Dated Christmas 2007 Jessie Jean Ruddle McCamon. “I don’t remember all the places we lived around Stigler or in town, and I still have dreams about moving into another house. Whenever Charles, Barbara talk about those years, we often have different memories of the same event. We do all agree though that the best thing that happened was moving to Wichita where we could have more opportunities.”
Ruddle Family History
November 19, 1939
Steve Ruddle, Jr. and Jessie Jean Kemp went out on a date and went to Ft. Smith and got married. Grandma Kemp was not happy about the marriage. Mother said they lived with Grandpa and Grandma Ruddle after they were married. They were separated in September 1940 when I was born but later reconciled.
The family lived in a house about one mile north of the current Stigler High school on Perry Road. The house no longer exists. The family later lived in Alanreed, Texas on Interstate 40 east of Amarillo. Mother talked about living in a two-story house and falling down the stairs. There were no two story houses in Alanreed several years ago when I stopped there. I think Daddy worked in a nursery.
Barbara was born about a mile north of the stoplight in Stigler. It was then in the country and a house provided by Conard Nursery for employees but is now on the outskirts of town.
I only remember living at Moffatt, Okla just west of the bridge at Ft Smith that crosses the Arkansas River. Daddy was driving a truck for a coffin company.
Daddy finally went into the Army in Dec 1944 and took basic training at Ft Robinson, Ark. That army base was later Little Rock ÁFB. We moved back to Keota and rented a small house near town behind the lumber store.
I remember the day WWII ended. Mother had taken Charles and me to Henryetta, Oklahoma. To help Aunt Sybil after she had surgery. Aunt Sybil had 4 children already so Mother had her hands full. I remember Uncle Leon coming home and saying the war was over and there would be a parade downtown and we went. I probably had never seen a parade before. Grandma Kemp kept Barbara during this time.
Aunt Sybil told me how Grandma Kemp talked the doctor into letting her stay in the operating room to watch her surgery. That would have been most unusual at that time. Grandma was tall and could be an imposing figure so I can see how she was able to talk the doctor into it.
Daddy went overseas and got sick in Hawaii, his outfit left without him for Okinawa and he was reassigned to be a lifeguard at the officer’s beach on Waikiki Beach at Ft DeRussy.
Daddy came home early Jan 1946. He got out of the Army at Kansas City and rode the Kansas City Southern train to Spiro where he got a ride to Keota.
By spring, we had moved to a little house two miles west of Keota where he farmed. In August, he was hired at Conard Nursery at Stigler (the nursery no longer exists) and he told me that he had a GI work study program to learn how to manage a nursery. Conard grew rose bushes, evergreen trees, fruit trees and shrubs.
Wayne was born north of Stigler at the end of Broadway St. Daddy had a Model T or Model A and he couldn’t always drive it all the way home because of muddy roads. I was staying with Grandma and Grandpa Kemp in Keota because it was too far for me to walk to catch the school bus. Grandma and Grandpa had just moved into the house on the corner, below the hill that would be their home for the rest of their lives.
Daddy was assigned to be foreman at the Briartown branch of Conard nursery. I was able to go back home and only had to walk a mile on a highway to first grade at the 3 room grade school at Briartown. This was the area where Belle Starr’s Cherokee in-laws lived and I went to school with kids named Starr. I felt sorry for my mother since we had no electricity and housekeeping was more arduous. We even had a hand dug well – it was like moving back in history 50 years.
In the spring of 1947 the sandy approach to the Canadian River washed away in a flood leaving the bridge in the middle of the river. We crossed the river by pontoon bridge before it washed away in the next flood, we waded across the river when it was low and took a boat across and someone would meet us on the other side of the river.
Daddy’s work study program was over by June 1948 and he went with a friend to look for a job in a steel mill in Texas. He didn’t get the job and on the way home, he reenlisted without consulting my mother. He was stationed at Camp Chaffee. Mother found a house at 3000 Walnut in Ft Smith, our first house with a street address. The house had been torn down before the tornado that went through the north side of Ft Smith. Charles and I attended school at Trusty Elementary which still exists. We would ride the city bus to the bus station when we visited Keota.
Mother and Daddy separated again and we moved back to Keota, She rented a small 2 room house until Grandpa had built a 4 room house. After a while, Daddy would come visit on weekends. Mother returned to high school for her junior year and Grandma babysat Wayne.
Mother and Daddy reconciled and we went to Ft Bliss, Texas where he had been assigned a few months earlier. We lived in military housing (a trailer about 24 feet long) that was located across the road from the El Paso Airport (at that time) and Biggs AFB. A new airport was being built at the time. We spent our time at the playground and the swimming pool that summer before they separated again and we rode back to Oklahoma on the bus. Barbara remembered that her birthday gift was that Daddy drove us into Juarez and back into El Paso. It was the first time I had ever heard another language being spoken and we had fun excursions to the local park, drives in the farming country south of El Paso. Daddy’s job was to teach other soldiers how to drive Army trucks.
When we returned to Keota, Grandpa had rented out the house but had built another new house next to their garden. Mother returned to school for her senior year. The superintendent, Mr Marvin Gee, let my mother leave when she had study hall at 11 AM so she could go home and fix our lunch.. We lived only 1 block from the building that housed both the high school and grade school.
Mother graduated as valedictorian in her class at the age of 25. It made regional papers (even the Wichita paper). It was unusual for a woman to go back to school then. She always pushed education after that.
Mother had wanted to get a job in an office but could only get a waitress job in Keota. She went to Muskogee for a few weeks but came home. She had even gone to California with Uncle Charles and his family but could not get an office job. She surprised us by arriving home on Dec 22 after being gone about 4 weeks. She went to Tracy, Calif. Where Uncle Troy’s ex-wife lived. Daddy came by to see us on his way to Calif before going to Korea (this was while the fighting was going on).
Mother had gotten her driver’s license and Grandpa Kemp had a car she could borrow. Mother drove her first big trip to Clinton, Ark in a 1939 Chevy with Grandpa and Grandma in front with her and us four kids in the back. We visited Grandma’s cousin and younger sister. We got to see our first big fireworks display at the county fair. We also went on to Little Rock to visit Uncle Troy and his family and to see our first zoo.
August 1952-May 1953
We stayed with the grandparents again while mother moved to Wichita and finally got an office job. She then got hired at Boeing and was trying to pay off debts and had trouble finding a house. She finally found a house through someone from Keota and she rented a house at 1238 So. Topeka. (The house was torn down in 1976 the first year I worked at the health dept). She also remarried in Dec 1952, John B Oliver, whose hometown was Haileyville, Okla.
Fall 1953 - 1955
Mother separated from John Oliver, and married Jack Norris in March 1955
Mother and Jack were able to buy a house in Oaklawn at 3118 Fairhaven. We were now in the Derby School District. It’s hard to believe that the house wasn’t locked except at night. It was left unlocked when we went to school and work.
I left to live in the nurses’ residence in August. Jackie Lee was born in Sept.
Barbara married and left home - moved to California where Kenneth was stationed.
Charles left to join the Navy. Mother was so upset, I have always thought it was because in three years, three of us had left in a short time.
Childhood homes from 1950 - 1952 were destroyed in tornado that hit Keota
Mother and Jack moved to Green Forest where he worked raising turkeys. I don’t remember when they bought the Norris homeplace but they were living there in 1972.
Dated Christmas 2007 Jessie Jean Ruddle McCamon. I don’t remember all the places we lived around Stigler or in town, and I still have dreams about moving into another house. Whenever Charles, Barbara talk about those years, we often have different memories of the same event. We do all agree though that the best thing that happened was moving to Wichita where we could have more opportunities.