Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lloyd & Clara Childress

For extra credit in a college history class, I interviewed all four of my grandparents.  This is the last of the posts which were from the information they gave me and the papers I wrote in 1975.  I can't tell you how glad I am that I did this.  When I presented these papers to my grandparents, their own children had never heard some of the following information.  I want to pass this on to my children and grandchildren...and all of those Childress out there.

Clara holding Devonne, Lloyd holding Lavoe

Lloyd Childress met Clara Towry in Wheeler at a neighborhood party.  They were introduced by a cousin of Lloyd's and instead of it being love at first sight, it was a fight at first sight.  But soon they were dating.  They went to social gatherings together and went with a group to parties.  Then on September 5, 1926, they were married at Canadian, Texas by Judge Frank McMordie.

They began their life together in a two room house nine miles north of Allison. Then in a year, they moved to Wheeler and lived in a 10x10 two room house.  While they lived here, their first son, Gerald Lavoe (nicknamed Bo), was born to them in 1928.  Soon they built another two room house in Wheeler that was bigger and lived there for six months.  While they lived in Wheeler, they raised cotton.  This was the beginning of the depression and their cotton sold for a measly five cents a pound.   They never forgot what it was like to be poor.  Around 1930, they moved to California and remained there a year.  While they lived there, Clara worked in a cannery where they canned cherries and peaches.  Lloyd worked in a factory where they made apple vinegar.  But because of the low wages, they were forced to move back to the panhandle of Texas in about 1931.  This time they lived in Briscoe.  They lived in a five room house that had three bedrooms.  It was here that most of their children were born.  Devonne (nicknamed Fat) was born in 1930, Helen in 1931, Wynola in 1933, Joann in 1935, Rondell (nicknamed Red) in 1937, Kenneth in 1940 and finally, Carol in 1942.   That made a total of 4 sons and 4 daughters.

Back: Helen, Devonne, Lavoe, Wynola, 
Front:  Joann, Kenneth, Rondell

Clara remembered her hard life as a child and was thankful for each of her children and loved each one of them with her special love.  The first six children all began school in Briscoe.  They all had to help work on the farm; plowing fields, hoeing and picking cotton, milking cows, feeding chickens, and gathering eggs.  The girls also had extra chores in the house.  They had to clean house, help cook the meals, do the dishes and help on wash day.  

Helen (back), Wynola (left), Joann (right) and Carol (front)

Clara made most of the girls' clothes and the boys wore overalls.  There were no dry goods stores that handled ready-made clothes.  Besides, they didn't go to big towns to shop since there were none close enough to shop very often.  They always went in a wagon or a one-horse buggy.  Wheeler, where they shopped, boasted a grocery store, a dry goods store, a hardware and a drug store.

Around 1938, in the worst dust bowl days, Lloyd went to town one day and while he was gone, Wynola cut her finger while she was out playing on the windmill.  Blood started spewing from her finger and Clara picked her up and took her in the house. She sent Lavoe and Devonne to town to get Lloyd and the doctor.  

As soon as they were out of sight, she saw the dust storm coming.  She started crying and praying and walking the floors carrying Wynola because she knew she'd sent her two sons to their death.  She got her two children in the house and closed the doors and windows waiting for the storm to hit.  In the meantime, Lavoe and Devonne had reached town and were walking past the gas station when Cliff Walker, the owner, ran out and grabbed a boy under each arm and carried them in to the safety of the gas station.  By that time, the storm was there.  By chance, Lloyd was in the gas station and after he got the boys settled down, he asked them why their mother had sent them out into the storm.  The boys then remembered their mission and told Lloyd that Wynola had cut off her finger.  Lloyd's reply was, "My Lord!!" and ran out to get the doctor and when they got in the car to go to the house, the car died on the road because of the storm.  Lightening was crackling all around because of the electricity in the storm.  It was pitch black, as dark as midnight, and everybody was scared.  After the storm passed, Lloyd and the doctor made it to the house and treated Wynola's cut finger.

The dust storms were terrifying.  Not just one person was scared--it was everybody.  One man, Clara remembered, committed suicide thinking the end of time had come.  The drinking water got muddy during one storm and Lloyd went out to turn the windmill.  When he touched it, the electricity in the air knocked him down.  The children were young and began crying for water but it was too muddy to drink.  After the storms hit, shovels were used to get the dirt out of the house.  The food was dirty and if it hit in the morning, it wasn't until supper time that they were able to eat again.


Discipline was a thing handled by both parents. The razor strap was used by Lloyd on the more serious offenses.  For instance, when Kenneth burned down the outdoor toilet when experimenting with cigarettes, or when Devonne got the tractor stuck in the ditch so he wouldn't have to work and could go to the show instead.  

Carol with their dog, Rex, who saved her from a rattlesnake.

Clara used a switch for the minor offenses such as Carol cutting off her pigtails or Rondell throwing a bucket of water over Joann's head.  The eight kids were always getting into scraps, but they were a happy, loving family.  Once, a Mexican boy pulled Devonne into a shed and began walloping him.  Lavoe had been with his brother, but he proceeded on his way home.  When asked by Lloyd why he didn't stop to help Devonne, he replied, "Wasn't no sense in both of us gettin' whupped!"

In 1948, the family moved to a four room house about five miles south of Wheeler.  In back of the house was a bunk house where the boys stayed.  Sometimes, hired hands stayed here, too, when Lloyd needed extra help.  When Lloyd had hired hands around, it was an extra job for Clara and the girls--cooking and cleaning.

Lloyd owned his first car in 1925, one year before they were married.  It was a topless Model T Ford. Lloyd made his first tractor from an old motor and the back end of a Fordson tractor.  The next tractor he owned was an International, "and the Lord knows how many since then."  In 1954, they bought their first television and they couldn't get anything on it; it was just static but they were all fascinated with the static even though their money was just wasted.  

Back Row:  Helen, Joann, Kenneth, Wynola, Carol
Front Row;  Devonne, Lloyd, Clara, Lavoe

Their children all attended school, with a few of them graduating.  Like themselves, their children sometimes didn't start to school until January so they could help in the fields.  But Joann finished high school and Lavoe paid her way to go to college.  Helen was the first of their children to get married and have a grandchild for them. The other girls all married before or right after they finished high school.  The boys all worked awhile or joined the military before they married. 

Back Row:  Devonne, Helen, Wynola, Joann, Carol
Middle Row:  Lloyd, Clara, Lavoe
Front Row:  Rondell, Kenneth

Lloyd and Clara continued to live in Wheeler in a seven room home.  They both gave love to their children and grandchildren and every grandchild has always wanted to go visit Granny & Papa.  Papa aggravated his grandkids, like the belt fights with Gary and trying to get them all to dip snuff--telling them it's candy.  But Clara always stepped in and you could hear her famous, "LLOYD!"  Granny always had time for every grandchild and each seemed to be very special to her.  Every grandchild loved to crawl up into her lap and cuddle and love her.  

Lloyd Samuel developed what we know now to be Alzheimer's and died May 27, 1981.  Clara Ruth died in her home June 30, 1985.  Both are buried in the Wheeler Cemetery.

No comments: