Chapter 15: Ernest Andrew Clevenger
The Augustus Barto O'Barr and Lola May Peppers Family
HTML Version 2.0
copyright 1995 by Gerald L. O'Barr
Written in December 1995 by Ernest Clevenger in Mesa, Arizona, and typed by his
Nephew, Gerald O'Barr.
In an attempt to write this personal accounting, is a miracle in itself. Be as it is, I will try. The first ten years of my life I will quote most from my mother's Life History that she wrote for me. Beginning from birth, now I will quote from that writing in her own hand.
Ernest Andrew Clevenger was born 10:45 Christmas Day, Dec 25, 1919. What a beautiful Christmas present. I his mother and his Father Andrew Benton Clevenger were so proud of him, especially his father. We lived on West Creamery Road, Mesa, Arizona (Now called Broadway Road.) The house was of adobe and wood, located on eight acres of good farm land that we grew vegetables, chickens and hogs, cured, sold at the stores in Mesa, sometimes just traded for other food.
I will refer to Mother's book at times as she tells of all the family: Mr. O'Barr's family, brothers and sisters on both sides, places and happenings at places they lived: Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Utah, Arizona, which all happened before my time. So to conclude her writings, I will touch only in part.
My own life as I recall it:I remember my father as very strict, but still a very gentle man. A very caring man who loved his family very much and did what he felt he had to do regardless.
At the age of ten, about the time a child starts to test their parents, I was caught talking back to mother by Dad. I'm not sure if that was a mistake or blessing, for he grasped me by the collar and said, "come with me", and headed for the barn. As he passed through the door, he took a pair of bridle reins from the wall and did what a father felt he had to do. At that time I thought he told the big lie of the century because he said, "Boy, this hurts me more than it does you." I think he forgot about those iron snaps on the ends of the reins.
I was left crying in the barn. Father went out of the barn crying. Later I ask mother, "How come Dad was crying? I am the one that got the works." She held me in her arms and said your father loves you more than life and you caused him to do what he did not want to do, but felt he had to do it. I am sure this is all very true, so I've called this action a blessing all my life, for as I write now with tears flowing I know my father loved me more than life itself.
Father named me "Ernest" but all the years we were together he never called me Ernest. It was "boy." "Boy" this and "boy" that. I think there is reason for the boy name, for my sister Lola and I think dad was between 65 and 68 years old when I was born. Wow! Boy! Oh boy! It's a boy. Father and I had an excellent relationship and I'm very proud he was my father. Mother and I talked of him a lot.
About this time dad bought his second car. His first didn't work out very well so he sold it. This second car was a 1924 model "T" Ford truck with Ruxcell Axles, a power wagon of that time. Always before to travel we went by wagon, buggy, surrey or horse back. I remember going to Phoenix to state fair in the surrey. It was really something. Two seats, top with fringe, two kerosene lamps in front, one in back. This surrey and buggy was pulled by little Babe, a sorrel mare, four stocking feet and blocked for head. She was a trotter or pacer and supper fast. Go for hours, she seemed to love it.
She was the favorite of all the horses, but she would run through any gate left open for a minute. One day she did that, and slipped through a cattle guard and broke her leg. What a bad day, every one was in tears for she had to be put away. The death of little Babe ended our horse and Buggy days for the O'Barr Clevenger families, but not forgotten.
Camping trips were many. Mother insisted on camping trips every year. The long trip to St. George, Utah, is a book length story in itself, but long before my time. Some day I hope to see the story of that journey in print for all to read and enjoy. No question, it was a highlight in our family history. So now I leave the covered wagon days and back to the model "T's."
The truck that Dad bought was my first driving experience. I could make it go forward and backward and knew where the brake was. That's about all. At this time mother wanted another camping trip so we loaded up and took off. We went East of Mesa to the end of Superstition Mountains at a place called Weeks Station. It was a station where the stage coaches changed horses. It isn't used for that now.
We made camp and settled in for the night. Next day Dad shot quail and rabbits. He loved to hunt and fish. That evening Mother cooked the game in Dutch ovens on the open fire with biscuits and gravy. Mother was a good cook in any place. We all ate our fill. Dad loved canned sardines so to finish off his supper he decided to have a can. That night, a little before midnight, Mother woke me saying, "We have to pack up and leave immediately. Dad is poisoned. We must get him to a doctor and you are going to drive the truck to town."
Mother never learned to drive and Dad could not. He was awful sick. I don't know if I were scared for him or more scared of the truck, but things like this makes a little boy grow up real quick. I drove that truck back down the highway to Mesa with Mother praying all the way. We passed no other cars on the road, thank heaven. I needed it all as I was going from side to side. We stopped at old South Side Hospital. Dad was checked out and given medicine. The sardines had poisoned him. He was well soon a few days latter. Dad told Mother, "We don't have a little boy anymore."
Dad was skilled in many trades, especially Black Smithing. He taught me Iron Work that I am using today. He liked music; sang songs of old. One of his favorites was, "Sally."
"Sally in the Summer time, Sally in the Fall time. You be good to Sally, Or you won't see Sally at all."and several other verses. I learned to sing along with him for accompanying. He played a five string Banjo that he made out of a cat hide on Bodock wood. Mother was always around to cheer us on. She loved music but didn't care to sing much..
At age twelve I got my first job, a paper route carrying the Republic and Gazette. Eighteen miles morning and night on a 24 inch wheel bicycle, 36 miles a day developing a pair of strong legs which are still going good. At this time I experienced my first buying on time. If you can recall Monrad's Bicycle Shop on South McDonald, Mesa. Well, he had in the front window the most beautiful Bicycle ever. A blue streamliner Schwin, big 28" wheels, battery powered head and tail lights. Pure speed. I asked the price. $37.50. But he said I could buy on time because you are a paper carrier, you have a job, you are working. Pay what you can until its paid for and its yours.
I paid every week. But I only had $20.00 paid when on a Saturday afternoon I went to make another payment. Mr. Monrad went over to my old bike, removed my paper bag and put it on the new one, and said, "There's your bike. Take it home and pay balance later", which I did faithfully. That 36 miles a day route was easy on that new bicycle.
In my second year at Mesa High School, still carrying the paper after school, one day I went to the bicycle rack. No bicycle! My first experience of something being taken. I was mad, mad. Mad at the whole world and everyone in it. No one could do that to me. But one did and that was the end of the paper route. Another lesson in life, a little more growing up.
But I didn't stay mad very long. I was walking across the street from old Mesa High to seminary one afternoon. There was the prettiest black haired, black eyed girl I had ever seen. She had just put lip stick on. A bright fire engine red. I walked up along side, and said, "Where did you get those red lips?" She dropped her books in the middle of the street. As we picked them up we looked at each other and laughed.
I guess we liked what we looked at because we have been looking and laughing at each other for the past 61 years, a relationship I would love to relive again and again. Thus, Dorothy Shill, an experience at first and lasting love, my companion for this life and Eternity.
In the Summer time vacations from school, I worked on farms, putting up hay, milking cows, cowboying, irrigating. Any of the many things that's to be done on a farm, I did. I recall a friend and I got a job milking cows. Eighty head all by hand in an open corral, 40 cows each. The first morning started 3 a.m., finished at 11 a.m. Started again at 2 p.m., finished, 9 p.m.
The next morning my hands were so swollen I couldn't close them, much less milk a cow. I woke Mother to ask what to do. She looked at the hands and says, "You can't milk." I said "I have to." She gave me a bucket of hot water with epsom salts to soak them in. My friend drove the car. I set the bucket on the floor board and soaked my hands. My friend rounded up the cows. I was still soaking. The first few cows were pure torture. But we did it and staid at it for the Summer.
At these jobs I made enough money to buy my own car, a 1925 Model "T" for $12.50. The body was in bad shape. Although I wasn't allowed to drive it, I went to work on it with help of other neighbor boys. We removed everything possible. A strip down model. I left the engine, steering wheel, gas tank and four wheels. I sat on the gas tank to drive it. A wild looking machine. It ran good and served a purpose.
After the paper route I still had two years of High School to go, so I played football, baseball and track, earning letters in all. Dorothy and I graduated from Mesa High in the same year. Our courtship was very much in bloom. This was in 1937. The country was in recession. Lots of people out of work. There were no jobs anywhere, but I took work from anyone that would hire me. Thus my work career began. I had joined the National Guard. Money from there helped.
I was still living at home with Mother. Because of that, I qualified for Government work and staid on it until the economy picked up. I learned to drive big trucks, mechanics and carpentry. The latter I worked at and still do.
I had bought several cars during that period and in 1937 I bought a 1934 Model B Ford. That classy little car heated up the romance a bunch. Dorothy and I went everywhere in it. On Oct 13, 1939, under the grape arbor at her home place, with full moon glowing, the all important question was asked. She said yes. The 14th of Oct we were married in Prescott, Arizona, by Bishop A.R. Allen in his office. Then to Sedona, and Flagstaff, and to the Grand Canyon. We staid four nights, 6 days, on our Honeymoon. We spent less than $37.00. We had to, for that was the total bank roll. We came home with some money. A short time back we made close to the same trip and spent $600.00. Times have changed.
We set up house keeping with mother at South Alma School Road and lived with her the next 12 years. During those 12 years the entire world was in a turmoil leading into World War II. The U.S.A. was rapidly building up armed forces and military bases nation wide. All men and women capable of working were ask to work and most all did.
One of these military bases was Ft Huachuca in Southern Arizona. I went there to work. And our first home of our own consisted of two tents, one to cook and eat, the other a bed room. We were upper class for most people had only one.
We were married about two years, and still very much in love and very happy, although war clouds were closing in. We came home for Christmas that year. Mother was sure glad to have us home, but she cried when we left. When we arrived at our tent home, our tents were all smashed flat with 16 to 18 inches of snow. Everything was soaking wet. I shoveled off the snow, put up the tents, built a fire in our wood cook stove, hung up bedding, spent a miserable night, and survived.
My work was 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week, so Dorothy was chief everything. Fire wood was most important. She gathered wood on the desert. I was allowed to take scrap wood from the job. So again we managed.
One Saturday afternoon I took off work early and we went to Bisbee for supplies and recreation. At a restaurant that night, Dorothy ordered a big plate of fried chicken. She took one long look, and turned pale, almost white. I asked what was wrong, are you sick, do we need a doctor? She said yes I'm sick, but I don't need a doctor. Maybe a doctor in about seven months. I guess I looked at her with a blank stare, so finally she said I'm almost sure I'm pregnant. I said boy! Oh boy. She said you all take what you get, boy or girl.
On Sept 8, 1941, Ernest Andrew Clevenger Jr. was born. We left tent city at Ft. Huachuca for a job closer to home. Defence projects going everywhere, at high wages. "Parker dam and power house" was very high in priority, so I went there. Workers there were held in high esteem: Free meals, free rooms. But the long trip home every 2 weeks was not good.
The Bush family of Arizona owned a house and apple orchard just under the dam on the Arizona side. I called Mrs. Nellie Bush to rent the house. She said yes. Your rent will be to irrigate the orchard every two weeks. Dorothy and baby moved there, I could walk to work, no argument.
War clouds were getting darker and darker. On Dec 7, 1941, they exploded. I was at work and at about 10 a.m., all the sirens on the entire project went off. They only sounded in an emergency. All men stopped work wondering what happened. We soon found out. Pearl Harbor was bombed. Most of the workers wanted to quit immediately and head for the recruiting office in their home towns. The project supervisor called several meetings saying the Dam and power plant was more essential to the war effort than ever, which was true. I elected to stay.
War was declared on Japan and Germany. The war brought on rationing (food, gasoline, and tires) and 45 miles per hour speed limits. Many items vanished from store shelves. The U.S.A. was not prepared for all out war.
The draft system was put in force, 17 to 28 old men registered. The Federal, State and city governments soon mobilized themselves, and prepared for war. The entire population of America tightened their belts and said we will do it. We will win this war. History tells at what price.
About this time, David Benton, our second boy was born Sept 22, 1942. So now I had a wife and two sons plus a war that was demanding more and more men. To go or not go was a question on my mind constantly. I staid home and served my country the best I could. The U.S. railroad system became number one priority, moving troops and war machinery. The R.R. needed more men to better serve the war effort. I went to work for the Southern Pacific R.R. Stationed in Yuma, Arizona, and remained there until I volunteered for the Navy on June 17, 1944.
I was assigned for basic training at San Diego Training Base. At this point I was switched from regular Navy to the Sea Bees which was part of the Navy. I was thinking maybe the C.B.'s might be less dangerous and see less action. I was a happy dreamer for I went to the South Pacific. The war with Japan was a horrible thing. I prefer not to write about it but very little.
I did have some fun. The Pacific Island has good fishing, and snorkel diving. I had a two-man rubber raft for fishing and long rides out in the ocean. On one occasion, too far to fish, I would drift with the tide. This one time I paid no attention to the horizon and I let a heavy cruiser slip up on me. The first thing I knew someone on board the ship was calling me on a bull horn. They gave instruction to run my raft to a Jacob's ladder that was over the side and to come aboard. It was a U.S. ship, but no way was I going to get on that ship, because I would be AWOL from my outfit.
I finally convinced them that I was not ship wrecked, or lost at sea, at least I thought I had, and started rowing away from the ship towards my island. There could easily have been three to four hundred sailors looking over the side at me. I got a loud blast on the ship's horn. That speeded up the rowing back to my base in good shape. If you hear the question, "How do you stop a battle ship in the middle of the ocean?", just answer, "You don't!"
The Pacific Islands were beautiful even under battle conditions. I was on Mahjuro, Guam, Marshalls, Perry, Okinawa, then back to Marshalls. My mail all went to P.O. Enewetak, main Island of the Marshalls.
How come a Sea Bee was in so many places under fire, I don't know. There was a saying in the C.B. Battalions like this: The Marines have landed and situation well in hand, and the C.B. built what they landed on. That was more true than fiction. Several times I was with the Marines. I still think the construction battalions (the C.B's) got assignments that no one else wanted.
I credit my National Guard training (7 years of it) for my survival. My Captain, Albert Huber of the 158th Field Artillery, N.G., insisted all men receive extensive hand- to-hand combat training. My final base was Eniwetok in the Marshalls and actually building buildings and doing C.B. work. The landing strip was the length of the island, built along one side.
One morning the Tokyo Special landed, a B-29. We had the only strip long enough for it. All flights were cancelled. All airways cleared. After landing, about four hundred Marines circled around it. That was as close as anyone else got. The crew was picked up and delivered to special quarters and more Marines cordoned them off. No one talked to the crew. Our fighter planes up, back, refueled, and up again. If a plane could fly, it was up. Aircraft carriers 100 miles out circled the island. Their planes were up. We refueled a lot of them.
I talked to pilots that I knew, and asked, "what was up?" They would say, "I don't know, but it is all connected to that big bird sitting out there." One said, "We are flying 500 miles reconnaissance flights, and ships are all the way." I ask my Captain what was going on. "I'm not sure, but you can bet your life, its big. Real big." It was big alright. The largest assembly of troops, ships, and planes ever put together. And in that B-29 setting out there was the most destructive device known to the civilized world, the A bomb, with Hiroshima's name on it. It was delivered and the huge invasion force was not needed. The U.S.-Japan war was over.
I was discharged several months later and received four bronze stars and one silver star and one medal. But most important, not even a scratch. I sincerely thank my Father-In-Heaven for a safe trip, but if He doesn't mind, I'll not do it again.
Dorothy, Andy and David spent all this time home with Mother. I was most happy to be with them again. I feel a man's family, his own brothers and sisters, Aunts, Uncles, everyone connected to it should be the most important thing in life. It is in mine.
As a veteran I received several benefits for school. I used all I could. The land on the home place I farmed, and worked for E.G. White (Lola's husband) building homes in and around Mesa. E.G. was an excellent builder and very much in demand. Busy all the time, so I had all the work I wanted. There was all sorts of material and machinery available to veterans. War surplus it was called. I bought a two ton truck from them near new at very little cost. I built in spare time a cattle rack on it. I just finished up, all hardwood painted, etc. I drove it under a low bridge and wiped it out. Nothing but splinters. I've done some not so smart things in my life and that was one. It was rebuilt, and with a little more caution, I used it for several years.
At this time, May 5, 1948, Jack Eldon Clevenger was born. He was a good healthy little guy and took his place in the family.
In 1948, Dorothy's father and brother, Ralph, bought a resort at Mormon Lake called Bass Point. It was located 30 miles South of Flagstaff, Arizona. The building was not in too good of condition. I trucked in lumber, paint, what ever necessary to recondition it. Then Dorothy and I was elected to run the business. We trucked our cows, chickens, dogs each year for the Summers. We sold milk, butter, and eggs in the resort. Much activity, not much money. But we had lots of fun. Lots of good hunting and fishing. Mr. Shill built 15 boats and we rented them to fishermen and boaters.
June 15, 1949, a storm came and blew all the water out of Mormon lake. Completely. Mormon Lake was very shallow. Once the wind got under the water, it just rolled the water up into a big meadow and went into the ground. A fantastic sight. I watched all this from the shelter of a cliff beside the lake. When it quieted down, I checked the family. All O.K., but considerable damage to the buildings. Repairs could come later. I got one wheelbarrow and went fishing. One could not believe the tons of fish stranded on land. Catfish 10-12 pounds flopping all over. We skinned and flayed cat fish for days. Mr. shill and mom Shill was there to help. He built a smoker to dry the fish. We ate fish, froze fish, smoked and dried fish. Coyotes, bears and crows took care of the tons of dead fish. We could watch them from our back porch.
A fishing resort doesn't function too well without water, so the business came to a near halt. Spring of 1949, came back to Mormon Lake. The past winter, Mr. Shill and I bought 120 acres east of Flagstaff: 80 acres of farmland, rest in forest. We trucked tractor and equipment, prepared it and planted it into beans. We had a perfect harvest of 15 hundred lbs. per acre. A supper crop. Trucked the beans to Phoenix and collected enough money to pay for the farm. Bought a new pickup, with several thousand left over.
I'm thinking what a gold mine this is. The three following years I planted Beans, but never harvested a bean. No gold mine. The following spring we sold the farm, trucked everything back to Mesa. In 1950 I built a dairy farm on the Shill home place and milked up to 60 head of cows. This project was an all family job. We would have never made it otherwise. I went back to work for E. G. White. I put 8 hrs. on the job, milked cows and farmed. Once in awhile, a little sleep. This went on for five years. The cows had very high production. Things looked good. I was selected as board member to the Arizona Dairy Association, but I was beginning to feel tired all the time.
At this time our daughter Judith Ann Clevenger was born, March 7, 1951. A beautiful baby. As I looked at her and the rest of the kids thinking, at this pace I am going, I'll never live to raise them. I let it be known that I would sell the cows. Cows were high priced. Some old Mexico buyers came by on Saturday morning. I handed them the record books and said to pick 45 cows at $800.00 each. They picked 48. We shook hands. And said we'll have trucks and a check Wednesday. I went to the house to tell Dorothy. I said no more dairy. She said no. Yes, I've just sold the entire herd. She started to cry. We both worked so hard with them. A sad but happy day.
In 1957, after selling the dairy, I started construction again, acquiring my own contractors licenses class B2 and two specialty licenses. Sept. 22, 1958, Linda Sue Clevenger was born. A beautiful and a pleasant surprise. There is 7 years between her and Judith Ann.
As a contractor I built houses, swimming pools, and store fronts, remodeling. Barry Goldwater wanted a swimming pool. I wrote up the contract. He looked at it, then he look at me and said, "Do you know what the hell you're doing?" I said, "By dam if I don't I'll get help." He said, "Well at least we talked the same language", and signed the contract. We built one of our few clover leaf pools. Had to blast and Jack Hammer into solid rock, with all copper plumbing. Goldwater said, "By dam, this is Arizona, use copper." The Senator is still going strong, and hasn't changed a bit as of Dec. 1995.
The 20th of July, 1963, David was married and on his own. In 1964, Andrew completed his mission and married same year and working. Jack was married Nov. 24, 1967, but didn't go very far away. Bought the house across the Street. He liked farming and cattle. We rented land close by and both worked our jobs and farmed. In 1971 Jack found a much better job at the paper mill in Taylor, Arizona. Sold his home and moved and is still there a working.
Judith Ann was married in Aug 8, 1971, to Gary Rolland. Lived in Mesa a short time and moved to Knights Town, Indiana, Gary's home town. Linda Sue, our last daughter, married Nov 15, 1986, and lives in Payson, Arizona.
This type of livelyhood continued until 1969. The years was slipping past rapidly. I felt I needed a more secured retirement plan. Arizona State seemed the best offering. My application at Mesa Schools was accepted July, 1966. Dorothy had been employed there since 1963, and happy with the system. We still had the Lehi home place, 16 acres. Dorothy and I bought the place from her parents in 1960. Excellent vegetable land, so planted large gardens. Cantaloupes, tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, anything the public wanted. The business went over big with the locals. Home grown vegies, walk through the field, pick their own if they wished. Lots of customers, even creating traffic problems. We hired lots of pickers. Anyone that would work. Most didn't stay long. Too hard, it was back breaking hard work. Here again I seem to take on just a tab more than possible. We would start the "pickens" at daylight, go to work for 8 hours, come home to mt. of cantaloupe, and pack them sometimes until midnight. Put them in Refer for trucks. Pick up next morning. Then do the same the next day. This went on until 1976. Dorothy and I decided for a long delayed vacation.
We left Linda and Jack's family to finish up the Summer crops and headed north fishing along the way. We drove that truck as far north as possible all over northern states, Canada to the north end of North West Territory. That trip to write of it is a Book itself.
But I will tell of the longest day. The sun never went down, just skipped along on the northern horizon, then backup in the east. Took pictures. 12:00 a.m. Gold Tournament Tee off at midnight. A marvelous natural thing to see. We were gone from home over 2 months. Followed the Canadian border east, going to Indiana to visit Judy and family. Then to northern Ark. where we visited Gus and Edith. They were on their mission. Visited just a few days, as they were very busy. Then home to Mesa. this trip report may sound speedy. Not so. We stayed away from freeways, traveled many back roads as possible. Never hurried. Talked to people, took pictures of places and things. Came home happy and rested.
Dorothy and I stayed with Mesa School system until retirement, still gardening and doing side jobs. Dorothy retired in June 1980. I retired Dec. 1982 at 62. Health Insurance costs were high. The school had a part time program that paid our insurance until 65 so stayed on working 2 days a month.
In 1983 we sold the bottom 8 acres of our farm to the Sand and Gravel Co. The land joined the Salt River. From the sale we invested most of the dollars. Bought a second home in Egar, Arizona, took several long vacations, bought land in Grace, Idaho along side of Andrew's home. We are enjoying our retirement. We have good health although it takes a lot of doing and effort to stay that way. Can't believe how the years have slipped by as my brother Joe O'Barr use to say, "Enjoy your selves, its better than you think." How true.
Dorothy and I have just celebrated our 56th wedding anniversary. For those years I am very grateful and if I could I would not change very little. But I am still making plans for trips, and work projects and looking to the future.
Dorothy said a few days ago you'd have to live another 50 years to do all that. I said beautiful, if you are there with me. We have had good times, bad times and shared both with love and appreciation, plus a sincere line of communications. I always felt if we can't talk about a problem and form a joint opinion we need more divine guidance. It's no question, a family that prays together stays together. Our spiritual progression is all we take with us.
I feel life's most important achievement is the family togetherness. Love and appreciation for each other will solve all problems, and a base for a happy life.
When a Father, adult children greets or parts or says, goodby or phone, and say, "I love you Dad", I just don't know how to measure than kind of wealth. Also a feeling that perhaps I may have done something right. In conclusion, to my family, I love you all. To my many friends, thank you for being my friend.
In summary, I have on purpose left out statistics, and wrote of personal accounts and left out many of those.
To Gerald O'Barr, the son of my very close brother, my sincere thank you, for the collection and compiling of our Family History.
God Bless and keep you all.
With Love,Ernest Andrew Clevenger Sr.