Monday, May 26, 2014


My mother Wenonah said that she and my father Don didn’t start dating each other exclusively at first, but they would go places together in a group. There were a lot of things to do in Oklahoma City in those days: movies, of course, and dances, picnics, and there was an amusement park out at Spring Lake. Late in the summer the watermelons would get ripe in Rush Springs and watermelon stands would be set up in parks. The farmers would set up a big cooler with ice in the park and you could buy a slice and eat it at one of the tables set up in the park.  

There was a pavilion out at Spring Lake Park, and they had dances there, outside. I don’t even know what’s left of Spring Lake now. When I was little you could swim in the lake, and there was an amusement park. Now swimming in the lake wouldn’t meet the health regulations, and the amusement park is gone too. I think they have a zoo and a golf course there now. Anyway, Wenonah said that nationally famous big bands would come and play there when she and Don were dating: Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Guy Lombardo, and others. 

Wenonah was a member of two organizations, and they both had parties. One was called the India-Okla Club. All of the prominent Indian leaders in the state were members: The Chickasaw and Choctaw governors and several men like my Uncle Homer, who were members of the state legislature. Wenonah was the program chairman, and she arranged for my cousin Lahoma to dance at one of the meetings. 

The other group that Wenonah joined during that time was the Beta Sigma Phi businesswomen’s sorority. I know they had dances because Wenonah saved her dance book from one of their functions. For each dance she would write down whom she danced with. When she danced with Don she would just write “us.” 

In the winter my parents went ice skating on Shepherd’s Pond, as it was called then. The Shepherd family owned a large piece of land  on the edge of town – now it’s in the middle of town, the pond has been filled in, and a shopping center called Shepherd’s Mall has been built there. 

I’ve been writing a book about my Wenonah’s life, and I don’t want to give the plot away, but she lived through a terrible tragedy when she was 15 that turned her against her father, and the experience affected her attitude towards men, or at least towards relationships with men. She told me that it was a big surprise to her family when she told them she intended to marry Don. 

It wasn’t an easy journey though. They went together for three years before Wenonah said yes. My dad was always patient. 

He got jealous one time when Wenonah danced with another man, and she told him that her father was jealous of her mother and that she wouldn't tolerate it, so he gave in. Another time my dad was drinking and Wenonah thought he had had too much, so she told him that her father had been an alcoholic and that she couldn't tolerate drinking. That's something she told me too. "You can have just as much fun sober as you can drunk," she said. Anyway, my dad stopped drinking altogether. Many years later, after they had both retired, they used to have a glass of wine together at bed time, but I can’t remember ever seeing my father drink hard liquor.