Lola Purtee Donahue
Oral History Interview, 21-24 July 1998
Interviewers: Julian (J) & Kathy (K) Donahue
Kibitzer: Roy L. Donahue (R). Also present: Elizabeth Bridges (Liz; granddaughter of Roy and Lola)
Lola’s parents were George William "Bill" Purtee (16 April 1862, Peebles, Adams Co., Ohio – 15 February 1923, Edwardsville, Wyandotte Co., Kansas; and Minerva Manora Jane Barger (22 Sept. 1870, Bradley Co., Tennessee – 19 August 1940, Muncie, Wyandotte Co., Kansas).
Lola’s siblings who survived past infancy, all Purtees, were:
Hiram Guy (1890 – 1969)
George Archie (1892 – 1965)
Dove Ethel (1894 – 1981)
John Hobart "Jack" (1895 – 1972)
Thelma Edna (1903 – 1995)
Ora Lea (1905 – 1998)
Christina Irene "Chrissie" (1906 – 1991)
Ruth Elizabeth (1911 – 1992)
[Lola Frances Purtee was the penultimate child, born 23 July 1909 in Edwardsville, Wyandotte Co., Kansas, and died at the age of 97 in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw Co., Michigan, on 6 October 2006]
[Side A of tape]
K: So you all took piano lessons, huh?
J: So the piano, you had a piano in your house in
L: Yes, in a log house
J: in a log house.
L: And we had to
J: In where, Bonner Springs?
L: No, it was on a farm in Edwardsville.
L: We moved back and forth, we moved in and out of that log house two or three times up to other houses.
J: Because your father changed jobs?
L: Well, no, because he had different farms to farm. He was a renter. He didn’t own anything. And the worst thing about moving was, see, they had to move in a wagon. And had no real equipment. So four or five men would have to lift this big heavy piano, and every time they moved Dad swore he would never do it again. (laughter). And I don’t blame him. It was an awkward-looking....it was a Kimball (sp.?), and it was an awkward-looking thing. I wouldn’t...the design was so terrible I wouldn’t have it in the house.
J: It was an upright, you said.
J: Now you say he rented farms, now he paid a flat fee to the owner, and then...
L: Yes, so much an acre.
J: And so he would farm it and get as much money out of it as he could
L: Yes, that’s right
J: And get to keep everything he made out of it.
K: Is that a tenant farmer, or is that something else?
L: Yes. That, well, in a way, but there are lots of meanings to that word "tenant farmer." He was a renter.
J: If you rent the land at just a flat rate, so there’s no..
L: Renter is the best word for that.
J: There’s no shares or anything like that.
J: You can go broke, you can’t, you know, you have to pay whether you...
L: That’s right, you just pay it and that’s it.
J: So what kind of crops did he farm?
L: Oh, they were vegetables, market, where you took them to the market. He used to take them by the carload---a wagon load.
J: Was it a horse-drawn wagon?
J: Not a mule?
L: No we never owned a mule, they were too expensive.
J: Just one horse, or two horse team?
L: Two horses (chuckle) (laughter)
J: Two horse team.
L: And you couldn’t haul one of those big wagons with a sideboards on it..you had to have two.
J: Now was this like a buckboard, where the driver sat on the front?
L: Yeah, but it was a big wagon
J: A big cargo wagon?
J: And so he raised truck crops like what.
L: Yes. Start out in the beginning—let me see what might have been the first one. Potatoes were kind of early. And cabbage.
L: Watermelon, and cantaloupe. Sweet potatoes. And corn.
L: He didn’t raise them to sell. My mother had a vegetable garden, for the house. Where she raised beans, and peas, and tomatoes, radishes, and stuff.
J: What about carrots? Did you grow carrots.
L: Again, you know for us. But it was Momma’s garden.
J: But the truck crops—did your dad grow onions?
L: One year he grew onions. But that was the only time I remember him growing onions.
J: These things need a lot of water. How did he irrigate them?
L: Well he didn’t irrigate them.
J: Oh, really?
L: If you didn’t get a rain you were in bad.
L: I don’t remember [skip] we were going to Texas from Cornell, we stopped and my brother Arch had rented some land. And he had a summer crop. But a late crop. He had planted a lot of beans, and it didn’t rain. That’s the first time I ever remember a total failure.
J: What kind of beans? Green beans or soy beans?
L: Yes, green beans.
J: What kind of animals did he use to plow with?
K: It’s interesting that mules are so expensive.
L: Yeah, they’re more expensive than horses. We did well to have horses.
J: Any idea how many acres the farms were that he worked? At any given time?
L: Well, the house we were living in, that log house, as I recollect it was 40 acres. At no other time did he ever have any more than that. Some of the other places maybe had less. And then once he combined a couple, but I don’t think they added up to any more than that.
J: Now did anybody else in the family help him farm?
L: Well, at times my brothers worked on the farm with him. But not always.
J: Just when ...they went to school, and they.. or did some of them not go to school?
L: Well they, my brothers all to the eighth grade. Three of them, that’s all.
J: Which three?
L: Well I only had three brothers.
J: Well o.k. (laughter) I don’t have my cheat/crib sheet in front of me right now.
L: But I often think of this—how well educated they were, compared to what they talk about eighth grade kids now. Because they made terrible grammatical errors, but that was common no matter who you were in that community. But they were smart.
[skip] before that he just had been a private. But after the war was over he came home and [skip]
ready. He was in California, ready to go off to China—see China was having trouble.
K: Was this 1918?
L: No, that was this the First World War. This was the Second World War. He was back in the marines.
K: So this was the Japanese invading China?
L: That was about the time they had practically taken over a lot of it like, first of course, was Manchuria. And we had sent marines to California, ready to go kind of help protect China. I can’t remember the whole history of the thing. Because here, maybe once, he thought maybe he was going to get into something (laughter). And you know, when Pearl Harbor happened, they sent him back to Perris Island to train the recruits. So he never got anywhere.
J: And this is Jack you’re talking about?
L: Yeah. And during the First World War, where do you think they sent him?
K: Not to France I take it?
L: He was in Haiti. He never did get to Europe.
J: At least they spoke French. (laughter)
L: And then I’ll tell you, Arch of course, was older than Jack. And they didn’t call him up for the First World War until 1918, because I think he was 26 years old. And he had ulcers. He was in bed, and could hardly do anything, but they took him anyway. And I don’t know what they did, they sure trained them fast, because he was sent to France, but he wasn’t very strong, they knew he couldn’t fight, so they put him in as a nurse in some of the hospitals, and they hadn’t vaccinated some of the soldiers properly. So he was sent in, as well as several other men, were sent in to look after some of the soldiers that they said had chicken pox. Well, Arch had seen all of us have chicken pox, and he said "when I went in the room I knew we were in for it, because it sure wasn’t chicken pox."
K: It was smallpox?
L: Practically all those first ones died it was smallpox.
J: Oh, my god.
L: And he almost died. We didn’t hear from.
J: Now did they die from the vaccine>?
L: They died because they didn’t have a proper vaccine.
J: Oh, so they were exposed to it while...
L: See, they hurried things at the end of the war and they didn’t do it—either didn’t do it, or didn’t do it properly. It was getting to be, they were getting to be desperate. And
K: It might even take a while, if they hurried it along...
L: Well, that’s it. That could have been part of it, you see. Because, that’s it, he didn’t go until that summer. I don’t remember exactly what time, but I know it was summer. Because we weren’t in school. Momma took Ruth and me everywhere she went, so when we went down to see Arch off they didn’t take the other kids. They left them at home. But they took us.
J: Where did you see him off from?
L: Kansas City.
J: Kansas City.
L: And then when he was on the train he went by our place, and he saw all the kids over trying to ride a horse that they had no business trying to ride, so he wrote and told Momma about it (laughter). They weren’t expecting that.
J: And where was Arch on the train going to, now?
L: He was going to, I don’t remember whether it was Fort Riley or let’s see, what was the other one, Funston [sp.]. One or the other. There were two there in Kansas.
J: Now that was Army?
L: Yes, Army. But Jack was in the Marines. But he finally got home, and I don’t remember exactly how long it was, but when the war ended he was still in Perris.
J: Now was there rationing during the First World War?
L: Yes. To a certain extent. And the worst thing, now you know we’re all thinking about eating whole grain?
L: Apparently it took a lot more work, or something, to make white bread, white flour, instead of eating whole wheat. So every pound of white flour you had to buy so many pounds of whole wheat. Well, we bought it because we had to, but we fed it to the chickens. (laughter). Now that’s the honest truth. (more laughter) And you know, I think back about some of these things, and I see now why a lot of people, they don’t do as well as they should do. Because I look at the things that happened in my family, and we weren’t dumb—my father didn’t have a very good education—I don’t know he went a year or so maybe to an academy, something, high school. And my mother, I don’t know, she went to the eighth grade I think. There wasn’t any more than that right there. But they knew what was going on. And yet, you know, we didn’t eat that whole wheat flour, for one thing. And that wasn’t all we didn’t eat. If my father didn’t like something, we didn’t have it. And you mentioned carrots. Well we had carrots once in a while, in soup, but we didn’t eat them very often. And so there are a lot of things in our diet that could have been better. Well, for instance, of course we ate the butter, but a lot of times...
J: Did you grow your own butter?
J: How many cows did you have?
L: Well, once in a while we’d have two, but mostly it was one.
J: Was it a Jersey?
L: Yes. We had Jerseys most of the time. The first Jersey...
J: You churned your own butter.
L: Yeah, and we usually drank most of the buttermilk. But we didn’t drink as much milk as we should have. My mother did make a lot of gravy, though. We had that three times a day. And made it with milk.
J: What kind of fat did she use? Was it lard?
L: Butter. We used butter and lard.
J: Oh. And you had pigs?
L: Yes. We raised pigs.
J: And chickens?
J: So you had fresh eggs?
L: Yeah, we had eggs. That’s one thing, we had eggs, well, practically every day.
J: Well, that’s good. Did you have any beef cows?
J: Your red meat then came from pigs?
L: It was pork. In the summer when my father went to the market, see, he’d have to get that load ready, certainly by two o’clock; they’d try to finish at noon because he had to go clear to Kansas City, Missouri. And I don’t know how many miles that is, I’m sorry to say, but it was at least 12 or 13.
J: So he had to leave at two in the morning?
L: No, in the afternoon. In order to get these vegetables we’d have to get them in the truck, in the truck, yes, in the wagon, and he would have to leave by two in order to get to Kansas City. Because that’s a long thing for horses to go that far. And....I lost my train of thought.
J: We were talking about meat. Did he bring back meat.....
L: Oh, yes. Well when he came home the next day, see the market was over early. Those people came to buy these wholesale things, real early in the morning
K: So he would go and spend the night?
L: He would spend the night there, somewhere, usually they, I don’t know whether they slept on the wagons, sometimes they went to a room, and then they would have that sale.
J: The following morning?
L: The following morning.
J: Ohh (comprehension dawns)
L: Real early. Daybreak. And as soon as he sold out he would come home. It would be pretty near afternoon before he got home.
R: Who would buy the produce?
L: People would come to buy it for the stores. Wholesale. You know, the grocery stores would come around. I suppose some [individual] people.
J: Was this a once a week farmer’s market?
L: Oh, no, it was there all the time.
J: So he went in whenever he had a wagon load?
L: Whenever he had something, yes. Oh, you’d get everything there. It wasn’t just what he had, you could buy anything there.
J: It was a cash business, and he would take some of his cash and buy provisions for your family that you needed?
L: That’s right. And then that’s when we...
J: Including fresh meat?
L: Yeah. He would bring home the meat. That was the main thing he bought. And every so often Momma would take Ruth and me with her, and we’d go by the market where Dad was, he might be still there, you see, about nine o’clock. We’d ride the streetcar.
J: Nine o’clock in the morning?
L: Morning. And we would get some money and then we’d go shop. And sometimes we would walk around this market and find other things that we wanted to try. I never will forget the first grapefruit I ate. (chuckles) Ruth and I just couldn’t wait until we got home. That grapefruit was so beautiful. And Momma told us that we’d better wait until we got home, because we’d need some sugar on it. But we had to try it.
J: Was this a white or a pink grapefruit?
L: Well I can’t remember. Probably a white one.
J: Now "Momma" is—I’m trying to remember the names—is it Susan, is that her first name?
L: You mean my mother?
J: Minerva. That’s right. Minerva Barger.
R: Minerva Minora.
J: Minerva Minora Barger. And your father...
L: Minerva Minora Jane, her full name is.
J: Oh, really. I don’t think I had that. And your father’s first name
L: George William.
J: George William. O.K.
L: But everybody called him Bill.
J: Bill, huh?
L: I better go or I’ll be burning up the supper.
J: This is Kathy, reiterating something she just heard on July 22nd 
K: According to Lola Donahue, some time probably in ’29, when they were in East Michigan, I mean East Lansing, Michigan, Roy had some kind of ailment, either a severe depression, or perhaps something undiagnosed like mononucleosis, that lasted six or seven months, from which he finally recovered but really was debilitating. Couldn’t really work, couldn’t finish out a job he had. Very hard, apparently, on them. They had no money, and she was working at the time for a couple, taking care of their child, and worked there about six months. And she got some of her meals there. Anyway, they had enough money for rent, but that was about it.
[recording resumed later]
L: They had to go up a hill to get to the cemetery, and some of the roads were just impassable. And the road across our property, they came across there with their funeral cortege one time. And I can see that yet, how they came around the house then went out back and took a private road to the cemetery.
J: And this was in Edwardsville?
L: Yeah. But not in town.
J: And the flu epidemic of 1918...
L: We lived about two miles north of Edwardsville. And we could look out, go upstairs, and we could see funerals over there at the cemetery. A lot. You know, we couldn’t see it from downstairs, but if we went upstairs we could see it.
J: And your mother’s sister died?
L: She died, and her family had it.
J: Now which mother’s sister was this?
L: Dove was her name. It was Momma’s youngest sister.
J: What was her name?
L: Um hum.
J. Was your sister Ethel’s middle name Dove?
L: Um hum. I think she must have been named after her. Momma was the oldest one in the family. Momma was a baby when they moved from Tennessee, and can you imagine living in a tent about 13 miles from Kansas City in the winter time?
L: And that’s the way she spent her first year of life.
J: Really. A tent? Whoa.
R: Just like Elizabeth [referring to grand-daughter, Elizabeth Bridges, who had slept in a tent in Roy & Lola’s back yard because she couldn’t stand the allergens in the house]
J: The winters around Kansas City, though, are a little different from the summers in Forsyth. (chuckles around the dining table)
L: The winters there around Kansas City where we lived, were a little bit worse than they are here.
E: Probably not like living in a nice L.L. Bean nylon tent, either.
L: Right. (chuckles)
R: Let me see if I can guess how much you paid for that tent.
E: All right, give it a shot.
R: Five hundred dollars.
R: A thousand.
K: I think you’re high. Would be my guess. Too high.
J: Way high.
R: All I know is that I paid about 65 dollars for my little pup tent.
E: When did you buy that?
R: Way back. (chuckles)
L: [Babies?]. Weighed around eight pounds.
J: Mom weighed nine pounds 10 ounces at birth.
K: No you...
J: Correction. Julian weighed nine pounds 10 ounces at birth.
L: My mother said ...
J: How much did you weigh at birth?
L: Well my mother said that most all of her children weighed about eight pounds.
L: ...of course, three or four months old. Just the most beautiful baby you ever saw.
J: Awwww (laughter)
L: But the—oh, yes, indeed, he was—
E: Big and beautiful. (more laughter)
L: Well he was, he was as beautiful a baby as Jane, because everybody just really had fits over her. But the thing is, she did have awfully pretty blue eyes. So, when the doctor looked at Julian, he said he didn’t see anything wrong with him except that he was half grown. (raucous laughter)
K: He was well on his way to being 22.
L: But I want to look at you. And he was so mad at my doctor. He wrote a note to my doctor, so he said, when I went to him the next time he said "I really got a scathing letter. Because when he examined you and you had that high blood pressure he liked to have killed me." (she laughs) For not finding it, see. Because he thought it was pregnancy-related, and that it would go away. But it didn’t. Never did. But that was I don’t know why one thing when we went to Texas I couldn’t drink the water, it was so salty nobody could. We had to buy water. And I couldn’t drink coffee. I don’t know why I didn’t gain weight, but I didn’t. Because I had heartburn just the same as I had with all of them. I got to where I didn’t have to worry about whether I was pregnant or not, when I got heartburn I knew it was there. I mean, I got heartburn immediately. And the day they’re born, it’s gone. But anyway, the blood pressure started then, and you know I’m still here. For years they wouldn’t do anything about it when ...160 or 70...
R: [kibitzing in background] That’s the name I’m going to give my memoirs: "I’m Still Here." (laughter all around)
L: [unfazed, continues] But my diastolic pressure, with rare exceptions, about half a dozen times, has never been above 80 or 85. So they didn’t pay any attention to it, and then finally 27 years ago they decided that you ought to treat all of it, so that’s when I started taking pills. I’ve been taking pills ever since.
J: But originally you had systolic hypertension, right?
L: That’s all. And I don’t have the other yet. Never have had it.
J: We’ve been monitoring Kathy’s blood pressure—her doctor’s trying to adjust her medication—and we think she has "white coat hypertension," when you go into a doctor’s office.
J: (laughing) Tell us about your grandmother being blown off the porch!
L: Well, like I say...
J: Now which grandmother—your mother’s mother...
L: My father’s mother, Susan Purtee. Yes, she did. The porch was off about three feet off of the ground with a grill under it, you know. And, well I don’t know, the wind was pretty strong, probably like some of that we had the other day, and she probably weighed no more than 85 or 90 pounds. Just thin. Been thin all of her life. Wasn’t anything to her. And it blew her off. But she must have been...
J: Over the railing? Did the porch have a railing?
L: No, no railing.
J: No railing on the porch.
L: She must have been over 90, because...
J: 90 years old, or 90 pounds?
L: Yeah, 90 years old, because she was 85 when I was born, and I remember this, and I don’t remember too many things much before I’m five years old. So she must have been at least 90, and it broke her hip. But you know, she recovered from that. So she could walk with a cane.
J: Where was this porch located? Was this in Edwardsville?
L: Well, up in the country. It was in the country outside Edwardsville. We never did live anywhere else. Our address was always Edwardsville.
R: Now I want you to tell another story.
K: Actually, just before you...is it "Edders" or "Edwards"?
R: "Edwards" (enunciating)
K: It is "Edwards." I lose the "W" sometimes—when you say it it sounds like "Edders".
R: Who was it that got somebody to ride a calf and that calf knocked him off? Thel...
L: Oh, I did. Myself. We--Thel
R: Start at the beginning.
L: Well, Thel never paid much attention to safety factors. She was the one who cut the fetlocks off of a horse that kicked her one time, and finally when they did get the doctor to come he took seven stitches in her head.
J: Now wait a minute. Thel is your older sister.
L: Yeah, she’s six years older than me.
J: And she cut the fetlocks on a horse. That’s just the hair tufts, right?
L: And another thing...
J: Well wait a minute. She was just trimming the horse, right?
L: Well that’s right. She just did these things, you know, that really she had no business doing. And then she also...
J: (interrupting) And then the horse, the horse. Wait a minute I want to hear about the horse kicking. So she was just grooming the horse, and trimming the fetlocks..
L: And they weren’t home, see. They wouldn’t have dared to have done it in the presence of the rest of the family, but she was with some kids up at grandma Barger’s and they decided that they would cut the fetlocks off.
J: But this is, I mean, that wasn’t something mean to do, was it?
L: Oh, no
J: It was something you do to groom the horse, right?
K: Where are the fetlocks? Let’s find out where the fetlocks are.
J: It’s the hairy tuft on the back of the foot above the hoof.
L: But another thing she did with this same horse, it wasn’t, you weren’t supposed to ride and you weren’t supposed to drive it to the buggy. But she taught it to do all those things. So you see when she went into the horse business, she had plenty of experience.
L: But, anyway, about granny. What did you want me to...
J: No, about you. Falling off a horse.
K: No, a calf.
J: A calf.
L: The calf. That got me onto Thel, see, because she couldn’t ride the calf, of course, she was too big. So Ruth was too much of a...she’d tell on them if, and, she’d cry around, you know, so they’d put me up to these things because I wouldn’t say anything. (laughter) She put me on this calf, and (breaking up with laughter) of course the calf knocked me off and I fell in a lot of cockleburs [pronounced "cuckleburs"]. You know what cockleburs are?
L: It was all over my head. And when we went in the house they told me to (breaking up with laughter)
J: They told you what?
L: Tell Momma that I just...(breaking up)
J: (hysterical cackling)
L: that I just fell in them.
K: Just tripped and fell, head first.
L: And Momma said, "You have more sense than that." (hysterical laughter all around)
[undecipherable sentence, female voice]
L: That may have been when I broke my rib, you never know. And then one other time, on the farm, she searched where my aunt...
J: Thel, Thel searched around?
L: ...had some stuff stored, and she found a bell, a little bigger than the one on that door, and she decided it was time to bell the cow (breaking up with laughter)—so we had three or four kids out there in the barn lot to bell the cow.
J: And this was your milk cow?
L: The cow went mad (more raucous laughter)
K: Saved the bell, huh?
L: And I jumped over a three-wire fence that was taller than me! (laughter). And some of the others got caught in the fence, getting through, and however I got over that fence is more than I know. You know they say that’s the way it is sometimes. But in other words she always got us into these troubles.
J: And you never got the bell on the cow?
L: The bell was on the cow--that's the reason she was acting crazy, and went after us.
J: Oh, really. Oh.
L: And I guess pretty soon she calmed down. But Thel was the one that caused all this.
R: Tell us another very interesting thing about Thel. She got married at 16, and her husband after a little while sent her back home, says "I can’t handle her."
L: She really did. She married when she was 16. She had just gone to two years to high school and she was beautiful in the face, but she was a little bit overweight even then, about the only time in her life she ever was. When she really grew up she lost all that. But we came home from school one day, Chrissie and Ruth and I did, and there she was. But there wasn’t anybody else around except Mom and Dad. So we found out that her husband--she’d been married to seven months and they’d been living down in Texas--he just brought her to the door and told my father, he said, "I can’t do anything with her but I brought her back to you." (laughter) And figured out it was a lost cause.
Liz: So that was the last time they saw him?
K: So they divorced, huh?
L: Yeah, later. I don’t remember—a year or so.
J: She didn’t have any kids with that husband.
L: No. Nor with the next one.
J: She never had any kids did she?
L: Yes. One, he went in the Navy. And he was home on leave and had been down in Mexico and was killed in an accident coming home. They, she, lived in...
J: Chula Vista?
L: No it wasn’t Chula Vista, it was right there on the border.
J: San Ysidro?
L: San Ysidro. And it was real sad. I guess there had been a little drinking in it, but she wouldn’t say so.
J: So this was the son from her second marriage or third marriage?
J: Third marriage. And that was the guy that she ran the horse ranch with.
L: Yeah. He was both the trainer and ran the ranch for this rich man. There in San Clemente. You know that’s where you were visiting.
L: And then when he died they had to split it [jobs] up, because they couldn’t get anybody to do both [jobs]. Thel had been doing all the other stuff anyway. So he [the rich man] just hired her to run the ranch and got somebody else to train the horses.
R: They were race horses, isn’t that right?
L: Yeah. Thel didn’t like the race horses. The one she owned for her own horse, was a quarterhorse.
Liz: How old was Thel’s first husband?
L: He was a few years older than she was—probably 21 or 22.
Liz: Was he from the area?
L: I don’t know. We didn’t know any of the family, as far as I know, or anything like that, and I don’t know, you see.
[end of Side A of tape]
[Begin Side B, with some loss of intervening conversation]
L: ...and they were out driving this horse and fooling with him, you see this same horse. His name was "Doc," I remember because the only thing that you could peacefully and normally do with him was to drive him to a plow. Which is what Dad used him for. But when the train went by there, Arch, of course, got on that side on purpose, I imagine, so he could see what was going on—just mainly to get a good view of the house and home. But he didn’t know he was going to see all these kids out, right near the railroad tracks
J: This was when Arch was on his way to the military?
K: He went to Haiti or he went to...
L: No, now he was the one that went to Europe [unintelligible] smallpox. Jack was the one that went to Haiti during the war. That wasn’t when he got shot up, though. He was still awfully good looking when he came home from the First World War in Haiti. But when he went back in the Marines they also sent him to Haiti and Guatemala and down in that area, and he was in some terrible stuff and he got a lot of marks on his face. He was really messed up.
K: Oh really. Do you think it was from gunshots?
L: Oh, yes. He was shot. One of his other forays of course, when he was first in there before the First World War, he had been in the Philippines and also in Mexico. Wilson had sent him down there.
J: This is Jack we’re talking about?
L: Uh huh. So that was why he was an experienced man. And then to take Arch that was hardly able to shoot a gun in the first place
K: He had ulcers, right?
L: But that’s the only smart thing I heard of them doing, was let him be a nurse, instead of putting him out and try to get him to fight. But that’s that story.
R: I want you to tell another story. [ ] The first date you mother ever had was Paul Lee. And the first date I ever had was Irma Craighead. We each had only one date, just the first date, respectively, and the next thing I knew we had swapped mates and were married to the opposite mate
J: Oh really?
L: Yeah, that happened.
J: So Mom went on a date with Paul Lee, and you went on a date with Irma Craighead, and what, the same night you swapped?
L: It was double date.
J: And then how long before you decided you liked each other’s partner?
L: I believe it was over a year. I was still in high school then.
R: But we never had anything but one date each.
L: That’s all we ever dated those people. We just changed.
Liz: So Paul and Irma got married?
L & R: Yeah.
L: I think they were married before we were, even.
Liz: Did you ever stay in touch with them?
L: Oh, Yeah. You see we’d both know them all their lives. And Irma’s father was our mailman, from the time, you know, I was born.
R: Paul Lee’s father was a medical doctor and then turned farmer.
L: Yeah, that was real strange. That’s the way it was.
R: And I worked for them, and lived at their house one time. While I was still going to school. They had a five-cow dairy. And I helped milk the cows and clean everything up. And then we’d take the milk over about three or four miles and there was a creamery there that bought the milk. But every so often, especially one time that I recall, Mrs. Lee told Paul, when he took the milk over, before he took the milk over (see, we milk at night and then let the milk set, and of course the cream would come up to the top, some of it would) and I remember one time very specifically Mrs. Lee said to her son, Paul Lee, "You go ahead and skim off some of that cream and keep it at home." She said "They tested the milk yesterday and they won’t test it again today."
L: Oh, my golly. I never heard that before!
R: That’s the truth. I lived right there. I got it straight. You understand the story, don’t you?
L: That was awful!
J: What was Paul Lee’s father’s name, do you remember?
R: Yes. Just a minute. There were two Lees who were doctors. J.G. Lee, that’s the brother of Paul Lee’s father, and I’ve forgotten now...
L: I never knew the other one. I really didn’t know this other, J.G., Lee, but I sure can’t say anything bad about him because after our doctor died
R: [interrupting] L.E. Lee it was. Paul Lee’s father.
J: What was the name?
J: L.E. Lee was Paul Lee’s father?
L: But now his brother, after our doctor who also lived in Bonner Springs, died, my mother of course had to get a different doctor, so she had gone to this other Dr. Lee who was practicing medicine, several times, I don’t know, see, that’s when Julian was born. And so when Momma got sick there at the last, I know he had seen her, but while I was there visiting Momma just before Momma died, actually, she was sick and Dr. Lee was going out to California on vacation. But they did call him, but he came by anyway, just to see my mother before he left, because he knew she wasn’t well. And I thought, knowing of course full well that he never got any money for anything, he came by to see her just to tell her goodbye.
J: And this was which Lee now?
L: That was the one that was practicing medicine.
R: That was L.E. Lee, the brother of—the uncle of Paul Lee.
J: J.G. Lee, then
R: J.G. Lee; L.E. was Paul Lee’s father.
L: That’s the only time I ever saw him.
R: I’ve got to tell you another story about Paul Lee and Irma Craighead.
J: Another story about Paul Lee and Irma Craighead?
R: I don’t know how, why, but I was in the car with them, and the police were stopping and inspecting cars. And Paul Lee turned to Irma Craighead (I was in the back seat), Paul Lee turned to Irma Craighead and said, "Get your Bible out, get your Bible out and show ‘em!"
L: Oh, yeah. I don’t, he kind of went off on that, didn’t he?
L: I don’t, uh, see, after we were married we didn’t see them practically any. You know, we didn’t really keep in contact regularly. But they did kind of go off, at least he did, Paul Lee, kind of off on this religion deal.
R: Now another thing that happened to Paul Lee and family—his mother and father and two or three sisters—was that the Kaw River flooded, and flooded them out, and they built a house up on the dry land, and before you know it a storm came and blew their roof off [laughing at own story]—that’s a...
L: Maybe they were getting paid off—or getting what was due to them!
K: Yeah, right.
R: I never thought of that one!
[break in recording—new subject]
J: Let’s back up and say that again—when you were a kid you don’t remember ever going to a county fair...
J: ...but your Dad took you to...
L: ...see the circuses.
J: Do you remember which one? Was it...
L: Well, Sels Floto [sounded like "Sel’s Flodo"] was a big one. The ones we went to had three rings, great big, they were big tents.
R: And Barnum and Bailey
L: And Barnum and Bailey was one, and Ringling Brothers
J: How do you spell "Sells Flodo"?
L: I guess S E L S F L O T O [spelled out]
J: Is that one word or two?
L: I believe it was two. I’m not sure. But anyway it a, we’d take the streetcar—we had this inter-urban that came out to our house, and I don’t remember whether it ran every hour, but pretty close to that, all day long.
J: Came out to your house? Which house is this?
L: Well I mean, came out to our area. It was within less than half a mile where it stopped and we got on it.
L: And it wasn’t one of these yellow cars, like the city cars, this car was a mixture of maroon and white.
R: It ran from Kansas City to Lawrence, Kansas.
L: Yeah, that was the end of it, was Lawrence.
R: And they were on
J: So you lived near the line
R: Near the line.
L: We just lived near it
L: So we’d take that down to the—if we were going to Kansas City, Missouri we could go right over in the middle of town. But if you wanted to go up to the business area, or where we went to the circuses, we’d get off at City Park in Kansas City, Kansas and take the city street car, which is really sickening—I never will forget the misery we put our mother through [group laughter]. Riding those city street cars just made us sick every time!
L: Well, just we couldn’t stand the...
R: Was it motion sickness
L: and stopping and starting and stuff. But then we’d get on that streetcar and go out to the area where the circus was. And we’d wander around and look at all the animals, cages, and all these people running around in back of the big tent. We’d buy all this candy—you know they had cotton candy then just the same as they still do—
J: Now did your father take you, or...
L: Yes. Dad took us.
J: And he took the whole,. all the kids?
L: Well, you know, this is what’s so strange. I suppose that the others went to the circuses some times, or maybe they went before we were born. But usually it was just Ruth and me, together.
R: At what age? Do you remember how old you were?
L: Oh, we were little. Six or seven. When we started to go, we went every year, at least twice, to see these different circuses, because they would, they’d come and stay a long time. It was a big deal in those days, circuses were.
J: Well they didn’t have TV
Liz: Did you ever see sideshows?
L: Oh, yeah, we went to see a few of them.
Liz: What were they like?
L: Oh, well...
J: Wow, which ones did you see?
L: Well, you could see people with extra arms or legs, or animals with two heads, and all this kind of stuff.
Liz: Did they look real?
L: Oh, yeah, they were real.
Liz: How about a bearded lady?
L: No I don’t remember ever seeing a bearded lady.
J: Siamese twins?
L: No, but I saw Siamese twins on the stage at one of the theaters in Kansas City.
K: I guess they couldn’t have been the original ones?
K: They wouldn’t have been the original ones. The original Siamese twins.
L: Of course, no. I mean they were a set of Siamese twins. No, I don’t know where the original, they must have been from Siam
K: They were
L: They were Ching and Ming [Liz and Kathy concurring]
L: But no, this was just twins hooked together. Yes, I saw some of those. We used to have, of course, at all the theaters, they would a little bit of live stuff, and that’s...Well I’ll tell you the worst thing that happened to me, in [chuckling to self]...sometimes I went to things by myself, when I was grown, and going to school in Kansas City. Well one time I went—it was on Twelfth Street—and I thought I was going in to see a certain play—a movie—and when they started coming out--they had these runways coming out--and I found out I was in a burlesque. [laughter all around] And that was terrible for me, because I had spent my money for the wrong thing and I didn’t want to see that stuff, it was just junk. That’s what it was, it was burlesque. And I had to spend my money twice to get to see the right thing.
J: [softly singling "Everything’s Up to Date in Kansas City" and chuckling]
J: You mentioned that your brothers had 8th grade education? What about your sisters?
L: Well, Ethel and Thel both went two years to high school, and Ruth went two years, and Chrissie and Ruth and I –Chrissie and Orrie and I—went full.
J: And you went to high school in where, Kansas City?
L: I went one year [resigned chuckle to self] I went to three high schools—two grade schools, three high schools, five colleges.
J: Can you name them—in order?
L: I can name ‘em. I went to, first I went to Edwardsville Grade School, and I didn’t start school for good until I was eight years old, because we lived just a fraction of a mile from the line of the [school] district, and it had been—the district had been drawn on purpose, because it put the Negroes on one side, where we had a large segment of Negroes, they fixed that so they would all be in one district—not all of them, there one or two families that weren’t—and so we lived, actually lived in the district where the Negroes lived.
J: Is that like being on the wrong side of the railroad tracks?
R: It’s like being poor.
L: We were, well we were very close to the line, and of course this is terribly unfair, but we were allowed to go to the other, the white school. I’d started to school as our—see I had three sisters at that time, before, who were already in school there, in the white school, mostly white school, and we were out of the district. There were times when we moved into that district, so we moved around between these districts. But at this time, when I was supposed to start to school, Momma didn’t believe in starting us at school when we were six because we had to walk two miles, and it was kind of bad stuff. So I started when I was seven, to this white school, mostly white school, and I went one day, and that night the Principal called and told Momma that "If you will keep Lola home because the room is too crowded, nobody’s going to say anything." The rest of the children continue to go out of the district, see, with nothing said. So Momma wouldn’t send me to this other school by myself, because it was dangerous—I’d have to walk a mile and a half and there was trouble, of course, between the black children and the white children. So I stayed home until I was eight years old. Ethel tried to teach me at home, because she was teaching school then, but I didn’t learn too well. I think I know now what it was—it was dyslexia, is why I couldn’t, just couldn’t do it. And she couldn’t get it across to me, and I’d get so mad when I’d try to read it and couldn’t. And so the next year, when I was eight, then I got to go to the white school with the other children and nothing was said. And then we moved into another, into this, too far inside of the black district, that was half black and half white, so we had to go this school, the one-room schoolhouse. And I can’t remember the exact total, but it was pretty near half and half, and they put the black kids one side and the white kids on the other. And we weren’t even allowed to play at recess together. They had to stay on one side and we on the other. Our toilets—we had outside toilets—we had to go to separate toilets. Well what do you do? What they were doing, they were setting up for trouble. There’s no way you could call it any other thing [heatedly] than say "Come on boys and girls, let’s have a fight!" I mean that’s the way it was. Well we didn’t, because of course it wasn’t allowed. The black kids wouldn’t do anything to us. But the teacher was a man, and he carried a gun to school.
L: And one day, I know right across sort of the aisle from me, there was one black girl that was kind of crusty. A little bit what I’d call a little bit sassy. She was a real close neighbor of ours, actually. And...
K: How many grades were there? I mean, how what
L: All the way from first to eight.
K: So that’s a lot of age difference.
J: In a one room school...
L: He used a razor strap and hit this girl a number of times. Well, it was, you see how difficult it would be to learn. But there was one boy there who was real nasty, and I understand that he really later got into real serious trouble. But he also brought a gun to school, and one day when we came out of school here’s this teacher and this boy brandishing guns around, but none of us got hit and nobody got hurt.
J: Did they shoot the guns?
L: Well they were shooting, but nobody hit each other. They sure didn’t hit us.
Liz: And they thought this was a new problem!
J: This wasn’t Dodge City, was it? [group laughter]
L: No. Well we got along with them all right, because this black family lived, it had been carved out of about the same property that we were on, and the woman worked, I mean, they were just across the fence, about not like Steele’s [next-door neighbors in Forsyth, Missouri], but the next house [i.e., about 200 feet], the rest of you know, trees and yard and stuff, were between us and them.
Liz: Did you play with black children at home?
L: Well, they didn’t exactly visit us, and we didn’t visit them, but one night my dad, well one year my dad raised a lot of geese, and of course we had to eat some of the goose, and Momma said she didn’t know how to cook it, but she was going to over to see Mrs. Smith because Mrs. Smith cooked for one of the rich families and she would know how to do it. Well Ruth and I just said "We’re going with you," and Momma said "I don’t think that she’ll be wanting kids running in on her, so you better stay home." But she couldn’t make us stay home. Because we were going over there to see their house! [laughter] Well of course, Mrs. Smith, you couldn’t have asked for anybody, I mean, perfect manners, invited us all in and he was home, too. He was nasty, see. He was half Indian, and I think, you know, sometimes when they mixed them up like that, and cultures mix and everything, he was nasty, and he would do, he, you know, later got in a lot of trouble. But anyway, she, it couldn’t have been a nicer family, and a cleaner place, and the kids were just two or three girls. They didn’t have any boys that I know of. Oh, they invited us to come upstairs to see their stuff. Oh, we were just tickled to death! [Julian cackles; Lola laughs] Going in uninvited, and so we the four of us traipsed upstairs and they dragged out all their stuff and we just had a wild old time. But, usually, it was a matter of, no, they didn’t come to play, but once in a while they’d come over to use the telephone or something, and we walked home from school with them sometimes. After we left the schoolgrounds you could do as you pleased. We were friends. They didn’t do anything to us. But it wasn’t a good thing. And then the teacher got into trouble for letting us go out and have recess half the time so he could carry on with one of the 13-year old girls. And I knew about that, because of course, sooner or later all the kids knew it. Because we’d go in you know to get something between [classes?]. So I went home and told my father about it, and he called the rest of the school board and that was the end of that. It was just almost school out, they told him that was it
Liz: Was it a white girl?
L: Yes. And school ended two weeks too soon.
J: So they fired the teacher?
Liz: Did he leave town?
L: No, he later taught at another school there, several miles from there. Mr. Reed was his name.
R: I don’t think you answered, was it a white girl or a black girl?
L: Yes, it was a white girl.
R: White girl, and a white teacher?
L: Yes. So that ended that. See they didn’t have to just take my word. When Dad called some of the other people, they questioned the other kids and they found out what had been going on—that we’d been playing out in the pasture two thirds of the time, and then when we’d come in, you see, we’d see them in the cloakroom. And so they found out that it wasn’t any tall story.
Liz: How old was he?
L: Well he, he had a child or two in school, who were little, seven or eight. He couldn’t have been more than 30. Maybe 35. I mean, you don’t, they looked old to us.
J: Teachers all look old to a young kid.
L: Wasn’t a bad looking man.
J: So that’s the first school that you went to.
L: No, I went to the other school first.
J: So this is the second school.
L: Yeah. And then I went back to the other, first, school, and finished the eighth grade there. And then my father died.
R: Wait, you missed a big point there. You skipped a couple of grades.
L: Well, yes, when I was in that, the first year when I went to school when I was eight years old, I went through first and second grade in one year. So I was nine years old when I went to the third grade. I was a still a year behind most people, but when I went to this other school, this country school, in the fourth grade, about the middle of the fourth grade, I went to this other school and I was so far ahead of the other kids that he said, this man, said "There’s no use putting you in the fifth grade, you go to the sixth grade." Of course I was old enough, I was as old as the kids in the sixth grade.
R: So essentially, you skipped two grades?
L: Well, yes. I skipped the second grade, really, and the fifth grade. And so I finished up with my age group, because I was two years [late] getting started. I went one year then, we went over to Ramsey, Illinois. Momma went over there to help Ethel when she had Aileen. And she took me and Ruth—Ruth and I were always together—and Chrissie was going to go, because Chrissie had been going to high school, two years to high school, and she was kind of boy crazy. And Momma was kind of worried about her. So she thought that maybe if she went to another school and got different groups to be with, you know, she would pay more attention to school, because Chrissie was smart. So Chrissie was going to stay with Ethel, but before Momma went home they decided I could stay with her, too. So we stayed with Ethel that year, both of us. But Momma took Ruth home. That was in Ramsey, Illinois. And then, the next year, I went, when I was a sophomore, I went to high school in Kansas City.
J: I’m missing something. Ethel who?
L: Ethel’s my sister.
J: Oldest sister. Oh, o.k., there she is [referring to genealogy chart]
L: That’s Aileen’s and Betty’s mother.
R: All right, after "Ethel" put "Dovie," they always called her "Dovie."
J: Her first name is Dove. Dove Ethel Purtee.
R: Everybody calls her "Dovie," not "Dove."
L: Well, you mean Chrissie did.
J: Chrissie called her "Dovie."
R: That’s the only name you always called her.
L: I always called her Ethel. Chrissie just kind of laughed about it when she called her "Dovie." So I didn’t go quite all year to Northeast High School in Kansas City, and I stayed with Jack and [Tooch??], and along about February I decided that I wanted to go home. So I went home and started going to Bonner Springs, and that’s where I graduated. That’s where I met Sahb Gi [Roy] the next year, I don’t remember seeing him when I was a sophomore. It was when I was a junior that I met him.
R: She never looked around. She wasn’t looking for any boyfriends when she was a sophomore.
L: Now do you want to know about the five colleges?
J: [chuckling] Sure.
R: One thing that you might forget, Wicey [Lola] and Julian, all through school she studied with a kerosene lamp—never electricity. Isn’t that right, Lola?
L: Well I don’t remember when I was in Ramsey, or Kansas City. I think they had electricity.
R: But all the time I ever knew you, you had a kerosene lamp.
L: Yes, yes, that’s right. When we lived in, when I was going to school in Kansas, it was kerosene. Once in a while we had a gasoline lantern, and one of the houses we lived in, at times, had a gas well on the property, so we had gas lights and cooked on a gas stove. But otherwise, that’s what happened.
J: Just in summary, and to start out with, what were the names of the five colleges, in order?
L: Michigan State
J: Is that the most recent, or the first?
L: Michigan State was the first one.
J: Oh. Oh that’s right, University of New Hampshire was the last one.
L: Yeah. Then I went to Cornell one semester, and then I went to the University of Texas about a semester and a half (I went to summer school one semester)
J: University of Texas in Austin?
L: Yeah. And then I just went to summer school at Michigan State one summer, I mean Texas A & M. Women couldn’t go to school there, normally.
R: You mean they could not get a degree, but they could go to school.
L: Only in the summer, at that time. Now they can do everything.
J: And then.....
L: Then the University of New Hampshire.
J; o.k. Well, you kept at it. You finally got your B.A. in psychology at the University of New Hampshire in 1956, according to my notes.
K: That’s the same year Roger got his degree
L: No, he got his in ’57.
K: Oh, oh.
L: He was a senior when we were in our first year in India.
J: According to my notes, Ora [pronounced "Orrie"] is still alive, is that right?
L: Yes, she’s 93. But she doesn’t know too much. She broke her hip again, one of them, a different one, or an arm or something again, so she wasn’t in that intermediate care where she, you know, got up and around by herself, and everything. They had to put her where she is in a more or less regular nursing home now. And, but, I don’t ever hear from her, even though I write to her, and I can’t very well call her. And Junior, her son, I do talk to once in a while. It’s hard for me to get him, see, of course, living in California, I go to bed before..... And I’ve tried other times of the day and it’s hard to get him. Huh. I tried lately to call in the morning, but when I did for a while I didn’t get anybody, so.... But they’re most always home after 7:30, but see Junior was born in ’25, so he’s 73 now.
J: Is that right. Wow.
L: Um hmm.
J: Well Marlin Marshall just bought a house, you know, he moved to Tennessee.
L: Yes, yeah, but you know they were, I often think of [interruption of audio]
L: .......fortunately it was a number of years. If I’d have had her right away she would have been "Amaryllis."
J: "Amaryllis"--I’d never heard that!
L: By the time Jane came along we’d been married a long time. Let’s see, she was born in a ..
L: ...And we were...that’s 15 years after we were married [laughing]
J: Now why would you have named Jane "Amaryllis"?
L: Oh, I [unintelligible] back to Amaryllis Lily.
Liz: I always pointed out...called "Amy"
J: Which are now called ....
L: Well what do you call ‘em now?
J: Well Amaryllis is really Hippeastrum! [loud laughter] Well, Aunt Hippie!
Liz: Maybe she would have gotten into the ‘60s ... [more laughter]
Liz: And was it your grandmother who was Lillie Grace?
J: That’s Dad’s mother.
L: That’s what?
J: Lillie Grace Boicourt. Grace Boicourt.
L: Yes, Lillie Grace. That’s Dad’s mother.
[end of Side B and end of tape]
Transcription of this tape completed on 18 July 2002, by Julian P. Donahue. There is a second tape, perhaps not full, yet to be transcribed.