Saturday, April 30, 2011

Violet Marie Burwell McCandless

My grandmother passed away Wednesday morning. The service is today.

As a small tribute to her, I thought I would publish something written in her own words. Several years ago I sent out genealogical questionares to my relatives and my Grandma McCandless was the only who sent hers back. She knew how important family and history were. Here are her responses, with the questions removed. In this format, it reads as a story of parts of her life.

I was born September 12, 1921 on a farm near Elk City, Oklahoma. I was named Violet Marie Burwell. My father was Ira B. Burwell and my mother was Cecil Pearl Allender Burwell. In those days most children were born at home. The doctor came to the house for the delivery. His name was Dr. Kilpatrick. Grandma Allender came to help, too. I weighed 8 lbs. I had an older sister—June Delight Burwell who was 18 months old when I was born.

I started to school—first grade—January 1928. We did not have kindergarten. It was not a one-room school. There was a teacher for each grade. Since I was not six when school opened—I could not go the first semester. I was six by January, so I went to school only one-half year in first grade then was promoted to second grade. I attended Merritt school located near Elk City, Okla. I rode the school bus to school. It was a consolidated school. At that time in Oklahoma, school started about Aug 1 and ran for six weeks. Then school was dismissed for six weeks. The children were let out of school to pick cotton for their parents. The farmers all grew cotton in that area and some still do. Then after six weeks school started again to finish the school year—nine months.

My sophomore and Junior year I went to Halstead, Kansas to school. Mama thought she was sick so we moved there to be near the hospital. My father stayed on the farm. He owned it. My senior year I stayed with an aunt who was a teacher in the Tulsa school system in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I graduated Tulsa Central High School in May, 1939. By then mama had moved to Hutchinson, Kans. I moved back home and attended Hutchinson Junior College. I taught school two years and took courses at Hays State and also Wichita University. I do not have a degree but I have lots of hours.

One of my favorite things to do when we lived on the farm in Oklahoma was to go to town on Saturday night. We fixed our hair and dressed up and met our friends. We would walk along the streets and visit. Most everyone did this. After we moved to Kansas (I was fourteen) we lived in a rooming house that mama ran. It was kind of like the Bed & Breakfasts we have now.

Our chores were not assigned. We did what had to be done. No electricity on the farm then. We had to garden—had to carry water to water it. We milked cows—maybe 3 or 4—not many. We had milk and butter. We gathered eggs as we had a flock of chickens. I did not chop wood, but we heated the house with wood. We did have fried chicken from our own flock of chickens and sometimes in the winter parents would butcher a pig. We always went to church on Sunday and sometimes ate dinner with other families that went to church or we came home and sometimes had company for dinner. Transportation then was limited—Model T and later a Model A and in 1925—a Buick Touring Car. It was real classy.

[When I was younger,] I do not remember having a job that paid money. Sometimes we were given a little money when we went to town. A candy bar cost 5 cents. My father gave us some money for working in the cotton field. He also hired people to work in the cotton field. We did not have to do it all. When I taught school I was paid $80 per month. This was about what teachers were paid.

I lived in Oklahoma on a farm as a child. Our house was a white frame house—a good house—an average house. There were four rooms downstairs and one large room upstairs. The room upstairs had sloped ceilings. The children slept upstairs. It was heated with wood stoves. No electricity and no cooling in the summer. We all slept outside at night during the hot summer months.

The most exciting thing that happened was the advent of rural electricity—Franklin D Roosevelt was president. He did a lot for the common person. He promoted the building of rural electric lines, the 4H clubs, jobs for people, CCC men who worked in national parks, built outhouses on farms, and did public works. The worst thing was the war. We went from the depression years to the war years. A depression is a disappointment—we couldn’t have what we wanted because there was no money. A war is a heart break—to lose friends to such a senseless act.

Bill and I met when I was teaching school in Stafford Co. He was a native of Stafford County. I went there in Sept. 1940. In 1940 the draft came into being. Males 21 years and over were required to register for the draft. Bill drafted into the army Feb. 1941 and was sent to Camp Robinson, Ark., at Little Rock. War was declared in Dec. 1941. Thirty-Fifth division, Camp Robinson, Little Rock, Ark was shipped to California. They were stationed up and down the California coast. The United States thought Japan was going to attack the west coast.

We were married June 15, 1942, in the Little Church of Flowers at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California. It was a beautiful little church—only movie stars and important people and rich people were allowed to be married there. During the war soldiers were allowed to be married there. We were honored. We went to San Diego on our honeymoon on a three day pass—not a long honeymoon. For the wedding I wore a Sunday-like dress. Bill wore his uniform. During wartime soldiers were not allowed to wear civilian clothes. Guests were soldiers and a few of Bill’s relatives. I had no relatives in California.

I worked as a school teacher before I was married. Why? Because my mothers relatives were all teachers. They thought I should do that, too. During the war I worked in a J.C. Penny store. When we were in Laurel Md.—Fort Meade—I worked in a drug store. Teaching paid more than working in a store. On the move with the army like we were—I had to get a job where I could. I did not renew my teaching certificate.

[When] we were married during the war, the army picked the places we lived: Inglewood, Calif. Buzzard’s Bay, Mass., Enterprise, Ala., Laurel, Md., Little Rock, Ark., Fredericksburg, Va.—to name a few of the places we lived. After the war we lived two years in Los Angeles, Ca., In 1948 we moved to Stafford County, KS and lived there ever since.

Missing my "Greatest" from the Greatest Generation,


juliette said...

I am so sorry for your loss.

How wonderful that you have this account of her life in her own words. I love how she describes dressing up and going to town and visiting friends on Saturday night. Oh, to have lived then - but no electricity!

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

My condolences Jessie. Your Grandmother sounds like a lovely woman. People back then bucked up and did what had to be done didn't they! Greatest generation indeed...

Sydney_bitless said...

So sorry for your loss.
What an era to grow up in she sure did move around alot!
Say where abouts are you in Kansas? I am going to be moving/visiting in the summer/fall to Missouri, about 30 minutes from Kansas city!

Spiritartartist said...

Sending you my sympathy. She sounds like a grand lady!

Grey Horse Matters said...

So sorry to hear of your loss. Violet sound like a wonderful woman who had a good life and did many things the women of today can't even begin to imagine doing. When we lose someone from the Greatest Generation we lose a piece of history. It's so nice that you have her account of things from her own hand.

Vintage West said...

My condolences to you and your loved ones.
Such an interesting life story and so wonderful that you have it to keep and share for generations to come.

Darlene said...

Fabulous! What a wonderful gift she gave you and I know you treasure it now and always.

smazourek said...

I'm sorry about the loss of your grandmother.

Thank you for posting her story, it was an interesting read. It sounds like she had a full life. The difference between the world she entered and the world she left is rather astounding.