Dad's Folks Were From Arkansas
Although recollections of these people are starting to fade, I hope to catch a few of the memories for which to share. These people were fairly simple folks who lived in a small town and knew everyone... just like small towns everywhere I guess.
My paternal grandparents were married in 1898. Grover Clifton Liles married Susie Kathryn Cook. Their home was on Main Street, McRae Arkansas just across the street from the Methodist Church that Dad grew up in. The school was down the street maybe a half a block.
The house was big in terms of ceiling height but had only three bedrooms for grandpa, grandma and the six children. The biggest room was the kitchen which seems to go on forever. I remember the wood burning stove and the hand water pump on the counter top.
Grandpa Liles operated the lumber mill in the town. Grover Cleveland Liles was dads father but he passed on 1913. Susie died in 1955 after a long illness that I assumed to be cancer but she was in her 70's so she had a long run.
My real (biological?) grandfather died in 1913. Susie (Liles) was 28 when she married Charles (Essig) who was 17 years of age. After Grover Clifton passed on Susie married Charles Essig in a most interesting way. Charlie was apparently quite colorful and a bit of a trouble maker until he married Susie and became the father of four.... and they had two more children. Charles was troubled and apparently drank a little too much. The sheriff was about to haul Charles off to the jail when Sue Liles intervened and said "I will marry him and straighten him out." Sue was 8 years older that Charles and it worked. Charles, or grandpa as I called him, was just a wonderful guy who the whole family embraced as dad or grandpa. Charles not only inherited a wife, he got Aunt Opal, Aunt Edit, Aunt Alma, and Paul, my dad. Charles and Sue had two additional children whose names are Clarence Earl and Helen.
About My Grandparents Home
They lived in a big solid wooden home that still partially stands today. It had the 12 foot ceilings, two bedroom, a large den and a great kitchen and porch. The kitchen had a wooden stove and I remember the sink having a pump with a handle on it to get water from the well.
The property was on about two acres because grandma had a huge garden out back and a Pasteur next door for the cows. No barn but there was a great shed full to spiders and creepy things. Out front and down the side were great oak trees which had to all of 100 feet tall and provided much needed shade in the heat of the summer.
Like clock-work, every summer we would get into the car and head from California to McRae Arkansas... and do it in two one-half days! We were going just fast enough when the telephone poles looked like picket fences. First car I remember was a 1949 Pontiac.... then we did it with a 1951 and 1953 Pontiac, a 55, 58, and 62 Chevy. The question: "Daddy. . . are we there yet???" has real meaning for us!! Now a days I ask myself..."Dad was very smart but why in the name of everything holly would anybody jump in a non-air-conditioned car, drive 2,000 miles across New Mexico and Texas to go to a spot where the temperature and humidity we equal?????
Dad's Family According To Aunt Helen Straighorn
Sue and I visited Arkansas in the early 1990s because Aunt Edith and Col'usin Kat were back there on a visit and we decided to surprise them! They took a train, we took a plane.
While we were there we learned a lot, including:
- My grandparents (in the early 1900's) ran the saw mill in the area and did have "some money".... nothing like today's standards.
- The family owned a skating rink in town... well, the
town was quite a bit bigger then and was the Strawberry capital of the
- We owned the electric company... sounds big, huh?Well, it was so small gasoline powered generator which only operated from 10-4... in fact, the town whistle blew 5 minutes to 4 so everybody could hurry and get their work done.
- They didn't have a radio until the 20's
The Paternal Aunts And Uncles
Aunt Opal (Liles) Robinson
Opal was the oldest of the six kids. She married James Robinson and had one child, Kathryn Robinson . They moved to California in 1931 to escape the poverty of the south. Kathryn is in her late 80's and lives in an assisted care facility.
Aunt Alma (Liles) Mall
Aunt Alma was the chief cook as exhibited by her massive weight. She married James Mall and moved away to West Virginia where the Mall's were miners. She lived in a home high on the side of a hill with about 400 steps form the road to the house. After James Mall passed on in the early 1950's, Alma moved to California to be with her kids. In the 1960's after Claude left us (see below), Aunt Alma moved in with Aunt Edith until Alma's death in the 1970's.
Aunt Edith (Liles) Parchman
Aunt Edith was the funny aunt. She was born tall and actually played basketball for her high school in 1927! We have the pictures to prove it! She married a local boy, Claude Parchman and moved to California in 1935 also to escape the poverty of the south. Claude was a mechanic and went to work for the airlines as a mechanic. Edit and Opal lived next door to one another for all of their lives. They had one child, Claudia who is six months older than Paul (born June 1944)
Uncle Clarence Earl Essig
He was the bad boy of the family and inherited the alcoholism from his father. He would come to California for a few weeks working for Dad but end up on skid-row drunk as a skunk as soon as pay day arrived. Dad would put him back on a train to Arkansas. He was great when sober but he wasn't sober long. He died in his late 30's, early 40's. He had no wife nor kids.
Aunt Helen (Essig) Straighorn
Aunt Helen stayed home in McRae and took care of Charlie Essig. Helen married DeWitt Straighorn who drove and ice cream truck until his death in the 1980's. Aunt Helen is still alive but in her 90's and has dementia living in an assisted care facility in Searcy, Arkansas. She had an adopted child (Ricky Straignhorn) who died all of a sudden from a heart attack in his late 20's. It was apparently a problem he had and was hereditary in nature.