Haskell County Historical Society

Street, Henry - Interview by Vonda Heard

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BELLE STARR Rides in Haskell County, Oklahoma

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By Vonda Heard

Stigler High School
March 5, 19184

Name: Henry Edward Street
Date of Birth: May 18, 1919
Place of Birth: Stigler, Oklahoma
Name of Parents: Dicie and Henry Street
Name of Grandparents: Christine and Charlie Whitney

Summary: Henry Street was born in Stigler and grew up in Stigler and still resides here. He graduated from Stigler High School. Farming was their main source of income. Also cutting firewood in the winter was another way of earning money. This interview consists of history about Stigler when Mr. Street was a boy and later an adult. He tells of the money situation, farming, educations, and structure of the average family in Stigler. He also tells about the business aspect and law enforcement of Stigler at the time.

VONDA HEARD: Your full name?

HENRY STREET: Henry Edward Street.

VONDA HEARD: Who are your parents and where were you born?

HENRY STREET: I was born in Stigler May 18, 1919. My parents were Dicie and Henry Street. I grew up in Stigler and went to school here and graduated from High School in 1937.

VONDA HEARD: Have you lived in Stigler all your life?

HENRY STREET: Yes, and my grandpa always told me that he was the first man to come to Stigler. He said that he was living in a log cabin when Mr. Stigler, the man they named Stigler after, came here. He said he was the first man to live here and then this Mr. Stigler, and they named the town after him. He still says he was the first man here. He moved here from Bokoshe which they called Shadegrag them days, and that was Indian Territory days even before statehood.

VONDA HEARD: How many children were in your family?

HENRY STREET: I'm the only child in that immediate family, I have two half-brothers. I went to school here, I thought the school was a good school, we had good teachers.

VONDA HEARD: How many hours a day did you go to school?

HENRY STREET: From nine to four.

VONDA HEARD: Did you have to walk?

HENRY STREET: I walked all the time. Nobody had cars them days, nobody but the very elite had cars. So I walked to school all my life.

VONDA HEARD: So were there very many people in Stigler with cars?

HENRY STREET: Just very few.

VONDA HEARD: How did you family make a living in Stigler?

HENRY STREET: Well, my grandpa and grandma raised me, and an uncle and aunt and we all lived together and we farmed. We raised hogs and killed them usually in the fall, and then cured out the meat. We cut wood in the winter for a living. We sold wood here in town because that was before gas came to Stigler. Everybody had to burn wood so it was a pretty good deal and you could go out here and cut wood anywhere. We also had cows so we had our own milk and butter. We had a big garden and my grandma and aunt would can all summer. We always had plenty to eat.

VONDA HEARD: Did most people in Stigler farm?

HENRY STREET: Yes, Stigler was a farming community, them days Stigler used to be acorn and cotton community. That was all that was raised around here. At one time there was 6 cotton gins in Stigler by the railroad track in Stigler. In the fall year I've seen at least 20 wagons in a row come to town with cotton to take to the gins. From here to Tamaha was solid agriculture. There was hardly any cattle back then, so everybody practically had to farm.

VONDA HEARD: What type of housing did you have in Stigler?

HENRY STREET: There were no brick houses, the people mostly had wood framed houses.

VONDA HEARD: Were there very many stores in Stigler?

HENRY STREET: No, two or three grocery stores. And grocery stores were different then. You didn't have to wait on yourself they had clerks to pick the stuff out for you, and the groceries were different too. They were mostly bulk and they had bins for the flour, meal, and rice.

VONDA HEARD: What were some of the price ranges, such as a loaf of bread?

HENRY STREET: They didn't even have loaves of bread. The first light bread that was packaged came from Muskogee and Fort Smith. Most people made their own biscuits and cornbread.

VONDA HEARD: What was the main transportation in Stigler?

HENRY STREET: Most of the people just walked. Everybody in them days were a lot hardier people. You hardly ever heard of anyone having a heart attack. Everybody was in a lot better physical shape.

VONDA HEARD: Did you live out of town or in Stigler?

HENRY STREET: I lived in town. Had to walk about a half a mile to town and walked to school from my house.

VONDA HEARD: What form of entertainment was there?

HENRY STREET: There wasn't much entertainment because we didn't have radio or television. We would visit with our neighbors and sit around and talk at night. Since none of my family could read when I learned how in school, we started taking the paper so I would sit and read that to the family at night.

VONDA HEARD: Were there any theaters or movies?

HENRY STREET: Not until about 1930 did I start going, but they did have them before that. Jack Pierce came here and put in a theater.

VONDA HEARD: What was the price of a movie?

HENRY STREET: The price was a dime. I would always go on Saturday afternoons to the westerns. Later it was raised to 25 cents. Talking about prices again. You used to could go to town with a 10 dollar bill and have a half of wagon load of groceries. You could buy a pair of overhalls then for about 25 or 35 cents. Shirts were about the same.

VONDA HEARD: How did most people dress?

HENRY STREET: Mostly overhalls and boots and just working type clothes.

VONDA HEARD: Were there any hospitals in Stigler?

HENRY STREET: There wasn't a hospital here.

VONDA HEARD: Where was the biggest cities around Stigler?

HENRY STREET: Like now, Fort Smith and Muskogee. And if any body had a serious illness they would go there to the doctor. An appendectomy in those days was considered a serious illness, and now it's just routine. We had drug stores to get the medicine. The doctors in those days didn't have antibiotics so if someone had scarlet fever or something worse you were in pretty bad shape. There were no immunizations.

VONDA HEARD: Since Fort Smith and Muskogee were so far away how often did you get to go there?

HENRY STREET: Most of the people went to Muskogee if they went at all. If you went you would have to ride a train.

VONDA HEARD: How long did it usually take to get to Muskogee by train?

HENRY STREET: Three to four hours. They had four passenger trains a day run through Stigler. Also 10 freight trains a day would come through Stigler.

VONDA HEARD: How did the depression affect you and your family?

HENRY STREET: I don't think the depression hit Stigler as hard as it hit the other areas. Because there wasn't any factories here but that's the way Stigler's always been. All it really has is a cannery. Stigler has never been dependent of any type of factory that is why the depression didn't hit Stigler so hard. The towns that it hurt were the towns that depended on steel factories or some type of plant, and they when that shut down most of the people were then unemployed. Stigler wasn't like that. For us it wasn't any different because we still had the same way of life because we raised most of what we ate. The main reason it didn't really change our life was because we didn't have any money to begin with!

VONDA HEARD: What age did the teenagers start dating?

HENRY STREET: It wasn't anything like it is now. In high school they usually waited until they were a junior.

VONDA HEARD: Were there many weddings among the teenagers?

HENRY STREET: Yes, most of the kids got married young but they stuck together. It's not like it is now. You hardly ever heard of a divorce. Marriage really meant something in those days.

VONDA HEARD: Did many women have jobs in town?

HENRY STREET: The women didn't work in the stores but they would work in the doctor's offices or the lawyer's offices. But most of them had so many kids they didn't have time to work, they had more than enough to do at the house.

Stigler is a very historical town. It used to have a hug nursery. And where the high school sits right now was the nursery's main warehouse. It was Connard's Nursery. It was the biggest nursery in eastern Oklahoma.

VONDA HEARD: Did Stigler have any coal mines?

HENRY STREET: Yes, there was coal mines here. They have been digging coal here for around 50 to 60 years. It used to be called Acme Coal Co. and they dug coal almost all the way to Tamaha.

VONDA HEARD: Going back to education. Did most of the students finish school or graduate?

HENRY STREET: Yes, 75 to 85% did. College was very hard to go to. You couldn't get loans or grants like you can today. If your parents couldn't send you it was very unlikely you could go. Most of the kids would go to work. If you saw someone with a college education it was really something.

VONDA HEARD: How many lawyers were in Stigler at the time?

HENRY STREET: Since Stigler was the county seat, we had a couple of lawyers, more than the other towns. The people back then seemed to be much happier back then. They weren't under pressure because it didn't take as much to please people. They just enjoyed going visiting. Stigler had a very big delivery stable and they were very important back then. My wife's daddy owned the stable.

VONDA HEARD: Did Stigler have many hotels or motels?

HENRY STREET: They had the Eureka Hotel. It used to be across the street of where the Stigler New Sentinel is now. That was near the depot.

VONDA HEARD: How many restaurants were in Stigler?

HENRY STREET: There was one or two in town but people just didn't eat out very much. Dinner was the main meal and usually on weekends.

VONDA HEARD: What was the average price for a meal back then?

HENRY STREET: Anywhere from 15 cents to 25 cents. That was a steak dinner, too.

VONDA HEARD: Were alcoholic beverages allowed in Stigler?

HENRY STREET: No, because those were the days of prohibition. Whiskey and beer were outlawed. If there was any, it was home brew. They would make wildcat whiskey. There were hardly none alcoholics.

VONDA HEARD: Did most people in Stigler have horses?

HENRY STREET: Yes, most people had horses. That was the pride and joy of most of the farmers. Whoever had the best looking horse and saddle were considered very respectable people. And it was against the law for any kind of horse races.

VONDA HEARD: Who were the law enforcement officers?

HENRY STREET: We had sheriffs and deputies and back in those days they played a lot bigger part in the enforcement of laws that were broken. It really used to be something to be a sheriff or deputy. There's been a lot of shootouts taken place right here on the main street of Stigler. Well, I know of three men that was killed in a shoot out right on main street, it looked just like a Matt Dillon episode! We had a lot of discipline back then, it was a lot stricter then. Stealing a chicken then was considered a serious crime or if you stole a horse you were just gone! I know a lot of guys that got a year in the pen for stealing a chicken. We also had stricter discipline in the schools. In those days if a teacher gave you homework you better or you would get a "boarding" or sent home. And you didn't have to have a witness in those days so one didn't want to get in trouble. Nobody in those days ever skipped school.

VONDA HEARD: Did they have welfare in Stigler back then?

HENRY STREET: No, if you didn't have money you just went without.

VONDA HEARD: How many churches did Stigler have?

HENRY STREET: We had the First Baptists and the Holiness which is now the Assembly of God, and Methodist. Back then evangelists would come through preaching about God. People back then took their religion a lot more serious.

VONDA HEARD: Did the children respect their parents more when you were growing up?

HENRY STREET: Yes, the kids respected their parents more, but the discipline was just like it was in the school, very strict. The kids seemed to work a lot harder, also. People just enjoyed themselves back then because they didn't always want more or what they couldn't have. You couldn't borrow money back then, so people just did without!

(This concludes the interview of Henry Edward Street, by Vonda Heard.)

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