Royal and Martha Gage by Martha Gage
I would like very much for my sons, grand-children and great grand-children to know about Royal and my life because that is when our lives really began. I do remember the years before we met. I was raised with four brothers and three sisters. Two brothers and one sister were older than me. I was very much a tomboy growing up. I would rather be out helping my Papa and brothers do chores like gathering corn, milking, and feeding the livestock. There was one chore I hated though. Picking cotton! I did hate that. I was afraid of the green worms on the stalks. I would sit down in the rows and start crying. Papa would miss me and come looking for me. He understood my fear and would tell me that the worms wouldn’t hurt me. They were just looking for food.
Fun time was when Papa and the boys would cut and bale hay. Bud, my oldest brother, and a neighbor boy who didn’t have much of a home life would stack the hay and build tunnels for us to play in. After dinner and our chores we would get to go hide and play in the tunnels.
We didn’t have any close neighbors around Stonewall,Ok in 1928-1929 but we did have Aunts and Uncles who lived a few miles from us across Boggy Bottom River. We called it a creek. There was a railroad built across the river with a big high trestle. It must have been hundreds of feet high. I remember walking across the trestle and Bessie climbing on it on our way to visit our Aunts and Uncles.
We didn’t move too many times in our young lives. We had our grandparents who we didn’t get to see very often. Grandpa Perry died very young from a heart attack. Grandpa Miller died very young also. Grandma Miller died at the age of ninety-seven. I remember Papa going into town for groceries on a wagon. We were all very young. I believe I was around nine or ten at the time.
I do not remember ever going to a doctor when I was young. Mom had lots of home remedies on hand. She helped everyone around the area acting as a mid-wife. There was a time when Bessie sliced her arm on some barbed wire. Lilly also walked up behind Bud who was chopping wood and got hit above the eye in the eyebrow with the axe. Bud placed her on a table and blood was spurting everywhere with every heartbeat. Mom was very calm and cool. She took some soot from the wood stove and mixed it with sugar to stop the bleeding. Raising eight kids I guess you would learn lots of home remedies.
We always walked four to five miles to school to a two room schoolhouse. Our teachers were a married couple whose names were Robert and Jewell Brashear who were like part of the family.
We had really cold and hard winters with rain, sleet, ice and snow. There would be icicles a foot long hanging from the trees and roofs of the houses and barns.
We did get a radio later on but Mom was a great story-teller. I remember sitting around the fire and Mom telling us stories. Some of them were pretty spooky. She also told us a lot of true stories.
My brother Roy had asthma very bad and in those days we didn’t have medicines like now. This was around 1924. Roy would very sick. He couldn’t lay in bed and eat. My parents decided we should move to a drier climate to help Roy. In 1933 they sold their livestock and everything and moved to Carnegie,Ok. Bud joined the CCC and was stationed at Binger,Ok. It seemed like a milliom miles away. We lived at a place called Swan Lake. Royal and I met at Pioneer School on April 1,1933. In 1986 Royal and I went back to visit. The school house is gone but the water well and storm cellar are still there.
Royal’s sister and brother-in-law had a store at Swan Lake . School was about three miles from home and we walked everyday. We were used to walking to school. Before we moved from Eureka School we walked by our Aunts and Uncles place where she always had food waiting for us waiting for us up in the top of the warmer on the stove. Home cured ham and bread she had baked. We would snack and then head on home. At Pioneer School we didn’t have any Aunts and Uncles to feed us on the way home.
Royal had two cousins, Buck and Neil Horn, who had twin sisters for girl friends. The girls names were Pauline and Lorraine Kelly. We became best of friends and ran around everywhere together. Neil had a new, big blue car and the six of us went everywhere together in it. We were not allowed to go to the dances because in the 1930’s that was where they bootlegged whiskey and our parents wouldn’t hear of it. Neil would carry his guitar and we would park on the bridge and he would sing and play for us. We would also turn on the car radio and dance on the bridge.
One trip I will always remember, April 2,1935, the six of us went to a Sunrise Service on Easter Morning. We left home at midnight to get there before sunrise . It was so realistic you almost felt like you were in heaven. The scene was in front of a mountain and the background was like nothing you could imagine. They had wires strung and angels came flying over us. We were all very young and impressionable. I was fifteen, Royal was sixteen,Pauline and Lorraine were sixteen and Buck and Neil were seventeen.
I had a very good friend who lived across the road with two Aunts so she could do a lot more and go more places than us. Her Aunts had lots of men friends and were known as loose women. One of the men was Pretty Boy Floyd. I guess no one knew he was an outlaw or didn’t care if he was.
We all missed our old home place. We had lots of things to do, like hunting at night. Papa, Bud, Barnie, Roy, if he was well , and myself carrying lanterns through the woods. Things do change and now Royal was my life then [ and now]. Back in February 1935 I came home from school and was so sick for two weeks. I was really out of it. At last the old Doctor said I had dust pneumonia. Roy and Bessie had it also. We had dust storms so bad you couldn’t believe it. You couldn’t keep the dust out no matter what you did to seal the doors and windows. We had the same type storms in 1938 in a little town between Madera and Fresno, Ca. We survived all of the bad weather.
On May 24,1935 Royal and I had our last box supper. December 20,1935 was a Friday and we had our school Christmas play at Pioneer School. After the program Royal and I left for Eakley, Ok. with Ben and Riley Worthy to be married late at night by a little old preacher and his wife. We came back to Swan Lake that night.
Royal’s parents lived in a big two story house and I didn’t feel very welcome the next morning. On Dec. 21st,1935 we heard this loud noise, shouting and banging on the house. We looked out the window and we were being shivereed. On Dec 23,1935 Royal and I walked to Hydro, Ok. to visit his brother Woodrow and his wife Hazel and spent Christmas with them. Nothing much happened.
Royals brothers, Bud and Ben, left for California in early 1936. His Mom and Dad left a month or so later. October 26,1936 Royal and myself and another couple Bud and Bessie Ferry and their two year old daughter left for California in a Model A Ford with all of our worldly goods. Our clothes!
Our first night we stayed in Amarillo, Tx. On October 31,1936 we arrived in Bakersfield,Ca. Bud and Bessie were headed for Paso Robles and Royal and i were headed for Merced,Ca. We caught the bus, supposedly to Merced . The nutty ticket agent sold us a ticket to Lost Hills a place to Hell and Gone from nowhere. We arrived there and no busses out. We were at the end of the line. We took our big luggage and a small one and started walking. No traffic. We never saw a car, wagon or person on the road. We walked for hours and hours and the luggage was getting real heavy. All we saw was tumbleweeds and more tumbleweeds. Along this miles of tumbleweeds was an electric fence with big high poles. We decided to hide our luggage and count the poles and come back and get our luggage. We were walking over to place the bags down and Royal stepped on a rattlesnakes head. It’s body and tail went up in the air and you never heard so many rattles and you will never see anyone run away as fast as we did. No tumbleweeds were covering our bags. We arrived in Madera on Halloween 1936. We were just standing there ,wondering how far to Merced. We had one thin dime and we had no lunch and looked like we would have no dinner. We were standing in front of a barber shop, and this fellow came out and asked “ Where you kids going?” Royal told him “ Merced.” He told us there were no busses tonight. He told us we could flag a train down about one third of a mile from here. Then he must have figured out we didn’t have any money so he told us we could sleep in his shop tonight and leave the key under the door when we left in the morning. We took him up on his offer. He had a long bench in his shop where we slept. Royal was at one end and I was at the other. When we wanted to turn over we switched ends.
The next morning we headed for Merced. Now it is thirty-three miles from Madera to Merced, back then there were no freeways. We must have walked three or four miles when a man came by with a team of horses and pulling a water wagon. He gave us a ride for a couple of miles and had to turn off onto a different road going to Le Grand. We walked on further down the road until a Model A Ford passed us. Royal said “that looks like my Brother-in-Law Callie Mitchell.” They drove by us a couple of hundred yards and stopped and backed up. It really was Callie. Our journey was over for awhile. Callie was a foreman on this big fruit ranch. Royal’s sister, Lily, asked us if we were hungry when we arrived. We told them no, but we were starving. Lily said dinner would be ready shortly. Such a long day!
We stayed with Lily and Callie for awhile. Royal worked with Callie on the ranch. They had a boarder living with them at the time and when Royal and I moved in he moved to the bunkhouse. I will never forget the mans name “It was Travis.” We had been there about three weeks, and Royal and Callie were gone on business and didn’t get home until about two AM. Lily and i had gone to bed around midnight and went sound to sleep. I don’t know what woke me up but I thought Royal was in bed with me but I didn’t wake up when he came to bed. I turned over and smelled liquor and Royal didn’t drink. I turned on the light and there lay Travis ,sound asleep. I began to scream and Lily came running. Travis jumped from the bed, grabbed his clothes and ran. Royal and Callie came home while Lily was trying to comfort me. Callie ran from the house looking for Travis. I think he was going to beat him up. Well, we never saw the guy again. I suppose he had been in that room so long that after a night of partying he didn’t realize where he was. He didn’t know I was there until I scared him half to death
We finally moved into a place of our own. We went to the 5& 10 cent store and bought dishes. Cup, saucers and plates, knives, forks and spoons, two of each. Five cents for cups, seven cents for saucer and ten cents for plates. They were beautiful. We had only one house of our own before that and that was in Hydro,Ok in early 1936. I have a picture of it on my bedroom wall.
Bud and Bessie Ferry called us on March 1,1937 and wanted us to come to Paso Robles. The couple that they worked for needed a chauffer and cook-housekeeper, so we headed for Paso Robles. It was a beautiful ranch, twelve miles west of town in the mountains. It was a big two story house with five bedrooms. There was fireplaces in three of them and a sitting room. We had a large room with a private entrance in case we were out late and didn’t want to disturb the Blakes. Royal loved the job. He not only got to chauffer the boss around but got to help Bud work and brand the cattle. I cooked and cleaned
for them. The Blakes also had a big home in Glendale and we would go there and spend two or three weeks at a time. My work was finished around 1:00 PM and I didn’t have to do anything else until 5:00PM. We were within walking distance of the movies. I have never seen so many movies. You could go and see a double feature for ten cents. Royal and I and Bessie and Bud enjoyed our time at the ranch.
When I got pregnant with Don we decided to move back to Merced. We moved to Turlock instead and Royal got a job running a dairy. We got a big house, all the milk, cream and eggs we wanted plus a salary. In 1937 that was a good deal.
My sister Bessie and her husband Buster came to California October 14.1937.
Don was born in Merced Hospital Oct. 25,1937. We stayed in Turlock until the spring of 1938. We moved to Madera. Bessie and Buster, Mom and Pop, Roy, Barney, Dovie, Russ and Lily were also there. That year it rained so much everything was flooded. Buster had a Model A that we drove about a mile and then would have to go to the store by row boat. We were flooded for weeks. In 1939 we lived in Los Banos and Royal ran a dairy. Mick was born in Merced Hospital Sept 5,1939 and in 1941 we lived in Firebaugh. Stanley was born Aug 6,1941 in Madera Hospital at a cost of $25.00 for three days.
Both Royal and my parents lived in Firebaugh at this time. I got a job driving school bus and Don and Mick got to ride my bus. Stan was with me on the runs, he liked riding the big bus.
Roy and Buddie Gage joined the army and were sent to the South Pacific. We went for weeks not hearing from them. Barney was in Germany and Africa. Roy was wounded on Feb 4,1944 and Buddy lost his arm Feb 2,1944. It was trying times but they all returned. They didn’t broadcast very much so we didn’t get much news about the war. Everything was a secret. We would see a little at the movies and strain to hear something on the radio. The number one song was Love, Love, Love on April 8,1944 sung by Jean Edwards.
May 2,1944 Stanley decided to jump in the canal like the big kids, he was 2 years old. I saw him jump in. Mick had his tonsils removed June 6,1944. Don was vaccinated for small pox Jan 6,1944. Mick and Stan were vaccinated Jan 7,1944 for dyptheria.
Royal and I visited Paso Robles in 1986and it did not look like we remembered it. Madera looked different but hadn’t changed too much. I always stop and eat across the street from the Madera Park. I remember we went there one Sunday when Don was two years old and he ran over to the cage where the big parrots were kept. He grabbed hold of the cage and the big old parrot grabbed hold of his hand and wouldn’t turn loose. Royal choked the parrot until it let go of Don. You never heard so much noise between Don and the parrot screaming. I will always remember Madera from that Halloween night in 1936 and being so hungry and having just that one dime. After that night ,whenever we could afford it, I would always tell Royal I’ll take you out to dinner and you can order anything you want. So we always celebrated every Halloween with our choice of food.
In the years 1942-1945 we would always go to a place called the Fresno Barn for the western dances where we always had a great time. After we moved to Woodland in 1949 we would go to a dance hall called Wills Point in Sacramento. Bob Wills, the King of Country Swing , owned the place. Don, Mick and Stan loved to go with us . They got to meet a lot of the country western stars at the dances. Back then you could take your kids in with you to dance. I suppose that is why Don and Mick love country music. Alex and Ola Rae Brashear, he was Bob Wills trumpet player, had an apartment under the dance hall where we would all stay the night. We had great times with Bob, Billy Jack and Luke Wills, Alex, Harley Huggins was the bass player, and Gene. This was in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Royal became a ticket taker and sometime bouncer at the dances.
While living in Firebaugh. the boys and I would go hiking along the creek with Hazel and Arthur a lot. The kids loved playing in the sand, it was almost like a beach. The boys were 4-8 years old. Sometimes Hank Mitchell would come and visit us and hike with us also. Hank’s dad, Callie, was murdered April 1943 by a rancher named Reece. He received only one year in jail. Lily, Sam, Emma and Louella moved to Fresno and Lily worked in the hospital. She met and married Ed Schoenburn .
In 1976 Royal, myself and the boys moved to Woodland out in the country. The boys went to Filmore and then to Plainfield School. Royal milked cows for a farmer named Moody. I worked at the school so I could be with the boys. In 1950 we bought a little drive-in cafe called the Dixie Maid. It was the first soft ice cream, frosties, place in Woodland. Don worked there after school with me. It was too much work and too many hours so in 1952 I started to work in a fashion store called Breits. The boys graduated from Plainfield Grammar School and then from Woodland High School. Don went to work at Spreckels Sugar Co., Mick went into the army and went to Germany and Stan joined the Air Force for four years. Don graduated in 1955, Mick in 1958and Stanley in 1959.
I wouldn’t change a thing in our lives from the time Royal and I met. From the very hard times to the very good times we were always together and enjoyed our boys and we loved and enjoyed our grand-kids. We have always had time for them just like we always had time for our boys. I am sorry Royal and Stanley didn’t get to see the grand-kids grow up. It would have been great to grow old together but that’s life. We had 52 years 1 month and 10 days together and had little Stanley 44 years and all of the good times and fun. I still remember every Halloween and smile when I think of that one dime in Royals pocket, but we weren’t scared we were just hungry.
Now when I drive down Hiway 99 and go through Modesto, Mom and Pops home place, Merced, where we first lived, Madera, remembering the flood, Firebaugh, with all of the friends we had, I think of the hard times and the good times.
The good times always win over the hard times.