Haskell County Historical Society

Munn, Raymond Loyd - Interview by Gary Wooster

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By Gary Wooster

GARY WOOSTER: What is your name?

MR. MUNN: My full name is Raymond Loyd Munn.

GARY WOOSTER: Okay, when were you born?

MR. MUNN: I was born in May 20, 1910, here in Stigler. As a matter of fact, at 203 NE "C" Street.

GARY WOOSTER: What was it like back then? What did they get around in or use for transportation?

MR. MUNN: Well, as I remember growing up in Stigler, when I was a young boy perhaps around 6 or 7 years of age, we used to go in buggies. And I had ridden with my mother when I was about 6 or 7 years of age around some of the streets of Stigler and then later on about 1916 or 1917 they came out with a Ford, the Model T Ford.

GARY WOOSTER: Where was the school at?

MR. MUNN: The school that I attended was Boone School and it's down at the same location as it is now. However, at that time it was a large two-story, maybe three-story, building with a basement. Two-story with a basement, and I think they tore it down to build the one at present time.

GARY WOOSTER: Did you go on to college after high school?

MR. MUNN: Well, as I say I grew up here in Stigler and I played football here for three years in high school. I was on the all-conference team that we played in under Homer C. Heard, and after graduating high school in 1928, I got a football scholarship to go to Northeastern State teacher's college. And we were playing the double wing back system and I got to play every game except when I was hurt. I played four years under Exindire. Coach Exindire, he played with Pop Water at the Carl Isle Institute in Carlisle, Pennsylvania back in the early nineteen hundreds.

GARY WOOSTER: How did you later get on into the funeral business?

MR. MUNN: In high school when I was about the 10th to 8th, 9th and 10th grades, through there I helped Mr. Mallory. He was working in the Dobyns and Lantz hardware store, he came here in about 1912 and, in fact, I think he was about the second funeral director that ever was in Stigler and I become one later on. And after I finished college I went to Kansas City, Kansas, to the school of embalming and I got my license. Well, I went to school there in 1932 and finished in 1933, took the state board in Oklahoma City in March and received my license in August, 1933.

GARY WOOSTER: Then is that where you all had the funeral home right over here?

MR. MUNN: Well, then, let me say this: then after I received my license in 1933 I had an opportunity to go to Muskogee and I got a job there with a Giple Funeral Home. And I worked there only about two months, and in the meantime, I had an opportunity to get a job at Okmulgee with the Davis Funeral Home, which is now known as the Cantrell Funeral home, and I worked there until 1935. The most I ever made there was twenty-three dollars and fifty cents a week--and that didn't last very long, but you could live on that back then. And from 1935 Mr. Mallory was working, as I said, at Dobyns and Lantz hardware, and they owed him fifteen hundred dollars and they couldn't pay it, so he said, "Well, I'll just take the old funeral car and some of the old equipment, a few caskets and start my own business." At that time we leased, he did rather, lease the Chriswell building, known as the log cabin building where the First National Bank is at the present time. And in 1935, in December, he became sick with pneumonia and had a stroke and lived a year. He died a year later and after his death I became the owner and operator of Mallory Funeral Home. And then we stayed there for ten years, and then in 1947 we decided to take the house over at the present, prior to the new funeral home we built, and we were there from 1947 until 1973. In 1973 we built what is known as the new Mallory Funeral Home.

GARY WOOSTER: What was your home life like?

MR. MUNN: Oh, when I grew up in Stigler?


MR. MUNN: Well I, lets see, I had two brothers but the oldest one was ten years older than I was, and my other brother, he was only about three, and we went to Boone School. And (we) run down the alleys and prowled around and hopped on cars at night. Back there then they had cars with a tire on the back end of it and we would go down to the Methodist church where they had a light and these cars would come driving about 15 or 20 m.p.h. and we would run and jump on those tires and ride it a block or two and jump off, we thought that was great fun. Incidentally, I learned to swim when I was nine years of age at Fern Bluff, Fern Bluff is about three miles, two and a half miles north on Snake Creek out here. At that time the sewer system was emptied in the Snake Creek but there were very few indoor commodes at that time and by the time it got down to Fern Bluff it was pretty nice water. And then later we began to learn to swim in the strip pits where the Garland Coal Company came in through here and built the strip pits out northeast of town and that's where we did most of our swimming.

GARY WOOSTER: Did your family have a hard time making a living back then?

MR. MUNN: No, my father and my mother farmed down in Braden Bottom, that's between Spiro and Ft. Smith. Back in 1890 and 1880s they introduced the Irish potato into the Arkansas River bottom. He and his brother, Bob, and raised Irish potatoes down there and made quite a lot of money. The only thing wrong with those red ripe potatoes is they couldn't store them, cause they would rot. But anyway they made enough money, at least he made enough money to move, to retire and move to Stigler in about 1908.

GARY WOOSTER: Where are your brothers and sisters now?

MR. MUNN: Well, I'm the last one of the generation. I had several half-brothers and two own brothers, and they're all gone. I'm the baby of the family and I'm the last one.

GARY WOOSTER: Did they live around here?

MR. MUNN: Elzie lived here. Elzie Munn worked for Lantz motor company from the time till Model T's up until they came out with the Model A Fords in 1929 and then later on moved to Tulsa.

GARY WOOSTER: What about your brother?

MR. MUNN: Delmus, well he grew up here like I did and we used to work in the freight line and he worked in the freight here for Harvord LeFlore for years and years. Then we moved to Oklahoma City and I kinda lost track of him.

GARY WOOSTER: So you're the last one?

MR. MUNN: I'm the last one of this particular family. I have some nephews, a lot of nieces and nephews around.

GARY WOOSTER: Okay, where did you meet Mrs. Munn?

MR. MUNN: Well it's a funny thing, but like I said I went to Northeastern State teacher's college in 1928, and in 1929 she belonged to the girl's pep squad and they had a party to entertain the football boys, so she invited me to be her guest. So I thought she, you know, was a pretty nice gal, so I went with her. And from there on I started going with her some and we dated all through college, and, however, we didn't get married until 1936 cause I wasn't able to financially afford to marry her.

GARY WOOSTER: Did you all have any kids?

MR. MUNN: Well, after we were married we had two girls, Susan the oldest one, and Kathlyn Martin, now the youngest one, and I have, let's see, I have five grandchildren, one granddaughter, and four grandsons.

GARY WOOSTER: What kin is Doug Martin to you?

MR. MUNN: Doug is my son-in-law, he is married to our youngest daughter Kathlyn.

GARY WOOSTER: When did Doug come into the funeral business?

MR. MUNN: Well, he has had a license, he has been in about twelve years to my knowledge, something like that. He came here and he and Kathy were out in Sacramento teaching school and so he decided he wanted to get into the funeral business and I asked him to come back here and he did. He went to Dallas to Mortuary School of Science and Embalming and got his license about a year later. He has probably had a license now for twelve years.

GARY WOOSTER: What was the town like back then? Was there a big depression? Did you live through the depression?

MR. MUNN: Well, I went to Northeastern in 1928 and the depression hadn't hit then. It had just started because I was receiving thirty dollars a month for the first year in 1928; and part of 1929 at Northeastern and the second year up there they cut my salary down to twenty-five dollars a month. Then that's when I realized the depression was on. Then when I went to Kansas City, we lived in north Kansas City and worked in a funeral home, we had to ride a street car over to Kansas City, Missouri, and make a couple of transfers to get over to Kansas City, Kansas. And back in the ending when we came back there would be blocks and blocks of people sitting on the sidewalk waiting for the soup line to come by to where they could get a hand-out. Hand beggars got down to five cents a piece and they closed the banks in 1933 and a paid lunch was a quarter.

GARY WOOSTER: Who ran the soup line?

MR. MUNN: I don't recall, I believe the government did that cause it had to be the Salvation Army, but the government chipped in there and helped out a little.

GARY WOOSTER: Where was the soup line at?

MR. MUNN: Well it was in Kansas City, Missouri, on North Walnut Street, a pretty rough part of town.

GARY WOOSTER: Was the depression still going on when you moved to Stigler?

MR. MUNN: Yes, it was just gradually beginning to move out of it a little bit, and we came back here in thirty-five and started what's known as the Mallory Burial Association. And in that association for five dollars a year the members of the policy would get a complete hundred dollar funeral service complete and that was back in the thirties. But they began to come out of it and when the W.W.II started the money began to flow and the money began to flow quite rapidly and in 1933, 1934, and 1935, and after World War II and up until the recession in 1962.

GARY WOOSTER: Did you serve in the army or anything?

MR. MUNN: No, I served in the National Guard when I was fifteen and I used to go to Fort Sill every summer for two weeks and we were in what's known as a medical detachment. Dr. McKinney was in charge of our company and we didn't have to march, we were what's known as pill rollers and when they had a platoon of thirty men they would go out for a machine gun company, then two of us would go to take care of the sick. But they called us pill rollers.

GARY WOOSTER: When you and Mrs. Munn were married back then was it hard for you all when you first started out when you first got married?

MR. MUNN: Well, as I said we got married in Tulsa there at the United Presbyterian Church and we were making, I think, about 250 dollars a month. Then times were hard, yes, but we didn't realize it. Because 25 dollars would buy all the food you need for a month, and this was in 1936.

GARY WOOSTER: When did you all get your first car?

MR. MUNN: Well, the first car I ever bought that belonged to me was in 1936 or 1937, I'm not sure, bought a Chevrolet two-door sedan for seven hundred and fifty dollars. We sent our two daughters down to Gulf Port College in Gulf Port, Mississippi, in only their last year in high school and the one thing about going down there to this private school they did learn to study. And they both made pretty fair grades. And while we were down there we used to go pick them up occasionally and go down to visit them. And after the visit we would go to New Orleans and spend a few days there. And before Castro came to power we were in Florida on vacation with the girls, and we decided to go to Cuba. So we chartered a plane and flew over there to Havana, Cuba, and stayed about five or six days and we got to visit those big prisons where they used to keep those prisoners and torture them, and we took a tour all through the island. It was very interesting.

GARY WOOSTER: Did you daughters go to high school here in Stigler?

MR. MUNN: They went to high school here in Stigler, from first grade up until the eleventh grade, and in the twelfth grade we sent each one of them to Gulf Port.

GARY WOOSTER: Where did they meet their husbands at?

MR. MUNN: Well Susan met her first husband in Tulsa University. He was a petroleum engineer from Iran and that's where she met him. And they were married, they stayed together for about three or four years and finally they divorced. Kathy met Doug Martin at Oklahoma University. Both of them majored in physical education and they had a lot in common, I guess. And that's where they met, I don't know what year.

GARY WOOSTER: How many people did you have in your burial association back then?

MR. MUNN: Well, at one time after World War II, we had about 4,150 families, and then after that two other funeral homes moved in at Spiro. And more competition brought us down to about 3,000 families, but on the other hand, we still have as many funerals as we did back then.

GARY WOOSTER: How many funerals did you all have back there then?

MR. MUNN: We averaged about 200 a year, that was after 1941. Since 1935 we've buried something like a little over 12,000 people, and we had to go to about 53 different cemeteries, and of course they were about 5 or 6 years.

GARY WOOSTER: What were the buildings like back then? Are they pretty much the same as they are now?

MR. MUNN: Well, there most of the buildings down town, they were here as far back as I can remember. Of course the First National Bank burned and the Palace Drug Store burned, but they were built back there in about 1912 or somewhere in through there. And Dobyns-Lantz burned, that's a new building. And Sharp Brothers there, that's a new building, it was built back in 1947. And the older building is where the barber shop is, and the First National Bank building, the white building there on the corner, and the old, used to be the American National Bank across where the abstract office is now, that's an original building. Sigman Brothers building is on the west side there, all of those along there were here when I was a little kid. The Post Office is new, the bank is new.

GARY WOOSTER: Did you ever help your father in the field?

MR. MUNN: No, I was born here in Stigler, and he died when I was six years old.

GARY WOOSTER: Did you live with your mother after that?

MR. MUNN: I lived with my mother all the time except my last couple of years in high school, and she worked as a clerk for A&W Dry Good store, Easterling & Wesson, they were big stores here then, Charlie Puckett, she was a clerk in a store.

GARY WOOSTER: Did you pretty much well help her run the house back then?

MR. MUNN: No, I didn't do anything except eat and go to school and play a little football. Well she ran a boarding house too, later on, and that was fun for me to get some good food, if you was operating a boarding house, you got to serve good food to keep the customers coming back.

GARY WOOSTER: What is a boarding house?

MR. MUNN: Well, a boarding house is where they serve meals and you pay for them every day.

GARY WOOSTER: Did she do the cooking?

MR. MUNN: She did the cooking, that's right. Oh, I would say she served probably about maybe ten people, eight or ten people.

GARY WOOSTER: Where did she have it at?

MR. MUNN: In her home, down here at 203 N.E. "C" Street, as I say, eight or ten people, you know.

GARY WOOSTER: What would she charge for a meal?

MR. MUNN: Oh, I haven't the slightest idea, it couldn't be very much back there then. I use to go down to my neighbor there, Mrs. Charlie Gable. They had a milk cow and I would go down there and get a gallon of skim milk for a dime. Do you know what skim milk is? That's where they take the rich cream off of the top, that's what you should be drinking. That rich milk is alright, but it will have a tendency to get you fat.

GARY WOOSTER: How much was meat?

MR. MUNN: Well, I think you could buy hamburger meat for 10, 12, or 15 cents a pound, or less than that. You could buy coffee for 45 cents a pound, Polar Bear coffee, and Hale's Leader, Red Fox, and another brand, Pea Berry coffee, did you ever hear of Pea Berry coffee? Well that's an old timer's coffee.

GARY WOOSTER: Did they have Folger's (coffee) back then?

MR. MUNN: Nope, no Folger's. And we didn't have gas back then. We had an old wooden stove, I had to get up every morning to build a fire. Stick the stove wood in there and throw a little coal oil in there and build a fire and cook on it. And then later on my mother got a Florence range which burned kerosene, four oil burners, two burners and an
oven, and that was hot stuff, think of it, had a flame just like gas. And I also remember my mother making hominy. You know to make hominy you have to get a big old wash basin that would hold about twenty gallons of water, and you would take this corn and pour it in there, and then they would put lye in it somehow or other. And then they would cook it for a long period of time, I don't know how they do it, but the only thing I know, is it's pretty good too, and then it would make soap. They would kill the hogs and take that fat out there and cook it somehow or other, and render all the cracklings out of it, take that fat and put some lye in it and make home-made soap.

GARY WOOSTER: Would it come out in a liquid and then mold it?

MR. MUNN: Well, as I remember, you would take the fat out of the meat and you put lye in there. And you cook it over a stove and I don't know what else ingredients you put in it, but you cook it for some period of time until it gets hard, and then you cool it and cut it off into little blocks. You just used the soap for laundry purposes only, nothing else.

GARY WOOSTER: Were there any times back then when you didn't have anything to eat?

MR. MUNN: No, we always had plenty to eat. I don't remember ever going hungry, at least not in my house. As I remember, my father died and my mother married again in 1922, and my stepfather gave me an allowance of fifty cents a month and sometimes I didn't get that.

GARY WOOSTER: Did that ever last you a whole month?

MR. MUNN: I take that back, it was fifty cents a week, sometimes I didn't get the fifty cents.

GARY WOOSTER: Did it ever last you the whole week?

MR. MUNN: Oh, yes, sure. You could go to the show for a quarter maybe fifteen cents, I forgot. You could get a Coke for a nickel and an ice cream for a nickel. I had a twenty-two rifle and I would buy 22 shells so I could go hunting. I never killed very much.

GARY WOOSTER: How much were the shells?

MR. MUNN: Oh, I think they were 15 cents for a box of 22 shells.

GARY WOOSTER: What did your stepfather do for a living?

MR. MUNN: He had an insurance business down here in a room at the north end of the abstract building. His name was G. F. Tapp, president of the school board here for years.

GARY WOOSTER: How many years have you been in the funeral business?

MR. MUNN: Well, I've been in the funeral business for about fifty-one years, I've been affiliated about fifty-five years. As far as owning and operating a business, I've been here exactly 49 years.

GARY WOOSTER: Has the funeral business changed quite a bit since then?

MR. MUNN: Well, yes, indeed it has, because back there in those days in the thirties and forties, the highest price funeral we ever had was seven hundred dollars and that was a steel casket. And the cheapest one we had was a hundred dollars, and besides that we also did ambulance service. We didn't get paid for it that much, but we did it anyway. That ambulance service took care of funerals within fifty miles of Stigler, and we used funeral cars just like we do today. But we didn't use any tents, tents came along later on. Back there then a lot of times we would go out there and have a funeral service in a cemetery. Sometimes we would have chairs and sometimes we wouldn't, and they would sing, and the minister would preach out there. Sometimes they talked too long, but they always talked.

GARY WOOSTER: Was the Wilbert vault company back there then?

MR. MUNN: Wilbert Vault Company didn't come into existence until about fifteen years ago. Back in those days they had steel vaults. They still have steel vaults. Yes, and they used to sell for 125 dollars, now they sell for 700 dollars.

GARY WOOSTER: Who dug the graves?

MR. MUNN: Well, back in the early days in the Stigler Cemetery we had men here in town that would open the grave for five dollars. Some of them would charge five, and some would charge six dollars, now the city charges ninety dollars.

GARY WOOSTER: How much does a lot cost?

MR. MUNN: A lot costs eighty dollars, when they first started out at twenty dollars. As a matter of fact, the new cemetery that they have out there now, that's the south half of it, I bought from Burl Moore in about 1940 for 300 dollars. The city did not have 300 dollars to buy the property with, so I loaned them, and I made a loan of 300 dollars for one year at 6% interest, and that's how they got that land out there. At that time they sold the lots for twenty dollars apiece, and they have gone from twenty dollars apiece, to eighty.

GARY WOOSTER: Well, Mr. Munn, I want to thank you for this interview, I sure did enjoy it.

(This concludes the interview with Raymond Loyd Munn by Gary Wooster.)

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