This life story of Parley was written in 1995 by his daughter, Ruby R. O'Barr
HISTORY OF PARLEY PARKER O'BARR
Sept 3, 1902 - April 4, 1971
Written by Ruby R. O'Barr Cordes
Parley was born in Arkansas - "Pea Ridge, Poke (Polk) County," he used to
say. In 1904, when he was under two years old, the family moved to Mesa, Arizona,
where he attended grade school. He didn't remember his father too much. Later his
mother married "Mr. Clevenger," as he always referred to him. Parley had a great
respect and admiration for Mr. Clevenger. Dad always said that Mr. Clevenger
treated him real well and was a fair and honest man. One time, on a freight hauling
trip, Mr. Clevenger taught Parley about following bees to their hive to gather honey.
One had to have very sharp eyesight and Mr. Clevenger was very good at this.
Parley had a ready smile that went ear to ear and he told many stories of
happenings in his life. One time he was left to "prove up" some land in the Lehi
area, I think. One of the jobs he did was shoot rabbits, grind up the meat, fry the
patties in lard, and store them in stone crocks. He had to cover the meat with lard
to keep it from spoiling and then cover the crocks with cloth to keep the flies off. He
was probably 11 or 12 years old at the time. Once a month the family would bring
supplies, check on him, and take back the preserved meat. Quite a responsibility for
such a young man, and all alone to boot! Around this time his brother, Lewis, and
Parley came down with Typhoid Fever. His brother died. Parley was about 14 years
old. Parley said he never had much hair after having the fever.
Parley grew taller each year. As an adult many called him "Slim," since he
was over 6 ft. 3 in. tall. He had a hobby: some people call it a sling shot; he called it
a "pea shooter." He was a very good shot and often brought birds such as doves
home to help with food for the family. He told of one time his mother was sitting on
the back porch peeling peaches to can. He picked up a peach and ran. She
swatted him on the backside with her spoon and made a good-size red spot that
stayed quite a while!
Another time when his mother was preparing peaches on the porch, he sat
beside her and picked up a pit. He asked her for one shot with his sling shot at her
prize rooster that was in the yard quite a ways away. She said, "Son, you won't hit it
that far away - go ahead and try." Well, Parley's shot from his "pea shooter" was
right on the mark and the rooster flopped around a bit and then lay quiet! Mother
Clevenger said, "Well son, go wring his neck and we'll have him for supper." He felt
real bad at having killed her rooster, but she never reprimanded him or brought it up
One time the family had to wait for a ferry to cross a river. Parley asked
permission to go hunting along the river bank. He lost track of time, so when he got
back, the folks had missed their turn on the ferry because of waiting for him! He got
his only spanking that he could remember on that day.
When Parley got older he drove a creamery truck. One time there was a
strong wind. Things of all sorts were blowing through the air. One of his sisters
(maybe Dora) was with Gus in the truck, as I remember the story. It got so bad they
got under the truck for protection. Then a great sheet of metal wrapped around the
truck! They figured it probably saved their lives, or at least saved them from serious
injury. One time Mr. Clevenger and Parley were trying to round up a pig that had
gotten out of its pen. Mr. Clevenger told Parley to stop the pig when it came his
way. Parley picked up a piece of lumber and hit the pig right over the head. Well,
the pig was stopped - dead in his tracks!
In about 1927, Parley came to Los Angeles, CA, to visit his brother, Frank,
who was a L.A. Policeman. While he was here he was able to get a job for the
Newberry Electric Co., which started him on his life's occupation. He met Earl
Harold Boyer, who then introduced him to his sister, Ruth Ester Boyer. They married
in 1928. Alice (O'Barr) Sliger and Earl Boyer stood up for them. Mother Clevenger,
brother Joe O'Barr, and the kaze's also attended the wedding, which was put on by
Frank and Ethel O'Barr. Daughters Ruby and Dorothy were born over the next three
Then Parley went to work for the Metropolitan Water District, working in the
California desert to bring power and water to Southern California. First he was the
driver of a big "Mack" truck and was responsible for stocking all the supplies and
tools needed to construct a power line from the Colorado River. Then he became a
patrolman, making sure the lines were in good working order. During these years
the family lived in Banning, CA.
Many times he had to be gone for days at a time and Ruth kept the home-
fires burning. Speaking of home-fires, one time Dad brought some iron wood home
from the desert for the pot-bellied stove. He fed the fire with the same amount he
was used to putting in. Well, iron wood burns much hotter than other woods. Soon
the black pot-bellied stove was a "red" pot-bellied stove, even the stove pipe!
Luckily, the house didn't catch on fire. We never did that again! His work schedule
allowed for 4 or 5 days off a month at one time. Many months the family traveled
into L.A. to visit Frank and Ethel or Earl, Muriel, and their children Alan, Donald, and
Because Parley and his partner, Sam, were careful about closing gates, etc.,
while on patrol, many farmers gave them oranges, grapefruit, cherries, etc., to show
their appreciation. They were also both good hunters and each season we always
had duck, quail, and doves. Sam Thomason and Parley joined the Order of Free
Masons during the years in Banning. He had a life-long fellowship with this group.
In 1940, Parley went to work for the city of Burbank as a lineman. These
were the war years. Dad always had a big "victory" garden, including fruit trees, and
also raised rabbits for food. A by-product was the fur hides of the rabbits, which
were sold to make flight-jacket linings before the days of artificial fleece lining. The
money helped feed the rabbits and their fertilizer helped the garden. All this
occurred in the "city", for it was OK for the war effort.
After the war, Parley had the chance to work for the city of Los Angeles, San
Fernando Division, as a patrolman. He was glad to stop climbing poles with gaffs.
After a few years the job of Engineer opened. He was hired and had an office at the
Department of Water and Power building in Los Angeles. His job was mainly
surveying builder's electrical needs for shopping malls, housing tracts, etc., then
writing up all electrical specifications for placement of power poles and equipment
such as transformers, and location of meters. San Fernando was growing from a
mostly farming area to solid homes, one city running into the next in the building
boom after the war when all the servicemen who had seen the great weather in
Southern California decided they didn't want to shovel snow any more!
Dad and Mom liked to go trout-fishing. At least once a year they traveled to
the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas to enjoy this sport and visit with friends. Also,
when cars and gas became available, they got a new car every few years. They
even owned an Edsel once; said it was one of the best cars he ever owned.
Dad and Mom took the family every year to Arizona to visit Mother Clevenger
and the brothers and sisters. One time Ida invited us to dinner. We arrived about 5
o'clock and Ida was "hot under the collar." "Where were you?" she said. "The
chicken was hot at noon!" We learned right then and there to always ask what time
"dinner" was, noon being "lunch" in the big city of L.A.!
I must include a few memories of Grandmother Clevenger. She remembered
each of her children and grandchildren and even some great-grandchildren who were
born before she died every Christmas! Maybe a handkerchief or a pair of socks was
given. Later, when there were so many, she sent at least one dollar for each
grandchild! Each and every one was precious to her.
For many years Grandma Clevenger had a garden and went out to hoe the
weeds each day. She was always tan from being outdoors. She planted a couple of
pecan trees when she was in her 80's. One of her sons asked her why, as she
probably would never eat any of their nuts. She said that someone would benefit.
As it turned out, she had many crops from those trees!
Ruby and Dorothy married and the granddaughters were a delight to Parley
and Ruth. They often would take the grandchildren to the carnival rides, and later
took great interest in their grades, music lessons, and teaching them to fish! Parley's
key phrase while fishing was "tend to business!"
Dad retired and soon after was diagnosed with cancer of the bladder. He died
after a couple of years and is buried at Rose Hills Cemetery in California.