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Interview with Winnie Whiton Lackore

The following history of Winnie Lackore is the combination of oral histories by Kelly Rabun (her great-granddaughter) in 1978, Todd Metters (her great-grandson) and LaVonne Todd (her daughter) in 1993. It was compiled by Joanne Todd Rabun (her granddaughter) and was presented as a labor of love for Winnie's 90th Birthday Celebration & Lackore Family Reunion which was held June 20, 1993 in San Luis Obispo, California.


FAMILY HISTORY & CHILDHOOD

What is your full name and why were you named it? Were you named after somebody else? My mom named me Winnie Belle Whiton after a friend of hers.

What were your parents names, birthdates and birthplaces? My mother's name was Amanda Viola Parr Whiton and I don't know exactly where she was born. I know that they lived somewhere in Illinois. My Dad's name was Charles Leaman Whiton and he was the son of Rufus Whiton.

Where were you born and when? I was born near Mineral Ridge, Iowa (in Boones County near Des Moines) on June 20, 1903, the year that the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane. A lot of important things happened at that time.

How many sisters and brothers did you have? I had five sisters and three brothers. I was next to the youngest, so most of them were away from home when I was a child. Julia was 10 years older than I was and Jennie (half sister) was about 17 years older and she left home when she was 15. Julia was a little older, but I can't remember them being at home.

What were their names and birthdates? Eva Jane (Jennie) Frost, 1886 (half sister); Edward Rufus, Nov. 14, 1891 (died Apr. 18, 1915); Julia May, Jan 25, 1893 (died in 1952); Ethel Grace, Aug. 14, 1894 (disappeared); Leaman (Lee) Charles, Mar. 21, 1894 (died Dec. 6, 1966); Bessie Mable (Mable), May 6, 1900 (died 1995); Arthur Parr, Sept. 28, 1901 (died Nov. 15, 1908); Winnie Belle, June 20, 1903; Altha Violet, Apr. 3, 1907

What kind of relationship did you have with them? I had a good relationship with all of them, I guess. I can't remember having any problems with them.

What do you remember about your grandparents? Who were they?
Did they live near you? Did you spend much time with them?

I didn't know any of my grandparents. They didn't live near us.

What stories were you told about the lives of your mother and grandmothers? Well, mother told me about when she was a girl. She only went to school through the fourth grade. But, she would have to stay out part of the time. They had a cultivator that was pulled by horses, and she would ride on there and handle the shovels while my father would walk behind, or rather my grandfather would walk behind and drive the horses. She would go out there and handle the shovels and things. She stayed home from school to do that. I can't remember too many other things she told about. Both my father and mother had been married before and she had a girl (Jennie) who was about five years old. When they first got married, they traveled from Illinois across the Rocky Mountains with a team of horses and a wagon, a covered wagon. She and my oldest sister walked behind and picked up a lot of stones. When it got hard pulling for the horses my mother said my father threw them (the rocks) all out of the wagon because it was too heavy for the horses to pull 'em up the mountain! I don't know where they went. They didn't go to California, so they must have gone back again to Illinois.

Was that before you were born? Oh yes. Many, many years before. I just remember those things that she told me.

Where did you live as a child? Describe the house and the surroundings. We lived on a farm in Iowa. It was beautiful during the summer when there was lots of nice green grass and trees. And then in the winter time, of course, there'd be lots and lots of snow. Sometimes we'd get snowed in for a long time and wouldn't see many other people except our own family. There were none of them that you'd call modern. We didn't have running water or electricity or anything like that. We had to carry all of our water in. We had a coal woodstove to heat with. We also cooked on a stove with wood. When we lived on the farm, why we had, of course, a barn and things like that out there. But we moved into town when I was about ten. And then I could walk to the store very easily and we had a school with four different rooms in it, grade school and high school, and we had things a little more modern. But our house still was not modern. We had to carry all of our water in and out. It was just an ordinary wood house with wall-papered walls and was heated with wood and coal. There were no modern conveniences whatsoever.

Where was the city where you had the most friends? What were they like? Well, I wasn't near a city, there were small towns. Most of my friends were in the country right close to us. We even went to Sunday School in our schoolhouse, so we didn't get out of our area very much. Mostly there were farm friends.

Do you remember how old you were when you moved into Forest City? Probably about eleven years old. We moved into the first place until my Mother bought the other place. That was where my folks were living when they died. The driveway was steep and very hard to get down, especially in the winter time. When my parents died, the place was on fire. There was a snow bank in he alleyway and they couldn't get the people down there to put the fire out. The neighbor boy was able to go down and get my mother out of the house, but she was so badly burned that her flesh was coming off her arms and everything else. My father died ten days later.

Your father was gone a lot? My father would go away to work when we weren't living on the farm ourselves. He would be gone for maybe one or two years. It was before that because I was very small. My mother said that once I got a hold of a little potato and I said "What's this?" When they said "potato" I thought they said "papa". So I evidently got the two words mixed up and I took that little potato and ran around with it and told everyone "This is my papa!"

My dad liked to move from place to place. Before I was born they moved from Iowa to Kansas, back to Iowa, then to Missouri, then back to Iowa again. They started up in Illinois.

What is the story of your father giving your brother away? Well, he took Lee with him one time when he went to work and when he came back he didn't have him with him. Mom asked him, "Where's Lee?" and Dad said "Oh. I gave him to the man that I was working for (Lou). Mom said, "Well, that won't last long!" She got him back right away. When he came back, he was still in grade school, but he didn't go to school much after that.

Can you tell us about your sister, Ethel, who disappeared? She had simply been away from home quite a bit. She just went away and she just didn't write to us. She moved from place to place and we just lost track of her. The only other time we heard from her was just about the time my mother died. They called my sister Altha and told her that they had a note from her as she was trying to know something about her birth. But we could never trace her from that.

What is your first memory? The first I had were from when we were living in Missouri. We moved there when I was just a little bit of a girl because Altha was born there. I can just faintly remember walking across a little bridge and a little creek there. My youngest brother (Arthur) died there. He'd been ill all of his life and he's buried down there.

What are the happiest memories of your childhood? Well, I guess those are the happy things I did. We didn't go very much. I can't have a car or anything, we just went by horse and buggy when we went. We did move to Missouri when I was two or three years old, I guess. We lived there for a few years then we come back up to Thompson, Iowa. When we moved back up to Iowa, I was seven or eight. Anyways, my mother and us younger children rode in a passenger train. But they put all the livestock and the horses and cows and the machinery and furniture in the freight car. The men rode in there to watch the livestock. One of the horses (or a mule) kicked a hole in the kitchen cabinet. I remember because we always said we couldn't use that flour drawer anymore because the mule kicked a hole in it. Important things like that I remember (LAUGHS). When we got to Thompson, Iowa we stayed in a hotel until we got moved into the farm which was four miles outside of town.After Thompson, we moved to Leland, Iowa. There were two bedrooms upstairs and a bedroom, living room and kitchen downstairs. The guy that lived right in front of us ran the creamery and the guy behind us was a mail carrier. At that time there weren't very many cars around. I was about ten years old and had never ridden in one. The mail carrier had a son about our age that we played with. One Sunday, a man came from Forest City (about six miles away), and he took the Jasperson boy for a ride and we got to go along. That was my first, exciting ride in a car.

The saddest memory of your childhood? The saddest I can think of is when my brother died when he was twenty three and I was probably about eleven. He had pneumonia and I had to help my mother watch him. She was watching him at home and I would sit with him sometimes at night when she had to have some rest. That was kind of a sad time for me.

How did your parents punish you? Did they spank you? Who was most strict? I only remember once. My mom had sent me to the store to get a sack of flour. On the way home I somehow lost the coin purse that probably had $3 or $4 in it. At that time it was a lot of money. When I got home I got a lickin from my mom. She was really mad! Then in the newspaper the next day, somebody ran a little ad that said that they had found the money and they returned it to my mom. So that was the time I got a lickin for nothin! My Dad would often spank the other kids, but I don't think he ever bothered me much.

Who were your very best friends when you were growing up? Several of the girls in my school. One's name was LaVonne, who I named my first daughter after. That was when I was just in first grade. And then there was Mable and May and a few others. You went with the people that were in your neighborhood, that's all, because you didn't get very far from home. Most of them were very nice, though.

About how much did you travel with your family in a year and where did you go? Very little. We lived on a farm, at first, until I was about ten. And we just went from there into town except when we would move. And then we would have to go on a train or something. We lived four miles out of town and I wanted a tablet and pencil for school so I walked four miles into town to buy my pencil and back home again.

What was the favorite place you ever visited and what was it like? When I was eleven years old my younger sister Altha and I rode on a train to Des Moines, Iowa, the biggest city that I ever knew about and visited our older sisters. My mom put us on the train at Leland. The conductor was to see that we changed trains at Fort Dodge. We had a lot of fun there. They took us to amusement parks and some of the things that they have now days. No electronical things or anything like that, but it was fun. I loved riding the ferris wheel.When I was seventeen, I went back and spent the summer with my sisters, Julia and Jennie. I worked in the office with Julia.

What was a typical Sunday like for your family? I remember once our whole family won a prize at the Forest City Baptist Church for attending church every Sunday for the whole year, except for one that we were snowed in. That was when we lived 3-1/2 miles outside of town.

What did you do on a typical day when you were ten years old? I guess I worked a little bit around the yard, played a lot. Maybe I herded cattle, or watched them from getting into the cornfields or something like that. Whatever came up, I worked a little bit and played a little bit. There wasn't very much to do. We played paper dolls. We didn't have any real dolls, so we sometimes made them out of socks. Most of the time we played paper dolls, we cut them out of catalogs and so on.

What did you have to do for chores? When I was at home I'd carry in wood and coal, carry out ashes I didn't do much with the milking or anything like that until after I was married. When I was a child at home I'd take care of the chickens some.

What things were invented while you were growing up? Oh, most everything. Not just when I was growing up, but in my lifetime. We went from the horse and buggy to having people go to the moon. It was a large area of inventions. I can remember when they didn't have a radio or television or anything like that. Those were all invented. All kinds of small appliances that they have in the houses. All electrical appliances.

What kinds of things did you like to do when you were young? Well, I'll tell ya there weren't much of anything going on. You hardly ever saw a car. The first time I rode in a car I was ten years old. I remember playing paper dolls and playing out in the yard. In the winter time we would go sliding down the hills in the snow. Ice skating some, I didn't skate much, but we'd slide around a lot. I have a few scars from the different things that happened to me when I was a kid. I have one clear across my foot here that I cut it wide open when I was walking on top of a hen house that they were building. My father and my brothers had taken cows to town and they walked and drove 'em along the road. I saw that they got away from 'em, so I went to see if they could catch 'em. I thought if I got on top of that hen house that they were building I could see. I was watching them and I could see 'em down the road. I was watching them and I wasn't watching where I was going. I stepped on a loose board and went down through the inside and hit the table on the inside and cut my foot open. I was kept out of school a few days for that.

Can you remember anything about birthdays when you were a child? The only birthday party I remember having as a child was when I was about ten years old or so. Maybe I was younger than that. Anyways, I had never had a birthday party before. The day I was suppose to have it my Dad came and he wanted me to go and work for a lady and take care of her children. So I had to leave and my sister Altha was the hostess of my birthday party.

In what ways were your experiences similar to, or different from, those of other children? Well, I guess we were a little poorer than most of the other children. Although nobody had a lot of money at that time. We just played on the farm and we hardly ever went to town. Once in a while we'd get to go to town. I remember one time when I was oh, about nine or ten. I walked four miles into town to get me a tablet and pencil so I'd have one for school on Monday. I bought two sticks of candy, I had one for me and one for my sister, who was younger than me. So, when I got started I set down to rest under some trees there, and somehow or other I lost one of the sticks of candy. So the one I had left I gave to my sister. That made a child remember things like that, see. But I had express orders from my mother never to ride with anybody. I had to walk all the way.

What kinds of medicine did you have for common colds and flu? I don't remember. I think mostly they had some liniments. I don't remember whether they had Vicks when I was young or not. They used to use goose grease. They used to melt the fat from a goose and rub it on. I never had many colds, so I can't remember too much about it.

Did you get an allowance? I didn't get an allowance but I remember on Fourth of July I'd get a nickel or maybe a whole dime and I'd have to hold onto it all day long. I was pretty smart with my pennies that I'd get once in a while. I remember we used to go to the Candy kitchen there, run by a Greek. He wouldn't take our pennies, he'd just give us whatever we'd ask for. So we'd go somewhere else and spend our pennies. That was really double duty.

How long did $50 last you in your youth? Well, when I was a child I don't remember ever seeing $50 but I'd get maybe a penny or a nickel or a dime. But for the parents, I imagine that it lasted a lot longer than it does now.

What could it buy? Well, I don't remember. It bought food and clothes. I don't remember how much of it $50 would buy.

What were your toys like in comparison with today? There really wasn't much comparison. We really didn't have many things at that time. In the summer time I took old bottles and broken pieces of glass and things and made me a play house. My mother would rip the yarn from old socks and make yarn dolls with embroidered eyes, nose and mouth in them and then she'd make clothes for them. In the winter time, of course, we lived where we had a lot of snow. We went skating and sliding on sleds and things like that. I played with paper dolls, too. I'd cut them out of the Sears Roebuck catalog and make my own paper dolls. We had the upstairs all littered up with all sorts of furniture made out of paper. My own children did the same thing. They didn't have much to play with either!

What was your favorite toy and what was it like? I guess my doll. I don't remember, although it's been a lot of years, having a store-bought doll. If I did, it had a china head and a soft body. That's what they were like in that time.

What was your favorite sport and how did you play it? During the summer time, a lot of times, we played games like Ring Around the Rosey and Pum-Pum-Pullaway. I don't know if you've ever played that. But you line up two sides. One person would be "It" and than they'd try to catch the people when they'd try to run from one base to the other. Different little games like that. In the winter time we went skating, sledding and things like that. I also jumped a lot of rope.

What kinds of food did you like? Mostly we had just potatoes and meat and gravy and bread. All homemade bread, of course. Didn't buy anything at the store. I can remember my parents doing something they'd never think of doing now days. They'd send their order for groceries to Sears Roebuck. I can remember when the grocery order would come and we'd open it up. Of course, it would be dry food that could be kept because it would be shipped by train from Chicago. That was different.

What kinds of vegetables did you grow in your garden? Mostly beans and tomatoes and peas and carrots. Just what we have now.

What kinds of presents did you get for Christmas when you were young? It would mostly be clothes and maybe my mother would make an effort to make a doll or sometimes she'd would make us a ball out of yarn from socks. She would take old rubber bands from fruit jars and wad them up in the center and wrap the yarn around that would make them a little bit bouncy. We'd play with that a lot.

Where did you go to school, and for how long? I went to many different rural schools. We only lived in a place probably a year or two at a time. Well, we lived three years in one place I remember. That's the first I remember, about when I started school. We had double seats and we'd sit two people together. The girl that I sat with, her name was LaVonne Anderson, which is what I named your grandmother. I always said my first girl was going to be LaVonne. So that was my first girlfriend. In the winter time you had to not get there too early because the teacher had to come down and start the furnace in the middle of the room and get the school room warm before you could be in there. So we had to be there by nine. But the teacher had to get there early. There were all eight grades in one room. Even my brother, Lee, went there. And then, after I got through school and taught, which I did right out of high school, why I had to do that. I was a teacher in a rural school and I had to get there and start the furnace up and get the heat going so the school room would be warm for the children, which is a little different from what they do now. I went to school through high school, then I taught school one year, then took one quarter at college, and then I got married.

What was your school like? It was a one-room rural school and our seats were big enough for two people to sit together in each one. And they were lined up on the sides and then in the center of the room. In the middle was a great big heater to warm the room. Of course, we couldn't have any seats behind that, because the teacher couldn't see then. We always had to go outdoors and get a pail of water and bring it in and sit in on a bench there to get a drink. They had a big dipper and everybody drank out of the same dipper.

How did you get to school? I walked! Sometimes, when I was only six years old I'd walk two miles to and from school, whether it was winter and cold or no matter what it was. I remember the little girl that would walk along with us would always hit me in the chest with her lunch pail and pick on be because I was littler than the rest of 'em. My older brothers and sisters didn't bother about that!

What did you like the best and the least about school? I always enjoyed school. But, when I was in high school, I always liked children, so I would go over during recesses and noon hour and jump rope and play with children at the kindergarten part and the lower grades instead of running around with high school girls most of the time. I liked children and I was kind of young and small for my age. So I just enjoyed that. I even jumped rope after I had been married for quite a few years. They told me I couldn't do that, but I said "Oh yes I can!" We lived in Colwell at that time. Of course, we went to a school right in town, on the edge of town, so I was right in town.

What was your favorite subject in school? Mathematics! I remember helping an 8th grade girl with her mathematics at noon-time. I was only in 7th grade. But she would tell me what she had to do and I'd do it for her. Of course, reading and things like that, too.

What was your least favorite subject in school and why? History and Geography! When I took my test for my teacher's certificate I got an average of over 90%. But I just got barely a passing grade in History and Geography. I got 75% in them. But my average was over 90%.

Did you get good grades in school? Yes, I did. One of the teachers asked my sister if I took a lot of books home to study. My sister said I didn't. The teacher said she didn't know when I studied, because everytime she saw me I was star-gazing, just looking around the room. But on my tests I would always get 90% or above.

What about the year that you flunked? That was when we lived at Leland. I was in 5th or 6th grade. He flunked me and made me take it over again. Then we moved before that year was over, and I went to Forest City schools. The next fall, he met my mother on the street there in Forest City and he asked her what grade I was in now. My mother told him that when we moved I went right into 7th grade and I made good grades and didn't have any problems.

What kinds of books did you like to read? Most of my books were just story books like Prudence of the Parsonage. I don't remember the names of most of them, but they were just good story books.

Were you ever given any special awards for your studies or school activities? I spoke a piece called "Patsy" in a contest and I really enjoyed that. I think I won second prize in the county. And I won a spelling contest when I was in seventh grade.

What did you wear to school? Describe it. Of course, we all wore dresses in that day. Most of the time I wore long black stockings and high shoes. None of the girls wore overalls or pants in that day.

Were there any fads during your youth that you remember vividly? Just after World War II they'd snarl up the hair and comb some hair over it over each ear. I can't remember what they called it. I always had long hair until LaVonne was a baby. Then I went to the Barber Shop (there wasn't any Beauty Parlors in those days) and my brother Lee watched LaVonne. He was against me cutting my hair anyways. When I came back, LaVonne wouldn't even come to me, she wanted to stay with Lee. He said that she knew that I wasn't suppose to have short hair!

What is the story you always told about your sister's boyfriend and your dessert? My sister Ethel's boyfriend was sitting next to me at dinner. I was taking the frosting (we didn't get this very often) off my cake and would put it down besides my plate while I ate the cake. Then I was going to eat the frosting. Just have that sweet stuff. When I went to get it, it was gone! He had sat besides me and picked up those frostings and ate them just to tease me!! So I didn't get my frosting!

What kinds of transportation were there while you were growing up? Well, there were just beginning to be a few cars, mostly there were just horse and buggy and wagons. In the wintertime, bobsleds and sleighs. And of course, there was the train. We could always ride on the train if we were going any distance at all. If you were going even six or eight miles you'd take the train.

Can you remember your first plane ride? Well, I remember that the first plane flew the year that I was born. The first plane that I ever saw was when I was in high school. They landed one in the pasture by school. We all got to get out of school to go look at it. I guess I didn't ride in one until after we had moved out to California.

What was your first car like? My parents never had a car. You never even met a car in the road very often. We were driving along in the buggy one time and a car went by. My dad had to get out and hold the horse's head because she would rear up and tip the buggy over, she was so afraid of it. Then we got a horse that had been trained in Des Moines and was used to cars. One time that was exciting for me was when I was riding along in the buggy with my father and we saw three elephants walking along side the road. They'd reach over with their trunks and eat grass along side the road. They were from a little circus that went from one town to the other. That was they way they moved them. My father never drove a car until my brother Lee got one. He told Dad he could drive it and he wanted to stop it so he said "Whoah!" Lee said that won't work. You have to put your foot on the brake! That was his only attempt at driving a car. The first time I ever rode in a car was when I was about eleven years old. Some neighbors had a car and then went from the little town we lived in to another town about six miles away. That was a big thrill when I got to ride twelve miles, six miles both ways. Other than that, I can't remember riding in a car until I was in high school or through high school.

What kinds of jobs did you have? The first job I remember having was when I was about eleven years old. There was a woman that lived out in the country. We lived in a little town at that time. She came in and told my mother that if she'd let me go out and help take care of her children when she had to be out she'd pay me 25-cents a week and "learn me up." And that was my first job. I worked there I don't know how long, but for the big sum of 25-cents a week!

About how much money did you get a year at your highest paid job? Well, my highest paid job was the year that I taught school, and at that time they didn't pay very much in rural schools. I think I got about $75 a month over the 9-month period. That would be about $500 or $600 for the year. But I had to pay room and board out of that. I had to room with a family in the neighborhood where I taught. My sister, who was three years older than I was, I remember her riding horseback to school. She taught where she could ride from home and she would ride horseback out to Mount Valley up in the high country. She would ride Old Prince to school and come home again.

What about when you were teaching? Well, I don't remember using it on anything special. I used it for my own good, I guess. I can't remember giving it to anybody. I did use some when I went away to college after I taught one year. I remember that my oldest pupil was only 2-1/2 years younger than I was. He was the son of the Superintendent of Schools. He didn't want to send him to High School, so he was sent back for review and to take a few other subjects. He was much bigger than I was and taller. He was a good student. His younger brother was kind of a cut-up and he'd straighten him out.

How long did you have to work each day at your job? At teaching, when I had the rural school, I had to get there early in the morning and start the fire before the children got there to get the room warm. So I had to be there really early in the morning. And then at night, I'd have to clean the room and do all my own janitor work and everything after they all left. So it would be quite long hours.