Interview with Stith Phillips Fontaine
    Audio tape with Jack J. Scott, Ann Fontaine Wagonon, and Stith Phillips Fontaine
Transcribed by Carol Anne Scott, June - August 1999


-side 1-

Jack: This is Jack Scott. Stith Fontaine and I are talking about some family history. Stith was - I’ll fill this in - Stith, was born on August 29, 1902, in Van Buren, and when he was 18 months old, his mother and dad separated and they moved back to Kentucky, and did you first buy that farm down by Aunt Mag’s or did you live with …..?

Stith: Lived out with Strothers.

Jack: They, … when they moved to Kentucky, they lived on the Strother Stith farm, and that was near Ekron wasn’t it, Stith?

Stith: yes

Jack: And lived there about a year and that’s, then you bought a small farm down by aunt Mag Hardaway’s place, down in Stith valley?

Stith: yes.

Jack: And lived there about 2 years and then you moved back to Ekron to Grandpa Stith’s.

Stith: Well you see that - Uncle Strother lived on Grandpa Stith’s farm.

Jack: oh okay. So you moved there and that’s where you started school. Your first year.

Stith: Yeah.

Jack: But that same year you moved to Louisville. And you went to the Cabbage Patch School, that’s real well known there’s a lot of history written about it.

Stith: Yeah.

Jack: And you were there then in the 2nd and 3rd grade and then to me, this was interesting, I’d like to hear some more comments if you remember that, … Uncle Ham Moorman, and how was he related?

Stith: He married Aunt Wivie.

Jack: Uncle Ham Moorman, he was from Big Springs, wasn’t he.

Stith: I don’t know where he was from.

Jack: The Moormans I think were from Big Springs, married Aunt Wivie Stith.

(Actually it was Aunt Mable Stith who married Moorman. Aunt Wivie married a Shipp. -- J. Scott 1999)

Stith: Yes.

Jack: And he had started Moorman’s feed and animal health products and stuff and lived in Chicago.

Stith: Yes.

Jack: And you all went to Chicago and lived there with them about three months.

Stith: Yes.

Jack: And then when you left Chicago, you went to Piggott Arkansas with Aunt Diva.

Stith: Yes.

Jack: And lived there about six months.

Stith: Yes

Jack: And then you and Grandma went to Nowata Oklahoma with Uncle Jess.

Stith: yes

Jack: And … you lived there about 2 years or so didn’t you and Grandma died there.

Stith: yes

Jack: You were 10, 11, and 12 years old at that time.

Stith: I was 12 years old when she died.

Jack: And that was the time you were in Nowatta up near Rick Street and you were riding a bicycle

Stith: yes

Jack: and fell and had a concussion

Stith: yes

Jack: And I believe you said they had to take you to Coffeeville Kansas on a freight train and you were unconscious for three days.

Stith: yes

Jack: And then you went … um … after your Grandma died you went back to Arkansas and Dave and Cora kept house for Grandpa Fontaine.

Stith: yes

Jack: And that was when you were in a real unhappy situation with Cora. So what happened from there on?

Stith: well Uh, David and Cora moved to Ft. Smith I think. He got a job as a bookkeeper. And Daddy remarried Lenore.

Jack: He married Lenore then?

Stith: yes. So she and I didn’t get along

Jack: mmm

Stith: So he sent me to Russellville for a boarding school.

Jack: And that was Russellville Oklahoma?

Stith: Ark.

Jack: Ark.

Stith: 75 miles from home.

Jack: How long were you there?

Stith: 3 years.

Jack: 3 years. And that you would have been about 13 14 and 15 along in those three years.

Stith: yes

Jack: Was it …..

Stith: 14 15 16.

Jack: 16. Was it a boys school?

Stith: No it was a co-ed school, but they had the girls dormitory on the one side of the campus and boys on the other and we all went in a big dining hall to eat.

Jack: How big of a school was it?

Stith: Ah, I don’t know it’s, I guess about 3, 400 kids there then.

Jack: Was it a good school, did you think?

Stith: Yes,

Jack: How about the food there, and the teachers.

Stith: It was good.

Jack: Were you fairly happy there?

Stith: Oh yes.

Jack: Did you have a girlfriend there?

Stith: Yes, you bet. I was 15, and I was 16 that August.

Jack: mhm

Stith: They asked me if I wanted to go out to Montana. Jess was still out there, working at Butte.

Jack: The Butte Montana. He was a telegrapher on the railroad.

Stith: Well he had just changed oh he’d been on the railroad, the Great Northern, out there at Vahn which is about 15 miles East of Great Falls. And it was on up north of Butte. About 106 miles from the Canadian border. Well, went to work at Butte. He got me a job. Course it was 1918, World War I.

Jack: You got a job out there.

Stith: Yes

Jack: What were you doing?

Stith: Driving a grocery wagon. From the main warehouse to the stores.

Jack: Ludey’s grocery. L U D E Y. Who’s Ludey?

Stith: In Butte Montana.

Jack: Butte Montana. Now what was it, team or one horse?

Stith: One horse.

Jack: A one horse grocery wagon. First time I ever heard that. Now how long did you do that?

Stith: About a month. And he had a friend down at Vaughn, A. B. Capps, that he wired him or wrote him a letter and he asked Capp if I could come down there and get a job on the ranch. Capps was a foreman on a big ranch.

Jack: mmhm A Big ranch? Down by Vaughn?

Stith: Vaughn.

Jack: Montana.

Stith: Montana. Well we went to Great Falls on a train and went on that about 15 miles on out to Vaughn.

Jack: mmhmm

Stith: I got down there and about 1st of May I guess, … last of May, about last May.

Jack: and what did you do?

Stith: Well. I went out there and um, I guess Capps must have met me there at the station and drove me out there in a buggy or something. But he said can you milk cows? I said no sir. Well, if you want to work for me you got to milk cows. He had 22 head of milk cows and about 5 or 6 guys to milk them. So you had at least 4 or 5 cows to milk every time. I started in and I soon learned how. I could do my part of it.

Jack: What else did you do on the farm?

Stith: Well they cut this alfalfa hay, the irrigation. He showed me. The oats that they sowed there in the spring these hard winds come along and dry weather and had blown the oats clear away, soil too. So I’d have to load the hay on the wagon and haul it to the barn and throw it up to the loft and then ….

Jack: What kind of ranch did he raise? Beef cattle? Just a cow herd?

Stith: Well as far as I knew the dairy herd was all they had

Jack: All they had.

Stith: they had a lot of horses though. You’d get out and we went, me and another kid went out and chased in a bunch of them and they roped them, ‘pick out the one you want’ I picked out one, they got one of the other hands there to ride it, and as on, they had a little rodeo there at Vaughn. So we took this horse in the Rodeo. There was some old cowboy there got up and spurred him you know and this horse went crazy! And he didn’t buck this guy off but we were starting to lead him back home and one of the hands there had a rope around the horse and he was leading him and he balked. So I was on a little pony. I rode up behind him there and kicked him across the rear end and he kicked me! Skinned my leg up to my knee right up to my thigh.

Jack: Hm. You were 16.

Stith: Yes. Well in August I was 16. So all in all I had a real good time there. We went to Great Falls June 30 Prohibition took effect.

Jack: This was in 1918.

Stith: 18.

Jack: So you remember when that went in effect.

Stith: Yeah, because we went in Great Falls and I tried to get drunk like the rest of the cowboys but instead I got sick.

Jack: (chuckle) Well then, how long did you stay out there?

Stith: Till that fall, and Daddy told me when I went out there, son, you’ve got to make enough money to come back. I’ll pay your fare out there. So I had enough money saved and Nick kept telling me how cold it was out there in the winter. I had a job there, I could stay if I wanted to stay, but I decided to come back

Jack: So where’d you come back to, then?

Stith: Well, I came back home and I went to Russelville that year, which was my junior year in high school, and then next year when Daddy moved to Ft. Smith, and he said, you can finish school here in Ft Smith if you want to. So I went there one year, my senior year to Ft. Smith.

Jack: So how big of a high school was Fort Smith?

Stith: It’s pretty good, it’s 2 or 3000, I guess.

Ann: Tell him where you lived.

Stith: Oh, (chuckle) my Daddy had an office on Garrison Avenue, 2nd floor, back in the hall, 4 or 5 doors back down the hall, and I still didn’t get along with Lenore. So he said well, said you can sleep and cook and eat here in this office, if you want to. He had a gas plate stove, and he said, how much would it take to clothe you and feed you and finish school? I said, $500. So he wrote me out a check for five hundred dollars. But when it come spring, and graduating time, I didn’t have enough left to buy a nice suit to graduate in. But I was already past the - if you made above a 90 average, you didn’t have to take the finals. And about that time, Jess wrote from Kansas City. If I wanted to come up there I could get a job from Western Union and learn teletyping. They were just putting in telefax machines. And he tried his best to teach me Morse. But I never did learn it. I guess I just didn’t try hard enough.

That clickety clack clickety clack -

Ann: You didn’t learn it at the railroad, either Daddy? When you were a partner?

Stith: No

Jack: diddity da da, diddity da da da da?

Stith: Yes, but so I finished my course and ready to go to work there at Western Union, I think they paid me 65 dollars a month, on this train, well I decided I wanted to go to Kansas State University and work my way through. Well that was because I loved farming. And outdoors. And I’d see those guys sitting there in that office, and I’d think boy, that’ll kill you setting there, operating that telegraph key, not getting out and getting air and fresh air and exercise. So Jesse let me go, of course that hurt him, why him getting me a job, and soon as they got me a course, then I quit.

Jack: So what’d you take? Agriculture then?

Stith: Yes, Agronomy, that was all wheat country. But, I went out there in August and I had to go to work, and make some money, so I could enter school. Well, I went to the college up to the school and matriculated - I think that’s what they called the entrance - but I got a job out on a farm - a college farm.

Jack: Now, was this in Kansas City, Missouri, or -

Stith: Kansas City as in Manhattan Kansas.

Jack: Manhattan Kansas Oh.

Stith: So I went out there and worked on the farm until almost Christmas

Jack: Where’d you live there just on the farm?

Stith: Yes, they had a man and his wife, there was 5 or 6 hands there, lived just like living at home -- 3 meals a day and upstairs bedroom and everything. But before Christmas I got a job - ___ told me about a job up in Sabetha Kansas where they paid you 90 a month and all you had to do was milk cows. I knew how to do that and so went to milk cows 4 times a day. They had a prize Holstein herd and they kept records. And they found each cow. Well I worked there till midterm, which wasn’t but about a couple of months and I made this guy out (hurt his feelings) because he gave me a job at $90 a month. Then I worked there a couple of months until I’d saved up enough start school, so I left him, so I went half a year there at Manhattan Kansas, then my Daddy wrote me that he was in poor health and he didn’t think he’d live long and perhaps I’d better come back home. If I wanted a farm he had a farm. So, I came back there, there went my college career.

Jack: Well now, what did your Dad - was he practicing law, or working on a ranch or something? What did he do?

Stith: Well, he practiced law for 30 years but then he got a job with the Union Life in Cincinnati, Ohio, appraising land and investing in land.

Jack: For the insurance company

Stith: For the insurance company. So while he was doing that he had a ditch built, drained 7 lakes down here at Crosslanes.

Jack: Down there below Alma.

Stith: Below Alma. Then he built a levy and put in a flood gate where he’d dug the ditch - or had it dug. Called it Fontaine Ditch. But anyway, he got some land out of that. That’s what he had when I came back.

Jack: So what’d you do then, come back and live out on the farm yourself?

Stith: Yup, I come back ___. Uh, he had some people living there, keeping the house. But before I got started, no I had my crop out, oh yeah, I had a buddy, Lemford Smith who I went to school with, he came down there and we batched. Daddy had a red house,

Ann: Ben Kirk.

Stith: Gleen Kirk. We raised the crop and by fall about picking time, why we both had family at Baton Rouge, LA, and they said come down here and we’ll get you a job with the Standard Oil Company. So we left and Daddy had to sell my crops, I don’t know if he made anything or not. So we went to Baton Rouge and worked there. Until fall I guess.

Ann: ___ like.

Stith: Then I came back.

Jack: What did you do down there in Baton Rouge?

Stith: Had a job painting

Jack: Painting for Standard Oil.

Stith: Painting those tanks and barrels. Then of course those tanks weren’t too high, you know, they weren’t too rounded either, you stood up to paint the tops of them and you wouldn’t have any difficulty staying on there. And the barrels I forget how, you had to clean those darn barrels out. And then paint them. So there was a career there if I had stayed with it.

Jack: <chuckle> But you didn’t stay there very long.

Stith: I didn’t stay anywhere.

Jack: Where’d you go then?

Stith: Came back, went down to Crosslanes, started farming again, got me a team, wagons, cultivator, everything paid for, and came to Ft. Smith and met Margaret first, and went with her, and got engaged to her.

Jack: You and Margaret were engaged.

Stith: Yes.

Jack: I guess I’d heard that, but -

Stith: And so then, she said, well, we’re getting married. You don’t have to join the Catholic church, but if we have any children, they’ll have to be Catholics. Well, I thought about that a long time, so I broke up with her. Messed around and met Masey and got married. And then -

Ann: You had to go get the ring from Margaret though, didn’t you?

Stith: Yeah, I had to get the ring from Margaret.

Ann: You’re not supposed to do that are you.

Stith: Had to borrow ten dollars to pay the preacher I think.

Jack: How long did you go with Masey before you got married?

Stith: About five weeks.

Jack: Now was she from here?

Stith: Yeah, she lived right there in Ft. Smith, she and her Daddy -no- Mother. Her Father had died and her mother had remarried.

Jack: Now how old were you then and how old was she?

Stith: I was 20 she was 16.

Jack: She was 16.

Stith: Uh huh.

Jack: What year was that, then, that you married?

Stith: 1923.

Jack: 1923.

Stith: Madore was born in 24 and you were born in 25.

Jack: I was born in 22. Alice was born in 25.

Stith: Oh yes.

Jack: Now let’s see, Jimmy was born in 24. Jimmy and Madore, I guess, are the same age.

Stith: Is that right?

Jack: Jimmy was born in August.

Ann: Daddy and Mother married January the 7th, 1923. Madore was born January the 14th, 1924. And I was born August the 12th 1926. Betsy was born November the 17th, 1928. And Tulip was born July the 10th, 1932.

Stith: Yeah. So, I got married with Masey, and we moved out on the farm.

Jack: And you went back out to Alma to Crosslanes,

Stith: Yes. And she was going to live there with me on the farm, she was a city girl, but she was a good horseback rider though, she soon caught on to that.

Ann: But she wasn’t lazy was she?

Stith: Ah, no

Ann: Just didn’t know how to farm.

Stith: But went there about July ‘til she got sick and had to come back to her mother’s.

Ann: Sick of the farm.

Stith: Yeah. So, then, what happened was she was pregnant. So I had to come to Ft. Smith then. And David got a job with called Sherrington Motor Company. Which is a Ford agency.

Jack: In Ft. Smith?

Stith: Yeah. Dave was booked there. And they shipped the cars in by rail, on a box car, and it would be six Fords on a car. Model T’s. The chases and spare wheels and everything would be on one end, the bodies and fenders would be on the other end.

Jack: You had to assemble them, huh?

Stith: You had to truck them out of there, down that Boardwalk, and assemble them. So I went there about 6 months ‘til the foreman quit and Mr. Sherrington made me the foreman. And I had about 5 or 6 guys working for me. I could hire em and fire em and just do what I wanted.

Jack: You were in the automobile industry and you were assembling cars!

Ann: something.

Stith: Yep. Well then in 26 they started shipping Fords in already assembled. Or 27. So they told me, though, you can go work over at the shop as a mechanic. And I've been over in that shop to see those Fords come in with mud in the wintertime, water dripping...

Jack: Wasn’t your cup of tea?

Stith: No it wasn’t! So I retired from that position. And I got a job with Dakon Lumber Company. They kept me in training there for about six months and sent me off down to below Paris, what’s the name of that little town? ...

Ann: Subey Island?

Stith: Down past Subey Island.

Ann: Near Blue?

Stith: No.

Ann: Walter, I don’t know.

Stith: Anyway, I stayed there a few months, and then I went to Paris, Arkansas, and worked on there. For a fellow there.

Jack: What kind of work were you doing there?

Stith: Office work. Well then they sent me to Alma as a manager to the...

Jack: To the lumber company in Alma.

Stith: Yes.

Jack: So you got back to Alma one way or the other!

Stith: Yes! But I got in a fight with a guy down there. And they fired me. So back to Ft. Smith. Went to work for Frisco Railroad Company. I don’t know how long that lasted but then I went to work for Crane Candy Company, which was a wholesale candy company.

Jack: As a bookkeeper?

Stith: No! I was a delivery truck driver. Well, salesmen would get out, in two cities, salesmen, and take orders. Bring them in, we’d fill the orders, and I'd deliver the orders. And hauled freight, whatever came in to the freight depots, back to the plant. Well I only had to work from 7 in the morning ‘til 6 at night, for 6 days a week.

Jack: <chuckle> Short hours.

Stith: Yes! I got $75 a month. Which I thought was pretty good pay. But we only worked there three years.

Ann: Delivering mail, Daddy, was that the plan? And Moodlion and Deleware?

Stith: Around there by Delaware, yes, up towards the river. The bridge, a new bridge goes right past it now. Crosses over to Clarsville.

Ann: Morriston Bluff?

Stith: Up there by Morriston Bluff.

Ann: Can’t believe I don’t remember anything. Delivering the Wards Ice.

Stith: No, Crane Candy Company. I skipped Wards Ice?

Ann: You hadn't gotten to it yet. You were working there when I was born, too.

Jack: Now where were you living at this time? Still in Alma, or did you move back to Ft. Smith?

Stith: Ft. Smith. We bought a house out on Midland Boulevard, and three of my children were born there, but in the meantime I sold my house or let it go, was renting a house, down between North 6 and North 7.

Jack: Now Depression was just getting started at this time.

Stith: Yes. And Ann was born there.

Ann: Yes, two of them was born on Midland, Daddy, or one, I was born on …

Stith: North N Street.

Ann: Uh huh.

Stith: Well where was Phillip…

Ann: Phillip was born 1815 Myselen.

Stith: So he was.

Ann: Or the next block up on the corner.

Oh yeah!



-side 2-

Stith: Yes.

Jack: And how long were you there?

Stith: Well, I finally got tired of them and I went to work for a... service station. Henry Armstrong. See there wasn’t but two or three main stations in Ft. Smith at that time but he had plenty of business.

Jack: So would this have been about 1928 or 29?

Stith: Yeah, or 30.

Jack: 30?

Stith: I worked at Crane Candy Company three years. Anyway.

Where do I go from there? Who knows?

Ann: …… a couple of times, then you started working for Wards Ice,

Stith: Yes

Jack: What’d you do for Wards Ice?

Stith: Well, first when she was born, I was driving the ice wagon. Drove it one summer.

Jack: Had the tongs and carried it to the ice boxes?

Stith: Yes. Yes, well, then

Ann: After Crane Candy Company, Dad, I believe it was Wards.

Stith: Nope. I went back then to Crane Candy company somewhere or other. I was working there when beer came in 1933. Prohibition ended and so I was working there when beer came in. Of course I was driving the truck anyway so you hauled the kegs over to Maupin and they opened it up first. Tapped those kegs, and set them up... Left everybody happy. Well then Arkansas opened up and then you just delivered bottled beer and kegs too. So I was still working for them in 35. No …. 35 I guess. Well heck I worked for Wards. Anyway, quit Crane Candy company and went to Wards Ice Cream Company driving a beer truck. I worked for them 5 years. 35 36 Yes.

Jack: So you went through the Depression without any big difficulty.

Stith: Yes

Jack: It didn’t really pull you down or anything.

Stith: Well there was a time there when we moved down here and bought a little place down here, down the road here.

Jack: So what year did you buy that?

Stith: 29. Oh. And I was working for Henry Armstrong store and I had a job back with the Standard Oil Company Esso. In the office. As a clerk. And then the depression came. I read a telegram where they were sending a guy from back East out here that they needed to put on, give him a job. So then about a couple weeks, why, I got fired. Mostly because I guess this guy was coming out here.

Jack: mhm

Stith: And then that’s when I moved down to the country. I didn’t have any job any money and we rented us a log cabin

Jack: You rented out here?

Stith: No I mean we were buying the place. Course I wasn’t make it from the bank I missed several payments of it

Jack: Heh

Ann: You worked for the W.P.A.

Jack: And what year was that?

Stith: 29 or 30.

Ann: no Daddy, It had to be 32 because-

Stith: Yes 32.

Ann: Yes I was in the first grade.

Stith: And Puff Junior was born. Yes. Sure.

Ann: Yes he was born first thing right before we moved out here.

Stith: Yes 6 months.

Ann: mmmhmmm

Jack: So when you moved out here, was it the place you live in now?

Ann: no

Jack: Some other place.

Ann: -You know that big pond over there in the curve.

Jack: Yes

Ann: -Where that little trailer sits Daddy had a log cabin setting right there

Stith: And of course with that .. starving to death .. I didn’t have a job but I was too stubborn to go in town and get in the soup line

Ann: But mother’s mother and our step-grandfather Allen Crosse came down once a week and brought us lot a stuff to eat.

Stith: Yes.

Jack: Now that was ….. what’d you work for … W.P.A. then?

Stith: Well that wasn’t really. It was in Hoover's time … and

Ann: that was in 32

Stith: I know, see Roosevelt was elected in 32. So that didn’t start ‘til 33.

Jack: that’s right.

Ann: He used to …. it snowed one time and Daddy walked to school and carried me home. I was in 1st grade. It was raining and freezing. I tell you that was … Madora had the law. But he came to school and got me. I had on an old coat that looked like it was warm and like plastic knit? And when the rain was cold it was cold. Oh, I froze to death.

Jack: Well now then what year did you buy the farm where you are now?

Stith: 1948. Aunt Anne … after we got some money.

Jack: and now, where were you all in 1938?

Stith: We were in Fort Smith.

Ann: ??????????????

Jack: We came out here then and that’s when Madore went home with us. wasn’t that 38?

Stith: no.

Ann: Yes when Madore went.

Jack: umm humm.

Stith: yes, it was.

Ann: yes you see when we went back in about 41, that’s when I went home with Uncle Jess.

Stith: yes

Jack: Madore went home with us. So we visited with you all, and you were in Ft. Smith as I recall. What were you doing then?

Stith: I think I was working for Standard Oil Company.

Ann: No, you were working for Wards and driving that truck...

Stith: Oh, yeah, sure, I was working for Wards and driving a beer truck.

Jack: Then, were the kids pretty well, did you have much illness?

Ann: Philip Junior, yes,

Stith: Philip Junior, when I was living there in Ft. Smith, he had...

Ann: He had scarlet fever and everything imaginable and diphtheria and meningitis croup. That was when he like to have died.

Stith: It wasn’t called croup though.

Ann: It was diphtheria, and meningitis croup, that’s what they called it.

Stith: Yeah, but later, wasn’t so and so...

Jack: Strep Throat?

Stith: Strep Throat!

Ann: That’s what they called it. But they put him out on a cold back porch in the hospital. And he was about five and he had to learn how to walk all over again, he was so bad they had to teach him how to walk. Then he’d break a leg, then he’d break an arm, then he’d have something else, he’d go up here at Rudy and hit his head. but it healed over. They put tape on it and it healed over.

Stith: Went in the creek and hit a big rock.

Jack: Gee.

Ann: Well it got shale on it, and how many months later, about six months later? His head swelled, and we had to go in and get the shale out of his skull. He was always sick.

Jack: Well, so then you moved out here when you bought this place in 1940. You were in...

Ann: I was about in the 8th grade when we moved out.

Jack: How many acres is this?

Stith: 140

Jack: 140 acres. Now did you, when you moved out there, did you farm and work both?

Stith: best as I could.

Ann: Then he quit and started farming.

Stith: Well, yes, I quit.

Jack: What kind of farming operation did you have?

Stith: Well I had a mule, turning plow, cultivator,

Ann: Plus a garden.

Stith: And we raised green beans for market. Tomatoes for market.

Ann: Strawberries....

Stith: Strawberries for market.

Jack: Did you all help, Ann, with all that?

Ann: I was married by then...

Jack: You weren’t married in 1940!

Ann: No, but he worked a while at Wards, I married in 43,

Stith: Yeah, I was still working at Wards when I moved out here, and then

Jack: Now how old were you....

Ann: He worked on the railroad!

Stith: Yes, then I went back to railroad. As a switchman for the Missouri Pacific.

Ann: And a clerk.

Stith: And I clerked first back over at Friscos. Round house at the pulp. Naw. Yarg office. I was a....

Ann: Daddy was up here at the Frisco depot and you were a mail clerk...

Stith: yeah, but before then I was over at Missouri Pacific. I mean, Frisco, up at Ft. Smith at the yard office.

Jack: How old were you when you married, Ann?

Ann: 16.

Jack: You were 16.

<phone rings>

Stith: Well, so there’s a history of a near do well.

Jack: Well I wouldn’t say that, I think that’s interesting! Well you’ve done lots of gardening, that’s kind of been your main thing,

Stith: Yeah, yeah,

Jack: And you raised cattle, what all kind of gardening besides tomatoes and beans did you do? Muskmelons? Anything else?

Stith: There wasn’t much else. You could raise melons, I did raise some melons, but wasn’t much market except for green beans and tomatoes and strawberries. That was about all we were able to market for. Which you took that to Van Buren. The green beans you’d ship out them out there by truckloads. We raised spring beans and fall beans.

Ann: Did you get more questions?

Jack: Well I was just trying to figure out some of those here on ... now.... you all attended different schools and the kids went to different schools?

Stith: yes.

Ann: Every year, sometimes two or three. It wasn't easy.

Stith: I went to some different schools too.

Jack: Was anybody in the family musically inclined, what was the music like your younger days.

Stith: Oh, when I went to Russelville, I was a singer.

Jack: You were a singer.

Stith: When we went up to Ft. Smith I was a singer.

Ann: Madore.

Stith: Madore was a good singer too.

Jack: Now what did you sing? What type of singing did you do?

Stith: Well, I ...

Ann: Well Daddy you were a singer, you sang at school, they said,

Stith: Yeah. All of us seniors and everything.

Jack: What about politics? Were you involved in?

Stith: No, I decided chasing girls, I guess that was the only -

Jack: That was your politics? <chuckle> Did you do lots of reading?

Stith: Oh yeah.

Jack: What kind of reading did you do?

Stith: Well I never did any serious, I never, all these great thinkers, I never

Jack: Never followed them too close? What about, back to the earlier days out West, were you ever on any of the Indian preserves?

Stith: No, reservations. That’s the funny thing, back in 1918, we went out West there and I thought boy, I’ll see some cowboys out here now. There was only one guy on this ranch that dressed with a western hat and western boots and chaps, well he was from New Jersey.

Jack: NJ <chuckle> Since I’ve worked in Kansas you can see that I’ve gone cowboy.

Stith: Yeah.

Jack: Well, so you didn’t really see a lot of Indian culture?

Stith: Nope.

Jack: What about your food back in your Western town. Was it much different from today, or not that different?

Stith: I expected to see something back in like these Westerners portray, and heck it was just as civilized and modern there as it was here.

Jack: Jim and I want to drive this summer out into Montana and into that country, take a van and just kind of tour that, and I want to write you see I want to visit these towns you’ve talked about in Montana.

Stith: Ok.

Jack: So you didn’t take part in any politics yourself.

Stith: No.

Jack: What are your memories of WW I?

Stith: Oh, Oh! There was a flu. I was going to Russelville. I think that was 1918, the flu hit the country. And I had a spell of it, all of us in school had a spell of it, there wasn’t too many of us that died from it, but there was a lot of people that did.

Jack: You know it’s been quite an epidemic this year.

Stith: Yes.

Jack: But back in 1918, that was a real wooser then. Many people died.

Stith: Yes.

Jack: Well, most of the houses that you all lived in were in town, and not that different from today’s.

Stith: No.

Jack: And did you play any musical instruments or just sing?

Stith: Just sang I never learned an instrument.

Jack: How about your children?

Stith: Well Madore played -

Ann: Madore played and Masey could play but I could never could learn to play the piano.

Jack: I remember I could play a trumpet, but-

Ann: I didn't learn anything. I can carry a tune. Madore had a good voice at one time.

Jack: Her voice - did she smoke?

Ann: Yeah. She played the organ too, and we sang there. Church songs, and it sounded terrible but we had a good time.

Stith: See I think when I graduated from high school, they had me in the yearbook as the songster.

Ann: Daddy was in the senior play though, then what was it that Martha said her sister-in-law said she remembered you sang? And in the senior play, you tripped yourself and fell, I don’t know, Mother used to tell about that, it was in the senior play.

Jack: Now, were you and Masey along towards the same age, or you were older?

Ann: Four years older.

Jack: Four years older. But did you all know each other in school?

Stith: No.

Ann: She must have remembered that.

Stith: Yeah.

Jack: How did you all meet?

Stith: My daddy wanted me to meet her, get acquainted with her.

Ann: Wonder why he knew Mother?

Stith: She used to go up there and visit with him.

Jack: So your dad made you all acquainted, that’s interesting.

Stith: That’s kinda strange. Yeah.

Jack: Well, I’m just trying to think. I think that’s really interesting that you assembled Model T’s.

Stith: Uh huh.

Jack: A few years ago, I bought a 1922 Model T, and it wasn’t in very good shape and I had a hard time, I’m not that good of mechanic, keeping it running. I finally sold it and I wish I’d kept it, you know, you look back, I kind of wish I’d kept it.

Stith: See at that time, when I first started in 23, they didn’t have demountable tires. If you had a flat, you took a tire off of that wooden wheel, and patched your tube, wrestled it back on. Then they come out with demountable rims. Then they come out with starters. Didn’t have to crank that thing anymore.

Ann: Well I remember that old McCrossy coming out, to bring us something to eat, when we lived in a log cabin, and he had a old Model A? Model T?

Stith: Model T.

Ann: With the ice and brass windows, you know with the snap on, you can see right past it. And they heated bricks, and wrapped newspaper around them and put your feet on them.

Stith: To keep warm, mmhmm

Ann: To keep from freezing. And when you’re going to Ft. Smith, that was a long drive. And she heated her brick in Ft. Smith and wrapped it in paper and rode out here, and then we heated it and went back.

Jack: I’m just trying to think of anything that we’ve overlooked that we both like to know. What about the habits of the family, I think all that’s kind of interesting, some families have different habits of things to do, did you gather around the fireplace, or

Ann: Mother played the piano and we all sang, we did that a lot.

Jack: Your mother played the piano.

Ann: Real well

Stith: Yeah, real good.

Ann: She could play by ear or by note.

Jack: And, did you have a fireplace or stove, how’d you heat the house?

Stith: Gas stove.

Ann: Well now at ___ we had a fireplace, we had a coal stove,

Stith: Oh yeah, when we moved down here.

Jack: You know, Alice has been doing some research into how people relate to a hearth, you know in a house, they say now that there’s not as many hearths, that television has taken the place of the hearth, but there’s not as much conversation in front of the television.

Stith: Uh huh.

Ann: There’s not much around the television.

Jack: As there is around the hearth. But I just wondered

Stith: Well. … We lived in Alma in ‘27 when radios started. but then you drove uptown and listened to the loudspeaker if you wanted to hear the world series, baseball game.

Ann: Did they have those then, Daddy? Did they have the world series then?

Stith: Yes. And in Ft. Smith after I went to work there, I stopped there on the courthouse lawn and listened to broadcasting by Southwest Times Records. The newspaper office to listened to the world series.

Ann: Well Daddy, at one time Daddy went to the Calvary Methodist Church and he sang in the choir. And, I don’t know, we went out to the Methodist Church and Daddy was the Sunday School Superintendent and the song leader...

Jack: Now which Methodist Church was that?

Stith: this little one down here.

Jack: And you were Superintendent of Sunday school and song leader and your mom?

Ann: Piano player. At different time.

Jack: At that church. Now what year did that start?

Stith: Oh somewhere along in the 40’s.

Jack: So had you been raised Methodist?

Stith: Yes.

Ann: Daddy you weren’t Methodist at Ft. Smith,

Stith: Your mother and I joined the Methodist church in Nowatta, Oklahoma.

Ann: Oh.

Stith: And I was sprinkled there.

Jack: So you joined in Nowatta, Oklahoma when you were about 11.

Stith: Uh huh.

Ann: Well I remember when we were teenagers, that Mother let us have parties at home and then Daddy had a horse trailer, and a pickup, and they put a bench in the horse trailer and a bunch of kids got in the back of the pickup and a bunch in the trailer setting on the bench and we went up to ____ and ate out and had a real good time.

Jack: You all kind of were used to … at that church.

Ann: Well, just having a good time.

Jack: Now that’s something I’m glad you brought up, any other family things you did as a family.



Stith: Well, 4th of July, we had a picnic somewhere.

Jack: Family or neighborhood picnic?

Stith: I think it was usually just a family picnic. It wasn’t like going to the 4th of July to Doe Run,

Jack: Yeah, that was like going to New York City wasn’t it?

Stith: Oh, boy, yes.

Jack: Well, .., I guess we’ve got most of it down, Ann, I’m sure there’s a lot of things we wish we had more of

Ann: Well Philip was real smart, and Madore was too. Masey graduated 3rd in her senior class, and I don’t know Phillip was where at. There was a valedictorian, salutitorian and Masey was third at Van Buren that year, that was pretty good.

Jack: Now Masey’s younger than you.

Ann: And I quit in the 11th, now I graduated through the state teacher’s college at the University of Arkansas. And I did my yearly grades ___.

Jack: Looks like you were the smartest of the bunch.

Ann: Well, when I graduated, the courses I took I made an A and three B’s. You had to really write a lot.

Jack: Oh

Ann: You had to take a test and you don't know what it's going to be on the whole book.

Jack: Now, what years were your children born.

Ann: Well, let’s see, Carl was born in 1946, Fontaine was born in 1948, Curtis was born in 1960.

Stith: you skipped a few years ago.

Ann: Fontaine was 12 when Curtis was born and Carl was 14. And I was very unhappy.


Jack: That is a big skip.

Ann: But see I wouldn’t have these little ones if it wasn’t for Curtis. We had a lot of fun.

Stith: Oh yeah.

Jack: Well?

Ann: Do you want to stop that while I get you a tape?

Jack: Well, we left out the Dixie cup era.

Stith: Well, before then, I’d worked as a bookkeeper for United Sash and Door, worked there 5 years,

Ann: The Masonry Coal company.

Stith: And then I worked for the Coal Company

Jack: So what’d you do there?

Stith: Bookkeeping

Jack: Bookkeeper.

Stith: Worked there 5 years and then I got a job at Dixie cup. I was 54. As a preventive maintenance clerk. That meant you picked up the downtime sheets off all the machines. Any time a machine was down, they put how long it was down and what was the matter. and then I kept a record of all those machines and when they needed repairing, why I had a mechanic give an inspection and finally it was ready for a major inspection so I kept that job for 10 1/2 years and that was when I retired from Dixie Cup.

Jack: So you retired from Dixie Cup when you were 60 …?

Stith: 65.

Jack: 65.

Ann: well Daddy, are you going to tell about going to Boonville?

Stith: Well yeah when I was 63, I went to the durn doctor and he said I had TB. And he talked me into going down to Boonville. So I went down there and stayed for 6 months.

Jack: Was that the TB place?

Stith: Yes.

Ann: Never did think he had it

Stith: I never did think I had it

Ann: Never did look like he had it.

Stith: Never did feel like I had it.

Ann: Those people down there looked terrible.

Stith: So finally I caught on to what was - they see this sanitarium was needing customers in order to (remain) state maintained so I finally I called her and said you tell him that there’s no use in me staying down there, I can take my medicine at home, so she called him and told him,

Ann: We went over there Daddy, we begged.

Stith: She told him though that if he didn’t let me out, she’d advertise to the world what a so and so he was.

Ann: Well, she said taking care of the cows was killing her.

Stith: uh huh.

Ann: But then I gave Daddy his terramycin shots

Stith: Yes so I came home and I went back to work for Dixie cup.

Jack: So now, have you always, how much tobacco have you used in your life. Did you smoke or have you always chewed, or have you dipped, or what have you done?

Stith: Always smoked until I was 76.

Jack: So you quit smoking early.

Stith: Oh yeah. Quit smoking when I was 76.

Jack: 76 That’s good.

Stith: Went to chewin’ then. Wish I could quit that.

Ann: Yeah you wish you’d quit smoking long time ago didn’t you.

Stith: Yeah. because by then doctor told me, he said you’ve got emphysema, so much of your lungs are gone.

Ann: Never get it back.

Stith: Never get it back. And you go ahead and get as much exercise and as much fresh air as you can, so now I’m 83.

Jack: I do think smoking’s hard on you.

Stith: Well that and the dust in the Dixie Cup. I had a desk, with a conveyor over it, right over my head, and I’d get, go in the morning, wipe the dust off my desk and it was about an inch thick.

Jack: Oh heck. And you breathed that all the time.

Stith: Yes.

Jack: That would be hard.

Stith: So that and the smoking too.

Jack: Well, so you retired then and what have you done, let’s see you’ve been retired, about 18 years!

Stith: Uh huh, yes.

Jack: You farmed since then.

Stith: Raised cattle

Jack: How was retirement to you? Enjoyed it?

Stith: Yes I enjoyed it.

Jack: Was it a traumatic thing for you to go into?

Stith: No, they gave me a going away party, and Don Bithingstick, one of the supervisors there, and he told the guys he said, Well, Phil’s not retiring, he’s just quittin’ an extra job. He’s been farming all this time.

Jack: How many head of cattle did you usually have there on the farm.

Stith: Well, I’ve had up to 45 head. And when I sold out last year, sold 32 head. Calves and all.

Jack: Cows and calves.

Stith: The guy offered me $8,000.

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