Recollections of the first 22 Years of My Life
started on 3-13-71--rewritten on 3-1-78
By Robert L. Taylor, Sr.
Note on this transcription: The memoir was written out in longhand on an 8 1/2 X 11 legal pad, yellow sheets, 34 pages. In transcribing it, I've made only a few minor changes, attempting to preserve the style in which it was written, silently changing some obvious misspellings (but not all) and leaving punctuation and syntax in the main unaltered. --transcribed by Robert L. Taylor, Jr., January 2008.
It is past the hour of midnight, nearly 1:00 AM, the 1st hour of the new day when the candle of my life was lighted, Feb 11, 1914. And sometimes I have wondered, as at times most everyone does have the same thoughts, just why was I born?--and what has all my 57 / now 64 years meant to anyone or anything in this old world. What have I contributed in this society of mankind?
As to my childhood, there was nothing out of the ordinary for that day. My recollections of Atoka, my birthplace, is hazy as we left there before I was 5 years old. I do remember playing in the yard with my kitten (my brothers would have nothing to do with me as I was the "baby" brother) and watching the distant train approach town, its whistle blowing, the bell clanging and puffing black coal smoke--I longed to ride this train. Also there was the fish peddler who came by in his horse drawn two wheel cart yelling out "fresh fish, fresh fish today!" Then the traveling photographer would come by in the summer with his shetland pony and little cart to take pictures of kids.
I only remember a few of the families of Atoka, the Cooks, I. L. and W. R., the Memingers, the Dowlings, Russells, Raineys and Gills. The latter three came to Okla. City about when we did--Rainey was a judge, Russell a state employee, and the Gill boy was once city manager of Oklahoma City.
Dad worked at the capitol, his first job on the Industrial Commission--and he walked every day to and from the capitol, our home was 1000 N. W. 24th St., just two blocks east of Classen Blvd so his daily walk was about 18 blocks one way or 36 both ways. The first thing in the morning while still in his night shirt he would go through his exercises.
Seldom did we visit the capitol as for one thing we had no car--there was an old Studebaker touring car (fold down top and side curtains that snapped on for bad weather or cold) in the garage but it wouldn't run. I do remember some trips we made to Tulsa when Mother's brother Uncle Stanley Thomas and her sister Aunt Mamie lived there. There was a strip of old 66 yet unpaved just the other side of Arcadia and nearly all the way to Chandler, it was slippery and treacherous when it rained. Once, when Dad's brother, Uncle Jim, was visiting us we made that trip to Tulsa and Dad handed the road map to Uncle Jim giving him the responsibility of keeping us on the right road but somehow Dad got off on the wrong road and scolded Uncle Jim. I felt bad about that for Uncle Jim was very entertaining, so likable.
Aunt Frances Uncle Stanley's wife, gave me my first long pants for in my early childhood we wore knickers that buckled just below the knee--how thrilling it was to wear long pants! And also did Aunt Frances give me my first bicycle, a beautiful red one with a real leather seat!
One event, when I was about 6 or 7, we were (the family) at the capitol for a reception in the Blue Room for Gen. John G. Pershing who was chief of [unrecognizable word] expeditionary armies of Europe during world war I. I was taken by surprise when out of the crowd came this tall distinguished moustached man in his beautiful military uniform over to me where I was standing, holding mothers hand, picked me up in his arms and kissed my cheek!
The only explanation mother offered was that I looked like his little boy who was burned to death with his mother in their home. He, the General, said nothing.
So as I said, my childhood was seemingly a very normal one. I laughed, played, sang, and cried. Suffered the usual childhood illnesses. Airplanes fascinated me, I made many models, some that would fly powered by a rubber band or two. I built a large one once that I could sit in with wheels from an old wagon for a landing gear. The paper came out and took pictures which appeared in the "Times."
There were always two things that stood out as a burning ambition, one to be recognized by my fellow man--or to be accepted is perhaps a better way to put it. And the number 2 desire was to have a beautiful wife. The first I can understand as it was always emphasized by my father of the heritage or the environment from which I came. It was not meant to mean that we were any better than our fellow man but only that our people were accepted and recognized. In this endeavor I feel success has eluded me.
As to the second desire, success came to me, however ending tragically. Why I placed so much emphasis on this I do not know, it will always remain a mystery that perhaps only a psychoanalyst can unlock but now that this marriage to a beautiful woman is over I no longer will try to find the answer.
I was given a talent of sorts in the arts, that of drawing and painting. My feeling was always that this was somewhat mechanical and anyone could achieve success in the art if he so set his mind. It just so happens that it was natural to me. I was able to transfer an image as seen by my eyes to paper or canvas which was perfectly simple. However perfection was a must, the picture had to be exactly as I saw it--and this can now be done with any ordinary camera so of what use is the reproduced image I made? Most artists draw or paint their interpretation of the subject, so I am convinced my work will never rate anything but the ordinary. Perhaps I should have been an architect or some sort of designer for this always came easy to me. The challenge of doing better than someone else in the design of a product was always with me. I believe this was proved during my 35 years in school jewelry sales where this design talent was used effectively.
As a child the design of airplanes was simple for I understood the problems of parasite resistance and could figure out ways of reducing this to improve the planes performance. My early designs were years ahead of their time, for instance the dart wing plane, the retractable landing gears, the motor cowling for air cooled engines. All these are among my drawings which will pass on to my children and grandchildren if they so desire.
Also automobile design was easy. I could fairly well predict the coming trend in design as also shown in my drawings made when a boy of 15 to 18 years.
In highschool my great desire was to go to an art school and find new techniques, etc., then perhaps follow a life in the art world. However the great depression in the 30's rendered this impossible so it faded away into a dream.
College was out of the question for me as my two older brothers were then attending Okla. University, a school I very much wanted to go--I guess because both of them went there. One incident which hurt me deeply was when my brother, the middle one, came by home one evening, somewhat under the influence of alcohol, with his date and his old friend with his date. When I followed them to their car my brother said--"Go draw me a picture, Bob," and all laughed but I left like a little dog with his tail tucked between his legs. I'm sure he doesn't remember the incident and probably would not have said such a thing under different circumstances but it hurt that he would make fun of my drawing.
Our family wasn't what one would call a closely knit one, Dad had his life, mother always busy in P. T. A. work or clubs and house chores. My brothers had their friends, they were sociably busy and also sports minded. Brother Baxter was a great hunter & fisherman, Jim was more inclined socially and extremely popular with his fellow classmates. A natural born salesman. Mother used to tell of parents calling and asking her please not to let Jim solicit them for anything for they could never turn him down.
As the youngest I was simply too young to be accepted in the circle of any of my brothers friends or allowed to go fishing or hunting with them--I was the baby brother--a problem which often got "into their hair" for when one would jump on me for something I did the other would come to my aid. My curiosity often times would get me in trouble when I even touched my brother Baxter's gun or crystal set made by brother Jim.
My aged grandmother, on my mother's side, lived with us from the time mother & dad started housekeeping in Atoka until her death in 1936 at 86 years of age. She was deeply religious, reading her bible the first thing in the morning and the last thing before retiring at night. Two of her sons, my mother's brothers, were ministers in the Presbyterian church so she was obsessed with the desire to make me her "preacher boy." We spent many hours studying the bible and her interpretations were quite remarkable as she was consulted by some of the most prominent ministers of the day.
She was entirely self educated. Born in Athens, Ohio, her family migrated to Missouri and during the civil war when all the men of the family were gone to the war the Federal troops ordered all inhabitants of the area burned out of their homes and banished to Texas. She walked all the way. The story is quite vivid to me as she told it many times in my childhood, and as it is known to my children today I shall not dwell on the subject further.
Our family came to Okla. City about the year of 1918, just after world war I. My father followed a political career which started in Atoka where he was the lst county attorney after statehood, later being elected to the office of county judge, a title he carried throughout his life "Judge Taylor"--or "Judge."
He was influenced to come to Okla. By his uncle Bob Taylor of Tennessee, the native state of both father and mother. Uncle Bob had served Tennessee 3 times as Governor and later United States Senator. But dad preferred to come to this great west and make a name for himself rather than ride the coattails of his relatives in Tennessee.
Dad, like Uncle Bob and Alf, was a great orator in his day and always sought after by the democratic party for campaigns of many state races. But after coming to Okla. City he would champion the other mans cause, never his own. So we "existed" from one administration to another. Only once did he run on his own for the office of congressman at large, this was in the late 30's, but with only a hundred dollars or so and no organization he was defeated by a "name" candidate, a man running on his name, Will Rogers, a former country school teacher without any knowledge or background of politics on the national or local level--needless to say, this man served only one term.
So my father "retired" to the practice of law in which he barely made a living for in this business as a lawyer one usually starts out early in life and by the time he has reached the age of Dad at that time, he would have a steady clientele and a few large companies paying yearly retainers. But Dad moved the family of which I was still a "resident" member to the country place where he loved to toil in the chores he did as a boy on his fathers farm in East Tennessee. Once he said to me: "I was never a muscular man but always very stout," and this was true. His handshake reflected a strength physically up to his last affliction which left only half a heart that carried him through the last five years of his life. I'm sure that the strenuous work on his acreage hastened his demise--his heart, in the words of the doctor, was just worn out. But he was happy, he loved his children, and his wife, my mother, was his ever loving soul mate. Often times he would explain a woman to me, how they thought differently than a man, and how they changed with the late years of life, sometimes striking out at the ones they loved in anger and resentment, but how her mate should learn to overlook these unpleasant incidents.
Mother would say to me many times that the most beautiful part of a marriage was in "making up" after a quarrel, and they had many during my young life.
However my father was a remarkable man of great compassion, emotions, and deep religious convictions, proud of his heritage but in business a poor manager. In this respect my mother managed to keep him from bankruptcy by saving every penny she laid her hands on. My father paid every debt he ever had even if it took a year or two. So although he never made money he had the utmost respect of all his creditors. All who knew Dad respected him and many loved & admired his charm. He was the last of a breed of the old southern "gentleman," bowing his head slightly in meeting the ladies and usually complimenting them on something, their dress, their charm, their esteemed husband, it was always something for which the ladies delighted in meeting and talking to Dad. He was curious of many mysteries of life and read constantly. A student of history second to none, a diplomat to the highest degree, tremendous at public speaking, a loyal servant to his political party and devoted to the cause of the underdog, the "little" man. And yet at home I never had the feeling that I could be close to him as a son. This bothered me many years, why he didn't take me into his confidence and make me feel that I could also confide in him. But as the years rolled on he mellowed and through the efforts of a close old personal friend with whom I shared my most confidential thoughts, I learned the reason Dad had not shared his daily life at the office with his family--he worked under great pressure, perhaps the most unsecure type of job, a servant of the public, never knowing for sure if he would survive the next new state administration. So he wanted peace and quiet in his "castle"--we respected his wishes. So my feelings of resentment toward him in the early life soon faded away with this understanding. We learned to communicate and happily so for the last 20 years of his life. To quote from the beautiful eulogy, perhaps the most beautiful one I ever heard, his old esteemed friend and fellow lawyer, Edwin Box, says: "For Judge Taylor education and mental development did not cease at the college door. His was an inquisitive mind, and throughout his life he was ardent in his quest of knowledge. He could discuss with you knowlngly many of the fine arts, music, history, literature, biographies, and always the current issue of the day.
"Though he loved his adopted state, he never forgot nor permitted his love for his native state and its hours of greatness and glory to diminish or abate. I have listened by the hour enthralled at his discussion of the era long vanished, where men sought to make use of the spoken word, euphonic and enchanting, untrammeled by the use of cold statistics or mathematical analysis which had for their purpose enriching the pocket book instead of the mind. He was truly a link between the old South and the modern age and breaks another chain with which we who knew him were linked to the past and leaves us now to resort to history rather than his recollections of the passing of a beautiful age.
"Though he may not have accumulated greatly in material gains, he has bequeathed to all of us a library of memories having a value beyond description and which we would not part with for any price."
So in the writers opinion he died a man really of wealth.
Memories of childhood, my grandmother, my father and my two brothers--now for recollections of mother.
As stated earlier in this story my mother was busy, busy, busy--I don't believe there was ever a lazy bone in her body, full of energy and never content to leave a job half done. She looked after her family, her mother, my father and the three of us boys. She could stretch a dollar into next week if necessary, corn meal mush would sometimes supply our meals three or four times a week. Eat it hot at the dinner table or as a cereal cold in the breakfast menu then fried at lunch or at any meal for that matter of fact. Fried mush with thickening gravy made a great meal! Then hominy grits also was a major item on our table. Good ole grits and gravy was always filling--personally I loved it. Of course Sundays usually saw a fine big dinner of roast beef, or fried chicken, wilted lettuce with bacon, mashed potatoes & gravy, green beans or green peas, turnips or turnip greens, a lettuce salad, sometimes with jello orange or lime. Desserts like custard pudding (dad's favorite) pies of all kinds, angelfood cake (my favorite) and during summer season that favorite of all the family, homemade fresh peach ice cream.
In addition to all this cooking for a family of 6, mother sewed, attended her church circle meetings, the school P. T. A. meetings, a ladies social club once in a while and shopped for groceries, did the laundry, all the ironing, made the beds and kept a neat house. I was never ashamed to bring my friends into my home for while our furniture & rugs may not have been the best they were always clean.
We boys had our chores, sometimes Bax would wash the dishes and I would dry them and put them away (a chore I hated). All of us would take a turn at the yard upkeep. When Jim was home he would mow the grass & trim, I think both Bax & Jim didn't mind this part as it was exercise and in those days one was conscious of the importance of body building. So until Bax & Jim left home for their new life I did relatively little around the house, not enough I'm sure. However after they left I took over where they left off only with no one to help. But it didn't hurt me.
Mother and I seldom had long talks, she didn't have time and this I understood. As I recall our beautiful relationship didn't really blossom until after my marriage. Then I could talk to her about some of my little problems, which at the time seemed big to me. As time went on Mother sensed that I was disturbed about something as only a mother can do, it was apparent that all wasn't going great at home with my wife however to her dying day she never took Merle to task for anything--this was always a problem for only the husband and wife to settle according to Mother. But the rupture came between mother & my wife not over 2 years after we were married. I had told mother of my receiving a little bonus check for something done in the course of my work and forgot to tell Merle. Later when mother explained about my good fortune to her on the phone then Merle from that day on felt I told my parents things she would never hear from me. This was solely my error and an oversight but one that Merle hasn't to this day forgiven me.
Mother had her faults but for all she was a gracious, loving woman who dedicated her life to her husband and children. She was an educated woman of a fine family background and of a well to do father who provided every necessity for his family. As a young woman mother was an accomplished horsewoman, or should I say horseman? She won trophies for her skill. She attended Sullins College and came to Atoka in 1907 to marry dad and begin her life in Oklahoma.
Mother and we children made many trips back to Tennessee when I was a small child. Some were for family reunions, others just to visit her relatives in and around Bristol and Rogersville.
When I was but two or three years old Mother contracted T. B. and dad sent her to the Moorman sanatorium in Okla. City where she stayed nearly a year. I recall a train trip from Atoka with Grandmother Thomas, a long trip it seemed then but a thrill to me on my first train ride!
I also remember the long street car ride from downtown, on the old Belle Isle car line, way out to about 44th St. We got off the street car in snow ankle deep and trudged from Classen to Western where the sanatorium was. Mother was so happy to see us she cried.
How strange that someday I would live not far from this same spot!
When I was 17 years old and doing drawings that drew praise from local critics, painting signs and show cards which brought spending money, my cousin from Tennessee came to live with us. Although he was older than my oldest brother we soon became very close just as two brothers, and as I reflect back he was much more of a brother to me than my own two. Neither of us had any money or job so as boys will do we got ourselves into many amusing situations. He was a natural mimic and I would laugh at him and his antics, he could "take off" dad just perfect, and likewise grandmother.
However we were quite the opposite in energy--he was slow and slovenly, leaned from side to side in his slow walk. Sort of like an old mountaineer who just couldn't be hurried. This bothered mother who was used to the three of us (myself & brothers) moving quickly and walking briskly. She said once that she was always proud of her boys for they were quick of movement and walked so briskly. But Caswell (we called him Cas) filled a gap with me for a companion. He had a humor that could only come out of East Tennessee. I laughed myself sick when Cas told me dad cornered him at the first opportunity after arriving and asked: "Tell me Cas, is there still just as much drinking and screwing going on in Tennessee as ever?" And so Cas made his report that nothing had changed except the people who were doing it. Same play a different cast.
The girls were fascinated with Cas but he couldn't be bothered much for he "rested" and sat on his rear most of the time.
The summer I graduated from high school in 1932, my aunt Edith and her two daughters visited us from Tennessee. Aunt Edith was the widow of Uncle Jim, my fathers brother. When ready to go back they entreated mother to let me go with them. I was happy of the opportunity to visit the native state of my parents. After spending a week or two in Wartrace, their home, I went up by Knoxville to visit Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Harvey. They had a son, my cousin Jim Hannah who was about my age so this made my stay more pleasant. Jim & I built a tree house up on a mountain just back of the house, in the top of a big pine about 75 feet high. We could get up there and look over the blue hazy Great Smoky Mountains. I was enthralled with this gorgeous country and could understand my fathers feeling for it.
We made many trips around the countryside--over to Knoxville, up to Johnson City where I visited Andrew Johnson's old tailor shop, Jonesboro saw where Andrew Jackson practiced law and an old tree stump that Daniel Boone carved his name "D. Boone," and the old country home where my father was born in Chucky Valley. These memories I will cherish the rest of my life. Aunt Gertrude, incidentally, was dad's sister and Uncle Harvey Hannah had once been Uncle Bob's secretary when governor. At that time he was chairman of the Railroad & Public Utilities commission which is the same as our corporation commission in Okla. So my passage back home was assured free, courtesy of the State of Tennessee.
During one visit to one of dad's brothers, Uncle Shake (named William Shakespeare Taylor) I was offered my choice of any of his beautiful old clocks he had collected over the years. However due to a problem of carrying one home on the bus I took the smallest only to learn from mother that it was perhaps the least valued of the rare collection. I also brought back Caswell's banjo so I was quite a sight carrying a bag, banjo, and old clock!
But the banjo brought many hours of pleasure to Dad and all of us for Cas would accompany dad on his banjo and Dad would fiddle the old country tunes known to him since his childhood. I remember "Leather Britches," "Sally Goodin," "Arkansas Traveler," "Fisher's Hornpipe" and many others. Many times three or four couples would pop in unannounced at night--they would move all the furniture back against the wall and have a real "hoedown" of fiddling music and square dancing. Sometimes they would get Dad and mother out of bed to dance until the early hour of morning. The stomping to the music could be felt all over the house. They lived life to the fullest extent.
My elementary, Jr. H. S. & H. S. days were no more than just the average boy. Old Jefferson grade school, located on the block between 22nd and 23rd St. where now stands the "pineapple dome" Citizens Natl Bank. There was a drug store on 23rd & Classen where I worked some during summers. A grocery store was across the street on the S. W. corner, and the rest of 23rd St was a neat area of well kept homes and pretty yards. The telephone building still stands on the corner of 23rd and Olie which was just a block directly south of our house on 24th & Olie. There was a big lawn just to the west of it and we would play scrub football there, it was ideal as a playground.
My world consisted of an area from Classen on 24th St to Shartel. And about the same on 23rd . This was expanded when I was promoted form the 6th grade to the first year of Jr. H. S., the 7th, and attended Harding for the next three years. My interests here were mainly centered around the gym where I learned to tumble fairly well, and in the woodworking class. It was here that I began a life long friendship with the teacher, then a young man, Mr. J. B. Greene. Of all people he perhaps influenced the course of my life more than any one. He taught me not only the skills of working with wood but as my Hi-Y sponsor also taught me how to play hard and work hard. He made it possible one summer for me to go attend the Hi-Y camp in the Arbuckles, Camp Classen--far off, I thought at the time. My experiences with other boys under his guidance have always stuck with me--after a full day of organized play he would gather us around a campfire or in the barracks and tell us how wonderful it was to see us play so hard--for if we learn this then we will in later life work equally hard. It was this fine upright man that unlocked the story of why I always resented talking to my father and through his understanding made it possible to be as a son & father should be. Our close association continued until his untimely death several years ago--I shall always miss this wonderful man.
About the only impact my highschool days had on me was the sudden awareness of many very pretty girls. I followed in my brothers footsteps and belonged to a H. S. fraternity--while this was always a controversial subject as to whether they were for good or evil it no doubt did me a great deal of good. They taught us how to meet girls, greet friends, and generally socialize. We had our formal dances in the winter and spring, picnics, wiener roasts, etc in the summer, even had hay rack rides which was a novelty for a city boy. The girls had their social clubs and sororities likewise and we would have their dances and parties to attend which made for a rather fast social life. I wasn't what you might call the life of the party but generally was well accepted, had many friends, some of whom are still life long fast friends. I suffered through usual "first-love" or "puppy love" state every boy goes through.
In those days seldom did anyone go "steady" or just date one girl for a long period of time, so I had several girl friends, some even inspired me to draw their pictures which are still in my possession. But I'm sure you can tell which girl I thought the most of from the pencil portraits, that little brown eyed brunette.
However the "care free" happy days of highschool came to an end in the spring of 1932 when I walked across the stage and responded to the call of "Robert Love Taylor" by receiving the diploma.
From this point on life took on a new feeling of frustrations and anxieties. What could I do--work of any kind was hard to find and the pay very meagre. But work I did, starting as an errand boy for Midwest Jlry Co which was my first contact with the jewelry business. The company operated without hardly any capital and sometimes I wouldn't get all my 15.00 weekly salary. This job lasted about a year then the opportunity to work for the Hartwell Jlry Co., a fine large prestige jewelry store, came along and although the pay was the same at least it was paid in full every week. Incidentally, while working for Midwest, I first met my future wife, the most beautiful girl I thought ever my privilege to know, however at the time she was married much to my despair so nothing came of this meeting until future years when she became single again.
In the meantime grandmother had died and Dad & Mother traded for a country place of 5 acres previous mentioned. So I no longer dated "Northside" girls, confining my social activities to the Capitol Hill area.
Before I continue further however, in the interim, between the jewelry jobs and before starting my career with Star Engraving Co. I had met a girl whose uncle owned a tank company, oil field tanks. She helped me get a job with them and this was the hardest manual labor ever undertaken by the writer. The tank staves, as they were called (sections of the tank), weighed 186 lbs. We had to hoist this up on our back and carry it over the dyke and into the slush put where we assembled them by nuts and bolts. Need I say that after a days work all I could do was take a long bus & street car ride hone, have supper and tumble into bed exhausted. But it made me hard as nails. This work lasted only a few months when a chance came along to work for Haliburton Oil Well Cementing Co., a nationally known concern who owned the patent for the process of oil well cementing. I was sent to a small oil field community known as Fittstown, some 10 or 12 miles south of Ada. My job was driving a 10 ton cement truck and sometimes had to assist the roustabouts in making the necessary connections of water and cement pipes from the truck. My first week there found me on the job every night, sometimes 10 hours. So I needed not to be convinced that this just wasn't for me especially a lad of 5' 8" and 135 lbs!
After returning home from this rough experience my feeling was that a white collar job would be most welcome, and not too many weeks later one of my old HS teachers, then a principal of Central HS called me to ask if I would be interested in a selling job calling on schools. It seems that he had a friend who was looking for a young man to work either in Okla or Kansas.
I jumped at the chance even though this type of selling was completely foreign and promptly made the appointment that changed the course of my life, an association which lasted 35 years.