John Hiram KNIGHT [Parents] [scrapbook]-31292 was born on 25 Jul 1917 in Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma. He died on 16 Apr 2005 in Tucson, Pima, Arizona. He was buried in Gila Valley Memorial Gardens, Safford, Graham, Arizona. John married Blanche Louise BARNEY-31297 on 23 Dec 1935 in Safford, Graham, Arizona.
CENSUS: Name: John Knight
Event Type: Census
Event Year: 1920
Event Place: Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States
Marital Status: Single
Race (Original): White
Relationship to Head of Household: Son
Relationship to Head of Household (Original): Son
Own or Rent:
Birth Year (Estimated): 1918
Father's Birthplace: United States
Mother's Birthplace: United States
Sheet Number and Letter: 1A
Household ID: 140
Line Number: 13
Affiliate Name: The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
Affiliate Publication Number: T625
GS Film number: 1821487
Digital Folder Number: 004384920
Image Number: 00620
Household Role Gender Age Birthplace
A L Knight Head M 38 United States
Lawrence Knight Son M 10 Oklahoma
Blanche Knight Daughter F 8 Oklahoma
Catharine Knight Daughter F 4 Oklahoma
John Knight Son M 2 Oklahoma
Mary Perkins Boarder F 37 Arkansas
Minnie Perkins Boarder F 12 Arkansas
Citing this Record:
"United States Census, 1920," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MJM5-DQ7 : accessed 19 Jun 2014), A L Knight, Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States; citing sheet 1A, family 140, NARA microfilm publication T625, FHL microfilm 1821487.
Name: John H Knight
Event Type: Census
Event Date: 1940
Event Place: Safford, Supervisorial District 1, Graham, Arizona, United States
Marital Status: Married
Race (Original): White
Relationship to Head of Household (Original): Head
Relationship to Head of Household: Head
Birth Year (Estimated): 1918
Last Place of Residence: Same Place
Family Number: 204
Sheet Number and Letter: 10A
Line Number: 37
Affiliate Publication Number: T627
Affiliate Film Number: 103
Digital Folder Number: 005461859
Image Number: 00024
Household Role Gender Age Birthplace
John H Knight Head M 22 Oklahoma
Blanche Knight Wife F 24 Arizona
Citing this Record:
"United States Census, 1940," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VYWG-SSL : accessed 19 Jun 2014), John H Knight, Safford, Supervisorial District 1, Graham, Arizona, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 5-1A, sheet 10A, family 204, NARA digital publication of T627, roll 103.
MEDIA: MK7527 - John Hiram & Blanche Louise Barney Knight s/o Azor Lawrence & Nancy Irene Gunter Knight - Wedding photo 23 December 1935 Safford, Graham, Arizona - Familysearch.org
MK7528 - John Hiram Knight s/o Azor Lawrence & Nancy Irene Gunter Knight - Cpl. U.S. Army Air Corp 25 June 1945 - Familysearch.org
MK7529 - John Hiram Knight s/o Azor Lawrence & Nancy Irene Gunter Knight - Cpl. U.S. Army Air Corp - Familysearch.org
MK7531 - John H. & Blanch Louise Barney Knight s/o Azor Lawrence & Nancy Irene Gunter Knight - with son John Steven Knight - 29 October 1944 Victory Village Apts 12 miles out of Las Vegas, Nevada - Familysearch.org
BIOGRAPHY: Autobiography of John Hiram Knight as he wrote his memories in 1987.
Dedicated to my wonderful grandchildren, Johnna and Danny
I was born the 25th of July, 1917; I am now almost 71 years old. Now and then my mind goes back to the events of my memories, some good, and some bad. I was born in West Tulsa, Oklahoma. One of my earliest memories was of playing hide and seek with the cooks two children at the Frisco Hotel. The hotel was a long brick building that my Aunt Roxie ran. She furnished meals and rooms to the men that worked on the railroad and the railroad yards that were close by. At one time the porch had a roof, but it had fallen down and the cement columns that had supported the roof were broken off. As I was running, I fell and hit my head on the broken edge of one of them. I remember that I was afraid that I would have to have my head sewn up, but Runt Roxie’s husband, my uncle Abe, just put a bandage on it and sent me back to play. My next memory was of living with my stepmother. My mother died when I was 14 months old. I do not ever remember my father being at the house where we lived; it was in some kind of housing project. My stepmother was very mean to me. She had three children of her own and they were also mean to me. I remember always being hungry, dirty and cold. Ma Perkins, as I called her, would not let me sit at the table, but I was put under it and food was thrown down to me. I was beaten often, and I slept on the floor; but mostly I remember being hungry and cold. One day a lady that lived next to us threw out a pancake; it landed on the lid of the garbage can. I was nearby and grabbed it and run under the house to eat it. I was so afraid that Ma Perkins would catch me and whip me again. This time she didn’t catch me. Somehow Aunt Roxie found out what was happening to me and took Ma Perkins to court to get me away from her. I don’t remember the trial, but I do remember standing on the courthouse steps; Aunt Roxie’s daughter, Ella, grabbed me and took me to the Catherine Hotel. I was eating and having a real good time when a policeman rode up on a motorcycle. I had been kidnapped! He sat me on the handle bars and took me back to Ma Perkins. I was really scared, but I didn’t get a whipping that time. A few days later Aunt Roxie won and I was sent to live with her. Aunt Roxie had sold the Frisco Hotel and bought the new Catherine Hotel. It was a long wooden building with the railroad tracks on one side and a lumber yard on the other. I remember the long dark hall that I had to go down at night from the lobby if I wanted a drink of water. One of the boarders would hide in a doorway and jump out and scare me. Aunt Roxie was a large, fat woman. She had a bad hand; it was injured when she was a small child on her father’s farm in North Carolina. She was feeding sugar cane into a crusher. As the mule went round and round to crush the sap out of the cane to make sorghum molasses, her hand got caught in the crusher. Before they could get the mule stopped, it had chewed her fingers off. She had a little crooked stub for a little finger which she used like a hook. She could pick up a two gallon pail of milk with it. She was so used to using it that it didn’t seem to bother her at all. She had three daughters. Ella, the youngest, was married, but had no children. Nancy, whose husband’s name was Will Coble; they had one son, Raymond. The third daughter was Josie. Her husband’s name was Estal Rice; they had one son, Sidney. Sidney was older that Ray and I. Uncle Abe and Aunt Roxie’s brother, John Gunter, were both large, fat men. I often wished at Christmas and Thanksgiving that I was as fat as they were as they could eat so much and I could eat so little. Aunt Roxie was good to me. I always had plenty to eat. I got a few spankings, but I guess that I deserved them. Uncle Abe was different; sometimes he would get drunk and hit me with his belt for no reason that I could see. Aunt Roxie was very religious and did not believe in drinking at all, but Uncle Abe was selling bootleg whiskey. He would hide it along the railroad track. The police would wait until they thought he had a little money then raid the place. They would use steel rods to stick in the ground until they found the bottles that he had hid. They would fine him; then turn him loose and he would try again. In the evenings we would all gather in the lobby of the hotel. Sometimes we would have a preacher and at times there was a wedding. Other evenings Aunt Roxie would tell me ghost stories; she knew that I was afraid of the dark. I always slept with my head under the covers; one night Ella took all the covers off the bed so I got under the mattress and slept on the springs. When she found out what I had done, she gave up and put my covers back on the bed. I played by the side of the hotel and sometimes in the lumber yard. It was fun to put pins and nails on the railroad track and when the trains ran over them they would look like tiny swords. Aunt Roxie, Uncle Abe, Uncle John and some of the boarders dipped snuff. So in the lobby of the hotel there were these large copper spittoons. I had the job of cleaning them; a vey stinky job that I didn’t like. One day when I was about six years old, two very pretty young girls came to the hotel. I soon found out that they were my sisters, Kathryne and Blanche. Soon Kathryne and I were great friends. Aunt Roxie had a large car in the garage in back of the hotel. It was called a Jefferies and had seats for seven people. Kathryne and I would get an empty snuff can, wash it clean, and fill it with cocoa and sugar. Then we would get in the car and I would play at driving and we would dip the cocoa snuff. Nancy and Ella lived at the hotel. On Sundays Josie would come over and Sidney would play with us. As Aunt Roxie often had weddings at the hotel, we would have a play wedding. Kathryne and Sidney would get married; I would be the baby. We had lots of fun together. We often played in the lumber yard or mashed nails on the tracks. One very sad day the two girls had to leave to go back to Oregon. I remember sitting on the front porch crying because they had to go. I didn’t see them again for many years. They told me that I had a brother, Larry, but it was after I was grown and married that I first saw him. I remember Aunt Roxie bought a model A Ford and wanted to learn to drive it. She and I started out for the store down the alley to the street. She made it to the store okay, but when she turned back into the alley, she didn’t straighten up the wheel and ran into a telephone post. She wasn’t going fast so we weren’t hurt, but that was the last time that she drove a car. I was growing up so I helped Ella clean rooms and make the beds. I stood on a box to wash dishes and cook my breakfast. Uncle John lived in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He often came to visit Aunt Roxie. Sometimes he would take me home with him. He had a big two story house; it was fun to play there. I also went to school there. Uncle John was very rich. He came to Fort Smith with only a few dollars. He started out mending pots and pans; then sold barbecue beef. He then got started in the real estate business and became a very rich man. However, before he died he lost most of his money and the college education that he promised me was never to be. When I was about seven years old Aunt Roxie’s daughter, Josie died very suddenly. Aunt Roxie no longer wanted to live in Tulsa so she traded her hotel and two houses in Tulsa for a farm in Arkansas and house in Borger, Texas. We left Tulsa and moved to Borger, Texas. There was an oil boom going when we got there. About a block from our house they were drilling for oil. Sometimes in the night I heard a sound like rain on the roof, but when I looked out I found that it was oil. The well had come in and spewed oil for a full block. We lived in Borger for a time. Raymond was with us; he and I sold papers. I remember how cold it was there; also, how hot it was in the summer. Ray and I also picked chickens there for two cents each to get money to go to the show. If we tore the skin on the chicken we didn’t get paid for that one. Often we had to pick several chickens before we had a dime to go to the show. Thinking of the cost of the show reminded me of the hotel and the way Aunt Roxie served her meals. She had a long table and served meals family style. The table would seat about twenty people and the food was passed around. The price was twenty-five cents a meal for all you wanted to eat. I remember one man ate so much that aunt Roxie told him that he would have to pay ten cents more next time. He told her that it was all right with him as he knew that he was a big eater. I didn’t tell you that Ray’s father and mother were with us in Borger. His father’s name was Will Coble; he was a barber. I do not remember how long we stayed in Borger or what Aunt Roxie ever did with the house there. When we left there, we went to Arkansas and the farm. Aunt Roxie’s sister, Dora Deyton, with her husband, Willard, and their three children lived on a farm in Arkansas. We had to go in a wagon to see them. They had no electricity on the farm; the refrigerator was a spring nearby. They would put the milk and butter in the water to keep it cold. We only stayed with them a short time; then we went on to our farm. Uncle Abe was always talking about what a great farmer he was. So Aunt Roxie and I were very much surprised when the corn he planted turned out to be pop corn. I guess that it was okay because it was nice to sit in front of the huge fireplace and pop corn. I remember that the field was covered with stones that were called Arkansas diamonds. It was my job to sled them off with my mule and dump them away so we could plow. Years later I found out that these rocks were worth a fortune. Ray and I had a great time hunting and playing in Arkansas. The little school house that we went to was about two miles through the woods from the farm. Uncle Abe went through the woods and cut the sides of the trees so we would know how to get to school. There was a pond and a creek which we had to cross. On our way home it was a great place to go swimming after school. Arkansas was a wonderful place to grow up; the hills were covered with wild berries that we could pick to make jams or jelly. There were also apple trees and persimmon trees with ripe fruit in the fall of the year. We did not keep the hogs in a pen but allowed them to roam the hills until we needed one for food. We had a smoke house to smoke the meat. I remember that we used corn cobs to make the smoke. We always had plenty to eat. Will and Nancy Coble and Raymond had a farm nearby. Ray and I had a great time riding his mule through the woods to bring in the cattle and hogs. I really hated to leave Arkansas, but one day Aunt Roxie decided to go back to Tulsa. We didn’t stay there very long this time. Uncle John had lost his fortune in Fort Smith, but had managed to save two farms, one in Jackson County, Texas, and the other in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. He was living in the Rio Grande Valley. I remember the snow in Tulsa seemed like it was three or four feet deep and very cold when we left there to go to Texas.
After a few days of traveling, we came into what I thought was paradise. Beautiful fruit, oranges and grapefruit, hung ripe on the trees. The fields were green with all kinds of vegetables. It was nice and warm; to me as a young boy it was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen. Nancy, Will and Ray came with us. Nancy had adopted two young Indian girls. The oldest, named Lilly, was about my age. Betty was a few years younger. We went to Harleton, Texas. Aunt Roxie rented a small hotel; she took in boarders like she did in Tulsa. The depression was on and no one seemed to have any money in those days. I remember the hobos came to her back door in great numbers to get a handout. She never turned one of them away. One day a very clean hobo came by; his name was Jim. He told Aunt Roxie that her place was marked down by the tracks and that is why so many hobos came by. He went down and changed the sign; from then on we were not bothered so much. Jim stayed with us for a time; he told me lots of hobo stories. He helped with the cleaning to earn his keep. I remember that we had one boarder that played the guitar and sang. He stayed most of the time in his room. I soon found out that he had T.B. At that time I thought that you had to have T.B. in order to play a guitar and to sing. I didn’t know how to get it so I guess that is why I couldn’t ever play a guitar. One day Uncle John and his wife, Flo, went out to his farm to visit. Aunt Flo picked up some caster beans that were growing there. She thought that they were good to eat. She gave Uncle John some. He thought that they had discovered something new. They gathered up some to take back to the hotel. However, by the time they got back they were so sick that Aunt Roxie called the doctor at once. The doctor said that the beans were deadly poison and the only thing that saved them was that they hadn’t eaten very many; that was the one exception to Aunt Roxie’s rule that if it smells good and tastes good it is okay to eat it, but if it smells bad or tastes bad, do not eat it. One of the worst flu epidemics that Texas had ever had occurred that winter. I remember that everyone was sick including me. One day my nose started to bleed and would not stop. Aunt Roxie called the doctor, but he could not stop it either. Soon I was so weak that I couldn’t raise my head from the pillow. Aunt Roxie thought that I was going to die. She told Uncle Abe who was also sick, what was happening. He got out of bed and got a bag of ice. He placed the bag on my private parts and the bleeding stopped. I am sure that he saved my life. I was now about twelve years old. Aunt Roxie could not make a go of the hotel. I think that it was because she had too many people eating and not paying. She closed the hotel. We moved to Weslaco, Texas. Will and Nancy went with us. We rented a house there and after school Ray and I took our push carts and sold hot tamales that Aunt Roxie had made during the day. We sold mostly to the men who worked in the packing house sheds making boxes to pack the vegetables and fruit in. I soon learned from them that there was lots of fruit and vegetables that they called culls that I could have just for hauling them off. So I kept us in all we could eat. Times were still very hard and no money, but we still had plenty of food. One day Uncle Abe bought home a sack of flour. It had a big red cross on it. The minute Ray and I saw it we really got mad. We told him we would not eat it nor would we sell any tamales that were made from it. Well with nothing left for him to do, he took it back. Like I said before we were poor, but we were very proud. (The Red Cross gave food to people who couldn’t pay for it.) I do not remember how it came about but Uncle Abe left us for a time. Since Aunt Roxie couldn’t make a living in Weslaco, she and I moved to Jackson County Texas. Dora, Willard and their kids lived there. Their farm was close to a town named Lolita. It was about a hundred miles from Houston, near the Gulf of Mexico. I picked cotton, helped with the farm work, and went to school. One summer I worked for the WPA, a government work program. The farm was fun for me. I had a great time playing with Dora Deyton’s children. Uranus was a little older than I; his sister, Fay, was next and the youngest daughters name was Essie. Uranus and I took turns herding cows on the wide open Texas plains. I felt like a real cowboy. I remember that there were lots of armadillos there. When we caught one, we would skin it out and make a purse out of the tough hide. We never thought that they would be good to eat, but one day Aunt Roxie decided to cook one as the meat looked and smelled so good. Well I found out what she was cooking so when I would walk through the kitchen, I would hold my nose as if it smelled bad. About the third time that I did this she grabbed the pot and threw the whole thing out the back door. Boy was she made at me, but she never stayed mad long and soon we were friends again. We stayed with Willard and Dora for about a year and a half. Then Aunt Roxie decided to go back to the Rio Grande Valley and live with Uncle John and Aunt Flo. They had moved to his farm there where he was growing fruit trees to sell. Nancy and Will rented a farm close to Uncle John’s farm. They had eighteen milk cows and sold milk in town. I helped Uncle John on the farm. I also milked the cows for Will night and morning. I didn’t receive any pay for any of my work. Uncle John gave me a calf if I would take care of it, which I did. When it got big enough to sell, he sold it and didn’t pay me anything. Until I was about thirteen years old, I was very small for my age. Aunt Roxie said that I was stunted because of the way Ma Perkins had starved me. At about this time I started to grow. I had plenty to eat and grew very fast. Uncle John was good to me except one time at Christmas when I had the lead singing part in the school play. Aunt Roxie had bought me a pair of white pants and a white shirt to wear for the play. When I was all dressed to go, Uncle John refused to take me. We lived five miles out of town. I had only a short time to get there, but I started out to walk. I was lucky because I soon got a ride and got to the school on time. I never did know why Uncle John wouldn’t take me to the school play. Uncle John taught me to drive in an old Dodge with a stick shift that was backwards to most cars. I did just fine until I tried to turn into the gate. The rear fender hit the gate post. I learned to swing out when turning a car. After that, I often drove the car to town to sell the eggs and produce. There were a lot of wild donkeys in the valley. I caught some and traded for some until I had seven or eight. I kept them on a canal close to the farm. On Sunday the local kids and I would have lots of fun having a donkey rodeo.
My best friend, Hoyt, lived close by. We were great friends. One day I was at his house after church playing. His little brother was on the bed playing with an old pistol. Hoyt was swinging on the door sill when the gun went off. It hit Hoyt in the chest. He walked outside and climbed up in the car before he died. It was a thing that I will never forget and the reason that I was always afraid of a pistol. I don’t know how long we stayed at the Rio Grande Valley, but it was several years. I guess Uncle John got tired of the farm as he traded it for a large apartment house in San Antonio, Texas. He and Aunt Flo moved there. I don’t know where she got it, but Aunt Roxie had an old Buick car and a large, four-wheel, house trailer that looked like a boxcar. She, Nancy, Will and I decided to go back to Hot Springs, Arkansas. I don’t know why they wanted to go unless they thought it would be easier to make a living. I was fifteen years old at the time; that would be 1932. I drove the car and pulled that monster of a trailer all the way to Hot Springs. Aunt Roxie opened a café there. They worked hard, but couldn’t make it go. Finally it got so bad, that although Aunt Roxie was against it, they started selling bootleg whiskey in the café. This didn’t last long and soon they decided to return to Texas. It was in winter time when we left there. The snow was about three feet deep as we started the trip. The first day we only went six miles; trying to pull that monster of a trailer on the ice and snow covered road was almost impossible. We finally made it back to the valley and soon traded the Buick for a Chevrolet car that was easier to drive. We also got a two-wheel trailer. Ella and her husband, Tommie, lived with Aunt Roxie and me. We had a house about two miles out of Weslaco. We found that down the valley about seventy-five miles we could buy very good cull potatoes for as little as ten cents a hundred pounds. I would take the trailer and get a load of potatoes and take them back to the farm. We would sort out the bad ones and put the good potatoes in small bags and sell them going from house to house. Not long after we returned to the valley, Uncle Abe returned. Uncle John wanted us to go to Jackson County to help Willard and Dora on his farm. It was a last ditch effort to save it as he could not make the payments on it. We plowed the fields and planted four hundred acres of cotton. It was the hardest work that I had ever done. We worked from sun up to sun down day after day. We finally got the crop all planted. It grew about ten inches high and was really looking good when it started to rain. It didn’t completely stop for thirty days. The crop was ruined. Uncle Abe left in disgust and I never saw him again. Uncle John lost the farm. It was a real shame as soon after that oil was discovered on the land. If he would only have kept it, he would have become a millionaire again. It wasn’t long after that that Uncle John asked me to come to San Antonio to help with the apartments and to go to school. So I went to help him. I kept up the lawn, helped paint and do the repairs on the apartments. Uncle John never paid me or gave me any allowance for my work. He did pay for my school supplies so that I could go to school. I was in the last year of high school when I borrowed Uncle John’s car. A car ran a stop sign right in front of me; I had a wreck. No one was hurt and the car had only slight damage. It wasn’t my fault, but the other driver didn’t show up at court so Uncle John had to pay to have the car fixed. It cost $35.00. I really don’t know why but after the wreck Uncle John treated me different. He would send me to the store and when I returned home he would count his change as if I might be stealing from him. I was very disturbed by this. After a time I felt that I could no longer stay with him. So although I only had a few weeks until I would graduate from high school, I left and went back to the valley to live with Aunt Roxie. Times were still very hard. I tried working in the onion fields planting onions in the mud. It was very hard work and only paid a dollar a day. I managed to hold out until noon then asked for my fifty cents and quit. About this time I heard about the C. C. C. Camps. The government would give me $15.00 a month and room and board. Also they would send Aunt Roxie $35.00. I felt that this was the best way I could help her so I joined up. Raymond and a few of my friends also went. We went to Pima, Arizona. I was 17 years old. I worked as a cook. One evening while I was in the town of Safford, I met Blanche Barney. I went with her as often as I could. One day I asked her to marry me. To my surprise she said, “Yes.” I had Aunt Roxie write a letter and got me out of the camp. I remember that I was given $5.00 to get home on besides my train ticket. Everything would have been okay except that I took Blanche to a carnival the evening before I was to leave and spent all my money. I rode the train for four days and nights until I got to San Antonio, Texas without a bite to eat. When I got to Uncle John’s house, Ant Flo was afraid that I would make myself sick because I ate so much. I went to the valley the next day to see how Aunt Roxie was getting along. She was getting a small pension from the state and planned to be married to an old judge in Corpus Christi, Texas. I felt that I was no longer needed and a short time later, I left Texas to return to Arizona and Blanche. I arrived in Safford with $12.00 in my pocket. I rented a room in a motel for $2.00. After I got I cleaned up, I went to find Blanche. She was glad to see me, but also very surprised because Raymond had told her that I wasn’t coming back.
The next day I went looking for a job, but no luck. I knew that I couldn’t stay in the motel as soon all my money would be gone. So I slept on a park bench for several nights. Finally I got a part time job helping out at a small, local, slaughter house. I remember that the first week I made $1.75. A few days later I got a real break and got a job in a small grocery store. The hours were long; from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., but I was making $10.00 a week. The owner, Mr. Naylor, taught me how to cut meat and how to figure prices. He was really a nice man. It was arranged with the small packing house that when the regular delivery man couldn’t be at work that I would make the deliveries for him. In this way I also learned about the meat business. A few months after I went to work in the store, Mr. Naylor’s father-in-law built a large, new, store for him. He moved into the new store, but left me to run the small store. He would come by once or twice a week to pick up the money to take it to the bank. I was really pleased when he told me one day that I was making more money in the little store than he was making in the new one. After a few months though he closed the little store so I could help at the new store. I was now making $15.00 a week so Blanche and I decided that it was time to get married. On the 23rd of December, 1935 in front of the Christmas tree at George Barney’s home, we were married. I told Blanche that I only had $5.00 to pay the preacher. She said that it was okay because they always give the money back, but this time he didn’t. I worked late that first night. During the day I would gather up the groceries that I thought we would need. I filled a large lettuce crate which was so heavy when full that Mr. Naylor had to help me carry it. I remember that it cost $5.00. I think that I worked for Mr. Naylor about two years learning the meat business and taking care of the store. One day Mr. Naylor came to me to ask a favor. It seemed that the grandfather of Mr. Moody, the man I first worked for at the slaughter house, wanted to buy him a half interest in the Thriftier Market. There was only one condition that I would take his place and work for the cattle company. I was about to get a raise to $20.00 week and I didn’t want to go, but as a favor to Mr. Naylor, I went. Mr. Moody and Mr. Wilson owned the cattle company together. Mr. Wilson was a cowboy of the old west. He was very stern, but a man of his word. I had worked for him before. I found him to be very fair, but when I asked him for $20.00 a week he said, “Son, if it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t have a job.” It was okay. I went to work and a short time later I got my raise. We would slaughter the cattle about a mile out of town. Then haul them to town and hang them in a cooler that I had helped to build. I learned to skin the beef and was so fast that I could remove the hide and get the beef ready to saw it in half in only twelve minutes.
I didn’t like that part of my job so I worked to be the salesman of the beef. Before long this was my main job. I worked for the packing house for about a year and a half. I had decided that I had no future there so one day I told Mr. Wilson that I was going to quit and go to work for the Tovery Packing Company in Phoenix. Mr. Moody had died and I felt that it was time for me to leave. Mr. Wilson asked me to wait a few days as he had a proposition for me. A few days later he called me and his son, Jack, into the office. He had bought out Mr. Moody’s half of the business and wanted to sell it to Jack and me. We were to get one fourth of the profit each until we each paid $7,500.00. I jumped at the change. It was the break of a lifetime for me. Now Jack and I really went to work. We would start at 2:00 a.m. three days a week and work until 5:00 p.m. in the evening. We had about three hundred head of cattle and the price we bought them at, .05 cents a pound was going up every day. Things were really looking up for me. One day Mr. Wilson called Jack and I into the office to tell us that he thought it was time for us to expand. He wanted to build a packing plant so we could have everything together. He gave us a choice of locations. We chose one south of town. The next decision to make was the type of plant we were to build; then he told us to build it. Jack looked at me and said, “John, you build it.” It was the biggest task that I had ever tried to do. I drew up the plans for it and hired the builders and got started. Mr. Wilson had stepped off his horse and hurt his foot so from the time we started building until it was completed, he didn’t enter the building. I spent $7,500.00 on the plant. He signed the checks and asked very few questions. When it was done he was real pleased. Instead of the ten head of cattle he thought we could handle in a day, we could handle twenty with ease. I was very proud of the plant that I had built. We expanded our business more and more. I soon paid off my one fourth of the business and had one thousand dollars credit. Jack didn’t like the business and wanted out as did Mr. Wilson. I was making plans to first buy Jack out and then Mr. Wilson. The price of cattle was going up and I figured that within a few years I would sell out for at least $100,000.00; but this was not to be. The one thing that I hadn’t figured on was the war.
Before I go on from here I want to tell you about a funny thing that happened. The Safeway store in Safford had a butcher named Jack Reay. One day he called me for a rush order of beef. I hurried down to the store with the beef. I remember that I told him how sorry I was that the price had gone up to 18 cents a pound. I didn’t think that it would ever go much higher. Anyway, I found out what the rush was. He had been told by his boss in Phoenix to meet all prices. The Chinaman that had a store across the street found out about this and put a sign in his store window for ten cents a pound for steak. Jack put a sign out to meet his price. This kept going until Jack ran out of beef and by the time I got there, the price was down to one cent a pound. I put a hindquarter of beef on his block. Jack cut out the loin. A man at the counter asked what the full loin weighed. It was 40 pounds. He wanted to buy the whole loin. To my surprise Jack sold him the whole loin for 40 cents. I wondered why the Chinaman wasn’t buying any beef. I went across the street to see. When someone came in and ordered steak he would ask them how much they wanted. If it was 10 pounds, he would give them a dime and tell them to get it across the street. I felt that I had to tell Jack so I did and this ended the price war.
Now back to my story. The war was on, but Jack Wilson and I were exempt because we were in the beef business furnishing meat to the miners. Our son, John, was born about this time and the future looked bright for me until the day Mr. Wilson told me that the draft board had told him that he could only keep one of us, Jack or me. Needless to say, I was the one to go. I wanted to keep my interest in the company, but Mr. Wilson told me that he might want to sell out and I might not be around to sign the papers. He wrote me a check for $8,500.00. The draft board told me that I had two weeks to enlist and chose the branch of service I wanted or wait for the draft and go in the regular army. So I joined the Air Corp. You may wonder why I didn’t hold out for more money, but back in those days we didn’t write contracts as they do now. All I had was Mr. Wilson’s word and a handshake for a contract. I took what he offered and went my way.
I took my basic training in Shepherd Field, Texas. After six weeks, I was sent to Alva, Oklahoma to go to school for three months. I rented an apartment close to the school and Blanche and Johnny joined me there. I wasn’t allowed to leave the school, but I slipped out at night and returned in time for bed check. It had been a long time since I had been in school, but at that time I had a very good memory. I memorized the problems as the teacher showed them to us. When we had a test, it was easy for me to get them right. As a result, I had one of the highest scores in the class. After the school was out, we were sent to San Antonio, Texas to learn to fly. I forgot to tell you about my first flight at the school. We were to get ten hours of flight time there. On my very first time to go up in an airplane the instructor was showing me how to do a power stall. He asked me if I could do it. I told him that I would try. I pulled the stick back just like he did, but at the top of the stall, the motor died and the prop stuck straight up. The instructor said that he would take over. I was seated on a small parachute and was waiting for him to tell me to jump. I was plenty scared, but he put the plane in a shallow dive and glided it back to the airport and stopped at the hanger door. I was never afraid of flying after that. Since Uncle John lived in San Antonio, Blanche had planned to stay with him while I waited to be assigned to an air base. This was not to happen as my class was washed out. We were told that they didn’t need pilots, but needed gunners. I was sent to Denver, Colorado to an armament school. After I finished the school, I was sent to Las Vegas, Nevada for flight training. I was put in the ball turret that is under the plane. It was very small and almost impossible to get out of in case of an emergency. They were also training co-pilots at the school. One day while we were practicing gunnery runs over a mock air field, I heard the pilot tell the co-pilot that he was coming in to high. Well on the next run he came in so low that a piece of sage brush hung on my guns. That’s low enough. I finished the school and we were getting on the train to go to another base to crew out when several of us were called off the train and told that because we had the highest grades in the class we were being asked to be instructors. At first I thought that I would rather go with my buddies, but my very good friend, John Gaden, from South Carolina, talked me into staying and instructing. Later when I found that I would be allowed to live off the post, I was very glad that I stayed. I rented a small house in Henderson, a few miles out of Las Vegas. Blanche and Johnny joined me there. We had the car and I drove back and forth to the post. My ball turret was up on a stand and we could turn it in all directions. The guns shot a light ray much like a penny arcade. The men were very interested in what I had to tell them about the use of the turret and how to get in and out quickly. We had to be able to take the guns apart and put them back together again blind folded and in a very short time. In our off duty time some of us started making cigarette lighters out of the 50 caliber machine gun bullets. We would remove the bullet, fire the cap, then mount it on a piece of Plexiglas, put a small lighter in the top and cover it with the bullet. We could sell these for $5.00 each. There was a shed across from the turret classroom where classes were taught in how to take guns apart to work on them. One day one of the boys decided that it would be easier to remove the bullet and the cap by shooting the gun. He loaded a machine gun and fired it. The bullet went right through my classroom missing my head by only a few inches. Well, that stopped the lighter making and was the nearest I came to being shot in the army. I instructed for about eight months. Then they started getting B29’s to replace he B17’s we were using for instruction. I don’t know why but all the instructors except me were sent to other fields. I stayed on for about a month longer then I received my orders to go to Virginia to go overseas. We boarded a train and went non-stop till we got there. It was another case of hurry up and wait. It was two weeks before we were processed on the field. When it came my turn to talk to the officer in charge he asked me what I was doing there as they had no use for men with my M. O. S. He asked me what he should do with me. I told him that I wasn’t running the army, but I would like a furlough. He checked and said that I was eligible and it was okay to go. So in only three weeks from the time that I left Nevada, I was on my way back to Arizona. After my furlough was over, I went back to Virginia. One day I was told to help unload a carload of frozen beef. After picking up one quarter, I told the sergeant in charge, that I had hurt my back. He sent me to the company doctor. I was given an e-ray. The doctor told me my back was in such bad shape that I shouldn’t be in the army, but that he couldn’t give me a discharge as it seemed to have been hurt before I got in the army. He gave me an excuse so that I didn’t have to drill or do K. P. Later I was sent to Denver again. This time I went to a photography school. It was fun to learn. We flew in the planes and took pictures with giant cameras. After I finished the school, I was again assigned to teach. I taught camera range finders until the war ended. Wile teaching, I was again allowed to live off the post. Blanche and Johnny joined me in Denver. The man that we rented from made candy in his garage. I would help him make it and Johnny was in hog heaven sampling all the different kinds that he made.
At Christmas time, I got permission to use the wood shop at the post. You couldn’t buy toys for kids so I made Johnny a large train, big enough to ride on, with box cars and also a large truck. They were so nice that when I took them home on the bus, I was offered any price I would ask if I would sell them, but of course, I didn’t. Johnny was very happy with his Christmas toys. At last in 1947, I was given my discharge. I spent three and a half years in the army and I was real happy to get out.
I returned to Safford with one thought in mind. I was going to take a month off before looking for a job. This wasn’t to be, for as I stepped off the train Mr. Wilson was there waiting for me. He had sold the packing plant out, but had a job as manager. His boss had got mad and fired all the butchers, and they had no one to run the kill floor. He wanted me to take over and train a new crew. I felt that I couldn’t say no, so the next morning at 4:00 a.m., I was at the plant. It had been several years since I had skinned a beef so it took me about a week to get up to par. A few days later Mr. Wilson came back to where I was working. I had just started to skin a beef and was working by myself. He took out his watch to time me and in only twelve minutes the beef was hanging on the rail ready to be sawed in half. I was by far the fastest butcher they ever had. In about three months, I had the crew in shape to take over, so I quit the job. I was ready to look for something new. I first worked for my brother-in-law, Al Haralson, who had a Firestone Store. I was around Christmas time and I worked as a clerk. I only stayed with him a short time as I was looking for some kind of job with a future. I met an old friend of mine that used to work with me at the Thriftee Market. He was in charge of the Sears Store in Safford. He asked me to come and work for him. It was a good job. We were given a bonus for selling the big ticket items such as stoves, washers, etc. My friend would credit my account with several of them each week so I was making a good pay check. The work was okay, but I felt like I was cooped in and someone was always checking what I did. I could see that soon we would not be selling all those big ticket items so easy so I started looking for something else to get into. I remembered that before the war Armour Packing Company had a salesman in the Douglas, Arizona area and that now they weren’t there. So I wrote the plant in El Paso, Texas and asked if they were interested in opening up the territory again. To my surprise they asked me to come to El Paso to talk it over. Well after sometime, they came to Safford to offer me the job. My stating salary was very low, but I was ready for a change. When I told my friend, Mr. Cliff Bingham, that I was going to quit, he tried to get me to stay as he was being sent to Phoenix and had recommended me to take his place as manager of the Safford Sears Store. I was pleased at this but I had already told Armour that I would work for them. I always wondered if I did the right thing. However, I felt right at home working for Armour. I was my own boss and I knew about the meat business. I received three raises in pay the first year that I worked for them and soon became a top line salesman. I worked for them for five years. I could see that I could get no higher position with them unless I left Safford, so again I started to look for a place to go. In 1948, my father-in-law, George Barney, invited me to join the Elks Lodge n Safford. This was quite an honor for me as they turned down several applicants and I was accepted. I enjoyed working in the order and for two years I cooked the meals for the meetings twice a month. Later I was asked to go through the chairs and in 1956, after serving for six years, I was elected to be the Exalted Ruler. The ritual work was easy for me as I still had a very good memory. I soon learned every part in the entire book of Elkdom. As Exalted Ruler, I felt that we should have a five man Board of Trustees instead of the three that we had. It became an issue as not everyone agreed with me. At the meeting to vote on this matter, I had over 100 members out to the meeting. So far as I know this is a record that still stands. My suggestion was accepted and the board would have the five men. At the end of my term, although I didn’t win any cups for ritual work, I was not only given a Past Exalted Rulers plaque, but also a plaque for outstanding service to the lodge. I am very proud of this. Also at the end of my Exalted Ruler term, I was elected to the Board of Trustees for a five year term. During that time I sponsored a motion to build a new dining room, kitchen, and patio onto the present building. This was passed and completed. I might mention that when I was Exalted Ruler the lodge for the first time ever had 100% participation in the Elks National Foundation. This is a fund controlled by the Grand Lodge and only the interest from the money is used so that all the money put into the account is still there. I had recognition plaques made up to honor all the members that gave as much as $100.00 and they are still displayed today.
After my term was up, the Club Stewart, Brother Bill Young and I decided that we should try to activate the Past Exalted Rulers Association. As I was the one to start it, I was elected president. I knew that we would need money if we were to do any good for the lodge so with the help of some of the members we started the bingo games. I worked with the P. E. R.’s for eight years. We had lots of parties and still managed to help with the expenses of the lodge. Altogether I worked in and for the lodge about 22 years. I am now a life member and feel very proud to belong to such a fine organization. One day I met Mr. Ted Ferguson on the street near the Thriftee Market that he owned. He had just found out that the men that were running the store for him were stealing from him. He asked me if I would buy the store. I told him that I would. As I could not pay in full, we were to meet in front of the store on Monday evening after I came back from my Clifton route to make the papers out and close the deal. I couldn’t wait to get back, but when we met he told me a man from California had offered him the cash for the store and that he had sold it. It’s hard to believe now but the price was only $15,000.00. Some eighteen years later the man that bought it sold out for five million dollars. I missed it by only one day. A few months later Mr. Reay, the man that owned the Safford Food Center as well as two other stores, called me to come by and talk to him about a job. He offered to buy the Tourist Market if I would take it over and run it as a partner to split the profit. It seemed like a good deal to me so I accepted the deal. Jack Reay, Milt’s brother, and I worked for three weeks remodeling and painting the store. We worked night and day almost without a break, to get the store in shape. I lost ten pounds which was good for me as I had gained too much weight working for Armour and setting so long driving in the car. Milton came in as we were about ready to open. I asked him how to order groceries. He opened the order book and said that I just put a mark beside the item I wanted to buy. Then he left, and I was on my own. It was an ideal association as I was never bothered by either of the Reay brothers and was my own boss. The work was interesting, but the hours were long I kept the store open seven days a week so I didn’t get much time off. Business was very good and I soon had the store up to $30,000.00 a month; this was lots of money in those days. After a few years Milton wanted to open a store in Thatcher, a little town three miles from Safford. I designed the store, opening the old building on the side instead of the front as was the custom back then. When it was all done the Reay brothers were really pleased. I took over the job running this store also as well as the one in Safford. The Thatcher Jiffy Market as it was called was also a success. We had leased the land for twenty years. One day I asked Milton if I could build an Ice Cream Parlor on the land not in use. He said okay and offered to put up half of the cost if I would run the place. Again I was in the construction business. It turned out to be a very good investment for me. It was a real challenging, but it was a real good business. Although I was running the two stores and the restaurant it turned out okay. In three years I paid off the loan of $7,500.00 so that it was all paid for. On the 24th of August, 1970 the saddest day of my life, my wonderful wife, Blanche, died suddenly. I was left so all alone. I was lost as to what to do. I had found my sister, Kathryne, about this time and about a year later, she came to live with me. She was indeed a Godsend for without her help I don’t think I would have lived much longer.
A few years later the man that owned the building of the Tourist Market decided to terminate our lease and take over the store. At that time I bought the Thatcher store and Milt’s interest in the Jiffy Freeze so all my interest was in Thatcher. I ran them both, the Jiffy Market and the Jiffy Freeze, until 1979, when I sold out and retired. End of story written in 1987.
Then later my good friend, Donna Douglass, ask me to write more about my life. I am not sure anyone cares, but I do have memories of things that have happened in my life that I have never told to anyone before. Perhaps now is the time. I believe with all my heart that I have a Guardian Angel that has watched over me all my life. Let me tell you why. The first thing of course was giving me to Aunt Roxie. I don’t believe I would have lived very much longer if I had stayed with Ma Perkins. Aunt Roxie was the only mother I ever had. She taught me right from wrong and sent me to Sunday School to learn about the Bible. I have already told you about the time I was almost killed when Hoyt’s little brother snapped the gun at me then it went off when he fired at his brother and he was killed, and again when Uncle Abe saved my life when I almost bled to death. In the army I had already finished gunnery training and was on the train headed for overseas duty as a wing gunner on a B29. A sergeant entered the train and called five of us out; I had no idea what for. He asked if we would be instructors on the base. At first I thought no as I was ready to go, but my good friend, Johnny Gaden said John you owe it to your wife and child to stay here and work. So I did. I never heard from Johnny again although I tried to write him at his home. I have already told you about my close call to death as the bullet fired by someone working on a machine gun blew a hole in the tent where I was teaching right where my head would have been had I not stooped over just in time. Why I bent over I don’t know. I do know I would not be here if I hadn’t. The one I haven’t told about happened here in Safford after the war. I had joined the Elks as I told you but I didn’t tell you about the Past Exalted Rulers meeting that I was participating in. I was the secretary and it was just a fun meeting. We had one P. E. R. that brought a chicken to the meeting and set it on his desk. Well, unknown to anyone, one P. E. R. brought a pistol that he thought was loaded with blanks. The Exalted Ruler called Brother Secretary and as a rule I would not have stood up, but something told me to stand. Just as I started to rise the gun went off. I had a desk lamp on the desk that was riddled with bird shot. The entire load hit me in the chest and I was in total shock. Had I not stood up the load would have hit me in the face and I am sure it would have put my eyes out. I know my Guardian Angel told me to stand. I left the lodge immediately and hurried home. I had no idea of how bad I was hurt. Blood was streaming down the front of my shirt and when Kathryne saw it she almost flipped. I told her what had happened and ask her to pick out the pellets. She got her tweezers and did the best she could. However, some of the pellets were in too deep for her to get out. Next morning I went to the doctor’s office; when asked what I was there for, I told them to get the bullets out of my chest. I received immediate attention. I told them to send the bill to the person that shot me and if he didn’t pay I would. Well, I guess he paid as I heard no more about it. I have often wondered why he never apologized to me or at least said that he was sorry, but he never did. At another time he wrote: It might be fun to recall some of my times as a pilot. As you know I joined the Air Corps to be a fighter pilot. I couldn’t wait to fly the new fighter plane called a B38. Well, the closest I got was in Denver when I swept the snow off the wings.
I have already told about my first training flight in Oklahoma that taught me a lot about small planes. After I was discharged and returned home, I found that I could learn to fly a plane at government expense. I talked to the airport manager and he said yes so I started to take flying lessons in a small Aronica plane that we called an air knocker. It had a sixty-five horse power engine; not much power, but easy to fly. When it came time for me to get my pilot license, I had to pass a flight test. The instructor was very nice. He called for the usual things like a stall, an emergency landing, and I guess I did o.k. until it was time to land. I guess I was a little nervous as I came in a little too fast and the plane started to bounce. It bounced about three times and I was laughing all the time. It finally settled down and I taxied to the hanger. The instructor told Pete, the manager, he was going to give me a license, but please help me smooth out my landings. I loved to fly and spent many happy hours flying all over the state. To my surprise Blanche loved to fly and was not the least bit afraid of flying. The plane only seats two, but Johnny had to go also so we would buckle in and Johnny would stand. They both wanted me to spin the plane, sort of a spiral down. They both liked all kinds of stalls and acrobatics. We spent many weekends flying around the valley.
My father-in-law, George Barney tried to learn to fly, but couldn’t pass the test so he would fly with me every chance he got. I remember one time his son, Bill, was playing basketball in Flagstaff, Arizona. He wanted to watch the game so I agreed to take him there. I started to file a flight plan, but he said no because he knew the way. We started north and he pointed out a mountain and said fly to it. I went along for a while then he said wrong mountain turn left 90 degrees. We finally got close to Flagstaff and I asked him where the airport was. He didn’t know but down below us I saw a plane parked by a large building. I thought it was the airport and set the plane down. The runway was rough and uneven. When I got to the building, I was told this was a crop dusters airport and the main port was about ten miles away. A few minutes later we saw the airport. It had long concrete runways and plenty of space.
We saw the game and our team won. We had no problem getting home. I logged five hundred hours of flight time before my time ran out. I could have gone for a commercial license, but decided not to as I didn’t want to fly with that many people on board. I had a lot more things happen while flying, but never any trouble. I was the only student pilot that Pete would trust to fly his Fairchild plane. It had an eighty-five horse power engine and wing flaps. I also flew a Club Coupe that had a tricycle landing wheel. It was easy to fly and one day while flying with George just for fun, I landed it at one hundred miles an hour. Well, here I am again with another report about my Guardian Angel. One the 20th of July, 2000 something said to me now that you have talked to the druggist at the Thriftee Market now talk to the druggist at Wal-Mart. Well I didn’t go, but the next day the same thing happened and I felt that I needed to see the druggist at Wal-Mart. This time the message was so strong that I told Kathryne I have to go to Wal-Mart today. Believe it or not when I walked to the pharmacy the druggist was not busy as he usually is and had plenty of time to talk to me. I told him of my problem and the years I had been fighting the stinging, burning, and itching skin both night and day. All dermatologists said there was no cause, or no cure, so just put up with it.
He told me that he had gone to a local doctor named Hargas who was a desert medicine doctor and had received a shot of Kenalog. I later found out it is a very mild steroid. He said it sure helped him. I had nothing to lose so I came home and called the doctor. This was on Friday. I couldn’t believe they gave me an appointment for the following Monday at 10:00 a.m. I went in at a few minutes early expecting to wait and hour or so, but no, at exactly 10:00 a.m., I went in to see the doctor. First the nurse came in and checked my heart as that is the first thing they check before giving the shot. It was o.k. so the doctor came in and said he saw no reason for not giving me the shot. He said that the nurse would be right in and left the room. As he walked down the hall Kathryne heard him say that I don’t think he has the type of dermatitis that they think he has. I received the shot and as I was checking out I asked how long it would be before I had any results. They weren’t sure, but said that it was a slow acting drug. I got in the car and decided to go to Wal-Mart to get the cream prescribed to go with the shot. I was hardly out of the parking lot when I felt the blood going through my veins and as it went down my legs I felt like small bubbles were being popped as it went through; also it was stinging. I tried to rub my legs while driving. When we got to Wal-Mart we had to wait for the prescription so we walked around. The stinging stopped and there was no itch. I couldn’t believe that the shot could work so fast. We came home and no itch or sting. I went to bed and lay awake waiting for something to happen, but it never did. The next morning, I felt great – no sting, no itch. I continued to improve all day and the next night I had a good night’s sleep. My 83rd Birthday was July 25th what a great Birthday present. Today is the 28th of July. I still have a spot or two that itches and I have no idea how long this will last but for now, thanks to my Guardian Angel, I am 100% better. - Familysearch.org