had not run out of the house to our rescue just when
they did! I don't remember the details of the rescue or what happened
to the dogs, but I do believe our guardian angel was there because Bob
could have easily defeated our little Dixie.
Daddy was a carpenter by trade and a very good one, but carpenter
work was scarce, as was most any kind of work in Chillicothe. I
remember, although vaguely, we moved to Mangum, Oklahome for a short
period of time, then moved back to Chillicothe, for which I was very
grateful. We were able to continue establishing life long friendships
all the way through high school.
Of course when jobs were scarce, so was food. However, the
government provided basics, such as flour, corn meal, rice, beans, sugar,
powdered milk, margarine, etc. The margarine was issued in one pound
blocks. It was white with little packets of yellow coloring which we
had to mix ourselves so it would look like butter. This did not improve
the flavor, but mixing it was fun! Especially when mother was not looking
and I could put down the spoon and squeeze with both hands!
Daddy and the boys spent many hours fishing in Wanderer's Creek,
a small year-round stream located just west of Chillicothe. Daddy was
a great fisherman and an expert at cleaning them. I'll never forget
those great tasting catfish he brought home that mother cooked to
perfection. Earl and I were too small to pick the meat from those very
bony fish, so Daddy or Mother did it for us. They were good teachers
and soon we were picking our own fish. Homemade biscuits and water
gravy went well with the fish.
Mother would boil macaroni and onions together, add a can of
tomatoes and season -- she called it goulash. I called it pretty good
stuff! My basic delight was red beans (pintos) and chocolate cake with
soft icing running down the sides and through each layer. Nothing pleased
my tastebuds more than the blending of those two flavors. So Mother let
me substitute the cake for bread and I would indulge myself to the
Earl would not eat his beans until they were mashed, soft as mush.
I can still hear him saying, "Stir 'em up - mash, Mudder", then he
would repeat again, "Stir 'em up - mash!" Regardless of what we had
to eat, it was always prepared and served with love by our precious
Soon the government came up with a project called the W.P.A.
(Workman's Progress Administration), to provide work, and many of the
men without jobs, were hired. Lucky for us, Daddy was hired. One of
the projects was to plant shrubs and grass along the sides of the
highways, creek banks, and wherever needed, to lessen the severity of
the prevailing dust storms. The dust was so thick at times, we could
ardly see the houses across the street. Mother would take washcloths,
wet them good, and we would cover ournose to keep from breathing the
dust. Those were awful storms and it could have made for a gloomy time,
but somehow Mother kept us happy. In spite of the depression, we were
blessed to have parents who made life happy for us and each day was filled
There were times when Mother and Daddy would load us in our
Model-T Ford, go pick up Aunt Helen, Rad and "Dutch" and head out to
visit Granpa and Granma Burnam and Daddy's sweet little old-maid
sister, Aunt Tura. They lived on a farm near Mangum, Oklahoma, and to
get there from Chillicothe, we had to cross Red River. Since there was
no bridge connecting the two states, we had to ford the river at the
lowest water level crossing. Even then, sometimes the water would
reach the running boards. You can imagine the excitement this caused,
as well as the fear of the motor drowning out, or the car getting stuck
in the sandy river bed. We did get stuck a few times and it took
everybody pushing to get us out.
We knew we were almost to Grandpa's when we could see the little
range of foothills in the distance and Daddy would start singing,
"She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain..." We would all join in! By
the time we reached Grandma's we were starved, but not for long! There
was always a batch of big, fat, homemade sugar cookies, "tea-cakes",
Grandma called them, waiting for us; as well as three hearts full of
love and all the fun things that go with visiting a farm!
Even though Chillicothe was small, population 1200, it was a
busy little town and there was always something exciting going on.
In the summer the Fire Department would form teams and stage a
contest by connecting a long cable from one side of the street to
the other. They hooked a large rubber ball onto a roller-pulley
that was attached to the cable. The idea was to send the ball using
a high pressure water hose, to the opponent's end of the cable before
he sent it to yours. Sometimes this contest lasted for hours.
In the fall we looked forward to the tent shows, carnivals,
medicine shows, and an occasional circus. The tent shows consisted
of a group of traveling actors performing three or four act plays on
a stage under a large tent. I could hardly wait for the intermission
when they sold drinks, popcorn, and boxed candy containing prizes.
The medicine shows were similar except there was no tent. Just an
open stage and chairs. They also sold candy between acts, as well
as patented medicine, guaranteed to cure all your ills.
The medicine shows sponsored an amateur contest giving the
local people a chance to perform. Mother entered me one year. I
was about six or seven years old. I did a little song and dance
routine that went like this: "I gotta pair of new shoes, all
polished up and paid for. Honey they were made for goin' to town..."
I've forgotten the rest of the song, but I remember I was wearing
brand new blac patent leather shoes, paid for with my own money -
money I had earned pulling cotton and putting it in Daddy's cotton
sack. I also remember that I had to practice that routine a lot -
but it paid off because I won first place!
The memories I cherish most are those of our famly sitting
on the porch on a moonlit summer night, listening to Daddy play
the guitar and sing, "Let's take a trip to the moon, let's take a
trip to the stars, let's take a trip to Venus, by way of Jupiter
and Mars...." Then there were those cold winter nights sitting
around Daddy's knees listening to him and Mother sing together and
taking time to teach the songs to us. Mother sang to us a lot. I
remember esepcially, "The Tie That Binds", and the "Thanksgiving
Song". Daddy played "Under the Double Eagle" on his fiddle.
Mother had a special talent for tying beautiful bows - hair
bows, belt bows, any kind of bows. My friends liked them so well
that on special occasions they would walk many blocks if necessary,
for Mother to tie their bows - for catching their beaus! She was also
like a second mom to them. When there were misunderstandings among
any of us, she would always advise us to "forgive, forget, and love
each other anyway". It worked! She not only taught it, she believed
it, because she loved the Lord Jesus, and that's what HE teaches.
By the time I was in my teens, the Santa Fe Railroad had rehired
Daddy. He worked at that job until he retired in 1949. Soon after
his retirement, he and Mother moved to Quanah.
How grateful I am for those years and the wonderful fact that
our children had the privilege of growing up around them. Mother and
Dad were wonderful caring parents, who loved much and taught much.
The greatest gift they gave me was the opportunity to come to know the
Lord Jesus Christ, and the salvation that is mine throught my faith in
His death, His shed blood on the cross, and His resurrection.
From that little town of Chillicothe, came my second greatest
blessing! His name is Kenneth - the love of my life! He returned
from the war in November 1945. Most of our time dating was spent
at our house. If he was still there at midnight, Mother would cook up
a batch of french fries and tell us to eat, and we did. Then, Ken
would walk two or three miles to get home. I remember one cold
Saturday night in January, shortly before we married, he stayed until
6:30 AM. Yes, Mother cooked french fries that time too! Then the three
of us ate and visited until Ken left. Mother would not even let me
take a nap. Instead, I had to get ready to go to Sunday School and
church and study my Sunday School lesson until time to leave. I've
never been that early for any occasion since!
my sweet, sweet Aunt Edna has gone to be with her
Lord and Saviour, Jesus. Her loving spirit remains within
our hearts - now and always.