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Memories of Guthrie

Memories of Guthrie, Logan County, Oklahoma

Submitted, written & © by Lessie Jean Earnest Roark

My Dad started working in the oil fields in Texas, when a young man. First, he had teams of mules to work with, then went into a fleet of International trucks and was in Ranger, Texas, when I was born. As the oil boom calmed down we would move to the next place.
When I was five years old we headed for Oklahoma, where there were many oil derricks working constantly on the grounds of the Capital building. in Oklahoma City. At first, we moved to a very small town called St. Louis, Oklahoma and I do not believe that it is even there anymore. I started kindergarden there and saw and was active in my first and last Maypole Dance.
My Dad had a sister and her family living in Guthrie, so we moved there.
We first moved to Warner St. on the West side across from the Smith Funeral Home and I played with the daughter there. We were both obedient and quiet girls, but would scare ourselves by looking at all the pretty caskets and pretend that there were people in there. Now, I understand that scary stories are told there.
I loved this house, the way it set back on the big lawn, the wrap around veranda and the entrance. As you stepped thru the front door there was a big hall and straight ahead a big staircase. Behind this and toward the back was the embalming room, which I only saw once.
As you entered the front, on both sides were big living rooms and they both held all the caskets for display. The family lived on the second floor.
I started the first grade at Banner and was in the Military Band and still have my school picture.
Shortly after, we moved to the East Side and to Harrison Street from the Masonic Old Folks Home. This was one block east of the Court House, where my Mother went to work in the County Commissioner's Office. She worked quite some time for a big, tall, bachelor man and I think his name was Rhinehart, and he lived on the West Hill. He became a very good friend. Our house was across the street, on the side from the Terrell apts and that was a brick building, so Helen Terrell and I were friends and went all thru school together. Capitol School. The library was one block north and that became my second home, and I am so happy that it is still there.
For many years, the Old Mineral Wells Bath House at the corner of Oklahoma and Wentz and across from the Ione Hotel, had stood empty, but it held lots of treasures stored in the basement and the town wanted a caretaker, so they hired my Dad and we moved in there. It was like living in a big fancy hotel and quite an experience. Anyone who never saw this place really missed out and I was so very sorry to hear that it has been torn down.
The building was large and gray. You went up big wide stairs, on either side, that met at a landing in the middle, then up more wide stairs to the big veranda that wrapped around on three sides. In the middle was the grand entry and the room was quite large. The walls were all of marble, the floor was all terrazzo, with the big registration counter straight ahead and this too was all marble. In behind this counter and back aways was a small room and under stairs, and we used this as a walk-in closet.
On either side at the ends of the counter were stairs going up to a landing in the middle and then on up to a big open solarium room.
Down stairs on either side of the lobby were two rooms each and on the west side we used the front one as our dining room and the back one as our kitchen. On the east side we used the front room as a family room and had a sofa, chairs and a table, where my sister and I did our homework. Mother had her old treadle sewing machine there too, and she and I both used that. The back room was the bathroom and had several stalls and showers. If you went back further on this side, it had been the entrance to the swimming pool at the back, but this had been filled in and closed off before we moved there.
Let's go upstairs.
East side of the stairs met at a wide landing in the middle and continued up to the central solarium room which was a big open room in the middle. Bedrooms, were down each side with bathrooms at each end. Across the back was a balcony and this would have looked out over the pool. At the front, facing Oklahoma Avenue, there was a hugh picture window and you could sit there and see so much and so far. This room was all glassed in windows and french doors and I can still remember so many nights of laying in my bed and looking out and up to the sky and the stars.
The part that truly fascinated we two girls and our friends was the hugh basement. Today, it would probably frighten me to go down there. It was loaded with furniture, velvet drapes, mirrors, paintings, lamps, and so very much that it is hard to remember, but later, as I thought of it, there was a wealth of things there and I hope that these things were kept and used in history. If not, that is sad. The basement was walled off and closed so that no one could break in.
True, it was dirty and very dark there, but so many neat hiding places, especially at my Halloween parties, plus games to scare us. We could spend hours hiding and playing and looking around. It really was like a dungeon.
When Guthrie got snow, it would pile up on the porch and we would go out, scoop up the clean snow and make delicious ice cream. I can still taste it.
I always like Guthrie and thought it was a real pretty little town and we did live there in my most formative years, from 1928 until 1940. My Mother and Dad divorced and we left for Corpus Christi, Texas, but I did miss Guthrie and wanted to be back, so in late 1942 I returned with my husband and baby daughter. We stayed another year, then came to California in 1943. My Dad was here with a Construction company, and work was very good.
My sister and I went to Capitol Grade School, the old Fogarty Jr. High and the High School, on Oklahoma Avenue. We went to the Baptist Church on Wentz. I have always wondered what life would have been like if I had stayed in Guthrie all these years, and in all the years here (57) I have never been back, but I wanted to so badly that I would dream of being there. My husband was in the Navy, I had to work and we had three children, so we did not get to travel. Also, in those days were like a struggling family; like everyone else, so time just flew by.
I still have friends there, and one first cousin, but I am not naming names as I have not asked any permission. Friends and family are also buried there. One friend of mine, a native of Guthrie, came here about five years after I did, we live close and keep in good touch. She has gone back as she still has family there, so she has helped to keep me up on some things.
I am 77 years old now, but after working all my life, I still never learned the computer as they were not so individual then, so, at 75 I got quite curious, bought a computer and went to school to learn it. I still need to learn a lot, but it is quite enjoyable for me. I am disable from Spinal Arthritis, so it is easier for me to hang around home.
In the summer of 1999, I decided to sit at the computer and Travel. I thought of Guthrie and went there and I just loved it and go excited at what I was seeing and at how much I was remembering, seeing different pictures.
I found Lloyd McGuire's name for writing a book on Guthrie "Birth of Guthrie" and then to my amazement I saw that he lived out here about 20 miles from me, and 20 miles is not far out here. I called him and we actually stayed on the phone for 2 hours. We talked constantly about Guthrie, comparing, remembering and having a ball. I bought his book and I thoroughly love it, especially all the pictures, so since then I have been adding to my memories and I have actually shocked myself at my clear recall of so much and it keeps going on. One memory will trigger another.
I could actually write another book of my life in Guthrie and there are so many other memories that keep cropping up and I can hardly believe it. As I said, for the total of the 13 years I was there, there are many many events in my life on recall.
I found pictures of my sister and myself and school days at Captiol, on the computer. I have copies of all of these, but what a thrill to see them while visiting Guthrie on my computer, especially when I did not know they were there. One thing led to another and I am so very interested in getting all the information I can. And I am so very sorry that I waited so long for this, but some things are just meant to be, I guess. I love every picture that I see and each can bring some memories. I have a friend who moved from here to Kansas, but she was married, before, to a Guthrie native. He passed away and knowing my interest, she got into her pictures and sent me what she had of Guthrie. I guess that being there in my most formative years is what has done all of this and given me good recall.
We do not travel now, but had a long tip planned to be in Guthrie in April-May of 1995 and just before, 5 days after my husband had retired the second time, as we were already retired Navy, he had two heart attacks, back to back, in less than 24 hours, and it scared him, so we gave up any idea of travel, sold our motorhome and decided to settle in here at home. I had plans to prowl every inch of Guthrie for every memory that I could remember. I so wanted my husband to see the pretty little town of Guthrie. He is from Grants Pass, Oregon.
Lloyd McGuire and I decided that I could travel to Guthrie through his book, my memories and whatever else I could find on my computer and I do get excited every time I find things that was part of my life.
© Lessie Jean Earnest Roark

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