Montgomery County Elk City, Kansas

Harry Whistler Interview 
by Sylvia Raydene James Clubine

Harry Whistler, born on a farm northeast of Elk City, Kansas still has a young energetic, interested state of mind, enjoys many activities and still drives his car, going where ever he desires to go. His life is full of friends, many new ones, many that have been friends most of his life, but as you may realize, there are not many around that have been here so many years. He still enjoys his own home and caring for the yard, but "I don't mow my own yard anymore. I hire a boy to do that for me."

Sylvia Raydene James Clubine interviewed Harry Whistler and with her permission here are a few of her questions and his answers;

Raydene: "How do you feel? You appear to still be very healthy"
Harry: "I have no health problems. My only complaint is that these knees just don't work as good as they used to."

Raydene: "How do you describe yourself?"
Harry: "Old but determined to keep going as long as I can, enjoying all the things as long as I can."

Raydene: What is your favorite memory?
Harry: All 66 years of married life was best time in life and it was so blessed."

Raydene: What is your memory of the hardest time?
Harry: "Mae and I hadn't been married too many years when Mae became very, very sick. It was a tubal pregnancy. This ruptured nad Mae almost bled to death. Dr. Carter said she was the sickest he had ever seen anyone that recovered."

Raydene: Tell us about when you were born?
Harry: I was the first and oldest, with three brothers and three sisters. They were Glen, Clayton, Nanny Mae, Herbert, Margaret and Gladys. My parents were Burt and Maude Whistler. My dad and uncle Tom Whistler married Weaver sisters, Maude and Dolly, so Tom and Dolly's making the two families of children double cousins. Mrs. Bill Kelly or Mrs. Clara Frizell, neighbor ladies, came over to help Mom in delivery. I don't know the day of the week or the hour I was born, no one kept track of that kind of thing in those days, it just happened!"

Raydene: "What is your philosophy for life?
Harry: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I lived most of my years in moderation and never took up habits that I would have to quit. As a kid, some of us tried smoking a few times, like catalpa beans, grapevines, had to roll our own and never got into tobaco or those kind of habits. We just didn't have money for those kind of things on the farm. Tobacco and alcohol never taste good to me."

Raydene: What are some of the leisure things you have enjoyed?
Harry: "I love baseball, softball, football, hunting, fishing; never was any good at any of them, but just the enjoyment of doing them. My dad and all those neighbor men out in our area of the county, liked to hunt at night, called it 'coon hunting', but really it was skunk, coyote or about anything, took the dogs out. We carried lanterns, trapsed over the hills and along the rivers, woods and streams, and listened to the dogs yip."

Raydene: How about your school years?
Harry: "We went to 'Old Prairie' school number 57. It was 1/2 mile east and 1/2 mile north of where Pete Whistler lives now and now sits on his farm, for his dad, Tom Whistler, moved it there to be used as a shed when it was no longer to be used as a school. Back then there was a country school every 4 or 5 miles in central locations for most of us had to walk to school in all kinds of weather during the winter months. People donated the land and neighbors got together to build the small school building. We lived 1/2 mile east of where Pete lives now, with an 80 acres piece between us. Mae with her family, lived 1 mile to the north of us. Her parents were Clarence and Ida Couch. We went to all 8 years out there at Old Prairie school No. 57."

Raydene: Where did you go to High School?
Harry: "When my brother Glen and I went to town school in Elk City, I drove the horse and buggy to school each day and later we got an old car. We enjoyed that car! I graduated from Elk City High School in 1925, this year being the oldest graduating alumni at their annual banquet."

Raydene: What types of work did you do after graduation from school?
Harry: After graduation, I continued to work on the farm with my dad for 3 years. Then in the summer of 1928 we had a terrible rain, hail and wind storm that washed away and ruined all of the shocked wheat we had just stood up all over the field. That was a terribly hot and hard job to complete, and not only that, it was the main souce of farm income for the year needed to financially survive. I told my dad, 'This is farming business is too big of a gamble for me. I'm going to Independence to find a steady earning job.'"

Raydene: Did you find good work right away?
Harry: "Yes, after all of the farm harvests were complete and we got the years work caught up, I went to work for the Prairie Pipe (Oil and fuel) Line on January 2, 1929 in accounting. Through the years, this company changed to Sinclair, then to Atlantic Richfield. I worked for all three companies for over 41 years in the financial department - accounting and payroll."

Raydene: Where were you based and did you see any hard battle?
Harry: "I went into the Navy October 1942 to September 1945, just a month short of 3 years. The first year was spent in Naval Intelligence near New Orleans, Louisiana. The second year was on a Pacific base commission on the island Eniwokok in the Marshal Canian Islands. The third year was on the USS CARPOLLITI 136 destroyer.

In Naval Intelligence, all work was top secret. Mae and I were married and we did not have to live on base, but had an apartment that was nice.

The island Eniwokok in the Marshal Canian Islands was as far west of Pearl Harbor as Pearl Harbor was from California. We were way, way out there! The Island was only 1/2 mile x 2-1/2 miles long with a 324 landing. The highest point was only 12 feet above sea level. There was no shade. It was hot! hot! hot!in the day time! It was cold at night. We had to sleep under a wool blanket. You always wondered if you would be alive tomorrow, or if you would be dead.

The island was so low, and we lived in tents or small quonset huts. They told us, ' If there comes a bad storm, GO IMMEDIATELY aboard the ship'! The harbor was the deepest harbor west of Pearl Harbor. There were 100's of ships in here at times. They went out on sea missions to other islands at night. Being Pacific based, we were at times, surrounded by Japanese.

The USS CAROILLITI 136 destroyer was named after an Italian boy who stormed a Japanese enforcement. The Italian boy and all that were with him got killed."

Raydene: What was the hardest decisions you had to make in your life time?
Harry: "The two biggest decisions in life was to ask Mae to marry me and enlistment into World War II. When the heat of World War II came I was 36 years old. the maximum age then was age 37. I did not have to go at my age, but I felt the obligation to support my nation. I wanted to go into the Navy"

Raydene: Tell me about your neighborhood!
Harry: "There was a family that lived on the 80 acres between us and uncle Tom's family. I don't now remember their name, but I remember when their house caught on fire. We didn't know if anyone was in the house or not, that was the scary part. Later they moved in an abandoned street car they got from Independence, but they didn't live there long. Later, Virgil and Agnes (Whistler) Saunders moved into the street car when they got married. This is where Ruby (Saunders) Shaffer was born. She is now married to Wayne Shaffer whose family then lived across from the Simpson Cemetery. Back then when young folks got married, they may not always have a home of their own right away. Some fixed up and old corn crib, a wood shed, or about any place to live until they could build a house or find another place to live. Ruby is proud that she can say that she was born in a street car. That was just west of us on the 80 acres between Tom Whistler's family and our family. Another family out there was Eugene R. and Estas (Vandervoort) Shaffer, with children, the Kelly, Frizell, and the Merritt families. After I had already gone on to town school, Ruby's mother, Agnes (Whistler) Saunders, taught a good many years at the Old Prairie School number 57.

Mae's father, Clarence Couch, had a steam thrashing machine with a separator. I hauled water for him. Water made steam for power. We cut the wheat and shocked it with a binder, stood the shocks up together over the field until the thrashing machine could come to the farm where they were. All the neighbors cooperated to get this done, moving from one field to another. The women folk fixed dinner for us at the noon hour that was a big event through that harvest months of the summer.

I got sweet on the boss' daughter, Mae. I always thought she was the prettiest girl I ever knew and she was a good one. Not all women learned to drive back in those days. When Clarence Couch got a car Mae was too small to crank the car, but her mother learned to crank it and let Mae drive. Her dad, Clarence Couch, wouldn't let us be together alone or have 'dates' unless we were with other young people, but they took me where ever they went. Her parents rode in the front seat and Mae and I rode in the back seat. It was a long time before they would trust me with Mae alone. That was the way it was in those days. But, I ended up marrying the boss' daughter'!"

Sunflower image Remembering the Past     Sunflower image Living the Present     Sunflower image Looking to the Future


HomeBusinessClasses of the PastChurchesEducation
GovernmentHistory Home Page Links Organizations
Newsletter Poets Corner Special  EventsUtilitiesVeterans

Explore Elk City in Montgomery County, or visit other Kansas Cities & Towns

October 15, 2006 / Elk City PRIDE, Elk City, Kansas /

Blue Skyways Visit the Home Page for Kansas
A service of the Kansas State Library
© Copyright 1998
Elk City PRIDE
Kansas on the Net