Captured by Missy DeLozier
|Email Received in Feb. 2008|
My husband's great aunt also worked at Douglass during WWII. She painted bombs. She is still living, just turned 98 in Jan. and lives at the nursing home in Collinsville. She is sharp as a tack and still remembers the past as if it were yesterday. I sat down with her one day and wrote a collection of stories from her childhood through adult years.
I would like to give you a copy of it. Next time you are at the high school come by my room. She is a fascinating lady.
-- Missy Delozier (2/10/2008)
|From Thursday Dec. 25, 2008 Tulsa World: Collinsville Okla May Newman, 98, retired Hissom Memorial Children's Hospital laboratory technician, died Monday (Dec. 22). Service 2 p.m. Friday (Dec. 26) , Rose Hill Memorial Park Chapel of Peace, Tulsa. Ninde Brookside, Tulsa.|
Written by: Missy DeLozier (As told by: Okla May Evans Newman)
Just as Oklahoma began statehood so began my family's journey to the wonderful land in which I still call home. In 1907, my grandparents and father traveled in a two-wheeled, mule-grawn cart from Sedelia, Missouri to Drumright, Oklahoma. After they settled in, Dad sent for Mom and my brothers to come to Oklahoma from Sedelia by train. My grandparents operated the first boarding house for oilfield workers. Granny became the first telephone switchboard operator for the Drumright area and Grandpa had a blacksmith shop. My parents settled near Oilton where my dad started working in the oilfields.
I was born in Oilton, Oklahoma on January 8, 1910 to George and Annie Evans. My parents couldn't agree on a name for me so they just called me Sis because I had three olders brothers. One day someone from the Census Bureau came to our house. He took down our family information and asked for all of our names. He was told that my name was Sis. He told my parents that nicknames were not acceptable. Mom told him that if he needed a name for his records he would have to give me one himself. So, he did! He wrote down the abbreviation for the state where he lived and the month in which he visited our home. This is how I got my legal name, Okla May Evans.
When I was about five years old, my parents joined a group of people who were planning to travel to Wilburton, Oklahoma to homestead property where free land was being offered. We found plenty of fish, wild game, berries and fruits for eating and clear streams for drinking, washing and bathing. Each evening the men would find a place to camp near the water. One evening it was my mother's turn to use the camp stove to bake bread for our family. Before the bread was done, some Indians rode up on horses and began yelling and circling the campsite. We had to move out quickly. Mom grabbed our half-baked bread and the men dumped the burning wood out of the stove. When we left the camp site the Indians did not chase us. They just wanted to scare us away from their land. I was very afraid of Indians after that incident.
The men then took us to a distant cave because they feared another encounter with the Indians. Women and children bedded down in the cave. The wagons were placed in a half-circle in front of the cave to form a corral for the stock. The men rested on the ground under the wagons. They took turns sleeping and guarding the campsite throughout the night.
Every so often, along our journey, we came upon a country store where we could replinish our supplies. A sack of soda crackers from a barrel was a treat for the children. We purchased bologna in long sticks. I got in trouble for sticking my finger in the bologna and licking it off. Mom always knew whenever I did it because that one finger would be clean and the rest were dirty.
At one point during the trip, we had to get out of our wagon and walk because the road travelled up and around a hill and it was too steep for us to ride in our wagons. As the horses walked slowly up the hill, the wagon tipped over onto its side and slid down the hill. The wagon tongue broke loose and the horses were able to escape injury. Several men had to attach ropes to the wagon and pull it upright. They were eventually able to pull it back onto the road and repair it.
I can never recall a time when we weren't with our parents. We were blessed in that way to have the security of a mother and father by our side every day and every night. In cold weather they would cover the bottom of the wagon with hay and then lay down a quilt. If it was raining they would put a tarp over it. It was a dangerous journey but we were never cold, wet or hungry.
Many times during the wagon train trip we could look off into the distance and see a man on a white horse. He followed the wagon train most of the way to Wilburton. The adults decided that the man must have been a lawman who had been assigned to watch over us as we traveled across the wilderness.
After we made the long journey to Wilburton and were settled for a short time, my parents decided they didn't like the area and the homestead situation. They decided to return to Oilton. Dad ran a ferryboat crossing service on the Cimarron River at Oilton for a while. He later became a worker in the vast oilfield business. Once, when we were living on an oilfield lease, a horrible fire broke out. An oil tank rod was struck by lightning and the fire quickly spread over a large area between Oilton and Drumright. Burning oil boiled out of tanks into nearby streams causing bridges and everything in its path to burn, I remember black smoke filling the sky, fire all around us and holding tightly to Mom's hand. I thought the world was coming to an end. Oilfield workers had to use dynamite to help put out the fires. These constant explosions made it even more terrifying.
It was during the days that we lived in Oilton that I recall most of my childhood memories. My brothers and I were into constant mischief. My grandmother loved to piece together quilts. One day she ran out of thread and my dad bought her a new spool. My brother George and I overheard them talking about how many yards of thread were on that spool. We were courious as to how long they were really talking about so when grandmother wasn't looking we took that spool of thread and went outside. I told George that I thought it would stretch all the way to China. George put a stick in the hole of the spool and I began walking and stretching it out. We completely unwound all 150 yards of the thread. Later when my dad walked to work he got all tangled up in it. We had to wind all of the thread back on the spool even though it could never be used again. We got in a lot of trouble for that.
My brother George and I loved to play in our barn. One day we dicided to play "hunter and rabbit". George was the hunter and I was the rabbit. I would run and George would point a stick at me and say :bang, bang" and I would drop dead. Dad was working in the barn and threw a shovel of dirt on me. It scared me and I ran into the house crying. My mom asked me what was wrong and I said, "I was a dead rabbit and Dad buried me!"
At least once a week several of the neighborhood children used to get together and play church. They would use an old stump as a puppit and limbs were used for the pews. We would pretend old school books were Bibles and sang schol songs for hymns, One of the neighborhood kids would baptize us all. We were supposed to run through a puddle of water and then one boy would lean us backwards to baptize us. When it was my turn he dropped me right in the middle of the mud puddle. I ran home and got in so much trouble because I was covered in mud from head to toe and my hair ribbon was ruined. I think that was the only baptism that did me any good. I think he baptized us in the name of Mickey Mouse instead of Jesus because we were all such rats.
My mother used to make the best oatmeal cookies. Each of us would get only one cookie. I took my cookie and decided to hide it and eat it later so that my brothers and sisters would think that Mom gave me 2 cookies because she liked me the best. I climbed a tree and hid it in a box that was nailed to the side of a tree for a hen's nest. The hen got in it later to lay an egg and ate the cookie. I guess I wasn't as clever as I thought I was because I didn't even get to eat one cookie.
The only memory I can recall of my early schooling was at a school called Pleasant Hill. It was a one room school house with a wood burning stove for heat. There were probably about 20 kids of all ages that went to school there. We would learn reading, writing and arithmetic. Our teacher would teach us arithmetic by saying, "if there are 5 birds on a fence and 1 flies away how many are left?" We had story books to read and copy books to write. The school was several miles from our house and we would walk everyday, in the rain, sleet, snow, no matter the condition. We would leave early in the morning and get home late in the afternoon. In the evening my chores were to do laundry and the dishes. My cousins, who lived on a farm some distance away, had to pick cotton everyday after school until dark, so I was more happy to do my little chores.
I was very young during WWI when my family and I lived in Oilton. My only memories of that war were of fear. I didn't understand the war and associated it with killing and death. One of our neighbor's sons went into the service. I had seen him dressed in his Army uniform so I knew he was a soilder. Just before he went off to fight in the war he came home to visit his parents and tell them goodbye. When he came to see my parents I hid. I was so afraid of that man. I knew he was going to war to kill people and that really scared me. I don't know if that man lived through the war and ever made it back to see his family.
Some of my fondest memories of my childhood came from time spent at my Aunt Eliza and Uncle Bob's house. They had 8 girls and since there were 11 children in my family, the house was very crowded, but we enjoyed every waking moment. We would make one large pallet to sleep on in the dining room under the kitchen table. As soon as the sun came up we would go outside and not go back in the house until sundown. We would spend our day eating watermelon, peanuts and persimmons, picking pecans, climbing trees and playing games. Our favorite games to play were marbles, skipping rope, hide and seek, mumble peg, annie-over and baseball. Mumble peg was a game played with a pocket knife. The boys always carried a pocket knife. You would open the knife in the shape of an L. Then you would flip it off your wrist, elbow, shoulder and head. If the blade stuck in the sand you got a point. You got more points the further up your arm you flipped it and the most points for flipping off of your head. This was the boys' favorite game. We also loved to play annie-over. We would split up into 2 teams on each side of the house. Someone would throw a ball over the house and yell, "annie-over". Whoever caught it on the other side would yell, "pigs tail". Then they would run around the house and touch someone with the ball. Whoever got touched would then have to be on the other team. The game would go on for hours. Playing baseball was quite different than it is today. The boys would whittle a bat out of a tree limb. We usually only had one baseball so we were careful not to lose it. I was pretty good for a girl but I was really just one of the boys because there wasn't anything they could do that I couldn't. One thing that we were not allowed to do was swim. Our parents were too afraid that we would drown so we stayed away from the water. Even when I was older I never learned to swim.
We played so much during the day while we were at Uncle Bob's and had so much fun that we never wanted to go in. Once while we were playing in the barn, I became ill. I was running a fever and chilling. I wouldn't let my cousins take me to the house so they dug a hole in a bale of hay, wrapped me in a blanket and put me inside. I stayed there until my fever broke. I was sick and miserable but at least I didn't have to go in the house.
Later in life, I was visiting my mother in a nuring home, just before she died and told her how much I enjoyed our visits to Uncle Bob's and Aunt Eliza's. She said, "I know you enjoyed it but it wasn't much fun for me because your Uncle Bob complained about you kids every time we left. He said you kids were the worst kids he'd ever met and that you tore up everything. I always defended you kids and told him that you didn't do anything wrong." I said to Mom, "Yes, we did everything he said we did! Didn't you know you had the meanest kids around?" This was the first my mother knew of the mischief we were always into.
When I was in my teens we moved to the Turley, Oklahoma area and it was there that I attended high school at Cherokee. I enjoyed school for the most part but do recall one particular fight I got into. I never fought with girls but did fight with boys that crossed me. I wasn't afraid of anyone; after all I did have 8 brothers. I don't recall the boy's name but he was the school bully. One day he sat next to me on the school bus and kept laying his head in my lap. I kept shoving him off of me and he kept doing it so I shoved him in the aisle of the bus and punched him until I bloodied his nose, He quit school after that. I guess he was embarrassed because he got beat up by a girl. When I finished High School in 1925 there was no graduation that I can recall. The only thing different from any other last day of school was some students planned to stage a walk-out and skip school. The entire class, except me, walked out. I was too afraid of getting in trouble so I stayed at school. It was just me, my teacher and the principal left there. It turned out no one got in trouble so as I look back now, I guess I should have went with them.
I married Orville Siler when I was 16 and we had one son Harold but we divorced some time later. My last marriage was to J.D. Hines owner of Hines Sanitation. He passed away several years ago.
During my life I held numerous jobs. The job I am most proud of, which has had the most impact on my life, was my job at W.C Norris in Tulsa. I was in my early 30's, during WWII, and the majority of men were in the service, so I went out looking for a job and found this one. We painted bombs to be used by the U.S. Army. We used paint sprayers to paint the inside and painted lines on the outside by hand. Everything had to be precise or the bomb would not detonate like it was supposed to. We never wore masks or any other protective equipment. We didn't know we needed them back then. It's a wonder any of us survived the fumes and dust. After the bombs left our plant they were shipped to a plant in McAlester where they were filled with TNT and then off to war. Thousands came in and thousands went out everyday.
I soon became a supervisor and was in charge of a number of workers, mostly women since most of the men were fighting in the war. I didn't want to be a supervisor and I never felt I was superior to anyone who worked for me. I wasn't good at giving orders and didn't like to tell people what to do but it was part of my job. I was just one of them. just someone who needed a job. We once got so far behind on our quota that there was no doubt we were going to need some extra help. My boss went to the welding department and taked to a man to see if he would be willing to work in our department for a while. He said, "I'll go, but I will not take orders from a woman." My boss said, "I think you will like her, just give it a try." He came to work with an attitude but after about 2 weeks he actually requested a transfer so he could permanently work for me.
We worked long hours at that plant and always had to stay late. One day I came up with a plan to make it so I could leave on time. Three minutes before the whistle blew I would shut down my station and clean up my paint machine and put everything away. That way when the whistle blew I could punch my time card and walk right out the door. After about the third day of doing this my boss caught me walking out, grabbed me by the shirt collar and said, "If you want to keep this job, you'll work until the whistle blows." I never tried that again.
Jobs were frozen during those days which meant if you were a man and not in the service and you held a job you didn't have to join the Army. If you quit your job or got fired from it, the Army would snatch you up and off to war you would go. There was a boy about 16 years old working for us. He was a nice kid but he had missed work a number of times and was late quite often. My boss asked me if I would talk to him because if he didn't shape up he was going to have to fire him. I didn't know what to say to him but I sat him down and asked him why he missed work so often. He told me his wife is pregnnant and sometimes he stays home to take care of her. I told him if he didn't quit missing work he would be fired and the Army would take him away from his wife and unborn child. I guess I put the fear in him because he was never late or absent again. Sometime after leaving W.C. Norris, I received an E-pin for excellent work towards the war effort awarded by the Army and Navy and signed by President Franklin Roosevelt. In 2004 I donated this pin to the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park. I am very proud of this service I gave to my country and when the war in Iraq began, I wondered, being in my 90's, if I was going to be able to paint bombs again if they need me to.
After my job at W.C. Norris, I had several jobs. I worked at McDonald Douglas in Tulsa in the paint and silk screening department and Hillcreat Medical Center in the Laboratory. I retired when I was about 70 years old, from Hissom Mental Institute in Tulsa where I worked in the Laboratory making tests and helping the technicians.
Besides my skills in the working industry I have obtained my ability to paint, sew, crochet and embroider and make various craft projects. I have spent countless hours on afghans, quilts, sweaters and other items of clothing. I could make just about anything I put my mind to. These hobbies have given me hours of enjoyment.
As the last living member of my family of thirteen, I feel that my experiences in the early days of Oklahoma gave me the ability to work hard, develop many skills and survive many hardships. On Jan. 8, 2007 I turned 97 years old and 97 years have been spent in this great state. I will always remember my journeys, my struggles and my experiences with the fondest of memories. As I look back and recall these stories I realize, though some were adverse, that these were turly the best years of my life.
Okla May Newman was born in Oilton, Oklahoma to George Henry and Annie Evans on Jan. 8, 1910. She had 8 brothers and 3 sisters, all of which preceded her in death. She is also preceded in death by a son, Harold Siler. She is survived by her nieces, Eunice DeLozier of Collinsville and Clara Cook of Vinita, a stepson, Jim Hines and a step-grandson, Jamie Hines of Inola.
Okla was known to all as Aunt Sis. Her parents couldnt agree on a name for her so they just called her Sis. One day a man from the Census Bureau came to her house to take an official count and told them she must have a legal name. Her parents told that man to give her a name so he named her Okla after the state in which they lived and May for the month he was there.
Aunt Sis had many occupations throughout her long life. During her early 30s she worked for WC Norris in Tulsa, painting bombs during WWII. It was this job she was most proud of. For this service to her country, she received an E-Pin for excellent work towards the war effort signed by President Franklin Roosevelt. She later worked for McDonald Douglass in Tulsa in the paint and silk screening department and Hillcrest Medical Center in the Laboratory. She retired at the age of 70 from Hissom Mental Institute in Tulsa, where she also worked in the Laboratory.
Aunt Sis enjoyed sewing, knitting, embroidery, quilt making, painting and gardening. She had a sound mind until the very end and loved visiting with people and recalling stories from her childhood. She led a fulfilling life and touched the lives of all who knew her. She passed away Dec. 22, 2008 in Collinsville, Ok., just 17 days shy of her 99th birthday.
Submitted by Missy DeLozier 12/25/2008