Dear Tommy [Thomas J. Wham]:
Before I [Ruth Roberta Wham Secor] can relate any anecdotes, etc., about the Whams, I must first acquaint you with the Sperry side of the family as the chronicles overlap at several points.
THE SPERRY FAMILY
To begin with, my maternal grandfather Marion Sperry was born April 14, 1850, in Ohio, the son of Ezra and Abigail Sperry. Ezra Sperry was a native of Virginia, leaving there because he disliked slavery. Abigail Williams, his wife, was born in Ohio where she and Ezra met, married, and at least Marion was born there. I know nothing of siblings.
At maturity, Marion was a vigorous, strapping lad standing 6í 7 ½" in his stocking feet. Of course, my own recollections of him are as an elderly man with beautiful white hair and beard but even so, I can well imagine that he may have been somewhat attractive as a young man. Evidently he matured at an early age for at 13 or 14 he joined the Union Army as a drummer boy. One of his proudest moments was seeing Abraham Lincoln at one point in his army career.
Following the close of the Civil War, Marion must have spent some time roving about the country or at least in Illinois for it was there that he met and married Margaret Myers. Margaret was an adopted child and little is known about her ancestry except that she was Pennsylvania Dutch. As a contrast to her tall Irish husband, she was a small girl who could easily stand under his arm. Furthermore, never in her life could she get her weight over 100 pounds. She was purported to have been the bell of the county and very beautiful but I must confess, I could never see any traces of great beauty in the little old lady she was when I knew her. She was a remarkable little soul, however, feisty, straight-laced, caustic, critical, proud but withal, kind and good. She lived to be 89 years of age, working up to the very end of her life keeping house for herself and my Uncle Ezra.
To the union of Marion and Margaret Sperry were born seven children, five of whom survived infancy: Ollie; Mary [Mary Abigail Sperry Wham, Ruthís mother]; Ezra; Bertha and Jestina (known as Jessie). Bertha married Henry Hammond and died in childbirth as a very young matron. The other four lived to move first to Oklahoma and subsequently, to Idaho but I will deal with that later.
When the first four of the Sperry children were very small (Jessie was sixteen years younger than Mary and not in this group), they were playing under a large apple tree in their orchard where Grandpa was picking apples. As he moved to a high branch to pick, the branch cracked under his weight and he, seeing the children beneath, jumped to the ground on the opposite side to avoid them. At first he thought no injury was sustained from the fall but within a few weeks he began to fail, losing strength in his limbs until finally, he had no feeling or use of his limbs. Doctors at that time felt he had injured his spine when he jumped. At any rate, suffice to say, from that time to the end of his long life he would drag his feet and legs with canes. Mother [Mary Abigail Sperry Wham, Franklin Lafayette Whamís wife, Ruth Secorís mother] told me she remembered the incident well--how he would try to walk only to fall again and again until he finally had to give up. It must have been tragic for a strong young father to suddenly become helpless.
Margaret Carries On Of course, my Grandmother Sperry was faced with earning a living for the family. This, too, must have been terrifying. She had little education and this was an era in which women did not work outside of the home. I feel that she must have been a very gallant little soul for she faced her future bravely. Mother often told me how her mother "took in" washing to do on the rub board (water had to be heated in a boiler on a wood stove, the white clothes blued and boiled, the appropriate garments starched, and the whole wash dried), and then the hand ironing with those heavy irons heated on the stove!
She also went out to clean the homes of the wealthy gentry for very low pay. Then, after the children were in bed at night, she wove carpets for sale. Of course, her own housework had to be done, meals cooked for the family, etc. Mother said many times Grandma would have to wash their school clothes at night, dry and iron them, for the children to wear the next day. She also managed to help them with their schoolwork for she was determined that her children would be able to rise above their meager beginnings and not have to work as she did. Poor brave little soul! No wonder she became embittered.
In spite of all of her work to make a living, Margaret Sperry was a fanatical housekeeper. Mother told me that she would scrub the white pine floors of their house with concentrated lye solution each evening after the children were in bed. In fact, I used to relate her to the little blue Dutch girl on the old yellow Bon Ami cleanser can--the girl chasing dirt with a huge stick. Mother said early on she and her siblings would retreat to the orchard far enough away from the house so they could not hear Grandma if she called them to come help clean the house. Somehow they rationalized that if they did not hear her, they were not disobeying her in not responding to her attempts to reach them. How is that for logic? This fanatical attention to cleanliness would drive the children to Effie Wham's home. (later).
Marion Cuts Wood Marion Sperryís only contribution to the family's support was to cut and sell firewood. Mother said that even in a sitting position, he could cut more stove-length firewood than any man alive and Grandma could burn more. In any event, I am sure he did as much as he could and probably felt totally inadequate when he saw the hard life the family was forced to live.
Poverty and Major Tom Wham They were desperately poor, as you can realize. Mother told me that had it not been for the wild berries, nuts, and the fruit available, they would have starved. She recalled many times they went to bed hungry but somehow they survived. At Christmas time, Grandma would give each of them a quarter of a cup of sugar and they felt very thankful. It must have been very bleak! Here again, my great uncle Tom Wham [Thomas Jefferson Wham, son of Joseph Washington Wham and Nancy Ray] proved to be a guardian angel for Mother told me how he would occasionally give them a side of bacon or a cured ham which would furnish them food for quite a spell for Grandma knew how to "stretch" the meat with gravy, etc. More about Tom Wham and his generosity and kindness to the Sperry family later.
Speaking again of the gift of the side of bacon, Mother told me of a rather amusing, yet pitiful, story of how he had given them some especially nice striped bacon and Grandma was preparing a sumptuous meal when a family from down the road passed by. It seems Grandpa was out in the front of the house and he with his usual Irish jovial carelessness invited them to eat. Well! There went much of the precious bacon which was to have been savored for future meals! It seems strange to us perhaps but as I understand it, it was a real tragedy for the Sperry family and Grandma was very vexed with her dear husband about it. I doubt that he was ever allowed to forget his transgression. However, they did survive and grow up in spite of their hardship.
Ollie Marries Joe Beasley Ollie eventually married Joseph Beasley, who was one of their schoolteachers. This was perhaps the happiest marriage in the entire family for she loved him deeply without reservation until the date of her death in 1942 in American Falls, Idaho. He survived her only two days.
Mary is the Scholar Mary was more of a scholar than either Ollie or Ezra and finished the necessary schooling to prepare herself to teach school. Whether or not she actually taught in Illinois I do not know. I do know that Ellen (Sis) Wham Johnson was one of her acquaintances and when Ellen's brother Franklin [Franklin Lafayette Wham. Ruthís father] came back to Illinois after his teaching years in Arizona, Ellen engineered their courtship, which ended in matrimony. I will touch on this later.
Ezra is an Austere Man Ezra Sperry was not interested in school but was a hard working man who took over the responsibility of providing for his parents early on. He did not marry until both of them had died when he was 65 years old. He was an austere man and I was very much afraid of him when I was young. It was only after I had grown up that I realized he was simply shy, introverted, and really had a fine sense of humor. I actually grew very fond of him before his death in Yuba City, California in 1955. He was a finish carpenter for the railroad working on the Pullman cars for many years. As I now assess him, I find he was a very fine person and I greatly respect him.
Jessie is Special Jestina, the youngest Sperry girl, was perhaps the closest to Mary [Mary Leona Dorothy Wham Secor, Ruthís sister ] and I of any of the other Sperrys. She was high strung, intelligent, and had a special gift of relating to young people. I think the attached clipping pretty well covers this lady. She was never married although during World War I she was in love with a young Italian fellow who had a homestead adjacent to Grandpa's. They never married due to interference from Dad and Ezra but she never quite recovered from the affair. She was a believer of one love in a lifetime so remained a spinster until her early death in Boise, Idaho, in 1940. When my Ken [Kenneth Eugene Secor, son of Kenneth Orville Secor and Ruth Roberta Wham Secor] was a baby until he was seven years old, Mother used to take him to Eagle, Idaho to spend time with Grandma, Ezra, and Jessie each summer. Jessie utterly adored him and he loved her deeply. He still remembers the hours they spent together in an old trough for mixing cement. She would pretend with him that they were sailing the bounding main and they had such good times together. So she was with young people! Mary and I looked up to her so much.
Now I have briefly described most of the members of the Sperry clan, leaving Mary out because she rightly belongs to the Wham chronicles.
The Sperrys Move to Oklahoma All of the Sperrys (including Mother and Dad [Franklin Lafayette Wham, not actually a Sperry]) moved to Oklahoma early in the 20th century. Ezra homesteaded a place there; Joseph Beasley taught school; Dad attempted to farm in or about Rush Springs but eventually moved to Snyder and began working for the railroad. It was in Rush Springs where he first started his problem with asthma, which was to plague him the rest of his life. He always thought it was breathing sand from the sand hills of Oklahoma. My Aunt Jessie grew up in Oklahoma, was educated there, and began her teaching career there (see copy of clipping attached).
Stories from Idaho - the "Dry Farm" After the cyclone in Oklahoma in 1916, all and sundry moved to Idaho. Here Marion, Jessie, Dad, and Joe Beasley homesteaded land 40 miles from Idaho Falls near Grays Lake. Ezra had used up his homestead rights in Oklahoma. He did, however, build all of the houses, make all of the required improvements to conform with the U.S. Homestead Act. I am sure that your dad [Raymond Lawrence Wham, son of Franklin and Mary and brother to Ruth] has told you of our experiences during the summers we were on the dry farm "proving up" by spending the required amount of time residing there. Certainly they were difficult times, especially for Mother, but as I look back on those years, I really think Mary, Ray, and I were fortunate to have the privilege of running free over those hills each summer without a care in the world. We did have to go to school some which did cramp our style somewhat but never seriously as I look back on it. Besides, as Mother often said, for Uncle Joe to have enough pupils to form a school "district" in the summer, it was necessary that we should attend. He was an excellent teacher, a strict disciplinarian, and surely, we enhanced our education by the material he covered. One of his strong points was the memorization of lengthy poems, generally patriotic in nature. A few of these come to mind although there were many more: "Warren's Address"; "The Lay of the Last Minstrel"; "The Flag is Passing By"; "Columbus"; "Captain, My Captain"; "The Blue and the Gray"; and "Casabianca." I now believe teaching us love of country, God, and basic truths derived from such poems was an excellent way to spend our time.
Mary Teaches School One summer Joe had to go to normal school for a "brush-up" course and my Mother substituted for him. She never did get a credential to teach in Idaho on a permanent basis but somehow managed this temporary job. Anyway, as I recall, she was also strong on the memory work. She was, however, a little more lenient about many things. For example, one lad with absolutely no learning ability but with a glorious singing voice was in the class. After trying unsuccessfully to teach him anything, she just let him sing. Dear old Nathan Moses! I wonder what ever happened to him. I suspect my Uncle Joe would have been much more dedicated to the academic pursuits of the young man! Uncle Joe would later teach many years at Bone, Idaho, the only "watering hole" between Idaho Falls and the dry farms. I am not sure where he taught otherwise but it must have been in various rural schools for I do not recall his teaching in Idaho Falls although they did live there for a time.
Sundays with Marion and Margaret Aside from running free during those wonderful summers so long ago, there were certain highlights that stand out in my memory more than others but perhaps the most pleasant are the Sundays at Grandma and Grandpa's place. Uncle Joe and Aunt Ollie would pick us up, together with their rather spoiled daughter Elma and we would ride over in a heavy wagon such as you see in TV westerns. We were always cordially greeted by Grandma and Jessie. Grandpa would generally be out sitting by the woodpile busily chopping firewood; Uncle Ezra was generally working on the fences, barns, etc. He worked weekdays at a sawmill several miles away so weekends were for "catching up" around the place. Jessie was always there and at least to Mary and I, she was a most special lady. We children would play in the yard or down at the spring some distance from the house until time to come in to eat. Uncle Ezra and Jessie had begun a herd of sheep by first taking "bum" lambs from sheepherders who were anxious to find a home for lambs whose mother died. As I understand it, such little lambs are a detriment in a large herd. Anyway, from these young orphan lambs my aunt and uncle began a herd which would increase year by year until they had a large herd. During World War I when wool went up in price due to need for soldiersí uniforms, blankets, etc., they made a handsome profit in their sale of wool. This money was the beginning of a savings for them that would increase over the years into a substantial fortune for those times. Of course, the money Uncle Ezra and Aunt Jessie made during the winter and spring months in their regular occupations; i.e., his finish carpenter work on Pullman trains for Union Pacific and her teaching on Horse Island, provided them with necessities plus adding to their nest egg.
Feeding the Lambs What I intended to say before I got off on the explanation of the sheep, is that we children did enjoy helping feed the little lambs. It was fun to hold a large nippled bottle for them to eat. They would get down on their front knees and suck vigorously, wagging their tails rapidly. They were really adorable! Also, we saw the new calves, colts, etc., and enjoyed the animals. They had a team of gray horses called Dick and Fan. Well, Fan had a little colt and I remember asking Jessie if Dick and Fan were married and the colt their child. She just told me: "Dick is not the little colt's father." I was mystified for years about that.
Sunday Dinner When we finally were called to eat you can readily imagine our lusty appetites. We never had to be urged to eat. We would generally have fried chicken, mashed potatoes, hot biscuits with either gravy or fresh butter from the spring house (no thought of cholesterol), and Grandma's home style peach butter. On special occasions Jessie would mix up ice cream ingredients (pure cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla or lemon extract) and we would take it to the nearest snow bank, put salt around the bucket, twist it around for a spell, and, lo and behold, delicious frozen ice cream. My it was wonderful! What feasts we had! Nobody, but nobody, could fry chicken like my Grandma! Even to this date, I believe it surpassed anyone - even the Colonel.
Grandpa and Grandma Most often, on these Sundays, we would drop by the woodpile and listen to the tall tales Grandpa would tell. He was a good hand at this-so good, in fact, that sheepherders would drop by to "shoot the breeze" with him. I rather imagine now that I am looking back in retrospect, that Marion Sperry was more social than the rest of his family. Anyway, he had a pocketknife, which he kept sharpened like a razor. If approached right, he would let us "whittle" with it. This always resulted in a cut finger and we would go bleeding to the house for a bandage. Grandma would be very vexed with Grandpa but it did little or no good for the next week we would be back for more whittling. I should digress here a moment and say that in the course of a morning, Grandpa could cut enough wood to entirely hide him from view. Grandmaís woodbox was always kept full. We children considered it an honor to see to this. It seems to me that to do any chore for my Grandma was the greatest thing that could happen to one of us. She didn't have to ask or tell us to do something for her, we tried desperately to anticipate it. I suppose we were anxious to have her respect and love us. At any rate, in later years when she would visit us in Idaho Falls, I recall Mary and I actually quarreling over which one of us would sleep with her! She was quite a woman!
Jessie, Grandma, and Ezra It was the same with my Aunt Jessie. We children yearned for her love. We listened to her with wide-eyed respect and her word was law. In fact, discipline in those summers was largely unnecessary for we three children would strive to do our level best to be all the Sperrys wanted us to be! I do believe that the impact of those summers of our lives was vast and would stand us in good stead throughout our lifetime. How could it miss? Grandma with her constant work to keep up with the housework, cooking, washing and ironing, sewing and mending. Jessie with her love for books and her flights of fancy with stories that carried us away from the humdrum life. Even Uncle Ezra's devotion to duty must surely impress even a very young person. He arose early, walked several miles to the sawmill where he put in a full day. He then walked home, ate, and did the chores such as feeding the livestock, cleaning out the barn, etc. Once a week he must hitch a team to a heavy wooden sled-like thing he had made which held a 50 gallon barrel, take it to the spring a mile or so away, fill it with water and bring it back to the house for use. Each Monday, Grandma and Jessie would go this same route to the water where they had tubs, wash boards and a huge black iron pot for heating and boiling water for the week's washing. They took the clothes, soap, and a lot of energy with them to do huge washes of rough work clothes. These would be hung in the sun to dry and returned to the house for ironing. I must quickly add, they were always spotless.
Housekeeping with Margaret Another thing which Grandma did which utterly amazed me: she did not discard stockings when the heels and/or toes wore out. No, she cut the worn place out, attached yarn with her knitting needles, and wove in new toes or heels! I used to watch this process with awe and am still confounded by her industry! On one occasion, she taught me how to iron. I still recall how she carefully showed me just how to attach the iron handle to the heated flat iron and carefully bring it to the ironing board. Then, with equal care she showed me just how you would iron each side of the article, fold it thus, iron again, fold again, etc., until the pillowcase or dish towel was in a small neatly folded state that could neatly be stored in a drawer or on a shelf. To this day, when I fold a wash and wear pillowcase, I think of her. The same great care was applied to dish washing or whatever form of work you were doing. I'm sure that many of my foibles about housekeeping are a direct result of her training.
Where Grandma ever got time to sew, I do not know. However, she made all of her own clothing plus found time to make Mary and I things from time to time. Mary looks back fondly on a white dress opened down the back which Grandma made her one summer. It had beautiful handmade buttonholes only as Grandma could make. She was a master with buttonholes. I've often tried to make them but have always fallen short of hers! Once, she sent us coats she had made out of woolen blankets which she had dyed. As I recall they were very nicely made complete with lining to match the dye job. The buttonholes were magnificent and the coats quite attractive. There was one small flaw, however. They were not colorfast. Each time we wore them and the weather was inclement, the dye would leak and our arms would be the color of the coats! She never knew this, poor dear, and I don't remember discarding the coats until we outgrew them.
Aunt Jessie's homestead was some distance from Grandpa's so she didn't stay there alone too much. I don't know but suspect she was fearful of the sheepherders and cattlemen. I do know that on numerous occasions Mother would take us three children to stay with her. I remember the many large trees surrounding her house and how the wind howled through them. I used to be terrified that they would fall on her house and break it in. I suppose that was a result of my experience in the storm cellar during the cyclone in Oklahoma. Other than that, I liked to visit her and listen to Mother and Jessie chat about books they had read and such. They were both avid readers and at that time into the novels of Jean Stratton Porter, Zane Grey, and Harold Bell Wright.
Ollie, Joe, and the Spoiled Brat Before I leave the Sperry family for a spell, I must touch on my Aunt Ollie, Uncle Joe, and their spoiled brat, Elma. As I mentioned before, Ollie and Joe were devoted to each other. They produced seven children who included a set of twins but Elma was the only one that survived infancy. She was, therefore, the apple of their eye. I always managed to get along fairly well with her but Mary didn't like her at all and she and Ray [Raymond Lawrence Wham, son of Franklin and Mary, brother of Ruth, and Tomís father] fought consistently. She was nine years older than I and was still living in Los Angeles as late as 1988. We do not communicate often. Anyway, I used to like to visit my Aunt Ollie when we were on the dry farm for she was a gossipy, female type person who always had much to say.
A Digression - the Piglet On one occasion when I was at her house, their old sow had just given birth to piglets and had destroyed all but one. I understand that this is not uncommon among swine. The survivor was a little runt, and not too healthy so my aunt gave him (or her) to me. I wrapped him carefully in a piece of blanket but he continued to shiver - probably in shock after experiencing his mother's frenzy. My aunt suggested I put him in a shoebox and place him in the slightly warm oven, which I did. I then went out to play or at least turned my attention elsewhere. Later in the day, I returned to check on my little piglet and, lo and behold, somebody had started a roaring fire in the stove in preparation for the evening meal! Poor little pig! I've always hoped it expired before the fire was lit.
Back to the Spoiled Brat Insofar as my cousin Elma was concerned, she just did not fit in with we three children. Perhaps it was the age difference but I suspect it was because we had to share whereas she had most everything she wanted, even her own horse. This brings me to another point. When she was around 15 or so and a silly teenage girl, she and I used to gallop over the hills on her horse while she sang the popular songs of that era such as "I 'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" and of course, "Smile While I Kiss You Sad Adieu". These were both left over from the World War I years. She couldn't sing but then she wasn't inhibited by such a trifle. I even recall her singing a duet with the pastor's daughter in a Christmas program at the First Christian Church in Idaho Falls. She still couldn't sing! Of course, none of us children could sing either but we did not try, thereby avoiding embarrassment to all concerned.
Making Soap Before I leave those memories of our life on the dry farm during the summer, I should touch on a few other points. One is the soap-making day. Here, the huge black pot from the wash site would be brought to the yard behind the house. A large fire would be made under it and it would be filled with all of the fat rendered from slaughtered hogs or any other source available. To that would be cans of concentrated lye added, as well as a minimum of water and wood ashes. After the whole mess boiled (constantly stirred), it was taken from the fire and cooled. From this devil's brew would come huge chunks of lye soap skimmed off the top. This soap was all-purpose! No wonder the clothes came clean--they didn't dare do otherwise!
Making Canes Then, there were Grandpa's canes! He would take
young willow trees about 1 ½ inches in diameter and physically bend
them to make the crook of the cane. He would then wire the crook tightly
and soak the whole cane in water for days. After he had "seasoned" it for
as long as he felt appropriate, he would remove it from the water and dry
it. When fully dry, he removed the wire and presto! Instant cane sufficiently
long enough for his more than average height. I can't recall when he did
not have a cane in the making.
THE WHAM FAMILY
Now I shall leave the Sperry family for a spell and go to the Whams. I have described to you the situation of the Sperrys growing up in Salem, Illinois, contemporary with the Whams in a manner of speaking.
Mary Sperry was perhaps the most education oriented of the four elder Sperry family [sic]. She delighted in learning, read everything she could get her hands on, and was very proud that she could outspell anyone in the county. In fact, even though my father was well educated for his day, he often asked her how to spell simple words. "Onion" is one word that comes to mind for I, myself heard him ask her how to spell it. Mathematics (referred to as "ciphering" in those days) was Mary's nemesis whereas it was Dad's strong point. Mother liked literature, poetry, the written word better. She was a romantic Irish girl and he was more of a grim Scotsman. However, his sister, "Sis" Johnson must have thought it a good match for she introduced them and sort of pushed the romance along.
Uncle "Stube" Wham In speaking of my Mother's school days, I must needs mention that her favorite teacher was Steuben De Cobb Wham (that is the spelling he used) [Steuben DeKalb Wham, brother of Franklin Lafayette, and uncle of Ruth Secor]. He purportedly was named after a German Hessian soldier admired for his military prowess. Since Dad was named after Benjamin Franklin and the Marquis de Lafayette, I am willing to accept the explanation concerning Steuben's name.
I must digress here for one moment and relate an incident relative to Uncle Stube as he was called. I've told you how Christmas was nothing at the Sperry home. Well, this particular year in Mary's life, Uncle Stube was her teacher. All of the class looked forward to a treat at Christmas--she expected candy, which was a commodity almost nonexistent as far as she was concerned. Anyway, when the last day before the Christmas holiday came, Uncle Stube gave each member of the class a penny pencil. Of course, she was bitterly disappointed. So much so, in fact, that the memory lasted a lifetime. I'm sure he felt something "practical" was more appropriate but it shows his thinking process. We'll touch on that later in this chronicle.
Uncle Joe Beasley Of course, my uncle Joseph Beasley was one of the Sperry family's schoolteachers and a very fine one, too, according to my Mother. He was a man who maintained complete discipline in the school. Too bad he didn't carry that into his home with respect to my dear cousin Elma. Anyway, Ollie Sperry married Joseph and, as I told you previously, adored him until the very end.
The story is told that during Joe's teaching years in Oklahoma, he was asked to take over a school which contained a great number of full grown rowdy young men who had caused previous teachers so much difficulty that they had quit one by one. Well, Joe took the school and the first day he entered the class he placed a .38 calibre pistol on his desk, quietly remarking that he would use it should it become necessary. As the tale was related to me, it did not become necessary.
Major Tom Wham I now think we will speak of my great Uncle Tom Wham [Thomas Jefferson Wham, son of Joseph Washington Wham and Nancy Ray ], known to most persons in Salem as "Major Wham". I would not like to correct your information on the disposition of the Wham children after their parentsí death but I believe that Steuben was reared by Major Wham and Dad by Bob [Robert McMillan Wham]. At any rate, Major Tom Wham was indeed a friend to the Sperry family. He not only gave them gifts of bacon and ham from his smokehouse, he gave them far more. He opened his extensive library to them. Mother told me that it was enormous and she would avidly read book after book. In fact, it was from these borrowed books that she not only gained knowledge but could sail away from her dreary life to unknown lands and gather a store of material to be used in stories for her children. I know that her children and grandchildren reaped the benefits of these books in her many stories. I know I did.
Major Whamís Tragedy There is one tragic aspect to the library which should probably be included in this matter. Major Wham had a large family, both boys and girls. However, one by one they died of "consumption" which is tuberculosis today. The last one was a young teenage boy, Lex by name. After he became ill and began to fade quickly, he took his .22 rifle and killed himself. Mother told me that Major Wham had the undertaker patch up his head to disguise the wound. I remember. Mother saying that the Whams were such a proud family that this was a great blow, not only in losing the son but in the manner of death, so that concealing it seemed necessary. Evidently the matter got out anyway. Anyway, the whole Wham home was then fumigated but it was decided that the books in the library were the culprits in the spread of the dreaded disease. I asked Mother how come the undernourished Sperrys did not contract it from reading the books. She said that it was because they were generally read out in the sunlight. Doesn't that seem strange? Somehow I doubt the books had much to do with the matter but don't know, of course. I do not know if the books were disposed of or not. What a waste. I do believe, however, that Major Wham must have been a gallant gentleman.
The Wham Name Change Tommy, you gave me information concerning Dad's family that I did not have. Specifically, I did not know the names or sexes of the members of his immediate family. I did know that the Whams dropped the "Mc" from their name upon entering the United States for they felt it would be more American that way. I doubt the logic in that assumption and, secretly, when I was a Wham, I wished they had left it alone. Certainly, for alphabetical listings it would have been an improvement!
Anyway, we are agreed that John Mcninch Wham and Mary Jane Mumphry [sic] Wham were the parents of several children of whom Steuben, Sarah Ellen (Sis), and Franklin were three of them. Since I personally met these three, I can speak to them somewhat.
"Stube" Wham Visits Idaho Falls Steuben visited us in Idaho Falls during the time your father was in the navy. Mary and I were with he and Dad one afternoon while they traveled down memory lane in their lives. It was really very moving. Both men were well along in years yet as they talked, great tears rolled down their cheeks and even a couple of silly teenage girls like us were sad to see them.
"Parceling Out" the Wham Children The part of their conversation that caught our particular attention was the day that the uncles and aunts came to parcel out the orphaned children of John and Mary Jane Wham. I recall them saying that the cute little girls were quickly snapped up by the aunts but the matter of the disposition of the boys was a real problem. I didn't hear them say that there was any particular problem with Joseph Energy so sort of suspect the same family member who took Sarah Ellen took Joseph without too much ado. The two other boys appeared to be the problem. Listening to the two old gentlemen talk, you discovered that much discussion and argument on who would "have" to take these boys occurred. It must have been terrible. Finally, as I understood it, Uncle Bob took Franklin and Uncle Tom Steuben. Now, remember, I was not really that interested so could be mistaken. I do know that the parting of the children in the fashion that it was done must have been almost inhuman.
A Note about John McNinch Wham I might state here that it is my recollection that John McNinch Wham died of the affects of "camp diarrhea" which I suspect is akin to malaria which he contracted in his army days. I know Dad and Steuben talked about how he would have spells where he was entirely all right but then would wander away as if he were lost. Sarah Ellen [Ruth must have meant Mary Jane] was supposedly to have died when the last child was born. I guess the cause of their deaths is not too important; suffice to say they left eight young children, which were given to reluctant relatives to bring up.
About Uncle Stube Perhaps I should take this time to describe for you my Uncle Steuben. Here was a rather nicely dressed, well groomed gentleman of about 65 years of age who not seen his brother for 25 or 30 years and never had seen his two nieces. At that time his oil wells in Oklahoma were bringing him in over $100 a day after expenses. Remember, this is 1927-8 we're speaking of so the old boy had a good income. Also, he and my father had purchased land in Oklahoma and he had planted Bartlett Pears on his while Dad insisted on farming his. Anyway, Steuben made a mint from his pears; Dad finally sold out and moved to Snyder to work for the railroad. Aunt Effie [Effie Florence Morton Wham, Stubeís wife] had died and Steuben had developed a bleeding ulcer probably due to Effie's recent death. In fact, he brought with him a large bag of whole-wheat bran which he made into a gruel for each meal. Poor fellow, he was really having a time adjusting to life without Effie. In fact, she must have been quite a lady, for all of the children of the neighborhood would swarm to her house. This included the Sperry brood. Mother and Jessie used to talk about how Effie would let them jump on the beds, play hide and seek in the house, and just have fun, regardless of the cleanliness of the house. This was such a far cry from the almost hospital clean house of Margaret Sperry that her children found solace in visiting Effie. I remember Mother saying that when a neighbor dropped in to see Effie, she would move a chair over a pile of soiled clothes, even dirty diapers, and make the visitor feel that she was the most important individual who ever entered her door. Quite a gift, I would say. No wonder she was so very sadly missed.
A couple of little incidents occurred during Uncle Stube's visit with us in Idaho Falls probably should be noted:
The Wrench Story He was standing by our kitchen window which looked out on the back yard. Mother was talking to him and saw him pick up a small cute wrench which was in the window. He started to put it into his pocket; then he hesitated, shook his head and laid it down again as much as to say "I'm too old and tired to need it." Mother was very amused.
The Ice Cream Story The other occasion was when he was on the street with Mary when he noticed an ice cream cone discarded by its owner. It was melting rapidly but he reached over, picked it up, and offered it to Mary. Of course, she was mortified as girls her age are.
This was a far cry from our Irish Uncle Ezra Sperry for, although we were a little afraid of him, yet when he came to Idaho Falls, he always gave us $1.00. What wealth!
Stubeís Education Now, back to Uncle Stube. Mother told me how he went to Carbondale University in rags with his trousers held up with bailing wire. I confess, Tommy, that this sounds unlike Major Wham, who was so generous with the Sperry family.
You may be right that he was reared by Uncle Bob. Anyway, he is to be commended for his initiative in getting an education despite the odds. He and Effie had a large family but I know nothing of them.
I do know that he remarried following his visit to Idaho Falls and the folks were told the second wife and her family cleaned him out financially.
Sarah Ellen Wham Johnson In 1929 Mother, Mary, and I visited Sarah Ellen "Sis" Johnson in Wheatland, Wyoming. She was an exact replica of Dad, except female. Her husband, Pete Johnson, was very much as I suspected from tales about him--a talkative, joking individual. I was more impressed by Sis than by him. She seemed to be a genuine, simple country housewife. She was a good cook, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. Beyond that, Mary and I gave her very little consideration. Now, her married son, John, was a different thing. Here was a very handsome young farmer with a very homely wife and a small son. He was young enough to relate to the interests of Mary and I, which, needless to say, were boys. We were impressed with him. All and sundry were wheat farmers and apparently very happy. Mary and I were seventeen and sixteen, respectively, and certainly no judge of anything or anybody. We had a nice visit but nothing of consequence took place as far as I know. We did think it extremely stupid that a young man with the surname Johnson would be named "John".
Franklin Lafayette Wham This brings us to Franklin Lafayette, my father, and your grandfather. I know that he claimed November 10, 1863 as his birthdate although he was never positive that it was the exact date. I know my Mother was born on March l9, 1874, and they often spoke of the eleven years difference in their ages. They were both born in Salem, Illinois as far as I know and were married there March 5, 1895. I know they were married 50 years six days before his death at Nimbus, California, on March 11, 1945.
Reared by Bob Wham Dad was reared by my great Uncle Bob Wham [Robert McMillan Wham, son of Joseph Washington Wham and Isabella McMillan], who was a very wealthy person. I believe most of his wealth was accrued by loaning money on farms round about and should the payment on the mortgage be late or some hardship overtake the person owing the money, he would foreclose and take the property. In fact, my Aunt Ollie and Uncle Joe lost their farm in such a manner and all during their lives they detested him. I do not know the circumstances surrounding this matter but do know that dear old Uncle Bob Wham owned a good share of southern Illinois at one time. I remember Dad saying that Uncle Bob once asked him: "What will become of all of my money when I 'm gone?" (He had eleven daughters but no sons.) Dad told him that his daughters would no doubt marry worthless men and squander the money. I suspect this was something of a shock to the old boy as he was very cautious with money.
The Penury of Bob Wham My Mother told me that one week Uncle Bobís wife hired her to help with the spring cleaning which involved washing woodwork, ironing curtains, polishing floors, etc. At the end of a week, the lady gave Mother a quarter and cautioned her not to tell "papa" that she had been so generous! Withal his miserly tendencies, Uncle Bob did see that Dad got an education, sending him through Carbondale University where he graduated with honors. I do not know whether or not Dad taught school in Illinois but do know he taught several years in Phoenix, Arizona.
I might add here that when Uncle Bob did die, the girls did marry and squander the money. I might also add that even after bringing Dad up from a small boy he did not leave him anything.
The Humor of Bob Wham I know very little of Dad's early life with Uncle Bob except one incident that showed the old boy had a bit of a warped sense of humor. It seems he asked young Franklin to lift up the porch while he put a prop under it. Dad said he tried desperately to do it much to the amusement of his uncle.
A Brief Period in Arkansas Dad and Mother remained in Salem, Illinois, at least until 1901 because my brother Thomas was born there in 1901. I do not know where the other children before the last three were born. I do know that they went to Arkansas at one time with the thought of settling there but both were ill all of the time they were there due to the swampy, wet conditions and abandoned the idea of any permanent residence. Mother detested Arkansas with a vengeance.
Rush Springs, Oklahoma We do know that your father [Raymond Lawrence Wham] was born in Rush Springs, Oklahoma, in 1910 so can reasonably assume they settled there somewhat before then. I do know that their home was a typical "soddy" with bare earthen floors. Certainly, far from adequate for a growing family. Since Paul, Helen (the baby girl that died shortly after birth), Muriel, and Thomas were natives of Illinois, I think we can assume with some degree of accuracy that the four little boys that were born between Thomas and your dad were born in Oklahoma. In this regard, I've often wondered why your father, Mary, and I managed to survive whereas the others died. Beats me.
Grim Life in Rush Springs I know very little about their life in Rush Springs except to say that it must have been very grim. Dad tried to earn a living on the farm with little success. Mother didn't often talk about it except to say that in order for them to exist, she finally began to teach school. She reflected sometimes on the poverty, privation, and struggle in those years with the unwanted pregnancies. Both she and Dad must have worked desperately hard trying to support themselves and the children. I do not believe that it is within our power of comprehension to realize the actual conditions.
The Deaths of Franklin and Bruce My sister Muriel used to speak about those years sometimes, especially about the babies who were born and died so soon. She attributed their deaths in some cases to the way my Mother helped on the farm lifting, digging, etc., to help Dad. Two of the babies were named - Franklin and Bruce; the other two died before they received a name. Muriel recounted how ill Franklin was with spinal meningitis. The doctor was called but he could do little and the little boy died with his spine horribly twisted. Mother was sitting by his bed and at the moment of death, threw herself on the bed sobbing. The neighbors made the casket as was the custom in those days but Mother helped prepare the body for burial. God, Tommy, those were cruel days!
Bruce is the beautiful little boy you see on Mother's lap in the picture enclosed. He was deathly ill when the picture was taken and died of lung fever (pneumonia) shortly after. Mother loved him so! For years one of her priceless possessions was a golden curl of his hair.
Tom Survives Typhoid Fever Thomas, too, had a narrow scrape with death during those Rush Spring days. He contracted typhoid fever and hung between life and death for days. Mother told how she watched him grow weaker and weaker from the high fever which is a part of this dread disease. I doubt that anyone considered that their water supply or the cows they milked might be contaminated. In any event, she said she felt in her heart that his life, too, would be forfeited. Then, somehow a miracle happened and he recovered. Also, none of the rest of the family contracted it although it was considered highly contagious. The picture enclosed shows Tom shortly after his recovery.
A Family Picture As a matter of fact, let us pause here a moment and consider the ages of the persons in the picture. Since Bruce was about a year and a half old, and your father born in 1910, I assume the picture was taken about 1908 or 1909, give or take a year. Since Muriel (the girl standing between Grandma and Mother) was born in 1899, she would be ten or eleven though she looks much older. Using this same reasoning, Tom would have been eight or nine, and Elma Beasley (the girl with the doll) would be four or five. You will note the gentleman in the derby hat at the right and the lady seated looking up at him with adoration--well, he is my Uncle Joe and she my Aunt Ollie. The elderly bearded gentleman is Grandpa and if we consider the picture to have been taken in 1908, he was 58. The little woman behind Elma is my Grandma, probably 55 or so as she was slightly younger than Grandpa. Uncle Ezra is seated in front of Grandpa. He was two years younger than my Mother which would have made him 32 in 1908. Aunt Jessie is seated next to him making a rather sour face. Since she was born in 1890, she would have been 18. Mother was born in l874; she was 34 in 1908. I think they all look older but photography was very poor in those days, you know. I was told that before this picture was taken, my Uncle Ezra told the photographer that Aunt Jessie was his wife and it irritated her. I think perhaps that was true for she certainly looks distressed. I have the original of this picture in a collage of photos of my own family hanging in my bedroom and each day as I look at it, I truly feel that I was blessed to have had the opportunity to grow up as a member of this group! As a matter of fact, in the 76 years that I have lived, I have found only two other women that could compare with my Mother in my estimation - your grandmother Morrison and my daughter-in-lawís little Italian grandmother, Mary Enea. While they came from different backgrounds, religious beliefs, and in Mary Enea's case a different country, they were all fine, upright women who gave everything they had to their families and their homes. I grew close to your grandmother before her death and had nothing but profound respect for her. Mary Enea is 91 now but still bright-eyed, living alone in her home in San Francisco occupied by she and her husband so many years. She is still facing each day with fortitude and determination to live the good life unselfishly with a true heart. I love her very much. When I think of the hard work, self-denial, and sacrifices these three have made, I can tell you I feel very humble!
The "Sand Hills" Well, now back to life in Rush Springs or, as Dad called it "the sand hills". Mother often told me that the only thing that sustained her during those terrible years was her deep and abiding faith. She was able to take the children to the First Christian Church in their vicinity. This furnished her much comfort and solace, I am sure, for she was very devout. I once heard Paul remark about his religious training at home and in the little church, both of which were dear to him.
Speaking of Paul, you will note he is not in the picture. At the time it was taken, he must have been a lad of fourteen or fifteen. Since he married Leona E. Terrell, his first wife, at sixteen, I suspect he had no time for family affairs at this time but was "courting" his future bride. In later life, Paul used to speak of the horrible conditions on the farm in Rush Springs and the sacrifices and heartbreak Mother endured there. He never spoke much about Dad except to say that he worked from morning to night but that it all proved futile, as Dad was just not cut out to be a farmer. I guess Dad himself came to grips with this fact for shortly after I was born they moved to Snyder.
The Birth of Ray, Mary, and Ruth Of course, I have no firsthand memory of Rush Springs. I do know that your dad was born in 1910; Mary in 1911; and I in 1913, the last of the brood. These three children so close together must have been, in itself, a painful proposition. Dad often told me that I was born In the middle of a severe blizzard, so severe that the doctor did not arrive until I was born. When one considers all of the sterile hospitals, prenatal care, painkillers, etc. now used in childbirth, one shudders to think of those pioneer mothers who endured such hardships. My sister Muriel officiated as midwife which in itself seems a bit outrageous for a girl fourteen or so. I suppose those things were common though, and she certainly would have been better qualified than most for she was always interested in anything pertaining to disease, medicine, etc. I know Mother told me how they had a hound dog at that time that died quite suddenly without apparent cause. Muriel wanted to find out what killed it so actually dissected the corpse. It had killed a chicken, eating flesh, feathers and all and the feathers had punctured its intestines. Anyway, it is very unusual for a girl to be interested in that kind of thing. I think with education and training she would have become a fine surgeon for all of her life she had a great interest in such things.
Paulís First Marriage As I told you before, I have no firsthand knowledge of Rush Springs but everything is hearsay. My brother Paul, a handsome young blade of sixteen, became very much in love with Leona Styce, the daughter of a typical Oklahoma sharecropper. As I understand it, Dad had strenuously voiced his complete disapproval of the affair. Of course, with the usual determination of a Wham, Paul ignored Dad's protestations and warnings, and ran away to Texas with the young lady. He left Dad's horse and buggy at a livery stable in Rush Springs with a note "I have run away with the woman I love." In later years Mother laughed at his stupidity but at the time, Iím sure she was brokenhearted. The upshot of the whole affair was that he returned home, married Leona [Terrell], and two children later they were divorced. Actually, their older child, Franklin, was only eight months younger than his Aunt Ruth!
Paul would not see either of the children again until they were grown and visited him in Sacramento. Frank used to write after that but died of a heart attack as a very young person. The girl met us but I do not think she wrote to Paul. At least I do not know that they heard from her after her visit.
Snyder, Oklahoma The folks moved to Snyder when I was very, very young. However, I do have a few recollections of things that happened after the move.
The Merry-Go-Round I remember vividly an occasion when Muriel was going to take us children to a merry-go-round. Mother cleaned us up preparatory to this treat but, alas, I spilt ink on myself so didn't get to go. For a long time thereafter when your dad and Mary would speak of the fun they had, I could not even envision this wonderful thing called a merry-go-round. I might add that we had been in Idaho Falls many years before I ever found out!
Rock Throwing I recall a time when Ray was throwing rocks at the back of an old chair which Mary was holding for him - he missed the chair and hit her in the head. Mother calmly got a pan of cold water, washed the blood away, and they were soon on their merry way. I can still see the basin of blood! Mary and I have discussed this since and agree that she didn't exercise too much intelligence in this matter.
Elbert Jackson Stevenson It was during our days in Snyder that Muriel commenced to work as a salad maker at the Harvey House. There she met Elbert Jackson Stevenson, a cook there. He was a man 23 years her senior and Dad disapproved of him totally, voicing his disapproval strenuously. (He hadn't learned anything by his experience with Paul.) I remember little about Jack, as he was called, except that he wore black and white button shoes. I can still remember him sitting in our house with those fascinating shoes on.
Cyclone! The cyclone [in 1916] was a very traumatic ordeal for the folks, as you can well imagine. Here, they had just moved away from poverty and desperation in Rush Springs to a reasonably decent house in Snyder, Dad was working, Muriel was employed and I suspect they felt that things were improving. Then, comes the cyclone which destroyed the house, their personal possessions, and the family was homeless. As small as I was1 I still remember Dad coming home from work and cursing loudly when he surveyed the damage.
My most vivid memory of the cyclone is that, following our ordeal, we found refuge in a different storm cellar - this time a cement one shaped like a Quonset hut. I remember thinking "if this one falls down, it will mash us." To this day, I do not like to be in a place where there is not a window and a clear way out.
Your father has probably spoken to you many times about the cyclone but I will recount to you once more the version that Mother gave to me. It seems she was working in the house when she noticed the black clouds gathering. She sent Tom down to the storm cellar with we three younger children. Within a short time, she heard Tom and your father quarre1ing so she decided to go down and stop the fight. She had no sooner entered the cellar, than the cyclone reached the house utterly destroying it and ripped the roof off of the cellar, pouring earth by the ton on the occupants. Mother and Tom were standing so were only buried partially but we children were on the bed and buried completely. Well, anyway Tom and Mother quickly dug us out but I recall the dirt in my mouth after the ordeal. Pretty scary when you think of it. I think, though, the night in the cement storm cellar was worse for me.
I do remember the chickens walking around minus most of their feathers and the dog lying on the ground refusing to eat his food. I seem to recall that his back had been broken and he had to be destroyed. I also remember Dad telling Mother that the big steel roundhouse where they turned the huge locomotives had been turned up on edge. Funny how little points stick in a head, isn't it?
When you consider that at the time of the 1916 cyclone, Mother was 42 and Dad 53, it becomes even more of a tragedy to lose everything they possessed and to face a life of rebuilding with three small children. At that time of life people normally have arrived at a point where they can begin to relax and consider the struggle somewhat behind them. My hat is off to the folks for their fortitude when they faced such a bleak future!
Immigration to Idaho I do not really know the exact progression of the immigration to Idaho but think that Uncle Ezra, Aunt Jessie, Grandpa, and Grandma moved there first. I do know that they bought a place on Horse Island, a small island about five miles from Aberdeen, Idaho. They would live here many years until the island was inundated in 1927 by the American Falls Dam. Aunt Jessie would teach school there and Uncle Ezra would work with railroad gangs doing finish carpentry work on the fine wood in Pullman trains. Grandma would keep house for the group; Grandpa would cut the firewood. In that cold climate I suspect they used a great deal of wood although they might have burned coal for winter heat.
Paul Moves I believe my brother, Paul, and his family were the next to leave Oklahoma. I know they settled in American Falls where Paul took a job in the baggage department of the Union Pacific Railroad. He would continue there until he went into the Marine Corps early on. At the time of his enlistment his family returned to Oklahoma. He and Leona would be divorced shortly thereafter. He would serve his military life in Russia and I often heard him speak of the bitter cold there.
Franklin Moves I sort of think Dad transferred from the Oklahoma railroad job to Idaho. However, I am not certain about this. I do know that Mother and we three children traveled on a railroad pass which leads me to believe that he did not completely sever his railroad service by the move. I know we first went to Grandma's place and later to Idaho Falls where Dad had rented a house close to the railroad station. The landlord of this place was Mr. Lindsay so we always referred to the place as "the Lindsay house."
Muriel Stays in Snyder Before I give you some of my recollections of life in the Lindsay house, let me digress to say that Muriel remained in Snyder working at the Harvey House. I believe that leaving her there was a great mistake but at that time, I am sure, she did not want to leave Jack, she was employed, and persuaded them that leaving her was best. Anyway, the next time we saw her was in 1917 when she came home to announce that she and Jack were to be married. They were subsequently married in Nampa, Idaho, where their first son was born. I vividly recall her brief visit prior to her marriage for she was wearing a hat with cherries on the brim. I thought it was absolutely fascinating! Besides they looked good enough to eat. It is interesting to note that my mind ran to food even then.
The Kindness of Brother Tom My brother Tom took a job as a sheepherder soon after our move to Idaho. I well remember his short visits home as highlights of our existence during the Lindsay house years. He would always bring with him coconut macaroons and raisin pies. They were a real treat for us! I never see either in a bakery without thinking of Tom. I also remember the Tinkertoy set he had and how he would build fascinating things with it. I guess Ray, Mary and I thought he was the very best brother anybody ever had! Then one day he came home, dressed me, and took me to see "The Birth of a Nation" which was, you undoubtedly know, the father of motion pictures. I remember little about it except the scene where the Negro fellow chases the white girl and her mother. His face came closer and closer and it was terrifying to me! I thought about it fearfully for a long time. I 'm telling you these tidbits for I think they describe the generosity and kindness of a sixteen-year-old boy to his siblings. They seldom come that way.
Ruthís Schooling I also recall being taught to read during our years in the Lindsay house. My first book was Rumplestilskins (spelling?). I was very proud when I could finally read it out loud. Mary and Ray began school, leaving me very lonely as you may well guess. So much so, that I was enrolled in the first grade when I was five. I guess my progress was satisfactory for I was passed on to the second at the end of the year.
The Seed House I do recall that during this period at some point Mother commenced work at the Roger Brothers Seed House, where she would work many years picking rock, dirt, and bad seeds from peas and beans. It was very tedious work but she soon excelled and became their star picker. The hours were long, the pay low, but I guess the folks were desperate to augment Dadís income so they could recuperate their losses. I do know that we children would come home from school to an empty house but I think the good Lord had his arm about us for we did not meet with mishap.
Homesteading in Idaho I do not actually know when the Sperrys and Dad decided to homestead the property in the hills but since Tom did go with us one or two summers, it must have been 1917. I know that Mother later told me that she would never have consented to it had she known Tom would die in 1918 and she would have to face the summers in the hills alone with we three small children.
The House on Sixth Street During this time at some point, we moved from the Lindsay house to a house situated at the bottom of a somewhat steep hill. I remember this hill was excellent for sleds, especially the trips down. The house on Sixth Street was a four-room structure. Two rooms were white brick and I suspect the back rooms "built on" as an afterthought. Behind it was a corral for a cow we would later acquire, the toilet, and a stagnant pool of water. I have often wondered how it was possible to live around this water without becom-ing ill but somehow we didn't.
Mother and Dad I have many recollections of that small house on Sixth Street. Probably living in a home poorly furnished, Mother working, the neighborhood, etc., should add up to a miserable existence. However, I never did really feel deprived or unhappy. Somehow, any trials or tribulations of the day were entirely erased once Mother came home. I can never remember any occasion where her devotion and love did not protect us from the world and its problems. She was truly a remarkable woman and Dad was constant, never losing time at work despite the fact that his asthma had now began to bother him a great deal. In fact, Tommy, I never recall seeing the poor man draw a really free breath without pain. He was an austere, stoical, and had little understanding of children and young people but withal, he did his level best to provide for his family. He so often would tell us: "your Dad is always right." I used to utterly ignore that remark but now that I am older, I have come to realize that most often he was!
Thanksgiving Anyway, back to our days on Sixth Street. I distinctly remember a Thanksgiving there. Mother made some pumpkin pies which she set aside to cool. They looked so good that I put my finger in one, burning it. I was admonished for the deed but the sore finger was my only punishment.
Christmas Christmas was a real big thing for us. Mother told me that because of the bleak Christmases she had as a child, she was determined that we should always have a gift. Accordingly, each year Mary and I would receive a doll and Ray a bee-bee gun or appropriate boy-type gift and there was always candy.
Mary and I would play with our dolls all year until their heads fell off and then we would play with the bodies. No girls ever loved their dolls more! On one occasion, an old lady who worked at the seed house with Mother gave us her child's outgrown buggy. We were then in seventh heaven. I still have a picture of the two of us with it.
Church About this time Mother started us in Sunday school at the First Christian Church close to us. Here, we would be in the Christmas program and then, the glorious sound of sleigh bells in the snow and a wonderful red clad Santa would enter the church. He would give us candy and either a large orange or apple. What a treat! What a thrill for us!
As a matter of fact, this church and the wonderful people in it did much to fill our life. We were always in the programs which made us feel important and certainly added to our self-esteem. During a revival meeting at the church when we were about 8, 9, and 10 we all went forward and accepted Jesus Christ as our personal savior and were later baptized. I've never strayed from that belief and thank God for the influence exercised on us at that time. We each had our own copy of the Holy Bible and were proud to memorize verses each week. I sometimes think that when your life is one of privation in surroundings less than affluent, things of the spirit become more important and are not forgotten in the shuffle.
Tom the "Cowboy" and Candy During the early years in this new location, Tom would come home occasionally. By this time, he had purchased himself a horse, buggy, saddle, chaps, gauntlets, neckerchief, and cowboy hat. I suspect he really felt that he "had arrived". Withal, he didn't forget to bring treats to we children. We used to have a large tin box set before the window with a view of the steep hill that Dad would have to descend to get home. We would all be eating the candy and Tom would see Dad coming and he would cry "cage." We would put the candy in the box as Dad considered such things "folly" and might chide Tom for such reckless spending.
Ollie and Joe Move to Idaho Falls About this time, my Aunt Ollie and Uncle Joe moved to Idaho Falls and she was quite often a visitor. She had rented a large house on First Street where she opened a "birthing center." Rather than working at the seed house (she tried it) she preferred staying at home, taking in ladies during the birth of their babies, and their convalescence period of ten or twelve days following birth. I expect she was a master hand at this type endeavor, quite different than my Mother who preferred to work out. I mention Aunt Ollie for she was helpful many times during those trying years.
Another Tragedy - the Death of Tom You have undoubtedly read or heard of the influenza epidemic of 1917-1918. I believe I read that more Americans died of the disease than were killed in World War I. In any event, we did not escape. Dad, Ray, and Ezra had it during a trip to the dry farm. As I understand it, they had nothing to treat the lung congestion with except kerosene added to bacon fat. They did rub this on their chests and all three survived. Tom contracted it during a sheepherding time and when he finally got back home, he was very, very ill. He recovered slightly. I remember that he got out of bed to sit by the stove; Dad saw him and I can hear him tell Tom: "Get back into bed, boy, or you will die." This memory is indelible in my mind. He did go back to bed but a few days later he died anyway. On November 11, 1918, Armistice Day, Tom died with pneumonia following the flu. He did hear the whistles, bells, etc., celebrating the peace and said to Mother: "This little boy won't have to go to war after all, will he?"
Mother had lost five other children but she told me that none of the deaths hit her so hard as Tom's. She often reflected why he would live through the dread typhoid fever a few years before only to die at 17 years of age a little later.
I recall my Aunt Ollie helping Mother bath the body, dress him in his long underwear, etc., before the undertaker came. I was only five but I felt the terrible loss very keenly. The funeral was very sad, too, and fearful in a way. Because of the contagion involved, he was buried immediately. Mary and I were talking about it very recently reflecting on how the shroud he was dressed in took away the resemblance to our beloved big brother. For days after, the house was so empty. Muriel came home and Mother gave her Tom's hat, gauntlets, and neckerchief. [Missing text] carried around with her for years. Dad sold the horse, buggy, chaps, and saddle and purchased a monument for his grave. As late as 1975 I placed flowers on his grave. I think he was a very fine young man and surely, a most kind and generous brother.
Fractions, Apples, and Dad I've said a good deal about my Mother but I must now tell you of an incident with Dad which lasted a lifetime for me. When I was in the third grade, I was first introduced to fractions. I remarked to Dad that I found it confusing that ½ was larger than ¼ ; ¼ larger than 1/8 and so on, because the lower figure was larger in the instance of the 4th and the 8th. He just reached over into a barrel, took out an apple and his sharp pocketknife. He then cut the apple in two pieces explaining to me that each piece was a half of the whole; he then cut each piece in half again, explaining the four smaller pieces were fourths; he did this on down to l6ths until I definitely saw the light. Never again was I boggled down with fractions. In fact, at any time that I was puzzled by mathematics he could quickly set me right. I guess that is the reason that the study of figures always fascinated me--still does, as a matter of fact, for they never lie.
Summers at the Dry Farm We continued to spend summers in the hills during those years. Uncle Ezra would pick us up in his big wagon each spring around May and bring us home in the fall.
Getting to the Dry Farm These trips were really bad. It took a couple of days to reach the place forty miles away. The roads would be very muddy and uphill. The four-horse team really had to pull hard to make it up some of the really steep ones. The wagon bed was filled with provisions for the whole summer and covered by a large canvas tarp. If it was excessively cold we three children would get under it, too. I remember on one occasion the four horses just couldn't pull the load up the hill. Finally, a fellow traveler came by, stopping to see if he could help. He hitched his team of four in front of Uncle Ezraís and together they pulled the load. This kind fellow turned out to be John Palare, the Italian fellow who Aunt Jessie later grew to love. He was a next door neighbor of the Sperrys and a dear friend. I should also add that on the same night that he "rescued" us, he made us the first hot chocolate that we had ever had. I believe this may not have been a service for I've never lost my love of chocolate in any form. Later, he also introduced to Italian pasta and over the years that, too, has become a favorite with me. Anyway, he was very kind to us.
Life at the Dry Farm Our house on the dry farm was a one-room place built by Uncle Ezra. I do not recall the furnishings except that we had bunk beds for us children, no doubt also made by Uncle Ezra. We didn't have any fancy food but it was very nourishing I guess. We had our own cow and lots of fresh milk and butter. My clearest recollection of the place was Mother reading to us after we went early to bed. I think the early hour was probably because she was fearful most of the time and secretly felt safer once we were in bed. At any rate, she read each night until she was hoarse. "Miss Minerva and William Green Hill," "Helen's Babies," "The Leatherstocking Tales," "The Light in the Clearing" are a few stories that come to mind. When she ran out of books to read, she could tell stories better than any person I have ever known, drawing on the resources of those wonderful books of Major Wham. As a matter of fact, there was a small boy in Helen's Babies called Toddie-One-Boy-Day who continually wanted to look at his uncle's watch to "see the wheels go around" who must have resembled your father somewhat. At any rate, all and sundry began to call him "Todd" and for years he would be known exclusively by that name. I do not think he emerged as "Raymond" until he returned from the navy.
I suspect that life in the hills must have been very difficult for my Mother in many ways. She did not have any transportation except through the generosity of Uncle Joe or Uncle Ezra which in itself must have been not only inconvenient but also embarrassing for she was a proud soul who disliked being "beholden" to anyone. Also, the roving herds of bellowing cattle who would brush up against the house at night were terrifying. I suppose also that she had some fear of the cowboys and sheepherders attending the animals. Of course, she had expected to have Tom with her which certainly would have given her peace of mind to say the least.
Franklin was in Idaho Falls You will note that I haven't mentioned Dad much in this time frame. Well, he remained in Idaho Falls working to finance the expeditions to the dry farm. I know for a fact, that often he would loan money to Uncle Ezra for feed for the livestock, building materials, etc. He was always repaid but nonetheless, he was their "resource" for many years. Uncle Ezra came to Nimbus when Dad died and as he and I were looking at Dad in his coffin at the Miller Funeral Home in Folsom, he said to me very sorrowfully "There lies the best friend any man ever had."
Another Tragic Death During the years we lived on Sixth Street we not only lost our dear brother Tom but were to be visited once more by the Grim Reaper. This time it was my sister Muriel's adorable little fifteen-month-old baby, Kenneth Lee Stevenson. By this time she and her husband and their two boys had moved to Idaho Falls where Jack had taken a job as chief cook at the Grand Cafe. They rented a house next door to us which made it possible for us to learn to love their baby deeply. Our surroundings were bleak, as I have explained to you, so this sweet little boy became dear to all of us. The older boy (known to you as "Steve") was not impressive even then although very quick and smart. However, Kenneth was different! He was the darling of all of our hearts! Well, my sister Muriel was doing her washing in her kitchen. Her white clothes were boiling and would be taken out of the boiler and be plunged into a tub of cold "blued" water to whiten them. She had poured the Mrs. Stewart's Bluing into a cup preparatory to preparing the blued water. Alas, she turned her attentions elsewhere and little Kenneth climbed up on a chair, got the cup of bluing, and drank it. Of course she called the doctor but in those days I presume pumping the stomach was unheard of and two days later the child died, his stomach and intestines completely eaten up by the bluing. It was horrifying! The baby gone and my sister completely distraught, blaming herself! The funeral was a nightmare! All of the details stand out in my mind vividly. He was laid to rest by my brother Tom but no marker ever placed on his grave.
Murielís Family Muriel and her family soon moved from Sixth Street to a house on Shoup Avenue. I am sure that Jack felt that new surroundings might alleviate Muriel's grief. He also believed that another baby would help. Accordingly, on August 31, 1923, just a year after Kenneth's death, Muriel gave birth to a beautiful little boy, Robert Louis Stevenson, for the famous author.
Robert Louis Stevenson This child would become a blessing to his family and one of the finest human beings I've ever met. He was born with clubfeet which were straightened by the Shrine Hospital, Salt Lake City. With dogged determination reminiscent of Mother during the Rush Springs days, Muriel would take the boy to the hospital periodically to have the heavy casts changed until the job was done. I used to spend many weekends at Murielís and Jackís and I really feel that Bob was one of the most heroic children I've ever known. Despite the weight of the casts, he learned to walk with them. I remember one Christmas when he was about three, I asked him what he wanted Santa to bring him and his quick reply was "A doll with shoes on." Poor little boy - it would be some time before he could wear shoes. Nevertheless, the time did come and he was so proud!
I believe Bob was one of the Americans to which President Roosevelt referred when he said "This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny." He was destined to suffer through the Great Depression in East Texas, serve in the U. S. Infantry during World War II where he would be seriously wounded in the South Pacific, spend an extensive period of time in Letterman Hospital, come home to put himself through Sacramento State College, and finally, hold a very responsible position for the State of California. He served in the army with distinction, receiving a Purple Heart for his valor.
Aside from all of this, he is a giant of a man. Never in my lifetime have I heard him complain. I am sure there have been many times when he was discouraged but it was locked up within him. I'm used to people complaining vigorously so this part of Bob's nature is mind-boggling to me!
Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting with both he and his sister Virginia at Aunt Mary's home. We had a delightful evening during which we reminisced on our lives in Idaho Falls. Bob indicated that Dad's influence on him was perhaps the strongest force in his life. I'm sure that Dad's standards of honesty, integrity, and determination are all embodied in him. I know that my father would be very proud of him.
Life in a New House Shortly after Kenneth's death, the folks purchased a house at 221 Sixteenth Street. We moved there prior to Bob's birth so I judge early in 1923. I know we all attended the Eastside Elementary School which was just a few blocks from the house. Here your father became captain of the baseball team but I do not recall that he demonstrated much interest in his academic pursuits! When you follow an older brother and sister in school, much is expected of you. Accordingly, my sixth grade teacher used to remind me about Ray's marvelous grasp of American history. If she thought she could arouse a competitive spirit in me, she was right. I think I determined right then and there that I would not allow either Ray or Mary to surpass me and I never did. Strange what a few words from a teacher can make. I believe the sixth grade was Ray's final year in the Idaho Falls public schools and that the next year was in Horse Island going to Aunt Jessie's school. I recall hearing him say that he learned more there than during all his previous years.
A "Model T" I should mention that at some juncture in here, Dad bought a secondhand Ford touring car. I don't even remember the year. My memory only serves me to the time that a neighbor and Dad erected a garage to hold it. Now I do not believe the neighbor was much of a carpenter as the garage doors never did quite fit. I recollect that we kids were thrilled with the prospects of the automobile. However, as I look back, the thing was never the object of much pleasure. It was a Model "T" and had to be cranked vigorously to get it started. Here Dad and your father [Raymond Lawrence Wham] would battle almost to the point of bloodshed. Dad didn't know anything about the car; your dad was just a youth, probably disinterested in the whole affair. Anyway, I remember the bitter moments over it. Dad finally drove it to and from work in the summer but it certainly was never used for recreation.
The Death of Marion Sperry On June 24, 1924, Grandpa Sperry died up at the dry farm. I remember that both mother and my Aunt Ollie went up to help Ezra during the final illness. Otherwise, I just remember the funeral and his burial beside Tom and Kenneth. He had been crippled for so many years that to most of the family it seemed like a release. I felt badly, though, for he had always been good to me. His grave, too, is unmarked.
Elma Gets Married Just as a sideline to this, Aunt Ollie and Uncle Joe were now living at Bone, Idaho, where he taught school. Here, Elma would shortly meet and marry her first husband, Ira Sant, a Mormon lad. This caused quite a furor in the family at the time. She would divorce him one baby later.
Ray Joins the Navy I do not know exactly when your father enlisted in the navy but believe it must have been about 1925. I'm not at all sure about why he enlisted but now that I consider it more closely, I suggest that it may have been a rebellious anti-establishment demonstration. He did have a rather tough life, however, for dad was certainly anything but a patient, understanding father so far as Ray was concerned.
Mary and I were better off than Ray for dad had a definite preference for girls. She and I would play quietly with our dolls or paper dolls until Ray came on the scene. It just did not seem that three could get along! We'd soon be in an upheaval if we tried it.
Life on Sixteenth Street During those early years on Sixteenth Street things began to improve some for Mother. She got an old electric washer and although it shuddered vigorously when she used it, nevertheless it helped her with the wash. [A note from Glenn Secor-my Grandmother, Mary, claimed in later years that the washing machine was the greatest invention ever made. Contrast this with pagers, cell phones, and the Internet!] Ray was able to keep it running. Also, she now had an electric iron which was quite an improvement from the old iron flat irons that had to be heated on a hot stove, regardless of the weather. She was still very much overworked, however. I vividly recall how she left for work before daylight, returned after dark, fixed the evening meal, listened to any problems we might have, and finally to bed absolutely exhausted. Of course weekends she cleaned the house, did the large family washing and ironing, and baked bread for the following week. What a schedule! I remember Mary and I discussing the matter, asking each other "Why do you suppose she does all of that?" I might quickly add here that it never did occur to either of us that we might possibly help with the load. In our defense, I must add that mother many times expressed the philosophy that she did not want us to be burdened with housework during our adolescence because soon enough we would have to face the realities of life. Perhaps she recalled the days when she fled to the orchard to escape helping her mother! At any rate, Mary and I took full advantage of her liberal viewpoint, you may be sure!
Ruth and Murielís Tribe My sister Muriel exercised a great deal of influence on my own life during those years. I enjoyed many weekends at her house during which she very patiently taught me to crochet and embroider. She was a magnificent seamstress, often making our school dresses. Some of the prettiest dresses we ever had were made by her. I was very close to both Steve and Bob during that time and you might say we grew up contemporary. Muriel, Jack, and I spent many happy evenings playing "rummy" and eating the delicious peanut butter fudge she made. I have many fond memories of her sharp wit and keen mind which made these such fun times.
Ruth and Her Sister, Mary Of course, Mary was the most precious person in my life. I do not have the words to tell you what she has meant to me during the long life we've traveled together. We were inseparable as children, shared our hopes and dreams as young adults, married brothers [Ruth - Kenneth Orville Secor, and Mary - Harry Edmund Secor], and remained best friends all of our days. I often think that having her as a sister was more precious than all of King Solomon's wealth. Even now, I call her or she calls me and we "chat" about once a week. I get up to see her when I can and we lapse back into that old careless familiar relationship which has endured through the years. I thank God for her!
"Sound the H" This story would not be complete without mentioning an incident about our name. Dad was very proud of the Wham name and found it intolerable for it to be mispronounced. He taught Mary and I to always tell people to "Sound the H" and put "two dots above the A." Well, we followed his instructions in this matter faithfully. In fact, there was a gentleman who operated a small corner grocery store which we patronized often for small purchases. His name was Mr. Pearson, a rather pleasant soul as I recall, who listened carefully to our detailed instructions about proper pronunciation of Wham. I believe he finally mastered it. Anyway, several years later Mary and I were shopping at a Safeway store in Sacramento, California. We were carefully deliberating on the value of some item when all of a sudden a voice came from behind us, saying "Well, if it isn't the ĎSound the H, two dots above the Aí girls." We must have made an indelible impression on Mr. Pearson in Idaho! You know something, Tommy, I can't remember that we had any particular problem with the name during the years in Idaho.
The Carnegie Library and School The little Carnegie library in Idaho Falls was perhaps the most important part of our lives for we would take out books by the numbers to read. We grew up with the "Little Colonel" series; "Ruth Fielding"; the fairy stores of the brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson; you name it - we read it. I remember making book reports in the seventh grade on Victor Hugo's Les Miserables and Alexander Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo so we must have read far beyond our years. The library was a saving grace surely and later, when I graduated from high school I would be offered a permanent position there. I turned it down because I was already employed at the Idaho Community Oil Company. I've often wondered what kind of a life I might have had if I had taken the library job. That little two-letter word "if" again!
I believe that Ray was in the navy when I began the seventh grade - this would be "junior high" to you. Of course, Mary had preceded me in this grade and made a very good record. She had won a fountain pen for a science essay; had won a set of poetry books for her delivery of a speech; and recognition for an essay on "Why Idaho Should Build a Memorial to Its Soldier Dead." She was an artistic, talented individual in the fields of writing and speaking. I, on the other hand, was more interested in mathematics and less glamorous pursuits. Perhaps it was these differences that made us such a good pair. I know I was fiercely proud of her accomplishments!
Ollie and Joe in American Falls There is little to note about these years. Aunt Ollie and Uncle Joe moved to American Falls when they commenced the big dam there. He had suffered a stroke which left him incapable of teaching. With her usual resourcefulness, but little or no money, she purchased a large house, furnished it, and began to take in boarders of the men working at the dam site. I helped her during my fourteenth summer and at that time she had 40 regulars. Joe kept the books. Elma would divorce her husband, return home to assist Ollie, and later marry one of the boarders. She had two children during this marriage. She eventually divorced him and moved to Los Angeles where she now lives if she is still alive.
Ezra, Jessie, and Grandma Sperry At the time the American Falls dam was built, Uncle Ezra and Aunt Jessie and company had to sell their place on Horse Island and move to American Falls. As the clipping indicates, the island was inundated. Aunt Jessie's health was very poor during this time but she taught school there for several years. Ezra, of course, continued to work for the railroad until they finally bought the farm near Eagle, Idaho. Jessie and Grandma would die there in 1940 and Ezra would marry and move to California to work in the war industry during World War II. After the war he and his wife would buy a peach farm in the Yuba City area. The farm was flooded in 1955 during which time Uncle Ezra suffered a fatal stroke. Anna later fixed up the flood damage and sold out to move to Oregon.
Mary and Ruth in High School Mary and I grew up and attended high school without any particular events of note. She took a college preparatory course at the direction of Aunt Jessie. I have often wondered why such a course of study would be recommended for her when there was no possibility of her ever going to college. Beats me. Perhaps her aptitude for English, public speaking, and drama persuaded Aunt Jessie that this course would be best. Myself, being a more practical nature, took entirely commercial courses. I enjoyed them and was able to excel in them because they were so well suited to my particular type of disposition. I also did well in English, American History, economics, etc., but my real forte was shorthand, bookkeeping, accounting, and typing.
Ruthís Typing I must digress here and speak about the typing. When I first began to take it, my progress was less than that expected by the teacher. One day she asked me to stay after class to discuss the matter. She then explained to me that she had reviewed all of my commercial course grades, found them to be excellent, and so she began to carefully observe my typing. To make a long story short, she concluded that the fact we had to type to music was my problem. I was too busy trying to figure out the beat of the music, that it slowed me down. She told me from that day on to utterly disregard the music and type at my own pace. This was just what I needed for I soon typed faster and more accurately than the others. She was a marvelous teacher and I will never forget her. She used to tell us that for every hour in the classroom, we must devote an hour toward shorthand and typing. It certainly paid off.
At the point where I was dragging a bit in the typing, I went home one day to find dear old Dad had purchased a secondhand Underwood manual typewriter for me. I was really touched with his thoughtfulness. It really made the difference, too.
Time Passes Of course during these years Mary and I had the usual number of romances, broken hearts, etc., that beset teenage girls. We made no serious entanglements, somehow managing to survive the pitfalls of youth.
Your dad returned from the navy sometime in my senior year and cut quite a dashing figure, as I remember. Anyway, a number of girls suddenly became quite "tight" with Mary and I in order to secure an introduction to him. He used to squire Mary and I around a bit and I remember we were quite proud of him. Poor fellow, he tried to find work but the Depression was setting in and jobs almost impossible to get.
Mary had returned to high school to take a post-graduate course concurrent with my senior year so we finished school at the same time. She had picked up typing and shorthand and now had knowledge which she could "sell" rather than her previous course of study.
Graduation and Jobs I graduated from high school May 20, 1930, just when the country was tottering on the brink of the Big Depression. Both Mary and I immediately began a course in library science at the Carnegie library that had been our lifeline during our youth. Two positions were to become available at the end of the course -- one was to be for me so they could utilize my typing and bookkeeping skills. The other would be for the best pupil during the course. I don't know how it would have turned out for I took a job with the Idaho Community Oil Company very shortly after graduation. I had been recommended by my bookkeeping teacher and felt that it was a real triumph for me. It was a delightful job but, alas, ended the early part of August for the firm went bankrupt as so many small companies did in those days. Before I was laid off, however, Raymond was hired as a service station attendant at one of the company-owned stations.
Virginia Stevenson I should mention that in 1930 Muriel gave birth to her fourth and last child, a little girl who she named Virginia. This child would also suffer through the East Texas years, returning to Sacramento, California to attend high school. She would marry early in life, have two children, divorce, and eventually marry John Oliver, her second husband; she currently lives with John in Sacramento close to children and grandchildren. She, like her brother Robert, is a very wonderful person and I am proud to be their aunt. Their devotion to their mother was very unusual for they cared for her in Virginia's home during the last part of her life after she was totally bedridden until her death in 1984. My hat is off to both!
Paul Comes Home I should return to Paul for a moment. After he was discharged from the Marine Corps he returned to American Falls where he resumed work in the baggage room of Union Pacific. It was there that he took inventory of his assets and found that he came up sadly lacking in book learning, even the fundamentals of arithmetic. As I understand it, he began a course of self-study which somewhat helped him overcome his deficiencies and enable him to become baggage master. During that period he met and married the second time to Irene Jacobs, a very lovely girl of sixteen. She was the love of his life. He purchased a home, furnished it nicely, and threw himself into his home life with his usual vigor. Two children were born of this union: Marjorie and Dorothy. Marjorie you may remember; Dorothy we did not see after Paul and Irene were divorced. I suspect Irene just became bored with the humdrum life of babies, washing, and housework. At any rate, she left Paul and the children when Marjorie was three and Dorothy two. Paul was absolutely devastated. I well remember him bringing the two little girls home for Mother to take care of while he tried to straighten out his life. I also remember he and Irene coming to get them after they reconciled. That was short-lived as Irene left again this time taking the children. Well, that made Paul furious. He sold out in American Fails and transferred to Glenns Ferry. From that vantage point he and Irene fought over the children. Finally, the court gave him one and her the other. He brought Marjorie back to us and took off for San Francisco where he secured work as a longshoreman. Later he succeeded in the Federal test for Prohibition Officer which took him to Sacramento. In the interim, he met Hattie [Henrietta Heickkenen] and married for the third time. Mother and Grandma took Marjorie out to him during his San Francisco days. You know the rest on him. I do not know when he moved to Sacramento but Paul, Jr., was born there in May 1930, so the move was before that time.
Mary and Ruth Move to Sacramento Losing my job at the oil company was certainly one of the greatest blows in my life but at seventeen one quickly recovers. Besides, dear old Paul had written to mother telling her that he thought finding a job in Sacramento might be easier for Mary and I than in Idaho Falls. After great deliberation I am sure, Mother and Dad decided we should try. Anyway, Dad ordered the pass and each day we would eagerly ask him if it had come. How quick young people are to leave the nest! Finally it did arrive. We packed all of our worldly goods in two suitcases and left our ancestral home. We went to the railroad depot eight hours before train time to be sure we didn't miss it. I haven't to this day decided whether or not this was a fatal mistake. At any rate, we left with stars in our eyes and hope in our hearts to enter an entirely new phase in our lives. We would meet and marry brothers, have our children, work and toil much as our ancestors, though in better surroundings perhaps. But that is another chronicle in itself, and best left unrecorded. It is sufficient to say, your father came to Sacramento in 1932, your mother shortly thereafter, and the rest of my family in 1933. Thus ended the Idaho chapter of our lives.
"Just Plain Folks" Tommy, I hope you get something out of my rambling. There are doubtless a hundred or so other things I might have written but if I had, this might well have become the great American novel, which I am not qualified to write. If it should have been written, however, I would have entitled it "Just Plain Folks" but after all, is not the warp and the woof of the fabric of America woven by the lives of such?
Your new material received. Thanks.
Two Aunts I now recall that Aunt Jane Stormant was mentioned often by both Mother and Dad. I believe, therefore, that it is quite possible that she did rear one or more of Dad's little sisters. Also, the folks often spoke of Aunt Kate Shanafelt. I remember both grandma and Jessie discussing both Aunt Jane and Aunt Kate in a very casual manner. From such conversations, I must conclude they were all very well acquainted.
Franklinís Education With respect to Dad's education, I know that he completed college with highest honors. I often heard he and Mother discussing the fact that because of his impaired health, he was unable to benefit from his education. In fact, Mother once told me that even with his superior education, she surpassed him grade-wise when they competed in examination for teacher credentials at Carbondale. This was particularly pleasing to her, as you may have surmised!
With further reference to Dad's education, when my son Ken was recruiting instructors for the new Bakersfield State College in 1968, he had occasion to go to the Illinois University in Chicago. There he found one large building on the campus "Wham Hall" among the other structures. Undoubtedly it was endowed by some member of the family. I suggest you might check there, Tommy, for some record of Dad. Let me know, won't you?
Major Wham I am a little surprised that you have not uncovered
more about Thomas B. Wham (born 1839) who was the kind benefactor of the
impoverished Sperry family. Since he was born in Marion County in 1939,
he would have been about the right age to have been the "Major" Wham so
kind to Mother's family. I know he and his books were a Godsend to the
Sperry group and his memory was cherished by Mother.