Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Photo Treasure Trove

As possibly, or probably, our family’s most avid genealogist/historian, I have amassed hundreds of photos of relatives of every sort, shape, and description.  Sorting them out is always a challenge with countless hundreds of hours involved.
A couple of weeks ago my youngest sister asked, “Where do you get all of these photos from?”
I told her I wasn’t sure in a lot of cases.  Our good kinfolks have sent them to me from time to time, and I was too careless with not writing where they all came from.  I do know that when my father’s younger sister, Clara, died she insured I would receive a good part of her lifetime collection.  She left a set of photos in her daughter’s care with instructions to pass them on to me which was duly done.
Yesterday, July 30, 2012 I received seven photo albums that were the lifelong collection of my mother’s youngest sister, Rosedale Halladay Suhockey.  She died about eleven years ago.  My cousin Rita, daughter of Rosedale’s brother Jay, settled her estate, and a year or so after Rosedale’s death sent the albums to my brother Lawrence.  I do not know what instructions or requests may have been inferred. At any rate he passed many of the photos to his children.  Then Lawrence died about a year ago leaving the old albums behind in his home.  Now the home has passed to his daughter Sandra who asked if I might want the albums.  I, of course, told her I absolutely wanted them.
Now that I have them I am starting the process of scanning all the photos to my computer for ease of distribution.  If any of my relatives want any photos that may be in the albums please contact me using the above address of leo@lawtonissue.com.
Lori, this is how I get the photos, they just come into my possession as if by magic, but I am really glad that they do.

Friday, July 27, 2012

One-Room School

The first school I attended was named the Draffin School.  I do not know why, but I suspect the land for its erection was donated, or sold, to the school district by a person or family by that name as there were several in the area at the time.  Officially it was District School #25 within the Town of Lisbon, County of St. Lawrence, State of New York.  It was located at the intersection of the Cline Road, Brown Road, and State Route #68.
On a regular basis grades 1 through 6 were taught.  There was no kindergarten at the time, and my brother Ron, for whatever reason, completed his 7th grade there.  I know of no other exceptions.  There were six rows of seats from front to back, each with 5 desks for an average of about 25 students each year.  Each row was equal to a grade.
I was born in July 1938, the seventh child in my family.  A younger sister named Dixie was born in February 1940.  She died an accidental death in January 1942.  A younger brother named Fred was born in May 1942.  In September 1942 all of my brothers began the school year including the next older than myself named Dell.  This left me at home with my mother and an infant brother.  My mother always told how I was so lonely I would not leave her side, tagging along like a faithful puppy.  I apparently couldn’t determine any reason for everyone leaving every day.  After two or three days of this my mother sent me with the older children to school so I could see for myself where they went every day.
Miss Bessie Dewan, my teacher for the first four years, sent word back to my mother she thought I was able to fit into the first grade even though I was but 4 years old.  So it was I began school then.  Thus I finished the sixth grade at the age of 9, and ultimately graduated high school at age 15 after completing 12 full years of school in 1954.
With six grades all being taught in the same room the lower grades got some benefit of listening to the older grades, and the older grades got some benefit of reaffirmation of what they had learned in previous years when a younger class was in session.  I remember on many occasions I would note George , who was a grade higher than myself, struggling to understand his arithmetic.  Raising my hand I would ask if it was okay to help him.  With the teacher’s permission I would help George, and I hadn’t even been taught yet what he was doing.  This is an example of the benefit of listening in on the higher classes.  The following year when it was my class’s turn to learn that material I already knew it.  In my opinion this is a fairly good system.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Coffee Cup CBers

In the latter half of the 1970s and into the 1980s the Citizen’s Band (CB) Radio was the Facebook of today.  People from all walks of life used it as a method of chatting with a neighbor, contacting new friends, or just plain having fun communicating. With the twist of a dial and the click of a microphone switch you could be instantly connected to anyone within a radius of twenty-five miles, or even more on a good day, to those that happened to be listening on the call channel, or monitoring some other particular channel.  
In this manner I met the “Fat Rat” and the “Alley Cat,” the “handles” of some neighbors I hadn’t ever known about.  After a suitable amount of chit chat over the course of weeks there came an evening when my brother “Letterman,” and myself “Simba” met with the couple with some vague idea of forming a group of enthusiasts for the enjoyment of our new-found entertainment.
It wasn’t too long before the “Coffee Cup CBers” was a reality.  At the beginning we merely had get-togethers where we met to enjoy coffee and pastries, and the camaraderie of good friends.  When folks chat though ideas are born, and in this case the thought of an old-fashioned dance became a popular topic of conversation.  So it was that a few of us anted the money, hired a local Country and Western Band, got permission to use the local volunteer fire station, contracted for libation, purchased hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, and snack foods, put it all together and held the first “Round and Square Dance” for decades.  Admission was charged to cover expenses, which after all bills were paid there was a profit remaining.
The profit from the first dance was rolled over into several more.  Each time there was a further profit even though the club was formed as a non-profit organization under the wing of the local Sportsman’s Club.  As an attempt to enjoy ourselves, and at the same time aid the community, we then held an old-time fireman’s field day including all sorts of carnival-type games, bed races in the street, and food and drink for all ages.  As most people had a good outing we did it again the following year with the same results.
However, it seems sooner or later all good things come to an end, and this was the case with the Coffee Cup CBers.  After a decade or so the CB airwaves were so cluttered with millions of users it had become nearly impossible to use them any more.  Only a very limited number of people continued to have any interest in either CB radios or the Coffee Cup Club so we decided to disband.  All money in the treasury was donated to the local Volunteer Fire Company as well as a limited amount of physical property.
KKZ 5098 signing off for the evening.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Homesteading V

Any family has a few small memorable events as time passes.  The homesteading Lawton family in Ernfold, Saskatchewan, Canada was no exception to that.
On one occasion Will and Cora hitched up the buggy horse and drove to town for supplies.  The three children were left home alone for the afternoon.  As evening approached the children were playing upstairs in the home.  Lloyd and Floyd decided to go downstairs as it was beginning to get dark.  Lloyd, descending first, spotted what appeared to be a bear on the lower floor.  Floyd and he retreated up the stairs to their parent’s bedroom where a long gun was kept.  They loaded the gun and sat quietly on the top of the stairs hoping the bear did not attempt to climb up there searching for children to attack.  This was the scene as their parents returned and entered the home.  Lloyd and Floyd were soundly chastised for having loaded the gun in fear of a buffalo hide coat that had carelessly been left in a corner of the downstairs room.
At that time the land was barren with not a tree in sight of the homestead.  Cora said she missed that part of her former New York upbringing, so as a surprise to her Grandpa Will contacted a former neighbor back there and had a silver maple seedling sent to their home in Ernfold.  It was duly planted near the house, and lo and behold, it thrived and began to grow straight and tall.  Some of the neighbors were fascinated to see the Lawton’s tree, and it was remarked about from time to time.  It was the only tree for miles around.  Later, when the family moved on to Montana, Cora wanted to take the tree with her, but Grandpa told her it would only die so it was left behind.  I wonder if it grows there yet?
After seven years on the Ernfold homestead, in 1918 the family moved on to the Glasgow, Montana area to yet another homestead, but that’s a story for another time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Homesteading IV

In the early years of the 20th century on the prairie lands of Saskatchewan Province the main farm crops were grains.  Grandpa and his son Clint were no exception to the rule.  In a letter to his step-son Ray dated July 12, 1913, Grandpa stated Clinton had sown 11 ½ acres and was working on 15 acres more.  Grandpa had sown 32 ½ acres of oats, and thought he would be set to sow 50 acres the following year.  He had built a hen house 16’ X 20’ for their 140 baby chicks and 17 one-year-old hens.  They also owned 5 hogs, 4 horses, 4 oxen, 1 milk cow and a calf.  He pleaded with Ray to come take up a homestead so he too might “have a house and 160 acres of fine land of your own where people can’t say ‘get out’”
During harvest time 30 or 40 men followed the threshing machine through the countryside as they done all of the farmer’s crops.  One year Cora Lawton was hired as the cook.  She followed the men through the entire harvest season.  A man was hired to help her with the cooking.  All ate outdoors for the three meals a day Cora cooked.  As fresh vegetables were hard to get the meals were mostly meat and potatoes.  The men ate on long wooden tables that were loaded on wagons and hauled from farm to farm.  Little Clara set the tables and in later life said they seemed like they were half a mile long.
Not until all the men were done eating would Cora, her helper, and her three children sit down to eat.  Clara also remembered that the helper played the harmonica, and it was one of her fondest memories recalling sitting on his lap in the evening as he played mournful tunes in the fading light of the setting sun.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Homesteading III

Even budding homesteader wheat farmers wish to educate their children, and such was the case in the hinterlands of Saskatchewan in 1911.  To keep the one-room-school in Rochdale County operating they needed at least 10 children attending.  Because of this Clara started school at a much earlier age than most children.  The teacher, Aletha Sparling, boarded with the Lawton family, and therefore rode the six miles each way back and forth to school in the horse and buggy with Lloyd, Floyd, and Clara each school day.  Coyotes ran in packs and the children were hardly ever allowed out of sight of either home or school while on foot lest they be attacked.
Aletha Sparling was married but never had children, so it was rather natural, her living with the Lawton family, to treat little Clara with some favoritism.  They were in contact with each other for some years after the school experience.
Nearly all the children attending school went barefoot.  Shoes were saved for the winter, but school was not open in the bitter winter months.  Only one girl and the teacher wore shoes on any sort of a regular basis.  Obviously with only one room all of the classes were held in the same room.  With this situation younger children got some of the benefit of learning from the older children’s lessons.
As winter was too cold, summer was too hot and tornado prone, so school held sessions only in spring and fall.  My father, Lloyd, got what was considered a 6th grade education from this one-room school, and never did I remotely consider him uneducated through his life so this system wasn’t so bad after all.
This photo, taken in 1916, is of Lloyd age 11, Clara 5, and Floyd 9 during these formative school years.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Homesteading II

The house that Grandpa built, with the help of his family, had two stories.  There were three small bedrooms, a kitchen, and a small living room.  Bathroom facilities were located out back of the house in a separate building.  Water was carried into the home in buckets from the hand-dug well.  In the kitchen was an old cook stove.  In the living room was a small parlor heater stove.  Coal was used for fuel in winter, but dried cow pies were used in summer when available.  Any extra were stored in used feed sacks for winter use.
Each summer many of the neighbors joined Will and Cora and family, and with horses and wagons made a temporary move to some berry fields about 40 miles from home.  The wagons were rigged with canvases for shelter.  It took four days each way for travel time.  Everyone including the smallest children would pick berries.  Then the women would build a community fire, put on a large kettle and can the berries on the spot for winter preservation.  This went on from two to three weeks until all were satisfied they had a sufficient supply for family use.  All those fortunate enough to own a cow, including my grandparents, took it along with them for fresh daily milk while away from home.  The cow needed milking daily anyway.
The area around Ernfold was entirely flat prairies overrun with gophers.  The government in an attempt to eradicate them, or at least cut their numbers, paid a ¼ cent bounty on them.  Evidence of their departure was a gopher’s tail.  Lloyd and Floyd were the designated gopher hunters.  A slip knot was made at the end of a heavy cord.  This was placed over a gopher hole.  When the gopher stuck its head up to reconnoiter the area, one of the boys would pull the noose closed, while the other one bashed the gopher with a club.  The gopher’s rearmost extremity was removed and the carcass thrown back in the hole.  School clothes money was obtained in this manner.
Every family had a dugout which was ramped into the ground, had a plank cover, in turn covered with earth.  The animals were housed there in winter, and the family also occupied them during infrequent tornados.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


In the spring of 1911 my grandfather decided it was his destiny to go to Canada and homestead.
Now Grandpa had been married and had a couple of sons named Clarence and Clinton in 1893 and 1894 respectively.  Shortly after the second birth his wife, Mary, died.  Grandfather placed the two children in an orphanage where they remained until 1901 at which time Grandpa Will married a widow with three children.  Cora Baker Lester had birthed Ada in 1884, Raymond in 1886, and Charles in 1887.  After their marriage Grandpa and Cora had three children named Lloyd in 1905, Floyd in 1907, and Clara in 1911, as well as collecting his first two from the orphanage.
Before Grandpa Will made the decision to go west, and north, Ada Lester had died in 1896, Ray had married in 1908 and was on his own, while Charles, yet single, had left the nest and was working on a farm where he elected to stay.  Clarence Lawton, like Charles Lester his half-brother, was working away from home and remained there.
Thus Grandpa and his remaining son from his first marriage, Clinton, along with a team of horses, caught the Canadian Pacific train and ultimately departed it at Ernfold, Saskatchewan, Canada which had only become a province in 1905.  Grandma, along with the three younger children, remained in northern New York.  The plan was that Grandpa and Clint would plant as much of a crop as they could, and then build a shelter for the rest of the family to come in the fall.
Grandpa and Clinton each obtained adjoining quarter sections (160 acres) of prairie land.  They were required to improve the land, work it as farm land, pay taxes, and in several years it would be given to them by the government.  There was a slight rise in the sod near a corner of Grandpa’s land where it adjoined Clint’s.  There they dug a sort of cave into the side of the hill as a place to live.  On Clint’s land, but near to the dugout, they dug a well thus improving both places.
In that fall of 1911 Cora and their three children Lloyd 6, Floyd 4, and Clara a babe in arms also caught a Canadian Pacific to Ernfold to find only the dugout to live in.  All that winter of 1911-1912 the team of horses and a cow lived in the outer part of the dugout, while the five family members lived deeper inside.
It was in the spring of 1912, 100 years ago, that Grandpa and Clint built a small unpretentious home for the family’s use for the next several years.
This is a photo of that home a few miles north of Ernfold, Saskatchewan, Canada taken in 1917 when Lloyd was 12, Will was 51, Clara was 6, Cora was 49, and Floyd was 10.  Although I do not know it to be fact I assume Clint took the photo.

Monday, July 9, 2012

CB Radio Craze

It was late in the year of 1975 when my brother Fred developed an interest in CB radios.  While I was visiting him one day he showed me his newly acquired radio equipment, and demonstrated how he could talk to people within a few mile radius of his home.  I thought that was almost miraculous although the telephone would work just as well and reach a lot further.
Soon, I thought I’d like to try this form of communication also.  One Sunday evening Fred brought a small portable unit designed for use in a car to my home.  We attached it to an old lawn mower battery that was kicking around, and began to try various methods of trying to make something work as an antennae.  After an old set of TV rabbit ears had been hooked up, and turned in exactly the right direction we began to hear faint voices.  Fred rushed back to his home, about ten miles from mine, and very faintly we were on the air and talking to each other.  Oh, the wonders of modern technology.
Within a short period of time I had bought my own citizen’s band radio complete with antennae mounted on the roof of my home.  That Midland hooked to a Radio Shack Super something or other could talk all around my county.  Soon I opted for a Moon Raker 4 built by someone I can’t remember now, but it was a beast up on my roof complete with its own attached directional motor and gear assembly called a rotor.  With that I could talk for maybe fifty miles.
Within a short period of additional time I had attached a bit more power to the original 4 watts.  Let me assure you 4 watts multiplied by 100 will allow you to talk a lot further than you may have expected.
Within a few years though millions of people bought rigs, and with all of them alking at once it became almost impossible to contact your next door neighbor, much less anyone further away, so I sold out my equipment and left the fold of adventurous CB’ers.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Northern New York Pulpit Rock

It’s not easy to get to the small hamlet of Oxbow.  The fact is it’s hard to find on a map, but if you search hard enough in the northern part of Jefferson County, right near the border of St. Lawrence County it is possible to locate.  That though is only the beginning.  After finding it on a map it is not easy to get there.  It’s sort of one of those places that you just can’t seem to get to from where you are.  No matter where you are.
However, with enough sheer determination it is reachable.  Once you get there you’ll have to do some mind searching to determine why you wanted to go there in the first place.  Oh yes, that’s where one can leave town on the Pulpit Rock Road.  Why would you want to do that?  Of course, so you can see the world famous Pulpit Rock formation which is about ½ mile out of town.
I guess those pioneers sat on the rocks, but I’m not sure.  I wasn’t there.