A Synopsis of a Good Life!
Special Ordinary People
by Kenneth Robert Watters
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Ken's stories of surviving financially during the Great Depression NEW Oct. 2004
April 25, 1924 - Born in Lawton, Oklahoma at 709 H St., home of my grandmother, Modena Watters. My mom, Agnes Lorraine and dad, LeRoy Kenneth were at this time working at a neighborhood grocery store for one dollar a day, total pay for both.
|Sept. 1924 - We moved to Altus, Okla. At 616 N. Hightower St. and dad went to work for Fuqua Electric, selling refrigerators and other appliances, and did a great job!|
|I was an only child, so I adopted my next door neighbor, Morris (just my age) as my brother and friend. We played, fished Altus Lake, fought - right into kindergarten and became best friends forever! I went through 5th grade with average grades, playing, wrestling, fighting and fishing with Morris.|
|My folks were gone a lot because of dad's traveling, so I spent my summer vacations in Lawton. I stayed with my grandmother and Aunt Shirley, who was just 9 months older than I was. We used to peddle vegetables from grandmother's garden around the neighborhood using Shirley's little red wagon - and grandmother always let US share in the loot we took in!|
|On the weekends during the school term, I'd go to the farm and join all my ornery cousins: Cecil, Tom, Zane, Skip and also my rotund Uncle Aubrey.|
|The farm was my grandfather's (mom's side) and located just outside of Altus. Grandfather Jim Radney (papa) was strong, proud and spirited fine Scotsman. He was leasing the farm, owned by Mr. Fuqua on a 50% homestead. We all worked very hard every weekend, but we got to ride horses, play, fight and eat very well.|
|I learned to cut hay with a hay-mower, stack it with a hayfork, load it on a huge Conestoga wagon and take into Altus to sell in the square with the peddlers. We also spent a lot of time weeding cotton, what an endless job for 80 acres of cotton!|
|Papa finally got a go-devil (sled pulled by a horse with cutters that straddle a row of cotton) we celebrated! Cotton pickers would come by when the crop was ready, and off to the gin we would go - riding high! We also learned to pluck chickens, kill and scrape hogs, cut up beef and help my grandmother, Henrietta Radney (Mama) plant huge gardens. Leroy and Agnes Watters shown.|
|She would feed us our breakfast at 4:00 a.m. And then later, drive our lunch out to the field in her horse and buggy. She'd bring us cold biscuits, vegetables, jerky, boiled eggs, and sometimes sausage or cracklin' cornbread, what lunches! We worked very hard but it was still fun, that's where I got my love for animals and growing things. The Radney girls: Agnes, Jackie, Peg and Nita.|
|1931 The depression - everywhere, but not our home. Dad had worked long and hard with his boss, Mr. Eichner (Eichner Pontiac) to get the Firestone Tire franchise for the state. Dad traveled to Firestone in Oklahoma City about four times and he finally wooed them over. Eichner got the franchise and put dad in charge of it. Peg and Bus Kelly shown (aunt and uncle).|
|In the middle of the depression, cheap-good tires were most needed, and they supplied them. They were selling for as cheap as $4.00 each. The company (Mr. Eichner) and dad split the profit on each tire, at 50 cents each. Dad averaged about $500.00 per month, right in the middle of the depression. The average wage then was about $30.00 a month. Ken and Joy and Peg shown.|
|1933 Dad put in a grocery store in Altus with a partner, rodeo rider, Harry Straw. Dad didn't like having a partner so he sold the store to Harry in 1935. Then we moved to Hollis, Oklahoma and dad put in a beautiful IGA grocery store on Main Street. I was in the 6th grade and made the track team in sprints, high jump and pole vault. I also learned to really fight, because some of the roughest bullies in the state lived in Hollis. You fought for survival!
Amos, Leroy and Agnes, Gordon and Loraine Richardson shown.
|1936 Dad sold his store in Hollis to Gordon Richardson, and we moved back to Lawton, where he put in a grocery store, LeRoy's Food Store at 11th & Lee on the corner. He made it a huge success. My dad was the hardest worker I have ever seen to this date! I enrolled at Lawton High School in 7th grade.|
| Would you believe it - a fight the first day with Pat Sparks, who thought he was tough because his dad was a professional fighter, went by the name of Speedy. He fought for world's champion twice as middleweight. However pat wasn't that good so I had to give him a good
whippin' but later we became best friends!
Pat Sparks shown.
| I talked dad into a bike and got three paper routes, and also worked Saturdays and Sundays bagging and carrying out groceries at the store. I made enough money to buy a single shot 12-gauge shotgun from Montgomery Wards and some fishing tackle.
Nellie Lou Hopkins and Royce Coffin shown.
| I started hunting and fishing with James
Rackley, James McCurdy, Royce Coffin, Don Ellegood, Bill Colbert and Pat. We went camping, hunting or fishing every chance we had. We would all take two weeks of our summer vacations to have our parents drop us off in the Wichita Mountains (12 lakes!) for two whole weeks and we would live off the land. We made our own fishnets by funneling chicken wire with bones, sometimes pulling in 30-40 lbs. Catfish a night! We trapped rabbits, quail and squirrels on the trails with looped cords along the path.
What experiences and we just loved it - great memories!
Billie Jean and "Chuck" Avera shown.
| 1941 After approximately 150 fishing trips, 100 hunting trips, 100 fights, I started my senior year at Lawton High School. Not being exactly a good looker, I didn't really fit in or fawn over the girls until I met Mary Jo Botkin at a school dance.
| I was a clodhopper, but she was a good dancer, so she taught me how to do the great slow dances of that era, plus a bit of jitterbugging. I had a small crush on her but when she became the football queen, she gained status and had too many boyfriends. I went with a few other girls, but my most steady one was Hope
Stother, the last year's football queen, we had lots of fun
Marilyn Gilbert and Don Ellegood shown.
|December 7,1941 Pearl Harbor We were furious with the Japanese! James Rackley and I wanted to join the service immediately. We had heard the Coast Guard would be escorting the Marines over, so we decided to join them. They wouldn't let us join until after graduation and then it took us until Dec. 11, 1942 to get in. I waited for a call up and went to New Orleans. Our last test before we sailed overseas, I was found to have a hernia. The medical officer called back to Oklahoma City, Wesley Hospital and found that I had gone through a bad operation (stomach abscess) a few months before and the doctor advised them I couldn't be operated on again until at least 2 years had passed. I hollered and yelled, but it was done, an honorable medical discharge. I was
very upset! I then tried to get in the Merchant Marines or anything that would get me over there.
Bill Colbert, my great buddy, shown.
|JamesRackley, my buddy that I joined with, was immediately sent over and was boating the Marines into all the islands of warfare. Over half of our Coast Guard unit didn't make it, but James did. I then got a job at Tinker Field in Oklahoma City. They taught me a lot, including working on link trainers and helping very experienced fighter pilots learn to fly by night. I was helping train night fighters, and I had never flown a plane. I was living at the YMCA. There I learned to box in the ring, a lot different than alley fighting! Jess Thompson, boxing coach at Cameron College - Lawton, called me and said to come to Cameron, and get some good experience. He was the best coach ever. In all my fights I had 21 wins, l loss but it was to Billy Tiger an Indian fighter who became a two times ABA 147 lb. champion. National Champion! So much for my boxing career!|
|Joy's family: brother Danny, sisters Lola, father Frank, sister Francis, Joy, and Joella.|
Then I met Joy! I was playing in a basketball game at Cameron when I first saw her. She came to
see the college's big, tall good-looking center on our team. During the game he split out the
seat of his pants, and she was so embarrassed, she walked out of the game!
|As I was entering Cameron the next day THERE SHE WAS! In the switchboard operator booth, framed in that little window, with earphone on, was the cutest girl I had ever seen. Almost speechless, I welcomed her to Cameron College. I found out she was from Marlow and had transferred from O.U. C. to Cameron to be with her sister, Joella. There was a shop on campus where we hung out, eating, talking and dancing to the jukebox; a real neat little joint.|
|Occasionally, Joy would come in with her boyfriend and dance; and occasionally I would ask her to dance. Leaving by myself one evening, I was accosted by her big ape of a boyfriend for dancing a lot of times with Joy - big mistake! But I think he eventually healed up; even though I don't remember seeing him again. Sadie Hawkins Day! Girls ask boys for a date - yeah. I couldn't believe it, Joy asked me out! Never had I been so excited.|
|We had a ball dancing, eating, riding around in my little Merc convertible and just talking. Guess what? I was going with another Football Queen! Life is good! We went together for six months, and though it wasn't my fault, she was still pure when we got married on May 25, 1944. Pastor Reed performed the ceremonies, with sisters Joella and Lola there.|
|We left for California immediately and spent 3 wonderful days on the road, arriving in Pomona, Calif. And stayed with Aunt Peggy and Uncle Bus. I went to work in a sporting good store, but the pay was terrible. Bus got me a job with a construction company tearing up some concrete streets in the middle of Pomona. I ran this jackhammer for about 3 months. Boy, will that get your attention! With sore muscles and back we left again for Lawton, Oklahoma. Dad gave us a loan and we put a down payment on an old hardware store that had gone broke.|
|Sept. 16, 1945 Blessed by the birth of Sue! Cutest little girl I'd ever seen. Everyone loved her dearly, and mom and dad spoiled her with anything she wanted too.|
|I converted the old hardware store gradually to a sporting goods, and made a decent living. I loved the sporting goods business and we had many enjoyable times with so may good friends.|
|1947 But then…..The richest man in Lawton came to our store, and wanted to buy it, he and his partner. The man was Glen Powers, owner of the Texaco Oil Co. in Oklahoma. His partner was Spec Sanders, a professional football player. The money they offered was good, so in talking to dad, we accepted the deal, split the monies and decided to all head for California. We all arrived, and dad bought a grocery store in Pomona, called Friendly Corner. I went to work in a sporting goods store.|
| 1948 After one year, we decided to go back to Oklahoma City. Dad opened a grocery store, Lakeside Market, and I went to work for the world's largest sporting goods store, Andy Anderson's.
1950 I joined dad in his grocery store and we did real well, even though we had opposite views about running the store, just some typical father and son disputes.
|July 22, 1952 Randy was born! Hooray! I was so happy, but it was near fatal for Joy and Randy. The doctor told me at the hospital that the baby was breach, upside down in the womb and there was a chance that Joy or the baby, or both would not survive. He asked me which to save, if necessary - to make a choice, as he couldn't be responsible for this major decision, I naturally told him Joy. With God's blessings, both survived, but it was touch and go, and they both went through some traumatic moments and ordeals.|
| After Randy was born, dad and I split up and I opened a grocery store, Lakeside Supermarket #2, on Western, the other side of town. Started in doing very well, in fact we did so well that Joy and I won an
all expense paid trip, sponsored by IGA Markets, to New York.
Joy, Randy and Dad shown.
|Flying into New York and seeing the Statue of Liberty and the unbelievable tall buildings was one memorable moment! We were really hayseeds, and had a crazy 8 days there, but the collection of memories and recollections have stayed with us all these years. We resided at the Waldorf Astoria, the nicest hotel in New York. Two of the most prominent guests there were General Douglas MacArthur and Elizabeth Taylor.|
|1954 A deep depression hit Oklahoma, so Joy and I, Randy and Sue headed back to California - again - My uncle Pete Watters, manager of a car agency in Long Beach, helped me find a job as a car salesman at Dunton Ford in Downey. I was top salesman there for 3 years before
becoming used car manager, then sales manager and then general manager at different stores before buying 24% of a Ford Agency in Canoga Park.
Joy's aunt and uncle Bess and Irv shown.
|Jack Dempsey, Dick Story and Ken shown.|
|Sue and Randy|
|Sue practicing baton! She was a majorette in Anaheim's Halloween Parade.|
|Sue, Tami, Fred and Kenny Kite shown.|
|from left: Leroy, Peg, Pam and Randy below, Sue, Joy, Agnes and Buss.|
|Joy and Randy shown in canyon
Randy with a snowball
Sue, Fred and Tami
Sue and Fred
Harley, Linda, Harley B., Frank Waggoner, Lola and Francis.
Kenny, Tami and Randy circa 1969.
Randy and friends in the neighborhood graduate High School from Villa Park
High in Villa Park, CA near Anaheim Hills. As a "gang" they
continue to terrorize the locals with wild cars, TPing house, dying horse with pomegranates, and all sorts of awful mayhem. Never busted, he
Randy's auto shop teacher worked part-time at Orange County Raceway, so he took his rods down there. The shop also built their own altered funny car.
Martha the Elephant, halloween car for 1970!
1972 I was offered a good price for my stock in the Ford store, so turning that over, Joy and I put in a sporting goods store in Paso Robles. We bought a building that had been an old grocery store and converted it. Sue and Fred (her husband) helped in the labor and Randy too, until he moved to Brooklyn, New York. We sold guns and bass boats along with all the usual sporting goods. The town of Paso Robles, and the beautiful surrounding areas were very poor, another depression and we didn't make much money, but boy did I get in some great hunting and fishing there; sometimes letting Joy and Sue run the store and they had a great time together, too.
Randy's Bethel friend Lewis Williamson and nephew Kenny Kite in Yosemite
heading off to Dodger Stadium for a Watchtower assembly!
|1975 I was offered, by Bob Van Hook, my ex-boss at Dunton Ford, to come back to Santa Ana and be the general manager at his Ford agency, at about three times what we were making in Paso Robles. Bob told me his business had dropped 85% since I left him from 300 units per month down to 46 units. If I would come back as general manager, he would give me a good salary plus percentage, two demo cars (both Joy & I) and 25% owner interest if and when, I got the store back to at least 300 new cars and trucks again. I talked to Joy about the offer, and she wanted to talk to Sue about it. In about 15 minutes Sue came running to me in the back of the store and hollered - "Dad! Mom's got that look in her eyes! Knowing Joy, those looks were dollar signs! We moved back to Santa Ana after selling our store and bought a beautiful home in Santa Ana and put in a pool. I went to work!! I hired 4 new managers and 20 new salespeople that worked 15 hrs. a day, 6 days a week, and on our 10th month financial statement, we had sold 312 new units, 86 used units and netted $112,000 profit that month! I went into Bob's office and said, "OK, we're there. Do I start getting my 25% now?" He called his auditor, bookkeeper, parts and service managers in and made this famous statement…"Ken, you did an unbelievable job, but to be honest, I couldn't possibly give you 25%, because the store is now making too much money." After calling him every bad name I could think of, I challenged everyone in the room, I was so mad. I walked out when I had no takers, and told him I'd see him in court. Eventually he gave $35,000 not to sue him. Most of the good people I had hired quit him that day. In 26 months he went bankrupt.|
1976 General sales manager at Hensley-Anderson Ford in Bellflower for 2 years. Quit there, as the owner was another idiot.
|Tammy, Kenny and Carissa.|
|1978 General sales manager, Garden Grove Lincoln Mercury, good friend of mine was owner - Hike
Apoian. I had to leave, because he couldn't afford
Our home in Tustin, CA.
|1979 Goodwin Honda, Fullerton. Went to work as used car manager, within one week, I was made general sales manager; good money and good owner, but…….|
|Marcia and Randy, best of friends!|
|Joy and Randy.|
|1981 I was offered twice my current salary and bonus to become the General Sales
manager of Wondries Toyota in Alhambra. It was the hardest job, longest hours, and furthest freeway driving from home and unreal stress. I made great money, but I had to go to the hospital 3 times - in 3 years for stress related problems. My boss and I had a mutual thought…get out of the auto business.
Waggoner family shown, also Frank and Mary Waggoner.
1984 A few months before I left Wondries, Joy and I had decided to look for a place to later retire. After looking for a few months, we found a 2-˝ acre lot between Sun City and Temecula, and purchased it. We had the lot cleared off, a pad built and put in a septic tank so we could stay some weekends in our very small trailer. I started planting trees, after having a well dug, Joy sent off for a house plan she liked, and we had the home built and finished by October '84. I had planted 29 Macadamia Nut trees, 9 grape vines, 27 almond trees, 9 Papershell pecans, 5 orange, 3 tangelo, 1 avocado, 5 apple, 1 lemon, 1 Cocktail fruit, 3 plum, 3 apricot, 5 peach, 20 pine 40 Silverdollar Eucalyptus, 2 Liquid Amber and probably 100 more plants around the rear of the house. I bought a Kabota tractor and put in a complete watering drip system to irrigate the whole farm. Also a neat garden every year - those were the days!!
Carissa, Jessie and James.
Kenny and Angie.
1985 I went to work as Sales Manager at Budget Rent-A-Car sales department at the Ontario airport. Good job, but I was tired of driving the freeways.
Great grandkids Kevin and Kristi shown.
1986 Full time farmer! Social security!!
1994 Traded equity in farm for paid in full home in Sun City - ahh - Life is good! Thank you Jesus!!!
and Fred Kite shown.
|Ken and Joy Watters|
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Our home with all its love.
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