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.