The Fabulous Familiar

Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Interview with Papa

I am so excited! I was sifting through old documents and found this interview I did with my Papa a number of years ago. I wanted to post it because I think it is so important to just sit down and talk to your family. Find out about where you came from. Learn something about your great uncle you never knew. You may even find some things that surprise you.

AR: What were your parents’ full names, dates of birth and places of birth? If you don’t know the dates, that’s OK.

RH: My dad was born in Montague County which is in northeast Texas. My mom was born in Camanche County in Oklahoma.

AR: What were their names?

RH: Montie Elaine Jones and James Henry Huddleston

AR: What were the occupations of your parents?

RH: My parents did a number of things. They made their living primarily by farming, but also owned a country grocery store.

AR: How many children were in your family? Where were you in the line-up?

RH: There were two children in my family, plus my mom and my dad. I was the oldest child and their only son. My sister, Jerrilyn was the only girl in my family.

AR: How much younger was she?

RH: There was 3 years difference in our age. I was 3 years older than she was.

AR: Generally speaking, what was your childhood like?

RH: Generally speaking, my childhood was one of farming. My dad taught me to drive a tractor when I was about 11 years old and so I spent a lot of time driving a tractor.

AR: What one or two stories do you remember most clearly about your childhood?

RH: Of course, there’s so many it’s hard to point out one exact story. I think probably the way we lived during the end of the Depression was the one thing that affected me most because there was two things happening—World War II was coming to an end and the Depression was coming to an end. We still couldn’t get things and didn’t have money much. We would gather eggs—we had chickens out on the farm and would gather eggs and sell them; then we’d milk the cows and save the cream to make butter. That’s what we lived on.

AR: What kind of relationship did you have with your sister growing up?

RW: My sister and I got along pretty well. She did housework in the house and my mother and the rest of us worked in the fields.

AR: Did you have any childhood pets?

RH: I had a dog all my life that stayed outside the house. The first dog I remember was an English bulldog. He got ran over by a truck out on the country road there. The next dog I remember was a dog we called, “Badger.” He was part pit bull and part somethin’ else—I don’t know what. We had a lot of cats. In fact, cats would get so thick that we would have more than we could feed. My mother would actually ask me to kill some cats to get them out of the barn.

AR: What area of Texas did you grow up in and do you remember any childhood friends that lived around you?

RH: I lived on what was called the South Plains, which was in the panhandle of Texas. It was very level, very dry, very flat country. There was a set of twins that lived ¾ of a mile from us. They were the Nelson twins. We played together a lot. Mainly we built what we called rubber guns. It was a strip of rubber half an inch wide over a Y. We’d put the rubber strips on that, rear back and let loose.

AR: Oh, like a slingshot!

RH: Yeah, a slingshot. We played slingshots a lot and we hunted with our slingshots a lot.
{Phone interruption}

AR: I think we were talking about childhood friends and the games you played.

RH: To the north of us was a boy named Lyndell Kenley and he played with us too. Further north was the Carey boys and they were older than I was. The youngest was named Burl and he taught me how to milk a cow. I haven’t decided if that was the best thing I ever learned or the worst thing. I came home from playing over there and when I got home I told Dad I could milk a cow. He said, “You can milk them every night from now on and I’ll milk them in the morning.” So, it was a job after that.

AR: What do you remember about your mom and dad as a child? Were they rough on you? How did they approach discipline?

RH: Mom and Dad were very easy to get along with. My dad would have me go to the field with him to hoe cotton and I learned to drive a factor. Mom really had to do things like feed the chickens or feed the geese. Every night I had to close the chicken house and lock the door. I would always be so brave marching out there at night to close the chicken house, but the further I got from our house, the more nervous I would get. When it came time to get back to the house, I would run back as fast as I could.

AR: What were some of your favorite toys?

RH: When I was a child during WWII, they didn’t use metal to make toys so we built our own toys out of wood. My favorite thing I did was to take a 2x4 and cut a block about an inch long and put two skids under each side so that when I pulled it through the ground it would make a borough, just like these fields here looked when they’ve been plowed. It made it look like I had plowed with the tractor. That plus the slingshot were the two things I remember playing with.

AR: What was your earliest memory of watching TV or listening to the radio?

RH: My dad got us a radio, which we listened to at the house after the sun went down and we got all cleaned up in the evening. We would sit down, I would sit down in the floor by the radio and Mom and Dad would sit in chairs and we would listen to programs that were funny. One that I recall was called Fibber McGee and Molly. Fibber McGee always had a big closet and every time he opened his closet, all the pots and pans and junk would fall out of his closet. They had two black actors that were white, but they talked like someone who was black, called Amos and Andy—and they were funny. The program I listened to was the Lone Ranger. We mostly listened to the news and the progress of WWII. We didn’t see TV because there wasn’t a TV when I was a kid and the radio reception wasn’t really good.

AR: What was your least favorite chore as a kid? What did you hate the most?

RH: I guess driving a Ford tractor and cultivating was the least thing that I liked because it was only two rows at a time, whereas the big tractor that we had was four rows at a time.

AR: What church did you grow up going to?

RH: I grew up going to the Gordon Church of Christ, which was a mile and ¾ north of my house.

AR: When you were a teenager, what did you do for entertainment? Did you just work or did you have time for play to?

RH: We played baseball. We had a team made up of boys around Gordon and Grassland, which were two little communities south of our house. My dad was a manager, sort of like Little League now except not as organized. We’d just say, “We’ll play next Sunday.”

AR: What kind of cars did you have growing up?

RH: I didn’t own a car until I was a senior in college so at the end of my junior year in college, Dad bought a Plymouth. It was a 1950 model Plymouth and that was the car I had through my senior year at college. I was married my senior year so it was Maxine and I’s first car.

AR: Did you just work on the farm or did you have another job as a young man?

RH: I would work on the farm for us and then I worked for our neighbors to earn money. I worked for one neighbor who had a farm to the west of us. He paid me $6.00 a day to work from sun up to sun down.

AR: What was your favorite food growing up?

RH: Of course, we ate what we could raise on the farm and we had the grocery store so we had a lot of food there. My favorite was probably fresh peaches, but we didn’t have those very often because we had to get them when they were in season. We didn’t ship food in those days like they do now.

AR: How did your family celebrate Christmas and other holidays?

RH: Well, my mom’s folks lived in Oklahoma. We went up there just about every Christmas. They would have a Christmas tree. Someone would cut down a pine or some other type of tree that they had there. We had gifts. I can’t remember gifts other than clothes and pants. The first thing I remember is that I got a little tractor with a little disc plow behind it.

AR: Did you get spanked much as a kid or get in trouble?

RH: It seems like my mother was spanking me every other day, mostly cuz I was picking on Jerrilyn. She and I were always having fights—it was never a serious thing, but Mom would spank me for doing it. Dad never spanked me—he would just look at me and we all would melt. I never did a get a whipping by him because I knew when he gave me one it would be a sincere, painful event.

AR: Do you recall an embarrassing moment as a younger person?

RH: One time my mother was making something and she needed some eggs so she told me to go down to the neighbors and get some eggs so I went down to the Kinley’s and got 3 dozen eggs and came home and I told Mom, “They didn’t have any eggs either. I went down to get the eggs and they didn’t have any. They said they didn’t have any.” Then, I flat out lied to her. I said, “But I saw them. She had some eggs. She had 3 dozen eggs on the table there.” Later on, we were in town and Mom talked to Bertha and found out that I had lied about the eggs. When we got home, Mom confronted me and asked me why I had lied. Mom made me walk down to Bertha’s and tell her I was sorry for lying.

AR: What did you want to be when you grew up?

RH: I think that I probably wanted to be a farmer at first, but then as I got older and looked around and saw what was going on in this world, I noticed that the people who made the most money were the doctors. Then I started wanting to be a doctor.

AR: Do you remember who your first kiss was and what you thought about it?

RH: I remember it very well. One of my classmate’s mothers got me a date with her sister-in-law’s daughter. I didn’t know anything about dating much but I went and picked her up after she had been in a play and asked to take her home. I took her home and walked her to her house, walked her up to the porch. When I got to the door, I opened the door and she grabbed me and kissed me real big. I started backing up and I backed off the porch—almost fell and broke my neck. It was a surprise—a very pleasant surprise. It was my first kiss.

AR: In school, did you have any favorite teachers? What was your favorite subject and what subject did you not like at all?

RH: My favorite subject was biology and science. I went to school at Southland so they only offered four courses a year and I had to take what they offered. The course I liked the least was English.

AR: When you met Maxine, what drew you in? What made you want to pursue her?

RH: Maxine, when I first met her, was very shy person. She was very gullible. She’d believe anything you told her. She had come from California to Texas to go to school at ACU and she was interesting to talk to and interesting to know. I just liked her for some reason.

AR: What was her prettiest physical feature?

RH: Her prettiest physical feature?

AR: Keep it clean. {laughs}

RH: It’s hard to say. She had nice, big breasts.

AR: {erupts into laughter} I am not typing that! I am not! Let’s have a rated PG answer. Did you like her eyes?

RH: Yeah, I liked her eyes.

AR: How did you end up popping the question to her?

RH: There was some mesquite trees out in front of McKenzie dorm and we would sit under those mesquite trees and talk. We were sitting under those trees and I asked her to marry me.

AR: Tell me about your wedding ceremony. What year and where was it?

RH: The year was the fall of 1957. September 3rd.
AR: Was it a big wedding or just a few friends and family?

RH: As usual, it started out to be just a small wedding with friends, but Maxine’s mother and dad were pretty well-known through 3 congregations of the church in Sacramento and Chico and northern part of California so most of those people showed up. It was a very hectic day because we had the wedding outside in the backyard and spent the day gathering flowers and greenery and all kinds of stuff to make the yard look pretty. We spent that first day working for Maxine’s mother getting everything ready. After we got married, we went to Roseville. Then we went up to Lake Tahoe, which is the most beautiful place you can ever imagine seeing if you’re a West Texas boy.

AR: When you first had your kids, what was something you said you’d NEVER do—perhaps something that your parents had.

RH: I said that I wouldn’t embarrass my children in front of other people. That was one of the things that my dad would do. I would want a nickel to get a coke or a candy and he would be sitting around talking to the other farmers and I would sort of ease up there and tap him on the shoulder and ask for a nickel and he would say, “Boy, what do you need a nickel for?” He would always say it loud and he would embarrass me. I always said I wouldn’t do that.

AR: How did you get each of your kids’ names?

RH: Ronda was the girl version of Ron. I just liked the name Kevin and Paul came from some people we knew named Paul—when we were driving to the hospital, I was thinking of the apostle Paul. Chiara was named after a little girl in Tanzania. Every time we went to Tanzania, we would shop in the morning and get done about noon time. We would go to the hotel and eat lunch. The people that ran the hotel had a little girl that they named Kiara and I thought the girl was very pretty and I thought it was a pretty name.

AR: What were the most memorable family vacations and trips that you took with your family?

RH: Of course, the trip that affected my life the most was when we went to Tanzania. The trips we took with regularity was to Kingfisher, Oklahoma to see my grandma’s folks on my mother’s side.

AR: Didn’t ya’ll go the lake quite often?

RH: After the kids got old enough to ski and when I got to where I could afford a boat, we skied and boated a lot and all enjoyed it.

AR: What leisure time activities were you involved in?

RH: Fishing, boating, hunting during different seasons.

AR: What role would you say your beliefs have played in your life and what would you tell your children about your faith?

RH: They played a big role in my life. I was baptized when I was 13 and we went to church at Gordon. Later on, I went to Tanzania. Going to church was a big, big thing in my family. We did it regularly and we wouldn’t miss at all.

AR: What were the most joyous, fulfilling times of your life?

RH: Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it was when my first child was born.

AR: Did you have any difficult times in your life that you dealt with and learned from?

RH: I had a real good friend in college. His last name was Harrison. He had a subdural hematoma and he died very suddenly one night. He and I were studying in the library together and we both were married. We talked about meeting the next day and studying some more because we were trying to get in medical school. The next morning someone came up and asked if I had heard about Harrison. I, at first, thought they were telling me a lie for shock value.

AR: If you could do one thing differently, what would it be?

RH: I would do a residency in family medicine and become more of a specialist.

AR: What have you learned over your lifetime that you would like to share with future generations?

RH: Stay off of alcohol and dope.

AR: Did you see in your own life how this affected people?

RH: I saw a lot of people whose lives were destroyed by alcohol in the states and in Tanzania.

AR: What were your family’s favorite jokes or pranks if they had any?

RH: We didn’t have plumbing to the house. We had to carry water from the well to the house. We had a big tub that we used to take baths in and we would heat up the water and put it in the tub. One time, I remember that my dad got in the tub and was sitting there and it was a little bit cool—so he called Mom and told her to bring him some warm water. She instead poured cold water on him. He picked up the hot water off the stove and threw it at her to get her back!

AR: Who was the family comedian within your own family?

RH: I don’t know the answer to that. We weren’t a very comedic family. I guess Kevin would be it.

AR: Besides family, what are you most grateful for?

RH: My education would be the thing. I enjoyed being a doctor and knowing things—that would be the thing I enjoyed the most, although that was also a lot of work. Now that I have Parkinson’s disease, I wish I had done more boating and fishing and less hard work.


Blogger HannahKey said...

Thank you for posting this today, Ash :-) I needed a good laugh and a trip down memory lane when you did this interview the summer we lived with them together. Very fond memories from that summer :-)

Love you!

Good picture of the 3 of us, by the way.... ;-)

October 26, 2010 at 7:51 AM  
Blogger Cole said...

Aww this was neat :) I liked his part about learning to milk a cow at his friend's and then ending up having to do it all the time at home. And his description of his favorite physical feature of his future wife :P

January 26, 2011 at 1:52 PM  

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