Thursday, May 31, 2012

Trailblazer, David Meriable (1943-2012)

This was a portrait photograph that I made of David Meriable back a few years ago, September of 2005 in fact.  We had been guests, David and I and a few others, at an informal dinner of the members of the Class of 1963 from Pawhuska High School.  David was from the Class of 1961 and I from the Class of 1962, although I actually graduated in 1967 from College High School in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.  Pawhuska is a small town and we had only our one high school, Pawhuska High School, after Booker T. Washington School was closed during our school integration.  Classes didn't really matter; you were in one class because of incident of when you were born but your friends might be from several classes above you or several classes below you.  I always had such friends and David was one of them.  I can not remember for certain when I met David but we had several friends in common, particularly the one we called The Big Indian, Jess Paul Tomey.  Meriable is obviously Indian and I am part but for some reason, The Big Indian stuck to Jess. 

I think it was through Jess that David and I became closer friends.  Jess was of the Class of 1962 also but let's say Jess was able to find ways of moving backwards.  Jess liked knowing things; David and I liked learning.  David and I were in band together and we had only one senior high band which was made up of Freshmen through Seniors.  I played clarinet and David played trumpet or cornet.  Ronnie Havens who is my very close friend also played trumpet and he was very good but he told me not long ago that David was always much better than Ronnie.  Not long ago may now be three or four years for in our age group, they run together some.

David was also a student conductor and Mr. Arnold, our legendary band teacher would instruct David, help him learn, and then occasionally let David take over the band.  It may have been 1960 when we traveled to one particular concert contest in the Spring and David took a Division I award for student conducting (Division I is the best).  He was also in one of the groups, a quartet or other and he also soloed for the competition.  What I remember particularly about his status as a student conductor was one evening after basketball season had begun.  Pawhuska had a wonderful team then with Carlos Gripado, Jay Lynn Hurt, Charley Bighorse, the Brown brothers, and we hoped for great things, a state championship perhaps.  The band played at basketball games as well as football games.  The weather turned very bad and Mr. Arnold had kids calling us to tell us not to go as it was too risky.  Shortly, one of my friends called and said that anyone who wanted to volunteer could come but we were on our own.  I went, of course, though I do not remember how I got there.  David came and led the band as student conductor.  We were a rag tag lot as we did not have the full band but we played and Pawhuska liked it.  I was a good memory for us.

At the end of the school year, perhaps David's junior year, we had an awards ceremony along with just a general fun session with a talent show and entertainment.  There were school competitions I did not know about until then when the awards were given out.  In the fields of mathematics, art, science, engineering, etc. David was a winner.  Mr. Arnold was the Master of Ceremonies and as he announced one category, then announced the name of David Meriable, David moved on stage to collect his certificate.  Soon David's name was announced once again for another award, and then another.  After a while it became almost embarrassing as David's name was called again and again.  Mr. Arnold announced a competition for engineering and he said, "Does anyone want to guess who the winner is?"  Several down in front said in unison, "David Meriable!"  There was laughter everywhere, including from David, but he was also turning a bit red beneath his dark complexion.  Mr. Arnold suggested that he not return to his seat yet, to save time, but stay close at hand in case of more awards.  David won a few more before the assembly was ended.

An accomplished student, he was also inclined to mischief and usually had The Big Indian and me along in tow.  One evening we were in the Dairy Queen, which then was the Pawhuska equivalent of the In Place, that or the pool hall, but girls couldn't go in the pool hall then except for a moment to rescue a wayward husband or boy friend.  We were listening to music and probably drinking a Coke and smoking cigarettes when Bobby Lovelace came in.  Bobby was driving his father's Opel, a small four door car sold by Buick and imported from Germany.  It was a four cylinder engine with standard shift and it always sounded as though it were running too fast.  Bobby said hello, ordered and headed for the rest room and just then, one of us got the idea to see if we could put Bobby's Opel between two parking meetings.  The car was open (no one locked houses or cars in Pawhuska then) so one got in and steered and the other three of us pushed.  Somehow we got the Opel between two parking meters, congratulated ourselves and then we took off running.  I think we felt we had not done anything bad yet still, there was a nagging feeling that we should not be there.  We learned later that the police had been called and that it had taken more then twelve adult men to figure out how to get the Opel out, which in those days of heady rebellion was very satisfying to us.  We ran up the stairs across from the Dairy Queen (DQ), across the Osage Agency campus and, breathless, the four of us fell to the grass, laughing and joking.  Soon a squad car moved down Grandview Avenue with its spotlight falling on the grass, searching for--us?   We did not know but we assumed so, and one boy said "Cops!  Shut up everyone!" and we ceased laughing and lay in fear.  Jess Tomey rolled over on his lighted cigarette to prevent the light from showing.  We later gave him the coveted Church Key award for his heroism.  Try as I might today, I do not recall who the fourth boy was.  Not so long ago, David and I were in Pawhuska and we were talking about this adventure when he said, "You know, I think that was my idea to do that."  It might have been and now that the statue of limitations has expired and we are not likely to go to jail for this prank, any of us might claim the idea's origin.  That night, we were all, frankly, too scared to claim it and we would have been happy to have shared it with anyone. 

One other small and crazy thing was the club of Blowflies International.  This club did not really exist but Charley Edgar had acquired some felt hats which had been soaked in vinegar and stretched.  He may have gotten those from Bill White too since Bill had one.  These were regular hats but with the top stretched into a tall cone.  All of us had one, Jess, David, Charley, I and a few others and someone coined the name Blowflies International.  We were seen about town in these really stupid hats and we said we were recruiting members.  We did not know that Charley was writing a journal, complete fiction, but he wrote about the Blowflies and the conspiracy in an entirely fictional account but the more he wrote the more he got caught up in it.  And then, Charley had an unfortunate evening and he was picked up by the police, taken to the jail and left in the drunk tank overnight.  But one of the policemen had the journal and was reading it, which actually had a couple of them believing we had an international conspiracy.  You must understand that things were slow in Pawhuska from time to time.  Today, there are few of us who were Brothers of the International Society of Blowflies who remain and the world today, is safe from us; probably due to the efforts of The Red Avenger (an inside joke).

One year David came into the Dairy Queen and told Jess and me that he had been at Indianapolis, Indiana for the Indianapolis 500 motor race.  He forgot to tell any of us that he was going and to invite us.  That was probably good since Jess and I had problems raising more than $5.00 at any a time.  David told us about going, sleeping in car, being in line for days to get tickets.  With our lust for cars and speed at sixteen, his story had a profound effect upon us.  We were jealous, no doubt, yet in some strange way, he seemed larger than us then, a folk heroic since most of us had no idea exactly where Indianapolis lay.  We knew it was far; that's all.

All of that is fun and history but David was a very serious Christian and he talked about it with me.  I hate to say it but David and I attended too many funerals together.  But it gave us time to talk and about very serious matters, such as life and death.  I knew he had had cancer of the throat and I saw signs; I heard his raspy, barely audible voice and when we spoke on the telephone, at times it was a struggle to hear him.  I knew he had had cancer but we never talked about that.  I didn't ask and he didn't tell, and perhaps we should have talked about it, but maybe it was just too hard; for him and or me. 

I received a note from him one day with the worst possible news.  The Big Indian, Jess Paul Tomey, had died in West Virginia and I immediately called David and we talked about Jess.  Jess was larger than life and for all his troubles, we always expected him to win, whatever than means.  I think we thought he would endure, possibly even prevail.  We were both very quiet, very sad and we talked about Jess. David's voice was so quiet then, yet I heard every word.  It was monumentally sad yet we ended in laughter as we recalled to each other the life of Jess Paul. 

David leaves us with many classmates, schoolmates, friends and admirers.  He leaves us with his two children Dawn and Dusty and the memories we will share for some time to come.  We miss you now, David, and so we will, for years to come.  God bless you David Meriable.

Stevie Joe Payne

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

David Meriable (1943-2012)

Real name of Harold David Meriable and I never knew that until today. I knew David close to forty-five years and he was only David to me or "Marbles", the nick name that I think Jess Paul Tomey gave to him.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Where the Trail May Lead

Stevie Joe Payne

That is I sitting in front of Pawhuska High School except that I wasn't.  The photograph was made by Charlotte at Osage Hills and used in publicity for the my book "Pawhuska Kids' Stuff."  I later took the Osage Hills rock, trees, bushes, leaves and branches out of the photograph and secretly replaced them with the photograph of the wall from Pawhuska High School.  One more alteration to mention is that the letters on the real wall are not black and orange in color but simply aluminum.  I photographed the wall and colored my photograph to make the wall look as I wanted it, black and orange.  I tell people that I am a member of the class of 1962 and I am; but I did not graduate in 1962.  I graduated in 1967 as a member of the class of 1966 and from College-High School in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.  I attend my Pawhuska class reunions whenever I can and I attend the all school reunions which are the best type to me.  Pawhuska is home and holds a special place in my heart and it always will.  But I don't want to sail under false colors and claim graduation with my class.  In 1960 I began my junior year of school and I was very unhappy, running with kids that I liked but we were not the best for each other.  We were not bad kids but we certainly needed guidance and, perhaps, a strong hand, maybe even across the back side.  But we didn't get that.  By January of 1961 I was not doing well and I was more depressed and in a downward spiral that could lead only to trouble.  I was asked about and even considered military school and then I went a step further.  I enlisted in the United States Navy, that Great Canoe Club of the Southwest Pacific Ocean, as we called it.  All my life I had thought I would join the Marine Corps.  My friend Charley Edgar had enlisted in the navy on a kiddie cruiser enlistment and that put me in touch with the recruiter, Chief Petty Officer Hall (Radarman).  Over the next month, I had several visits with him and he was gradually pulling me along by the nose because I knew him but I did not know other recruiters so CPO Hall charmed me into the navy.  Since I was only seventeen February 12, 1961, I had to have my mother's permission, which she gave.  A kiddie cruise went like this; a sailor enlisted before his 18th birthday and would be released before his majority, i.e. one day before he turned twenty-one yet given credit for four years.  In Edgar's case, he enlisted the day before his 18th birthday, so he served three years and received credit for four.  In my case, I enlisted about 28 days after my 17th birthday and would be released one day before my 21st birthday so I would serve just under four years and be credited for four years.  If you do the math you'll realize I was not smart but it was fine because I needed the extra discipline and training.  I was training in two disciplines at once; to be a sailor and to become a better person.  I was sworn in March 9, 1961, traveled to San Diego for three months of basic training, "Boot Camp" as it was called, then six months in Radar "A" school at Treasure Island, San Francisco Bay, California.  In December 1961, after finishing school, I was assigned to the USS Point Defiance (LSD-31), my only ship, where I served until January 22, 1965.  I was a 3rd class radarman (E-4) at the time of my honorable discharge.  Connie and I married January 30 and we struggled for several months as I sold insurance to make a living.  I had a GED for high school via the navy and a one year college GED; none of these were accepted in the civilian world in 1965.  I returned to Pawhuska but settled in Bartlesville working what job I could find and then I returned to high school at College-High.  Everitt K. White provided me a job working in the outdoor advertising industry.  I went to school from 7:00 AM untill noon, then worked for Mr. White until day's end, whatever it turned out to be, and did my home work. I completed my last full credit with a correspondence course in 1966 and was awarded my diploma in June of 1967.  Between the navy, my wife, my mother, and some help from some really good people, Everitt K. White and Principal, John Haley, I turned my life around from the hurt and confused kid that I was in March, 1961, and became the young father who went to work for Phillips Petroleum Company in March, 1967.  I retired from Phillips thirty-three years later.  About the Point Defiance; I served in the Cuba Quarantine of the October 1962 Missile Crisis, went to Viet Nam in 1963 for the Nho Din Diem coup d'etat, and served with the bathyscaph Trieste in the recovery mission for the lost submarine USS Thresher (SSN-593) in 1963.  I served in two missions to WESTPAC and a mission to Christmas Island for nuclear waste recovery.  I owe a word of thanks to my friend Kenny Carman who was the first to tell me how to begin the process of returning to high school at age twenty-one.  I graduated from College-High but my heart belongs to Pawhuska High School, Class of 1962.

The USS Point Defiance (LSD-31)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

In Days of Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot?  These are some of the school mates who were ahead of me in school, but not too far ahead.  In a school like Pawhuska High School was in the 1950's we had a unique experience, when compared to today.  There was the one great building, Pawhuska High School, and classes from the 7th grade through seniors shared the building.  That meant that we lowly 7th graders saw seniors and juniors on a regular basis, almost daily, and they were near adults while we were yet children, teens by then, but still being formed.  We were works in progress though some might have said we were works in regress.  We were confused sometimes, no doubt.  When my class entered the old building in 1957, we found a great senior class to be in awe of, to look up to, to admire, and to be like; wonderful role models for us.  I can not help but wonder how much they influenced my class.  I know this; they influenced us in mostly positive ways, seldom in negative ways.  Yes, they had some mischief about them, but not much.  Some is to be expected of those in high school.  Two I remember were Tom Culver and Marilyn Moyer Culver, husband and wife while still in school.  They were in many things in school together and had one of those storied, long marriages until Tom's death a few years ago.  Several times I spoke to Marilyn, who did not remember me;  that was fine as seniors don't know 7th graders, let alone remember them.  I can not recall any 7th graders I knew when I was a junior.  This is really about reunions and particularly the all-school type.  My class is small now and not all of them will attend a reunion.  As a student, I knew almost everyone in my class, many in the classes above me and few in classes below me.  When there is an all-school reunion, I get to see so many of those seniors I admired so much and most of them will talk to me, not as a 7th grader but as a fellow Pawhuskan now, someone who, like they, has had life experiences that made all of us older.  I knew all three of the kids in the photograph, Jackie Sue Ferrier (left), Gary Weyl, and his wife, Renee Coday Weyl, another long marriage.  They were upper class students and we had little in common, perhaps just a greeting relationship.  I know them better now and we have pleasant conversations when me meet, usually at a reunion, sometimes something else. That's wonderful because it enriches my experiences, helps me to grow and to learn and expands my universe.  I've found that the further we are away from high school, the greater our universe becomes as we no longer limit ourselves to just our class mates and our few best friends.  We embrace the classes above and below us and find out how much we missed by limiting ourselves to a few friends.  Perhaps the universe is too great an experience for us in those years twixt twelve and twenty.  I am just grateful that so many more have embraced me and allowed me to embrace them as new friends.  Should auld acquaintance be forgot?  Not a bit of it; as Jimmy Rector often says, "Friends are forever."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New Pawhuskan

I frankly did not know which blog I should write in to cover Tabbitha.  She is my niece, fourteen months old in this photograph, a copyrighted one I borrowed from a set I made for her second Christmas.  I think it matters little which blog but she is a Pawhuskan so I settled on Pawhuska Trails.  My brother Charles married later than most do and became a father even later.  I became a father at age twenty-three, Charles became a father at age forty-five.  He is a first time father at the age most of my classmates became grandparents.  When I have been out with Charles and Tabbitha and people have observed them together, I wonder how people see them.  He seems too old to be her father and maybe they think he is her grandfather but then, what do they think I am?  I am an uncle, which I emphasize because even friends forget and comment about my being a grandfather, which I am not.  My son died childless in 2003, my only son, my only child, so I won't be a grandfather.  I keep genealogy records for my family Payne, which I began in search of my own origins.  A year ago I used to say that I went back only one generation, which was my mother and father.  Then through the tools of research and luck, I learned the identity of my grandparents and great grandparents and the rest was easy.  Now I can trace my ancestry to long ago in Scotland, to long ago in Croatia, and to long ago in Poland.  My great grandparents on my mother's side, Sam and Lena Harris, were Jews who immigrated from Poland.  When you combine my Scottish, English, French, Polish, Croatia and Cherokee, I am quite a mutt.  It doesn't change who or what I am but it's nice to know.  I no longer have to abstain from conversations when someone trots out their pedigree for mine is now substantial.  Tabbitha gets some of that too, Cherokee, English, Polish and Jew, from my mother's side.  She gets Cherokee from her father's side.  It's nice to talk about our heritage but all said and done, it is my heritage; not what I am today.  I am an American, an Oklahoman and a Pawhusakan.  I have lived other places but my heart belongs to Pawhuska.  Pawhuska has changed and is changing but it has a future and the future in part belongs to Tabbitha, a new Pawhuskan, and those who share new beginnings with her.  What will they bring to it?  I can not know but I remain filled with wonder, curiosity and hope for the future of Pawhuska.  I am glad that my family continues with it, in Tabbitha.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Flanagan Hill on Prudom Street

This is probably the steepest hill in Pawhuska. It is short, only 325 feet in length, but it is very sudden, very steep and I know that from my many failures with a bicycle as I tried to prove how tough I was by riding to the top without stopping and pushing the bicycle. I made it only one time when I had an English racer bicycle and I pedaled fast, geared low and pumped like crazy. I was so proud to have reached the top without dismounting and I wish I had had a friend with me to prove that I had done it. Once was enough and I was only too happy to dismount and push the bicycle from then on. During snowy days in winter, Pawhuska police closed the hill and block from Tenth Street to Ninth Street and we sledded down it, only to face the difficult walk to the top again for one more fast ride to the bottom. It was great fun with great friends.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Gathering Steps

In its greatest days, these steps were the place where classes joined and crammed together for a class photograph that would appear the following spring in the Wah-Sha-She, the name given our school annual and the school newspaper.  We thought little about it when the photograph was being snapped but relished its appearance at the year's end when we saw ourselves and our friends together for the first time.  There were the class photographs such as our 1957 7-1, 7-2 and 7-3 groups, and then there were identifiable birds of a feather that flocked together, such as band, basketball, football, and all of the different opportunities that were open to us.  Seventh and Eighth grades had the numbered divisions of 1 for choir, 2 for band, and 3 for anything else that didn't fit the first two classifications.  I don't know if that continues today.Once we were freshmen, we had broader choices and if we were in band, it was the entire band, made up of all classes freshmen and above. 

Over the years, I have taken time to look at my collection of Wah-She-She books and those annoying moments of posing together then now take on new light and new life.  Those moments were silly and we acted silly, performing immaturely to prove how mature we were.  If we had behaved better, the photographs might be better.  But we were kids and behaved as kids and perhaps that is some of the greater charm today; that the photographs captured some of that giddy, laughing, teasing charm.  There would be time for maturity later.  It would come in the forms of the death of a president, a war that could not be won and would cost so many lives; maturity would mean marriages, births, divorces and even deaths. 

So those days, we were supposed to be just what we were.  I look at the photographs and I see gaps where a boy stands in the photograph.  The inimitable Henry Jones, a Pawhuska original, looks back at me and I laugh at him, just as I did at the flesh and blood Henry Jones.  I see him, yet I know he is gone, preserved only in photographs and in our memories.  The photograph is black and white, now taking on a bit of a yellow tone.  The picture in my memory is full color, with the blue tones of Levi jeans that most boys wore, the black and white plaid shirts, abundant then, the Lavender Blue of Doug Givens old chevrolet, once he finally finished his masterpiece.  I know that memory is not perfect and that in some way, those pictures I carry are just as faded as are those on the pages I see.  But what has faded seems to be the hard edges, the grudges we kept, the comparison to prove who was faster, tougher, better.  I remember only the laughter now, the smiles and a few stupid human tricks that we did, such as putting Bobby Lovelace's little blue car between two parking meters near the Dairy Queen. 

Left to our own devices, instead of being forced to pose together for school photographs, some of the kids would never have appeared in photographs.  Some were camera shy, some were poor and could not afford a camera and film.  Some were just too busy.  We did not have one person who carried a camera and constantly snapped photographs.  Some took photographs, which were dutifully left in the hands of their mother when they went off to college, military service, their own lives. Once in a while, some of these surface.  I found the simplest of all photographs of Jess Tomey and me.  We were in Long Beach, California and in an amusement park, we stepped into one of the old photo booths and for about $.50, we took four or five photographs. A quick glance at it and Jess comes to life again, as he is laughing in it.  Triggered by that photograph, taken in about 1963, I have a flood of memories, mostly in Pawhuska though some are of California.  We went to so many bad movies at the Friday night previews, mostly horror movies, and they were horrible indeed.  We didn't care.  We weren't movie critics; we were kids, and having the time of our lives in our way. 

I'm grateful for the gathering steps and now for the photographs we were forced to make, for they were often the only record of someone we knew, weren't best friends with, but knew, and now, the great gap of time since then makes them friends.  We have all lost so many friends and any connection to them keeps them alive, so now we clutch at stories to help us remember.  The boy that I barely knew who was standing five places away from me in the photograph has been moved closer to me by the gaps created.  He and I are now best friends as we tell stories about the boys we knew who stood between us in the photograph. 

One of my friends said, and I do not remember which friend, "There will be another gathering, later, in a better place, and we shall all get together then, to remember and tell stories as we once did.  Only this time, it will last an eternity."  Perhaps it too will be on The Gathering Steps.