The Kizzie Catherine Parker-Brown Tapes
Wally Lee Parker
(All rights reserved by the Enkey-Parker Family History Newsletter)
In September of 2000 I received two audio cassette tapes from
Shirley A. Brown of Inyokern, California.
Shirley is the daughter-in-law of my Great Aunt
Kizzie Catherine Parker-Brown
(July 25, 1901 — August 20, 1979).
Kizzie was the ninth of Andrew Jackson Parker (II)
and Sarah Melviney Newton’s thirteen children.
About the tapes, Shirley said,
“Enclosed are copies of some tape recordings that Kizzie made a long time ago at her daughter Joan’s place. Her son, Dale, gave them to me two or three years ago. He said he thought there were three tapes originally, but he could only find the two.”
This is an edited distillation from several segments of those tapes.
Hopefully this transcription is in majority correct.
Reprinted from the Enkey-Parker Family History Newsletter
July/August/September, 2001 & April/May/June, 2002
… The Kizzie Tapes …
I was born on the 25th of July, 1902, near the town of Mulberry in northwestern Arkansas. We got our mail at a little county post office called White Rock. I was about seven years old when we moved to Oklahoma.
We moved in January of 1910. My oldest brother, Alfred Wallace, had moved to the Oklahoma territory in 1908, just before it became a state. When people asked what caused us to move, we always said we’d got tired of farming rocks in Arkansas.
We moved to what they call the Sand Hills in south eastern Oklahoma. That would be south east of Muskogee, near the little town of Braggs. Our farm was almost surrounded by water. The Arkansas River was on one side and a big creek on the other, so it was a real good place to farm.
The town of Braggs, in Cherokee county, was named after a couple of folks who were real old when we first moved there — original settlers I suppose. Our farm was just across the line in Muskogee County.
A lot of outlaws come out of that country. Pretty Boy Floyd for one. I didn’t know Pretty Boy, but I did know the Baynes boys and a lot more of them around there. Some of them was part Indian.
We’d heard of a bunch of Parkers who lived around Fort Smith, in Arkansas. One of them was the famous ‘Hanging Judge’. Dad (Andrew Jackson Parker II) didn’t think any of them was kin of ours.
We worked on that farm all the time. We worked hard and we enjoyed it. And I’d still be working hard if I was able to.
I had three younger brothers — and I was the leader. We had a lot of fun when we caught dad gone. We had horses to ride. And we broke young mules. And the boys would try to ride the calves — when dad wasn’t there.
We worked five days a week. Saturday was town day — a day when the whole community for miles around would get together. Since we only lived a half mile out we’d usually wait till afternoon and walk into town, but people who lived a few miles off and drove their rigs in would come in the morning and stay all day. And the Cherokee would all come in too. So by time we’d get there you’d walk in the street ‘cause the sidewalk would be so packed with people.
People didn’t have much of anything, but everybody seemed happy.
Dad was a Democrat, but my uncle was a Republican. There was always a bit of an argument when they got together. I’ve always been a Democrat, so I guess I figured Daddy was right.
People seemed interested in anything that had anything to do with the community. Local elections, school board, anything like that. People would vote and such — of course, before President Wilson only the men could vote.
When candidates for state and county elections would come in there’d be a couple of days of picnics and such so the candidates and people could get together and talk. They had quite a time with all that.
Maybe it was a good thing when women got the vote. As far as politics and things like that I never wanted any part of it. I thought a woman’s place was in the home. Whether woman's place is raising babies is another question.
Dad was against any kind of liquor, although my brothers, some of them, did drink. Making liquor was easy money if you didn’t get caught. Dad, I don’t know how many times, when nobody knowed what he was doing, walked through the hills trying to locate some of them stills.
Before the Federals would come looking for stills, they’d notify the Constable in Braggs. He knew who all the big whiskey makers were, so he’d send a runner to tell them the Feds were in the area. The Feds never caught anybody, and we all knew why.
About the depression? I don’t believe anybody actually like Herbert Hoover as a president. But it’s never one man’s fault. There’s always more than one of them mixed up in it.
As far as I could see there just was no use for our country to be in that mess — for the people to be in the mess they was. After ‘World War I’ the prices dropped out of all the crops. People couldn't sale their corn, cotton or anything else. That was in the fall of 1920 — after Harding was elected. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it. More than anything else I think they just tightened up the money too much.
But it really started to be seen in 1931. They had a lot of potato farmers in Oklahoma. Lots of people would come to work when it come time to dig ‘em up. Then the price went out of Potatoes too. And there was people in them migrant camps that was starving to death. We’d see people going up and down the road passed our place all the time. Just going. Begging for food. Nobody had much. ‘Course the people who grew food had more.
It’d been going on before 1931. But that’s when people really started moving around — looking for work. Fact is there just wasn’t any work.
In Oklahoma the seasons, the weather, seemed to have changed. Crops didn’t grow like the use to. A couple of my brothers wanted to pull up and go to Arizona — there was supposed to be lots of work out there — someplace where my brothers had worked before. Allen had just bought a car. He drove from Oktaha to Braggs — where we still lived — and said they was going. So we just decided to pull up and go too.
We didn’t so much decide as I did. My husband said to Allen, “I’ll just leave it up to her.” All I said was that I wanted to get away from Braggs. And he said that was okay.
We sold what little junk we had. I went that night with my brother over to my mother’s house at Oktaha and stayed through Christmas. Then, on the 29th of December, 1937, we left for Arizona.
We had a ‘34 Chevy and a trailer to pull. We’d had a sleet storm the day before, so it wasn’t very dry. Then, before we got to McAlester we burned a bearing out on the trailer. So we stopped and repaired that, then drove on into Denison, Texas, and stayed that night. We’d planned to go south to the Rio Grande Valley and then to El Paso before turning into New Mexico and Arizona. But it was raining, and muddy. So we turned west through Sherman, Saint Jo, and Wichita Falls. It took us two days to cross Texas. With the rain and mud we had to take our time. We camped right close to the New Mexico border at a place called Plains — and it was plain. Set way up high with not much there. And then we drove on into Roswell, New Mexico, on Saturday — on New Year ’s Day.
We rented a cabin there with the idea of getting work pulling bowls. Monday morning we got up to find big clouds floating around, and sprinkling rain. My brother Allen said, “When it rains here it really rains, so I think we’d just better load up this morning and head on toward Arizona”. Somewhere along in there the trailer pulled the bumper off the car. The boys chained the bumper back on.
We drove through the Hondo Valley. Through White Sands. Then over the Organ Pass into Los Cruces, where we stayed the night. We went to the southwest because the old road west to Globe was a mess. My brother Allen though it’d be best for us to miss as much of it as we could.
We crossed over the line into Arizona — crossed over with a lot of our food stuff, potatoes and things like that. They just asked what we had in the car and the boys told them. They didn’t check the trailer or anything, just waved us through.
We got to a little place called Bowie and our trailer hitch broke. The guy there didn’t know what to, so the boys ended up fixing it themselves.
We drove through Wilcox, Benson, and Tucson. And between Tucson and Eloy something else happened to our trailer. The boys was running short of money, so they drove to Coolidge and wired my older brother over in California to send some money so we could have the trailer repaired. We knew we had to wait for the money to come back, so before the boys left they found us a place to camp out in a field at the ‘Y’ where the road to Coolidge and Eloy parted.
I had this great big iron dinner pot, and I decided to make some vegetable soup. We had it pretty well done when the boys got back. The boys wanted to know if we was celebrating something. And I said, “Yea. We’re celebrating ‘cause we stopped long enough to cook a real meal.”
My sister-in-law said that was the best vegetable soup she’d ever had in her entire life.
As soon as we had the trailer fixed, we drove to Phoenix and on to a migrant camp on a cotton ranch. The people there said that just a week before there wasn’t hardly anybody at the camp. When we got there not a cabin or tent was empty. So we pulled off under a tree at the end of the road and set up camp for the night. The next day the foremen emptied out a tent for us.
A few more days and they said there was twelve hundred people living at that camp — most of them from Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Some of them were good people, and some of them were a mess with their drinking, dancing, and gambling. You just had to close your eyes to all such kinds of things as that.
There was a few threats and a few fights. Some girls had a battle or two in the camp. And some people got into it out in the fields one day. One of them came back and got his chopping ax. Don’t think he ever did anything with it.
Without sending into town, there just weren't any law out there. You had to pretty well take care of yourself. I didn’t see anybody carrying a gun. But I know some people had ‘em ‘cause my brother Allen carried one a few times. He carried that ‘cause of this big Mexican guy.
When you come out of the field with your bag of cotton, you’d line up to have it weighed. Then you could dump it in the trailer and go back to picking. But there was so many people picking you’d have to wait in line quite some time. This big guy kept pushing in line ahead of other people so he could dump and get back in the field quicker.
One day there was a woman in line ahead of my brother when this guy pushes in ahead of her. When he rushed in he knocked my brother’s hat off. Right away my brother’s hand was in his pocket fishing for his knife — he always carried a knife. I said, “Put that back in your pocket. If you want to do something to him, go get a car tool and hit him.”
One of the foremen had told my brother, “Don’t take anything off any of these guys. If you do you’ve got a mess on your hands.” He said, “I carry a gun. You can take it if you want, and next time he does something like that, don’t give him a chance”. And the guy talking had already shot one man at the camp.
So Allen went and got a wrench. As the Mexican was crawling up the ladder onto the trailer my husband and brother walked up to him and the guy went flying off the back end of the trailer.
We didn’t see that guy anymore, so we figured somebody suggested it was time for him to leave.
As far as the fighting and fussing, for that many people I guess it wasn’t bad at all. A lot of the people there was Christians. But some of them people was disgusting to me — drinking and dancing around the bonfires. It wasn’t that they was noisy. And maybe dancing wasn’t a sin. But sometimes we looked pretty beat — and I always had a feeling that we should have been gathered around that fire praying and singing and asking for help.
I put my faith and trust in the Lord to take care of us. I told the guys not to worry — that we may have it hard for a while, but it’s not gonna last forever. I just kept going and kept them going.