Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Hap-Hap-Happy Mother’s Day!

It’s Mother’s Day. CELEBRATE! (LOL)

My boys have always been wonderful MD observers. But one of them didn’t always celebrate MY motherhood, as I mentioned in this Mother’s Day Post.  😉

When I was born, my folks lived in an old two story house in the Basin near Old ‘Ford. They always called it, “Aunt Sarah’s House.” For a long time, I didn’t know I had an Aunt Sarah.


This is Aunt Sarah, who really wasn’t an aunt at all. She was my g-g-granddad’s 2nd wife. She had 357 kids with g-g-granddad Okay, not that many. Actually, it was twelve, but with his three kids from his first marriage, I’m sure it seemed like 357 on some days!

Aunt Sarah was 17 years younger than Grandpa Joe. I’m not sure when Sarah and Joe married, but Mary died in 1881 and Sarah and Joe had their first child in 1883.

They had their last child together in 1901, and Grandpa Joe died in 1903. Sarah then remarried and had another child in 1908. If all her children and step-children had lived (they didn’t) imagine the Mother’s Days Sarah would have had! She should have cleaned up!

EXCEPT: Mother’s Day didn’t start until 1908. Poor woman raised sixteen children with no Mother’s Days to compensate her.

Aunt Sarah’s house had three bedrooms upstairs and one down. I’m not sure where they put everyone. How many kids can sleep in one bed?

No. Running. Water. And yes, the bathroom was outside. Imagine that many people waiting to go! LOL.


great-great-grandparentsIn case you’re wondering about her, this Great-Great-Grandma Mary, who died at age 30 before Grandpa Joe came to OkieLand.

When you compare 12 or 15, counting step-children, to only 6, my mama didn’t have that many kiddos. And since I only had three, I’m a real piker! 🙂

I’ve had people ask how a woman could divide her love enough for so many kids.

The answer is, it doesn’t divide. It multiplies. (I learned that at my Mama’s knee!)

How are you celebrating Mother’s Day? Flowers? Lavish gifts? A good book? (I have a suggestion if you need one. *wink*) Inquiring minds!


Saw Mills and Cotton Gins

Allene, this one’s for you!

great-great-granddad-JosephMeet Joe.

That’s really a copy-machine copy of a picture, so it’s not very good, but it’s the best I’ve got. And really, I’m lucky to have it.

Joe was my Grandmother Ruby’s Granddad, which makes him my great-great-granddad. (Is that cool or what?) His name was Josephus (really!) C. Mitchell, and he was born in North Carolina.

He lived in Illinois in 1875 and had moved to West Plains, Missouri by 1881.

I don’t believe Joe came to Oklahoma for the opening of the Cherokee Strip, at least he didn’t get land in the rush. But not long afterward, he owned a saw mill and cotton gin in the Basin–in the spot where the house was that my parents lived in when I was born.

They always called it Aunt Sarah’s house. Now I know why. (Being his step-mother, Granddad Mitchell called her “Aunt” instead of mother.)

lumber-mill-and-cotton-ginThis picture has stacks of lumber and bales of cotton as well as several people standing around. (The man in the black hat is standing on a bale of cotton.)

Two of those people are my great-granddad and my great-great-granddad. GGG also had a post office and general store in that area, too.


This is another picture of great and great great. The baby is my g-granddad.

The woman is Josephus’s first wife (and my g-g-grandmother) Mary. (Looks irritated, doesn’t she? I might have had that look a time or two in my life.)

Mary died at the age of 30 in West Plains, after having three children. The oldest was six, the youngest two, so old Joe remarried.


This is Mary’s headstone. The note that came with the picture says that Mary’s son, G-Granddad N. S., quarried the stone himself. Since Granddad was only about six when she died, he must have done it some years later.


Aunt Sarah

This is Sarah, Joe’s second wife. He married her eight months after Mary died, while they were still in Missouri. She was 17 years younger than him. She and Joe would go on to have twelve children together. (They named one Okla Homer. Don’t you love it?)

Some of the children died at birth or soon after, and at least two died by the time they were three. Hurts your heart to think about, doesn’t it?

After 21 years of marriage to Sarah, Joe died. Sarah married a man named Johnson and had yet another child. (She was one busy woman!)

Being Terminally Curious, I really wish I knew the story behind their lives. How did they happen to come to the Mannford area? How and why did Joe die? How did Sarah feel when Joe died, leaving her with all those children to raise?

Did Joe make his wives happy? Or were they too busy keeping all those kids fed to notice?

Sarah’s two youngest were five and two when their daddy died. The two-year-old, Jimmie, would die the next year. Doesn’t that just break your heart?

The first time I heard of Joe, I read about him in a book called Cherokee Strip Fever  by Zola Sample. She only mentions him in passing as the store owner in the Basin, but it was a thrill to see my family mentioned in that book.

I think I’ll have to read it again one of these days. 🙂


The New Look

Small Town World has a new look. Did you notice?

A long time ago, Mom told me about life during World War II. Food was rationed, coffee scarce, chocolate practically nonexistent because it went to the guys fighting the war. She said fashions of the time reflected the scarcity of fabric.

Long gathered skirts were out. Slimmer skirts were in.


I know people planted Victory Gardens back then. I remember wondering when Mom told me about living with those clothes, which she said she got really tired of, if they called them Victory Skirts.

Probably not. 🙂

When the war was over, Christian Dior came out with The New Look.


From Design Museum , 1947.

SMT’s new look isn’t as different or beautiful as Christian’s, but it probably didn’t take him nearly as long as it took me, either.

Here are a couple of my attempts. (Yes, there were others.) spring collage  Too busy. And just doesn’t quite fit.

marchie collage

Close, but no cigar. 😉

Even though after the 17th, I’ll need to lose St. Paddy and play with my look some more, I like the header I ended up with.

That said, I don’t think Christian has to worry about losing his title of The New Look King.

  • 1940-1947 (

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Along the Dusty Mainstreet

More from Opal Bailey Crowell’s book “Cleveland, Oklahoma. In the Triangle Country.”

This sweet woman remembers first hand about the birthing pains of C-Town, and what she wasn’t there for, she reports from the things her family and friends experienced. I’m so enjoying her words!

Most people who live in C-Town know it for a friendly, loving place. We reach out and help those who need it and many of us never meet a stranger.

It’s a C-Town tradition!

On the second page, Mrs. Crowell tells us the run into the Cherokee Strip was made in 1893. If you’ve ever seen the movie, “Cimarron,” you’ve seen a “run.” The movie shows how dramatic it was, but from what I’ve read (while prego with #3, I took some classes at OSU, I went to the old part of the library and looked up actual accounts of The Run.)  they didn’t touch the true explosive excitement of the day.

In the next paragraph, she says,

With more grocery stores and other business houses coming in, a Main Street was planned. At first, tents were set up as a place of business. J. P. Martin’s Dry Goods Store was the first business set up in a tent.

 The store on the left side of this picture (the sign says “Gents Furnishings”) was Martin’s building. It still stands today.

After a (swinging) bridge was built across the river, Mr. Martin and other traveled to Tulsa and areas where lumber could be bought. Then wooden buildings were all up and down Mainstreet.

This was about 1890.

1890 was before the land run of 1893. How did that happen, since “Indian Territory” meant Indian land. Anyone know?

At that time apparently, C-Town could be a dangerous place. One woman said when she was in the lumber yard office, she “put her feet up to miss the bullets.”

BUT any time there was a holiday or a day off, C-Town would have a party.

Large community dinners were served on makeshift tables of barrels and boards, set up on dusty main street, on the side under a tree or wherever space could be found for a table.

Everyone brought a contribution. Fresh butter or meat was not always available, but no matter how much or how little each family brought, there was always a yellow soda cake.

Everyone was invited, no one left out. If you were a newcomer or alone, someone made sure you were invited and had plenty to eat. Everyone was neighborly, enjoyed being together and most of the time they were entertained by a Band, or sometimes by a Pow Wow.

I think that’s where C-Town’s legacy of hospitality started. C-Townites are still a welcoming, giving, nice bunch of people.

Mrs. Crowell goes on to say,

The hardy pioneers considered wheat bread a luxury. They preferred Corn Pone over Kaffercorn bread but would eat either. A spoonful of “long sweetener” (sorghum molasses) smoothed the tartness of the boiled wild plum. Most folks ate wild meat, yet they might have a dozen hens and a milch cow.

In 1897 a loaf of bread cost 5 cents, a pound of coffee cost from 19 to 29 cents. Of course there was salt pork, dry beans and flour, or you could go to the Cafe and get a big meal for 25 cent.

Goods didn’t cost much back then, but people didn’t get paid much either. Work at the feed mill paid $7 a week. Grocery clerks made $7.50 a week, and carpenters or other workers received 75 cents a day.


  1. Anybody know the difference between Corn Pone and cornbread? (Is it the shape or a difference in the recipe?)
  2. What’s yellow soda cake? Anyone have a recipe?
  3. What’s Kaffercorn bread?

For such a short book–10 or 11 pages–there’s so much to learn about C-Town. And so many questions to ask. 🙂



It’s Thanksgiving Day (if I set this blog to publish at the right time.) BRING ON THE TURKEY!

Just about everyone loves Thanksgiving, don’t they? All you need for a perfect day are four F’s:

Food, Family, Friends and Fun!

Of course, it’s much more fun if everybody pitches in to help cook and clean up, but you can’t always get what you want.

 I’m not positive everyone will be able to be with their friends and family, but I’m posting these cartoons, hoping to add to your fun.

LOL! I love Snoopy. He says so much without ever speaking at all. (See the bubbles coming from Snoopy? That’s proof he’s not talking.)

This is from my walking buddy, Carollea–

A man in Phoenix calls his son in New York the day before Thanksgiving and says,” I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.

“Pop, what are you talking about?” the son screams. “We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the father says. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her.”

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. “Like heck they’re getting divorced,” she shouts, “I’ll take care of this,” She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at her father, “You are NOT getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?” and hangs up.

The old man hangs up the phone and turns to his wife. “Okay,” he says,”they’re coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way.”


Okay, maybe that last one is a little dark. But some people like dark meat. Right?

Which ever you like best, dark meat or white, I hope you and yours have a beautiful, bountiful, boisterous Thanksgiving!