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Alice Farbro Childhood Memories

his story was written by Alice Cline Farbro in 1993 and was provided to Claremore Museum of History as part of the focus on Women’s History Month on February 6, 2023.

Of course, I do not remember my birthing day or the nine months in the womb, but I do know when the great happening took place. It was December 17, 1929, the year of the big depression.  When the stock market fell, people committed suicide, and many Oklahomans left the state of Oklahoma to try to find work and a way to keep their families on their feet. December 17 was a special day because that is the day on which the Wright brothers took the Kitty Hawk on her first flight. It was not in 1929, but it was the 17th of December.

My family did not feel the pangs of the depression as much as some families in the county did because they were farmers and ranchers. My father, Thomas Dewey Cline, was a rural mail carrier.  We had our own beef cows as well, and received a good salary. In those days, the milk cows, hogs, chickens, and gardens provided a solid living. Farmers’ wives knew how to do a great many things and worked from sunup to sunset or later getting them done. Washing with a rub board, or if they were lucky, had a washing machine with a tub and wringer, and hung the clothes on the outside clothes line in summer and winter. I remember one Instance when I was very small and was helping do the washing, I caught my arm in the wringer. It did not hurt me because the wringer was not very tight; therefore, all it did was squeeze my arm a little.

Other memories was the time when I was about four years old and got to help milk the cows. I used a little sand bucket and had my own little three-legged stool, and was milking away when the cow kicked my little bucket and spilled all the milk I had painstakingly obtained from the cow. I think I probably cried a bucket full of tears.

Another was the enjoyment I had riding horses all over the farm. I was a regular tomboy and loved to ride horses and climb trees and outrun all my boy cousins and play football.  my uncle, Murl Alexander Cline (Tuffy), was a football coach, and I had no girl cousins close to my age or any girl neighbors close by, so I had to play with the boys; and from what all my relatives have told me I was the meanest, fastest boy in the bunch. Ted Cline and John Smith were two cousins I used to play football with, and of course, my older brother Thomas Dewey Cline, Jr., was along for that.

Back to the horseback riding. I used to ride my horse everywhere, and he would invariably decide it was time to go home before I was ready and he would run all the way back to the barn and give a sudden stop at the gate almost unseating me. I loved every minute of it.

Once when i was very young, i burned my hands very badly on A pot-bellied coal stove which we used to heat one of the living areas in our house. In this living area, we had a wall bed, and my mother was making that bed and placed the linens, blankets and pillows in a rocking chair in front of the little stove. I proceeded to climb up in the rocking chair and rock. All of a sudden, the linens started falling off and I went off too right into the stove. It was red hot, and I put my hands in front of me to catch myself. Fortunately, it saved the rest of my skin, and the only real mark it left on me was that I had to stop taking dancing lessons which I dearly loved and start playing the piano in order to keep my fingers from getting stiff. I never would practice the piano, and my mother couldn’t climb up the trees to get me to make me practice; consequently, i cannot either dance or play the piano to really entertain anybody. However, I did learn not to hop in a rocking chair loaded with Linens and pillows and rock in front of a red-hot pot-bellied stove. It was learning the hard way, and the rest of my life has gone that same way.

Other things i did on the farm was feed the chickens and gather the eggs. This was fun and the chickens, especially the roosters, were sometimes mean and would try to peck us. We churned cream into butter with an old -fashioned crock with a paddle which we had to pump and pump and pump in order to make the butter. After the cream was turned into butter and buttermilk, my mother would use the wooden butter mold to shape the butter into a rectangular shape and wrap it in butter paper.  We did not have a refrigerator for storage so we had to store it in the ice box. It was several years before we got electricity and used an insulated ice box which used a great block of ice to keep the perishables cold. This was either delivered to our house by the ice man or we purchased it at the ice plant.

We went to town in the wagon and took cotton to the cotton gin for selling. That was a lot of fun also. One thing I got to do was be the water girl at harvest time when the harvesters and neighbors all got together to bale hay and make hay stacks and get wheat from the grain. The women of that day fixed big lunches for the harvesters and served it outside on picnic Tables. It was really a fun time and a lot of stories were passed on at those lunches and dinners, none of which I remember.

Of course we learned about sex on the farm. Two dogs had locked together and i thought one was hurting the other, so i got the broom and tried to pry them apart. Fortunately, I did not get bitten by either dog, but later learned what they were up to. My dad had a beautiful speckled stallion, and a lot of people brought their mares to breed to him. I was always sent to the house at these times, but I would at times sneak back out and crawl up on top of one of the sheds and get a bird’s eye view of what was going on. Of course, I did not realize what was going on, but knew that it was something they did not want me to know so naturally I went back and watched. Again, fortunately, I did not get caught and get in trouble. We always had cattle and bulls, and one could not help but see them practice the reproduction act; and of course the birds were very indiscrete also!

One of the things i learned from my father and mother was to always tell the truth and have good manners. They stressed the truth. Another thing i learned from my father was to never take another person’s chair when they got up and left it.  This was taught to me when my father was cleaning a gun in the den and my brother had been sitting in a certain chair and got up to go get something. When he left, I immediately took his chair probably thinking that he would be mad, and want it back. I was correct, and I wouldn’t give it to him.  About that time, my dad’s gun went off and it shot a hole in the wall just above my head. It was an accident, but it certainly taught me a lesson – don’t take someone else’s chair when they leave.

When we were growing up, we butchered hogs and beef cows, and I got to watch this process. They usually slit the throat of the cows and I believe they shot the hogs. At any rate, during hog butchering season, i got to stir the chitlins.  From this, lard was made, and lard made the best cakes and pie crust you ever tasted. My grandmother Alice Cline was a wonderful cook, and one was hard put to find better food than she supplied for the table. She used to invite the Presbyterian minister, Reverend Campbell, and his family for Sunday dinner and have the dining room table all set with her best linen and china. My Family was usually invited for this also, and we had to use our best manners. One of my favorite things to do was help Grandma Cline with the china closet dishes. Her china, cut glass and crystal. She left this to me when she passed away and I still have most of it. However, during the time it was stored away some of the pieces were broken and I do not have a complete set,  but cherish the memories and ownership of this piece of my Grandmother’s life.

My brother Tommy and I spent many Saturday nights with my Grandmother and Grandfather Cline who lived only about a quarter of a mile from us. Grandad Tom loved the “Grand Old Opry” and we always listened to it on the radio.  Grandad played the banjo and we jigged and sang songs with him. This was one of my favorite times with him.

We were very fortunate to have the privilege of knowing both sets of grandparents, Tom and Alice Cline and Bill “Whistlin’ Bill” and Louann Allton. The Allton grandparents lived with us at the time of my mother’s illness and were so good to us. They both loved children and probably helped to spoil us. So did Tom and Alice Cline, and the love and teaching all of these relatives gave helped us to become good citizens. Grandad Tom Cline taught me my multiplication tables. He checked me out on my 12’s and all the hard ones.

We also had the privilege of having my mother’s brothers, Frank, Bill and Charles live on the farm at different times, especially when the depression days were prevalent, and they could not find work. They worked for my dad and helped him. We also had share-croppers who lived on the farm and helped. I learned many choice words from these folks and it has taken me many years to break the habit of using them. Some of them still slip out once in a while.

When i was five years old, my mother gave us a beautiful present in the form of a little baby brother, Billy Mac. He was a rather sickly child and hence was somewhat more spoiled than Tommy and I. I recall that we had to take a bottle to him for after school when he was in the first grade. He would lay down in the back of the car and curl his hair and take his bottle.

Tommy and i started to school at Sageeyah School, which was a two-room school house with eight grades. Miss Bernice Dunnaway was my first teacher. We started in the primmer (no kindergarten In those days) and were in the same room as primmer, first, second, third and fourth grades. I passed the primmer, first and second grades in one year and graduated from Claremore High School when i was barely sixteen years old. (which was a mistake). We stayed at Sageeyah until Tommy graduated from 8th Grade (Valedictorian, no less) and then came in to Claremore to school. I was in the seventh grade and tommy in the ninth. Grandad Tom Cline was on the school board at Sageeyah, and things were good. Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Denny came to teach there before we left and we enjoyed them very much. The Denney’s later came to Claremore to teach and were there for a good many years. I believe they both retired from Claremore.

At Sageeyah, we used to have pie suppers to make money for the school supplies, etc. and they were so much fun. The girls or their mothers made beautiful pies and the men and boys bid for them and the ladies ate with whoever bought their pies. This was sometimes embarrasing if someone you did not particularly care for bought your pie. We also had a little kiddy band at Sageeyah and put on programs for the parents. I really liked that band. Music has always been one of my loves. Mr. Keeter, father of Nadine Keeter Wilson, was the County Superintendent during our days at Sageeyah and he came to see us periodically. That was always an eventful day. We carried our lunch to school and had a cloak room for our coats and hats. If we misbehaved, we were sometimes sent to the cloak room to think about what we had done. Teachers had a great deal of respect and good discipline in those days. I only remember getting a spat on the hand with a ruler one time, and I have no idea what it was for. We did not have indoor rest rooms, but instead two little houses in the back for restrooms. Needless to say, it was not too pleasant to go in the winter.

When we first started to Sageeyah to school, we only lived about a quarter of a mile from school and walked to school with other neighbor kids. Sometimes we would ride a horse and hitch it to the old hitching Post. I can hardly believe we actually did all these things, but as I think about it, it all comes back as pleasant memories.

When we went to Claremore to school, i made a lot of new friends. Some of our Sageeyah families were the Hanes, the Fishers, the Lewis’, the Newmans, the Austins, the Bowlings, the Sellers, The Crouchs, the Crews, and the Greens, And I still see some of them from time to time. Some of my new friends were Barbara Green, Jo Ann Crudup, Shirley Williams, Ruth Yates, Mary Williams, Stanley Corley, Bill Webb, Kendall Akin, Doyle Pruitt, and Ervin “Bud” Rause. My first home room teacher was Red Laney at Claremont. The Claremont School was new that year and the old Claremont had not yet been torn down. It was truly a new adventure for me, and I was quite shy. I knew Ernie Chiles because his father worked for the post office with my dad and we had played together before. I also knew John Harvey Burrows because his folks used to come out to our house.  Ruth Yates father also worked at the post office.

Dad let us go with him to the post office and on his mail route sometimes, and it was a lot of fun. We rode on the mail carts while he put up his mail for his route the next day. We went on his route, we got to make change for the stamps. Back in those days, they could put money in the mail box for stamps and the carrier carried stamps and a lot of change in order to make change for the customer. They knew everybody and did not have the crime problem we have today.

A lot of my friends came out to the house and learned to ride horses with me. I remember one time when Barbara Green was riding with me and we were bareback. She was trying to get her horse off of a bob wire fence, and she slipped and tore her finger very badly. She injured a nerve in that finger and was never able to do a lot with it. We went to the house and my mother bandaged it all up or took her in for stiches, I don’t really remember. My dad was very good about letting the kids ride our horses, but I got in trouble sometimes if we ran the horses too much. We learned to catch, bridle and saddle our horses early in life, and riding was my life. Reading and riding were about the only past times we had on the farm as far as fun was concerned. We did get to go in to the movies at the Palace Theater on Saturday – tickets were a dime, and we could sit through two times. We got a lot of powder burns from Tom Mix, Gene Autry, Chill Wills, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, and a lot of other old-time stars. I was not old enough to see any Will Rogers movies, so now I go up to the Memorial and enjoy them.

We had horses, cows, mules, donkeys, sheep, all kinds of animals around the farm. One time we had a baby lamb whose mother died and we raised the lamb on a bottle. It was our pet and we called her “Lamby Pie”. We loved that lamb dearly, but when It grew large enough to butcher, my dad butchered it and it was set before us on the table to eat. To this day, I cannot eat lamb.

One of our favorite things was a tree house in the old catalpa tree in the back yard. We spent many hours up there Imagining all sorts of things. Also, we swam in the pond with the fish, turtles and snakes and thought it was great. There was no swimming pool for us to swim in at that time. The good lord looked after us and I have not yet had a broken bone. I have sprained an ankle many times trying to catch the horses in the pasture, but no broken bones. We used to take a can of oats with us and hide the bridle around our necks to catch the horses. They would come and eat the oats and we would slip that bridle over their heads and catch them in that way. One of my favorite mares was Betty. She was a little pinto Dad had gotten from a circus. She was a pitiful sight when he bought her and he had to ride her home. She was very thin and a small horse, but she bore us many wonderful foals and was the most gentle, easy riding horse we owned. Another favorite of mine was a tall black five-gaited saddle horse.  His name was Shiek and he loved to prance.   I rode him in the parades in town and loved every minute of it. I had an English saddle and jodfers that I wore when i rode him, and thought I was big stuff. It was like sitting in a rocking chair to ride him. Our best cow horse was Chief. He could turn on a dime when we were after the cattle; And if you were not careful, you could fall off pretty easy. Another favorite of mine was a mare named Bess. I always wanted to ride a jumper, and used to jump her over deep ditches on the farm. She was an exciting horse, but we could never keep her breed and have a colt. She always ran them off.

We had a lot of fun on the farm until 1942 when my mother became ill with cervical cancer and passed away in December of that year and was buried on Christmas Eve. During that same year, my Grandmother Cline had a stroke and was bedfast. We had to tell her my mother was doing fine. My mother was in the hospital, and my grandmother was at home. When we went to visit her, we had to act as though everything was all right. After my mother died in December of that year, our house burned in February on a very cold winter morning about 2:00 a.m. The fire was caused by a faulty flu on that same little red hot pot-bellied coal stove on which I burned my hands. We lost everything in the house, but all of us got out alive and safe. My dad was burned when he went back in the house to try to retrieve some money he had under his pillow. We went to my Grandfather’s house at that time, and of course could not tell Grandmother Cline what had happened. I think she knew that my mother had died and that the house had burned, because she quit asking about my mother. My grandmother died that summer in 1943. And after that our barn burned. We no longer had much to stay on the farm for, but lived with my Grandfather Cline for a while. It was pretty crowded in a very small two-bedroom house for five people. I learned to cook, wash clothes and clean house (none of It very well) for my grandfather, father, and two brothers. Of course, they helped, but not much.

We moved to town sometime after that and still went to the farm to ride horses, but the fun had somehow gone out of it. By that time, i was probably fourteen years old and a Junior in High School. That was the year i was football queen. However, we still lived with grandad then because I remember getting stung by a wasp on the eye the morning of the coronation of the queen. I wore my first formal and high heels, the football field was muddy the football captain kissed me on the nose, and we lost the game. Somehow, I survived that episode in my life and went on to graduate from high school. I do not remember any member of my family coming to my graduation. I was not the best of scholars.

After high school, i went to college at Oklahoma A&M in Stillwater, Oklahoma. I went to rush but did not pledge a sorority and lived my first year at Willard Hall. Our rooms were very crowded four of us in one room and the closets were pitifully small as were the rooms. None of it was too conducive to excellent study. This was 1946 when the service men were all coming back from World War II, and there I was at 16 with all those men who had been to war and seen the world. There were 12 men to each girl, and I had a ball. It was dances every weekend, dance hour every night, movies, fun, fun, fun. I finally did graduate with my B.A. in Business Education. I only flunked two classes, economics and accounting (two of the most important business courses one can flunk.) I danced through the final of my accounting class because i thought i was flunking so i just did not go take the final. This foolishness stopped after my dad died of carcinoma of the rectum in 1949 and I had to go to work to help get through college. The Lord works in mysterious ways, And I think he may still be trying to straighten me out.

I worked at Whitehurst in some fantastic position for a while, and then I had an opportunity to go to work for the Animal Husbandry Department. This was a good place to work and there were lots of good old country boys over there. Some of them talked me into being in the O’Collegiate Rodeo one year. I did it and walked away with the All Around Cowgirl Championship. What a surprise!!! I didn’t ever have a horse and had to borrow one to race down the area to jump off and milk the wild cow (actually, it was a very tame cow they had tied to the fence of the arena) we had to milk some milk into a coke bottle and run back to the front of the Arena. I raced against a girl who was raised on a big ranch and who should have been the winner, but she was a pretty big girl and couldn’t run as fast as I could, so I won the belt buckle. This was just about my only claim to fame.

In 1949, the Sorosis Club of Claremore asked me to come back to Claremore to be their entry in the Miss Claremore contest. I agreed, and just barely got back here by bus, had no chance to bathe, do my hair or anything except slip into my formal and ride on the back of a convertible up to OMA and participate in the parade of would be “Miss Claremore’s”. Some of these girls were, Loretta Jean Hill (Burrows), Jane Ann McMillan (Podpechan), Lorena Mae Scott (Maxwell); Sue Sutherland, Marcelete Yayberry (Iovine), Donna Hobaugh, Doris Gray, and others. The outcome of the contest was quite a surprise, because I was chosen by the judges to go on to Kansas City and be in the American Royal Queen contest. I went, had a great time, but did not win, show or place in that arena. That pageant had way too much elegant competition of beautiful and poised girls from many places. It was a learning experience. We had escorts from the eligible bachelors around the city, and I attended my first drinking event. I was only 19 at the time, and was underage to drink, but could have at that place if i had desired. Of course, I was green as a gourd, and did not think the young bachelor who was my escort was especially attractive, so I was not about to trust myself to him.

While I was in college, I was in love with many of the football players and some other young men, but was pinned twice. The first pin I received was from a Pi Kappa Alpha, Frank Cochran. Frank had attended OMA, but I did not know him when he was there. Frank was a nice fellow, and a friend of John Harvey Burrows and my other PKA friends from Claremore. That relationship did not last too long; and before long, I was pinned to Sigma Nu, Dressler Rruitt. Dressler was the son of the photography professor at A&M, and was a really nice young man who seemed quite serious about marrying me. I was not ready for marriage and settling down, so that relationship also fizzled. I dated Dr. Whitehair, a professor of veterinary medicine, who was a catholic, and I even took instructions in Catholicism – it was that serious. I did not know if I could handle being a catholic, and that was what I would have to be if I married Hen Whitehair.

One of the football players i had a really big crush on was Arlen McNeil from Amarillo, Texas. During Sadie Hawkins Days on the campus, I had invited him to be my date for the dance. We were running him for “Prince Charming” and I came home on the bus to get the car, which dad let me have for that occasion. I drove back 100 miles an hour trying to get back for that big date. I don’t think I got to dance two dances with him because all the other girls kept cutting in. I was devasted when “Darlin’ Arlen” became interested in someone else. I think I lost my interest in men about that time, but eventually, it came back.

Graduation from Oklahoma A&M in 1951 brought about the necessity for me to seek employment since I had no one to live with or depend on for my security except myself. I applied with American Airlines to be an airline hostess and also with Stanolind Oil Company. While I was waiting to be discovered as possibly the best airline hostess in the world, Stanolind hired me. I worked for them for five years, beginning at the bottom of the line and working up to a secretary in the Exploration Department with Joseph Eisler and Dr. Silverman as my immediate bosses and Ruby Bennett, my co-worker and friend in the department. We worked for all the geologists and other men in the company. It was a wonderful experience. During my tenure at Stanolind Research Department, i started dating Bill Farbro, with whom i had graduated from Claremore High School. I had a crush on him when we were in school. He was a football hero and one of the most desirable young men for half the girls in school. We had never dated in school, but when I came back from college, he was footloose and fancy free   I was not at all interested in going with him or marrying him in the beginning. He was a running mate of my brother Tommy, and they were involved in some heavy drinking and carousing. That was not my life style. They took me with them to movies and eventually, it was just Bill and me going places together.

On July 3, 1952, we were married in the First Presbyterian Church in Claremore, Oklahoma, with Jo Ann Tanner as my matron of honor. Doyle “Junior” Pruitt was Bill’s best man, and Tommy gave me away. Billy Mac and Elmer Tanner were ushers. Reverend David Cecil presided over the ceremony and there was no reception. We went to Joplin and Noel, Missouri for our four-day honeymoon and then back to work. We lived at 317 East 12th Street in Claremore.  Bill was a construction worker (iron worker) when we were married. He worked at various jobs during our marriage – a car salesman, a service station owner, Skelly Oil Company, manager of a truck stop at Catoosa, real estate, real estate appraiser, and finally at the end of his life, a Rogers County Commissioner for District 3. He had always wanted to become involved in politics, and finally in the last two years of his life, he achieved that goal.

We had two children during our marriage, Betsy Ann born in 1956 and later Barry Allen born in 1958. Both children were born in Claremore at the Franklin Hospital. Dr. Melinder delivered Betsy, and Dr. Jennings delivered Barry. Both children were easy to deliver and raise. They gave us very few problems and excelled in sports and academics. Both graduated from college. Betsy was football queen in high school and won many Balfour Awards. Barry excelled in sports, football, baseball and basketball, and has many trophies from those days. They were not perfect, but good normal children. Betsy is now a home economics teacher at Sequoyah and has been there for many years. She is married to Michael Lee Wright and has presented us with three precious and precocious grandchildren, Kristen, Eric and Sara Ann. All three are most loved and enjoyed. Barry is a practicing attorney. He has two children, Richard and Emily. Both are delightful and interesting children, as well as precious and precocious and also much loved and enjoyed. 

I, of course, live alone on the Cline farm and am the third generation to live there. My grandchildren keep me company. I worked for Robson Properties owned by Frank C. Robson, a long-time acquaintance and friend. Country living is most enjoyable, but I do not particularly like to mow the lawn, especially since my lawn mower is not working at the present time. Even though there have been some unpleasant happenings in my life, i have had a good life and many pleasant moments. Everybody has some bad times in their lives, but it is my feeling that we are to learn from each of these predicaments and that is what life is all about. One of the most important things I have learned in my lifetime is that people are much more important than material things and money. If I can only practice the Golden Rule and “do unto others what I would have others do unto me”, I will have finally found the golden fleece.

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