I Remember by Robert Krone
Address given to the Elk City Alumni Association Banquet on May 23, 1987
This is the last banquet to be held in the "Old" High School building due to it's deterioration. Therefore this is a landmark address, not only because of it's own merits, but because it may very well be the last address given in that dear old building so many of us finished school in when we lived in the Elk City area.
This is May 1987 and once again this is our night of memories, and this old building is it's heart. We were the moments of time that shaped and created it.
I can remember sitting in the class rooms of this building bewildered, and I can remember enrolling for the first time frightened, insignificant, worried that I'd ever pass.
I can remember sports and plays and banquets, and tears and embarrassment, and laughter, and humiliation, and I remember the town and I remember the places, and I can remember...I REMEMBER....
I remember this town as a vibrant, exciting place. There were six grocery stores; Barnes, Imels, Q Store, NuWay, Clarks West, Clarks East... five filling stations: Loether's, Floyd Vaughn, Clyde Renfro, Bill Hughes, Widick's ... four restaurants; James Cafe, Watt's Chili Place, Art Roubaugh's City Cafe, Billy Nelson, and later Ruby Stong. East Side ... Blacksmith, Garage, Bakery, Ice Plant, Theater, Ford Agency later Feed Store, Furniture Store, Mortuary, Hospital, two Doctors, Veterinary, two Barber Shops, Beauty Shop, Drug Store, Bank, Gas Company, Electric Company, Newspaper, Big Hardware Store, Lumber Yard, Hotel, Jeweler, Water Plant, Telephone Company, Grain Elevator ... don't think it worked ... a full time Marshall, a night watchman, and several mail carriers, Rail Road Depot... for awhile two Railroads ... Santa Fe and Missouri Pacific, Sale Pavilion that operated every week of the year ... between the two Imels and the Blacksmith shop, later west of the business district toward the old Elk River Bridge that is now gone, a Welding Shop, Implement Dealer and talk about improved communications, it was pretty nice to ring the operator and say " Ma Dean, I want to talk to Willie" and pretty soon there he would be.
I can remember our old phone number was 118 and Delayne Denbo was 38. Besides this we could send a telegram from the Rail Road Depot to someone out of town for just a few cents. It would get there "right away" by the dispatcher of the lines and someone on the other end would deliver it.
I can remember our old Post Office inside out...box number two....96, and if they haven't changed, I think I could still open it. Dad ran one of the rural routes and was one of the few who had a new car every year ... believe me! he needed it too on those country roads.
I can remember with Hanson Dean, spending all morning checking all the cane poles in the hardware store, to find the right length, and perfect flex, and perfect streighteners - when we were satisfied we paid our 10c took our pole and left.
A nickel would buy a coke, any candy bar, ice cream cone (two big dips at Glencliff), hamburger, almost 2 stamps, cigar and 16 22 shells.
I remember Hanson Dean. He was a genius at anything useless. He could beat any pin ball machine and could even pop nickels loose from the machine in the City Cafe when we needed some 22 shells or fish hooks. He taught me to fish, ice skate on Elk River and Duck Creek, to swim, to camp out and to build a cabin, to build a fire, hunt and many is the morning we walked towards wooded areas at 4:30 a.m. to wait for squirrels to come down at sunrise, some of those skills. I passed on to my boy who now hunts deer in South Alabama and gets 3 or 4 white tails every year, so maybe Hanson lives on, who knows?
I can remember building keen cabins at the brick yard with benches and fireplaces with grates so we could cook and I remember climbing the face of the shale pit, again, Hanson Dean was the only one I knew of that climbed clear up and over the top and sat on the big rocks that form its crown. I can remember a bunch of us found a storm shelter just north of the shale pit and entering, we found a treasure .... some sticks of Dynamite!! and 8 to 10 big red cans of black powder. There were also some Dynamite Caps, but another guy in this hall had some experience with the caps than ... He liked to have blown his head off ... I hope tonight he only smiles and remembers. Anyway we took the black powder to the brick yard. We knew all about it!!!! We had seen plenty of Cowboy shows and they always blew up things!!!
We stood around and threw handfuls of the stuff into the fire to watch it go whoosh and we built long, twisty trails of powder, then ignited it and watched it burn. What great fun. Then we even tossed .22 shells into the fire with the powder to get a little more noise. A year ago I huffed and puffed and crawled and cried trying to climb Cox's Hill. Went up the south of the shale pit. I finally made it, but I couldn't figure how I used to do it with an old quilt (never heard of a sleeping bag), a skillet, bacon, eggs, water container, forks, knives, potatoes, etc. Anyway, I wanted to find a cedar tree that Phillip Cox cut the top out of many years ago. He said it would be pretty because it would make it bushy. I didn't find it. The top of the hill was so covered with brush I couldn't make any headway. I really wanted to find the Buffalo Grass where we used to camp. but crawling through those cedar briars was too much and I knew I had to come back, so after about a block, I gave up. I sorta blame Bill Cox for that mess. Ain't no reason he couldn't clear a path up there for us tourists, and I know he must have a grubbing hoe.
When we used to camp we most always baked a potato - sweet or irish - made no difference, actually just threw it in the fire. Anyway, one time Phillip said, "Why don't we bury some potatoes so if we camp we can dig one up and they will always be handy. I agreed .... Sounded like a great idea! So don't you know, we wagged 8 to 10 big nice potatoes and a shovel up to the top of the hill, dug a big hole, dropped them in, covered it up and went on our way. It wasn't long until we needed a couple, so we got a stick and went to the spot and lo!! no potatoes??? The hole had been scooped out and nothing was there. We deduced, pigs roaming the hill, dug them up. But you know, it wasn't until years later, I got to thinking about those potatoes, and it dawned on me, those potatoes wouldn't have known they were being stored. They probably thought they had been planted. That Phillip, him and his ideas!!
I can remember almost drowning at Flat Rock one time. The river there was about 6 to 8 feet across, and a foot or so deep. Hanson laid down onto a ledge he found, and the water bubbled over his body and looked pretty. Pretty soon, he got up and asked me to do it, so he could see how it looked. So I did ... trouble was I never noticed how he got up, and when I couldn't hold my breath any longer, I tried to pull myself up but I couldn't. The current was too strong. I pulled and pulled ... no luck. All I could think to do was call for help (you don't think to clear, out of breath, under water. Anyway I turned my head to hollar, but when I opened my mouth, the whole river rushed in. I choked and coughed and sputtered and choked some more, finally the coughing forced me to release my hold and I just washed back a few feet, ending up on my hands and knees, gasping for air and finally crawling over the flat rock, laying on my belly coughing up water and at the time, I thought dying. Hanson was laughing his head off.
I can remember hunting with Delayne Denbo way up Duck Creek. It was cold, a wintery day, wind a blowing and a skiff of snow on the ground. We were coming home in the afternoon tired, cold, and hungry. We crawled down into a gully leading into the creek to get out of the wind and rest a minute, but we were cold so we built a fire. As we sat and warmed we got hungrier, but all we had was one old rabbit. No knife, no salt, and no water except the old creek and that wouldn't do. Delayne tore the lid from the tobacco can and we used it to clean the rabbit. We pulled off the fur as best we could, and without water for washing, stuck a stick through the rabbit and put it over the fire to bake. After a while it was done and brown and we ate it, hair and all. I remember it was delicious.
I remember this town and it's busyness. I remember truck loads with wheat, lined up from the depot back across Duck Creek, waiting their turn to unload. I remember Saturdays with the crowds of people coming to town and if you didn't get your parking place by noon, you might not find one. The restaurants were full and the grocery stores were full and the movie on the Drug Store wall kept everyone in town 'till late'. The greatest group came in from Helm's dance about 3:00 a.m. and they wanted hamburgers and chili in the cafes ... and I wanted them to go home so I could. I remember every other Wednesday Trades Day and the implements, and household goods and cattle and the chant of the auctioneers. I remember these old sidewalks in this town, the ones we've stumbled over many times. I've wondered who installed them and how was it done? Where did the sandstone come from? There is none around here that I know of. How was it cut? There were no 18 wheelers. They must have taken weeks to install, to cut and position it. How was it lifted from the wagons, and how many people were involved? I don't know, but it would cost a fortune to install them today. They are certainly a historical treasure.
I can remember flood time in Elk City when the river would force Duck Creek back, filling the low places and fields and I can remember gigging a big carp with a pitch fork in the field just north of the railroad and just west of the Depot. And I can remember water just reaching our back fence, but covering Jimmy Cox's pond and just after I had stocked it with bream and catfish. The pond was so muddy the bream tried to jump out. They hated it, but the little bullheads thought it was great. Most of all I remember the river and I remember the old bridge and during high water people walked and drove across to look and people stayed to watch the water roll past and watch the logs come down the river. And sometimes when the river was about one half bank full, we used to swim out to catch a log, then climb aboard and ride beneath the bridge, then swim back to the bank and do it all again. I can remember sitting on that old sandstone piling in the middle of the bridge and staring at the water and being almost hypnotized by the movement of the water past that piling and thinking I was on a great ship sailing up stream, bound for India and Cathay or some other far away exciting place, to high adventure...
Never again in our lives do we create the bond that was formed from high school. Even though we seldom see each other, we never forget!!! And often times when with our thoughts we remember classmates and events and get togethers and even little insignificant happenings, like throwing a banana into the windshield of a passing car, and that devil turned around and gave chase to five scared kids, flying down the old roads south of town in an old top-heavy '29 Dodge. The drivers knuckles were white against the steering wheel. That will be hard to forget! And what about the time a classmate, sailing along to school one clear cold morning, with the heater on, in a sand colored Model A, turned a corner and ker-plop, into a skunk. He sent his calling card over the car and through the heater system to the driver who had to go home and bathe in tomato juice to revive. And at the time I laughed, but I now apologize, for I know it wasn't funny at all, I wonder if the driver remembers?
I remember marbles, and spiking tops, and girls playing jacks, and not owning a pair of socks that didn't have a hole, and folding those big holes in the heeel over so they wouldn't show. I remember basketball in junior high when after a whole game, the score would be 12 to 8 and high school, 33 to 28. I remember covering this big auditorium and basketball court in crepe paper. I remember James and Effie of our Jr. play and Harold and Willie of our Senior play. I remember the Wolpert Shows on Wednesday nights at the theater, skits and songs and magic and melodramas and drawings and remember, Trigger, and Champion and Rin Tin Tin, and Tantor, and Simba and Tim McCoy, Hoot Gibson and Johnny Mack Brown and Al, all American half back. I remember the invisible Man and the Shadow. I can remember having a quarter, chipping in a dime for gas and having a dime left for a show and a nickel for popcorn, imagine popcorn for a nickel? Drawback used to take us and he'd get 30 cents for gas, that bought two gallons and we saw a double feature and a serial, at least twice.
Last night I saw a movie and they were selling pies. I remember the pie suppers at the schools round here, Circle Valley, Old One Hundred, Gregory, Prairie, Sunny Side and we even had some good ones right here in this auditorium! I remember the cake walks and the crowds of people and I remember the last day of school dinners with the tables loaded with food. We had great times. What I wondered? How come there were schools all over then! Don't people do those same old things anymore?
Today at the Coffeyville Cemetery, I heard the noon whistle, the same old siren we had in Elk City that the telephone operator blew. Does the new phone company do that? I can remember the 9:00 p.m. curfew whistle blew and we all headed for home at that time, if we were out.
I can remember sitting in a car talking with a friend in the fall and steaming up all the windows, not just steaming them up, but making them drippy and I've wondered if I could do it again. So there you are, with a sketch of some of the things that I remember about ECHS and old Elk City. I hope it helps your memories of this dear old place too. Good Night, Robert Krone