By Jaunita Cole Walker
Written 1986 (as revised 2004)
Leo was a classmate at Lowry City High School and a good friend.
I took teachers examinations at Osceola in the Spring of 1934 because I wanted to teach. The Chalk Level School Board hired me to teach that coming year for $40 a month - 8 months - school was always ended in April. Grandma went with me to Johnson Lucas Bank, Osceola where I borrowed $30 to go to summer school at Warrensburg Teacher's College. Because I was Valedictorian, I received a tuition-free scholarship. The $30 was to pay my room rent with kitchen privileges. A lot of my food was taken from home.
I must include something of our love of music. After I had learned to read music, I was a able to play church hymns and the easiest of popular sheet music. Then Dad wanted me to "chord" to his fiddle playing. He had repaired Grandpa Cole's fiddle by whittling out a bridge for it and some other work. He used glue in some places. Then he sanded it and varnished it. He was really proud of it and loved to play the old-time music. The fiddle was marked Stradivarius, having been bought in Cincinnati. The pieces I thought Dad played very well were "Whispering Hope" and "Listen to the Mocking Bird". On the latter, he "picked" a part of the birds' song.
Almost every time that I played piano for Dad, we were at home. Many times we had guests who either played an instrument or they loved to hear the music. This included Sam Ledbetter, Claude Gray, Howard and Brian Bunch, and Tom Bourland. Once in a while, when I was probably 13 or 14, Dad took me to Ledbetters with him for an evening of music. I know we had a car then. Before that, he would eat an early supper and leave on horseback with his fiddle and he was gone until after midnight. Neither of us kids ever learned to play the fiddle. I suppose that was partly because we weren't allowed to touch it! I think Everett might have, because he did sneak it out of its case and try it sometimes when Dad was busy elsewhere. But there wasn't enough time to learn to play it. Everett was a good singer. He was happy-g-lucky and sang or whistled a lot.
Everett and Paul both teased and joked with the rest of us. I really thought they picked on me, but I know now that it was only for attention and not intended to be malicious. They would do almost anything for me and I was willing to do for them if they hadn't just made me angry. One day in June, when Everett was 15 or 16 years old, he asked me to iron his good shirt so he could go to prayer meeting at the Holiness Church that night. It wasn't unusual for us kids to go. "Sad irons" had to He headed on to Coffeyville, Kansas for the funeral. There came a snow about a foot deep. Idaleen was probably about 7 years old. She received a serious bum on the back of her hand from the pot bellied stove at school. We didn't have anything but home remedies to treat it. Everett walked through the snow to town and bought a tube of "Unguentine". He was like that - always compassionate. She had a scar which never completely faded.
Paul was the tow-headed type that tried to be as big as his big brothers. He could ride the horses, work in the field, or do his share of chores. Sometimes he would be a little contrary when he thought he had to do more than his share. But he did determine to get a high school diploma. Times were hard in the '30's. There simply wasn't enough money for everything. But somehow the folks paid Paul's tuition to go to school at Lowry City. He walked the 5 miles to school. He was popular in school - He could charm the girls and his teachers. Perhaps he wasn't as studious as could be, but he never had any doubt He could make it! After graduation in 1937, he worked at Ralph Hart's gas station and used car business, delivered ice in Osceola, various jobs until enlisting in the Army early in 1942.
Paul's first assignment was in Springfield with the Medical Corps (O Reilly Hospital). When asked if He could file (in an office) he said, "yes". He meant he could file a saw, though he knew what they wanted. He got a job in the office, learning as he worked. He was transferred to Fort Belvoir, VA, near Pennsylvania, where he met the girl he was to marry. His tour of duty was in Britain and France, always behind the lines. His job was to obtain recreational presentations for the troops, also helping in transportation, when necessary. He made a career of the Army, serving in occupational forces in Germany, also one tour in Korea. He was a Master Sergeant for the Army while helping to re-locate the handicapped near their relative's home after the war.
I was 6 years old when Merle was born. Somehow I can't recall him as a tiny baby being much trouble. I do remember him sitting in his high chair when he was probably 1 and 1/2 years old - always happy and always talking! He just never stopped talking until sleep overtook him and he would nod over his plate. Then Mom would pick him up and ease him into bed for his nap. From the time he was old enough to help Mom at all, he was always wanting to work for her. Little chores soon became his, then later He was good at working outside. He always loved the outdoors.
There was a school bus to Osceola by the time Merle was ready for high school. I believe he had to walk nearly two miles to get on it - at the mailbox. This was after I left home, so I can't be sure. His attitude was that work gets things done and I don't remember that he tried "charming" his way to success.
Merle helped two shuck corn in the fall of 1940, after he had graduated from high school. Soon after that he got a job at Kresge's in Chicago where his friend, LeRoy Frala was working. He was there when the war came and was drafted. He was in the Air Force, received his training at Love Field near Dallas, Texas. his squadron was ready to leave for the war zone when the peace treaty was made, so orders were rescinded and he never went overseas. He was stationed in Massachusetts once, and met his future wife there. After the war, he resumed working for Kresge's, later K-Mart, and was a manager at Bismarck, ND when he retired. No other son was more devoted to Mom than he was.
Idaleen was born on November 29, 1923 on a Thanksgiving Day. l remember well. Uncle Ed Short had come for a visit. Mom always did a lot of extra cooking and "sprucing up" the house for company. Anyway, Mom had fixed a roast goose and dressing (I'm sure she killed and plucked it). She prepared lots of good food including pie for dessert. When her labor started, Dad went on horseback to tell Mrs. Jackson, who left her family and came riding over on their old gray mare. There had been a snow and Jackson's lived two miles away. Usually a doctor would come, but a midwife was certainly insurance that someone would He there. I can still see my Mother sitting bent over in a small rocker at the side of the kitchen cook stove. Of course, Mrs. Jackson took charge of the cooking and serving. Surely they felt the birth was not eminent. Anyway, at the dinner table, Everett piped up and said to Mrs. Jackson, "You wouldn't have had this good a dinner at home, would you!" I'm sure that Dad, Mom, Grandma and Uncle Ed were hoping the floor would open up and swallow them. It didn't bother Mrs. Jackson. She was a good kind neighbor. I expect us kids were sent to Harry Bourland's for the afternoon, or the Creed's.
Idaleen was a pretty little blue-eyed girl. She got lots of attention and pretty clothes to wear. Uncle Rice had a friend in Columbia named Idaleen Wise and he suggested the name. Then Mrs. Wise sent Idaleen a nice big doll. I think Mom succeeded in keeping this doll from any serious harm. It was a keepsake for Idaleen.
There was 8 years difference in mine and Idaleen's age. In a lot of ways we were different. She didn't love to read as I did. She was always on the go, doing things. Household tasks were not her "thing". And we all spoiled her. She was quick to learn, always at the head of her class in school. She started high school at Osceola. I was teaching school at that time and would try being pals with Idaleen over the weekend. Grandma would buy her nice new clothes and sometimes I bought clothes for her.
Burlie LeRoy was the youngest of the Cole's. Born in 1928 while I was not in school at all, his care was left to me for many hours of the day. I guess Mom had so many stacks of work piled up, it was always to a struggle to keep up. Seems to me he was always a good child. Being five years younger than Idaleen, we were all ready once again to "spoil the baby". But it didn't seem to hurt him any. he was bright in his studies, liked the farm animals, hunting and all the things the other boys liked.
Roy was at a disadvantage although he provably didn't realize it for years. His parent's marriage was breaking up and he was becoming a victim of circumstances. By the summer of 1943, Mom had to have abdominal surgery in Kansas City - fibroid tumor. Roy stayed with us a few weeks. Dad was around part of the time, but most often, not. By 1944, Mom had found a nursing home for Grandma in Clinton, took Roy with her to Kansas City and got a job. She never found a high paying job. They lived in a cold apartment that winter. Roy was skipping school to hunt for a job. He finally decided to sign up for the Navy. Mom thought she had better let him do so, because she wasn't able to cope. So she signed a consent paper although he wasn't old enough. It was a turning point in his life. We may never know how hard it was for him, but do know he became a man. he took electronic courses in Chicago as soon as he left the Navy. he studied and made up for all his early lack of formal schooling. While in Chicago, he met his future wife, Jennice.
Roy and Jennice went to California when he was employed by Howard Hughes Aircraft. Later he transferred to Northrop where he worked as an engineer until retirement in 1986. As with any others of his family, his achievements have to be the end result of an inner drive nurtured by a family that expected only the best. If Mom and Dad or Grandma ever passed on any advice, it was "you can do it". For some it meant a lot of sacrifices, delays and even failures along the way. Following each of us were the prayers of Mom - she who kept the home fires burning. That is why there was pride in her voice when she spoke of her "boys". She knew that God had given her the privilege of having a devoted family. These sons and daughters tried to make her last years happy.