Monday, March 25, 2013

Don in High School

I don’t know too much about my dad’s high school years, but he did save the year books from his sophomore and junior years, 1931 and 1932. Here's his picture from 1932:

Donald D Gunning, age 17

Don’s older brother Boyd was a senior in 1931, and he was outstanding and popular. He was vice-president of the senior class, and a cheerleader. He was in the glee club. He played the trumpet like his father, and was among half a dozen chosen from Enid High School to go to the All-state Band. Boyd also starred in the senior class operetta, and was on the debate team. He was beginning to work toward his goal of becoming a lawyer. Here's his picture as escort for one of the May queen candidates:

Boyd Gunning, age 18
There were a lot of notes written in Don’s year books. There were a lot of complimentary notes from teachers, so he seems to have been a conscientious student. Here’s one from his English teacher:  

Don, I’ve always appreciated your attitude toward everything. You have some wonderful qualities, and I’m so glad I have had you in class. Always, Ruth Scott.

Ruth Scott, 1932

Don joined the math club his junior year and here's what his math teacher wrote:

Don, You get better and better. Since you’ve been through the real drudgery of math, now you should go on and take the fourth year where you can see the real fun in math. Sincerely, Grace Smith.

Grace Smith, 1932

In the 1931 book, Don isn’t pictured with either the football or the basketball teams, but there are a lot of notes consoling him on his tough luck in football. I didn’t figure out why until I read a note from a girl in his English class:

Don, Don’t forget the time you had a broken arm and you came out to our house and practiced for the Longfellow program. Remember me as a friend, Annabel Morrow.

Annabel Morrow, 1931

He didn’t make the football team because he broke his arm! 

Here’s the note written by Enid High’s football coach, Leon  R. Vance: 

Don, I have always said sophs were my favorites. I still do. A manly sophomore has such tremendous possibilities, and you are manly. Let’s work together and accomplish some real things. Leon Vance

Leon Vance, 1931

Lloyd Zuck was in Don’s class his sophomore year but not his junior year. I don’t know if he moved, or had to drop out of school. Here’s his note: 

Don, Remember me as a friend of yours. Remember the good old times we have had. If you try you will make the football team in 1932. You are a fine kid and a good sport. Always remember me as you gaze upon this handsome picture of me. L. Z.

Lloyd Zuck Kelly, 1931
(See blog post of Feb. 13, 2013)
Here’s a note from someone Don must have gone to grade school with:  

Dear Don, Remember the times when we used to go swimming in sewer creek, and also when we boxed in your back yard, and the good old days at Longfellow Jr. High School. An old friend, Jim Helton.

Jim Helton, 1932

And another: 

Don, I believe I’ve known you longer than anyone going to school now and we’ve sure had some keen times. Remember the keen times we used to have over on Maple with the ponies and how you used to whip Boyd’s bun? A friend. George Miles

George Miles, 1932

Don’s older brother Boyd was his best friend and mentor, but as a young boy Don was always trying to test himself against other boys, so I guess that included Boyd.

Don didn’t make the football team again his junior year, but he made the basketball team. Here’s a comment by the captain of the football team: 

Don, You sure have had plenty of bad breaks in football. I know you would have made the team this year. But after all I think more of a fellow that can take it on the chin like you did and then come back and letter in basketball. You sure have got the right stuff. And don’t forget bad breaks won’t follow you all your life. I know you will win out in the long run. Lots of luck, Dick.

Dick Gerren, 1932
The football team didn’t do so well that year but the basketball team won fourteen out of sixteen games and came close to winning the state title, finally falling to Cherokee, whom they had beaten during the regular season 28 to 13. The basketball coach, Perry McCoy wrote:

Perry McCoy, 1932

Well Don we had a great season this year. I’m looking forward to a good season for you next year. I’ve certainly enjoyed working with you, and knowing you. Next year we’ll beat Cherokee. Best wishes. Your coach and friend, Perry McCoy.

Here's Don with the Enid High basketball team of 1932:

Enid Plainsmen, 1932
(Don is in the middle row, 2nd to the left of coach McCoy)
I don’t have Don’s annual from 1933, his senior year. I know that he sang a lead in the school operetta like his brother Boyd, because he kept a copy of the program. Also he told me he finally made the football team as well as the basketball team, and was on the first string of both. He was actually a bigger star on the football team even though it was in basketball that he excelled in college.

In one game Don caught a pass and scored the winning touchdown. He told me that when he caught the ball he was on the 5 yard line, and even though he was tackled he struggled on across the goal line, dragging his tackler with him. Here's how football games looked back then:

Enid High vs. Oklahoma City Central, 1931
(It's hard to see clearly, but the uniforms had no leg pads, very thin shoulder pads, and the helmets were just thick leather with no cushion)


Football must have been very important at Enid High. That would explain the many condolences Don received the previous two years when he didn’t make the team, and also the following remarkable event, which occurred during Don's final semester. The school principal and Mr. Vance, the football coach, the same man who had complemented Don for being “manly,” approached Don’s father with a proposition. They suggested that they arrange to have Don’s teachers flunk him so that he would have to repeat his senior year and still be eligible to play football!

Grandfather was actually considering accepting the deal. He was always a big sports fan. I remember visiting him in a nursing home in his 90’s, and he had a radio by his bedside so that he could keep up with his favorite teams.  

Anyway, in spite of the pressure, Don turned the offer down flat. He proved that he was more "manly" than his coach. He knew that it was more important to get an education than to be a football star, and he had decided to join his brother Boyd at O.U.   



Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Uncle Les

When my dad was a teenager, he spent his summers in Fay, and did farm work with his uncles and cousins. He worked with his uncles: Gene, Alphonse, Les and Check. Check was six years older than him but as Don got older they were able to go places and do things together. I got to meet Uncle Check because I spent a week with his family one summer during high school. It was his son Grant or “Bud” who went through the engineering school at OU, and then decided to be a teacher so he could work closer to home.

                                              Don and Check, about 1922

Don worked with his Uncle Gene most often. Early on, before farm machinery was available, Gene worked with mules. Don told me that mules were stronger than a horse but they were mean and hard to work with. They would bite you or lean against you in their stall. Don claimed that Gene used to hit them with a board every morning just to show them who was boss.  

One summer Gene took his family on a vacation to Colorado, and he hired Don to take care of his farm while he was gone. Since Don didn’t have any sisters, he spent a lot of time in the kitchen with his mother growing up, and he was a good cook. I used to love his fried chicken. He always skinned them first. When I asked him why, he said to me, “If you knew how nasty chickens are you wouldn’t want to eat their skin either. Anyway, while Uncle Gene was gone, Don fried a chicken for himself every day.  

Wheat is one of the main crops around Fay, and Don told me a funny story once about working with his uncles harvesting wheat. He said that while they were taking a break,  someone, I think it was Uncle Les, started frantically trying to get out of his overalls. When they asked him what was wrong, he yelled out that a centipede was crawling up his leg. It was a struggle getting his overalls off over his boots, but when he managed it he discovered that the “centipede” was actually a head of wheat that had gotten stuck next to his leg. 

If Don had a favorite uncle, it would have been his uncle Les, Lester Morse, who was married to Grandmother’s sister Imogene, or “Imo.” As a boy, Don admired prize fighters. His heroes were boxers like Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, and he especially idolized the professional wrestler they used to call “Strangler” Lewis. Don’s fascination with Uncle Les probably arose from the fact that Les had been a carnival strong man during his youth. When the carnival came to a town, Les would take on all comers. For a dollar you could get in the ring with him, and if you stayed there for three minutes you could win five dollars. 

Uncle Les really was strong. Don said that he could load a 500 pound bale of cotton onto a truck single handedly. He’d put a hook under one of the metal bands around the bale, then hoist it onto his back and up on the truck.

Les didn’t farm. He owned the ice house and the filling station in town, and for a while I think he was the postmaster. In spite of Uncle Les’ experience as a fighter, Don said he never saw him actually fight anyone. The closest he came was one day when a guy who was hanging around the filling station started throwing his weight around. Les told him to settle down, and so the guy challenged Les to a fight. Les ignored the challenge, but the man wouldn’t leave him alone, so finally Les just twisted his arm up behind his back, dragged him over to the water hydrant, and hosed him down.  

Uncle Les taught Don how to box too, and Don became his protégé. Every weekend when the farmers and their families came into town for supplies, Les would host boxing matches out behind his filling station. This time it was Don who took on all comers. He fought all the tough farm boys in the county. Don got so good that Les tried to talk him into becoming a professional boxer.  

Probably the most exciting adventure that Don had with his uncle Les was one day when they went together to deliver ice. Don was just a small boy at the time, and he felt pretty special getting to go out with his uncle on his deliveries. Just a few miles north of town there was a pretty big hill, and since the truck was fully loaded, its gears were straining by the time they got to the top. The truck picked up speed on the way down the other side of the hill, so Les started pulling on the brake, a lever that extended up through the floor, but the truck didn’t slow down. Something was wrong. Les pulled harder and harder, but the brake was stuck. He had to slow the truck down, because going straight wasn’t an option. At the bottom of the hill was the Canadian River, and there was no bridge. Les knew that the weight of the ice could easily turn the truck over. As the truck went faster and faster Les pulled on the brake with both hands. Finally, unable withstand Les= great strength, the brake lever just came off in his hands. Don said the truck leaned over to one side as they turned the corner, but they didn=t go into the river.
(Sorry, I don't have a picture of Uncle Les)




Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fay Memories

(This is my dad’s contribution to Fay’s Centennial book of 1994.)

Some of my fondest memories are of the times spent in Fay, Oklahoma, during the summers and holidays. I am Donald Gunning, and I was born in Fay, February 25, 1915, to my parents, R. B. Gunning and Jessie Boyd Gunning. My father was a barber in Fay for four or five years, then we moved to Enid. 

My mother was the oldest daughter of Grant Boyd and Laura Cavey Boyd. She had four sisters: Eva Boyd Tower, Imogene Boyd Morse, Alta Boyd Wilson and Ruth Boyd Litsch; and two brothers: Gene Boyd, Check and twins who died at birth. 

My grandparents lived in a two story brick house one half mile west of Fay. My grandfather and a neighbor Katey Jones made the bricks and built this house about 1904. Grant Boyd’s parents made the Oklahoma Run with four sons and one daughter, and they all staked claims in Dewey County close to Fay. For a few years Grant and Laura Boyd also ran a boarding house located west of the Daddy Gillespie Livery Barn. In those days passenger trains and freight trains came through Fay daily and railroad men and salesmen stayed overnight.  

Charley Parks had the first car, a Model-T in town and everyone wanted to see it and ride in it. He would take people to Watonga and back for 25 cents. They couldn’t drive to Thomas because there was no river bridge.  

                           Beulah, Lloyd and Luvern Widney
                              fording South Canadian River
Note: Watonga was 12 miles away. Thomas was also about 12 miles but it was on the other side of the Canadian River and the nearest bridges across the river were at Taloga and Bridgeport, each about 30 miles away, so the trip to Thomas was 60 miles by road. People would ford the river when it was low. A Mr. Delaney operated a fording service and would pull your buggy across the river for $1.00. If you tried to ford the river on your own and got stuck, the price went up to $5.00. When the Sam Hawks Bridge was finally built in 1934 to connect Fay and Thomas - This was Don’s first year in college – the opening ceremony attracted 10,000 people. Will Rogers was among the speakers.  

Here is a picture of Justin Boyd and some of the other workers during the construction of the bridge.
Justin Boyd with Mule Team
After the Fay bank was robbed, the merchants all decided to each buy a high-powered rifle for protection. The salesman told them the gun was so powerful it could shoot through a railroad rail. Tom McAlister and some of his friends decided this claim should be tested so they took one of the rifles down to the tracks and tried it out. The bullet didn’t go through the rail, but it did ricochet and hit Tom in the forearm. The arm healed, and Tom never bothered to have the bullet removed.  

My parents were married in Fay in a double-wedding ceremony with Newell and Eula Boyd. Newell and Eula had four boys: Keith, Wayne, Wilbur and Edward. My parents had four boys: Boyd, Don, Everett and J. E.. Boyd graduated from O.U with a law degree and served 37 months in the Pacific Theater of World War II as a captain in the artillery. He returned to O.U. and worked for the University for 40 years. Don graduated from O.U. with a degree in accounting and worked for Boeing six years and for the Standard Oil Company of Ohio for 37 years. Everett joined the Navy after high school and was on the battleship Oklahoma when it was sunk in Pearl Harbor. How he survived is memorialized in a book entitled "Trapped at Pearl Harbor" by Stephen Young. Everett survived the war and worked for Southwestern Bell Telephone for 30 years. J.E. graduated from O.U. with a degree in accounting. He served in the Navy during World War II, then returned to Enid and managed Gray’s clothing store. He later managed several other clothing stores and is currently working for Dillards.  

Submitted by Donald Gunning  

The most surprising thing to me about my dad’s contribution to Fay’s Centennial book is that the story he related is new to me. I thought I had heard all his stories. The bank robbery he refers to is described elsewhere in the book. Two of his uncles, Check Boyd and Les Morse, were at the bank when it was robbed. Don would have been 14 at the time.

               Chester Boyd (L) and D. P. Karns at Fay State Bank.
                On left is vault into which they were forced along with
              Mrs. Karns and Lester Morse during the robbery of 1929. 

The owners of the bank were Mr. and Mrs. D. P. Karns. Working there was Chester Boyd. One day in the year 1929 this bank was robbed. A robber came in when the bank was at a full days work. The robber had a gun in his hand and told Mr. and Mrs. Karns and Chester to hand over the $1200 that was in the bank. About that time Lester Morse walked in. the robber told him to hold up his hands and get over with the others. Then the robber told them to get in the vault and wait for 20 minutes. Because Mrs. Karns could open the vault they just waited for ten minutes. The robber drove off in a black roadster. Mr. and Mrs. Karns, Chester and Lester got in their car and went after him, but didn’t catch him.  

Later Mr. and Mrs. Karns, Chester and Lester went to Tulsa to identify some robbers and one was the robber of Fay State Bank.  

Jay Minton (nephew of Chester Boyd and Lester Morse)