Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Daddy - written by Lloyd Lawry

In 1995 my Uncle Lloyd Lawry gave me a number of stories and articles he had written.  Among those was this story of his Daddy, my Grandpa.  This is the story exactly as he wrote it.

My Daddy, Bennie Eugene Lawry, was born February 15, 1895 near Bronson, Kansas. Evidently he wasn't too fond of the "Bennie". By the time I first knew him he had shortened it to Ben.

When he was small he must have had 2 brothers, 2 sisters, half-brother and one half-sister living at home. Grandpa Lawry lost his eyesight in 1888 so they had to struggle just to live.  He attended Stony Point School. I believe he completed eighth grade.

He said he farmed the home place the year he was 14. It was done with a plow and a cultivator that he walked behind as the horses pulled them. He never told me much about his early life.

I do have two tales of his experiences during his horse and buggy days. He had a "moon eyed" horse that ran him in a creek off a low water bridge, and one time he asked a girl if he could drive her home. She replied "you can if you have any harness that will fit me."

He married my mother in 1918, and they went to Santa Rita, New Mexico, where he obtained a job carrying samples of the copper ore from the mines. I think one of Grandpa Lawry's daughters by his first marriage lived there and found the opportunity of a job for him.

He told of an incident which made him think his guardian angel was watching over him. He was walking along in the dark when he felt that something had stopped him. He stopped immediately and lit a match. He was standing on the brink of a deep pit. One more step and he would have fallen, probably to his death.

They came back to Kansas after the war, and I was born at my Aunt Cody's (Cora Hixson) farm. It was a few miles northwest of Bronson, Kansas.

In 1920 Mama and Daddy were living in Mildred, Kansas. There was a cement plant there and Daddy worked as day watchman. He broke his leg getting it caught while stepping over a moving belt.

Daddy ran a restaurant in Yates Center, Kansas in 1924. I don’t know how long he had it, but I think he went broke running it. He fed the prisoners in the local jail and I was in awe of them when I went with Daddy to take their food.

I'm uncertain when mama and daddy first separated but I remember living in Chanute, Kansas when there was just mama and I. Also, I remember living in Wichita, Kansas with daddy and mama. He worked at the oil refinery. They evidently separated again before I was 6 because Mama and I were living by ourselves when I started school.

In March 1926 Daddy was working for a construction company building an addition to a salt plant in Lyons, Kansas. He worked in several places, finally coming to Buffville, Kansas to work in the brick yard. He married Hazel there September 3, 1927.

His job was shoveling shale into metal carts. I believe they were 1/2 cubic yard capacity. They dynamited the shale down and Daddy loaded it with a shovel, picking up big chunks and loading them by hand. He had to push the carts on a narrow gauge railroad track to the bottom of an incline ramp where they were pulled up to the place where the shale was ground. He got 25 cents for each cart he loaded and pushed up the ramp.

In a letter he wrote October 28, 1928 he said "there was two days that I made $6.90 a day each". In the same letter he told of paying $240 to pay off his Model A Ford. When he was thinking of buying it the salesman came out where he was working and helped him load shale all day to clinch the sale. Daddy didn't tell him until the end of the day that he had decided to buy the car before the salesman came out!

In October 1929 the brickyard closed, never to reopen. Sometime after that we moved to a farm east of Buffville where we rented a house with garden space and pasture for a cow. We lived there for several years. Our house burned when I was in the eighth grade and we moved back to Buffville until the owner of the farm bought an old house and moved it to the farm. Then we moved back to the farm again.

Later we lived on similar farms north of Altoona, south of Altoona, and east of Altoona. We also lived in Buffville again part of my senior year in high school.

Daddy didn't want to go on WPA, but finally did when our cash income one month was only $5. He went to broom corn harvest and followed the wheat harvest to North Dakota one year before finally giving up and going on WPA. While he and Grandpa Reeve were working in the Dakotas the old German farmer's wife where they were working had twin babies during the morning and yet got up and prepared their noon meal!

When we were living east of Altoona in 1940, Daddy decided to move to Missouri, so we loaded our possessions on a trailer behind the old Model A Ford and drove it most of the way to Poplar Bluff, Missouri. We lived with Jessie and John Borton in a three room house; ten people in 3 rooms.

Daddy and Uncle John worked for a man who owned a greenhouse for 10 cents an hour. I couldn't find any work so left home in early 1941, and hitch hiked to Texas.

One year while they lived in Missouri, Daddy took the family to Michigan to pick fruit. The family moved back to Kansas and bought 80 acres of farm land with an old house on it. They lived there for several years.

Daddy worked for the W. J. Small Company in Neodesha for 15 years. It was an alfalfa dehydrating plant. Daddy was in his late 40's and his 50's during these years. He sewed sacks and stacked bags of alfalfa meal. The filled sacks weighed 100 pounds and it was terribly hard work. The farm had several miles of mud roads between it and town, so these years of arduous labor were plagued by fighting bad roads and a car which often refused to start until pulled by their team of horses. Hazel and Delbert did much of the farm work while Daddy worked in town.

Daddy and Hazel went to Oregon to pick fruit and vegetables one year. They stayed all winter after picking was over, Hazel got a job and Daddy loafed all winter and read a lot of books.

In the late 60's Daddy and Hazel bought a farm and a few acres east of Altoona. They had a truck farm and raised tomatoes and strawberries as well as other vegetables.

After Bob's family moved to Arkansas, Daddy and Hazel also moved there. Daddy was happy with his chickens and his garden. He would say, "Tell the people you have been to paradise," when we would leave to go back to Irving. He puttered around the garden patch on the day he died.  He died December 2, 1981 of heart complications.

He was a kind, gentle, hardworking, loving man.  I have my Lord’s assurance that at some point in eternity I will again see him in heaven, as he used to sing, “Where they ring those golden bells for you and me.”

The ABC Wednesday Meme is a fun way to see some great blogs.


  1. A very interesting family history.
    Life was certainly difficult during those times. I admire people doing anything they could do just to survive and not just sitting waiting for a hand-out.

  2. Such a delightful story! Even though he had two wives, it sounds like he made time for all his children.

    abcw team

  3. What a lovely story.
    People were soo good back then.
    They did an honest days work for an honest days pay
    I remember my Dad also told us stories and I don't know how they lived back then with such a small pay.
    But everything was so much cheaper back then too and they usually fixed their own cars.
    Today we spend a fortune just on maintenance cause you need computers to fix them. lol

  4. Well, a great story, of course. But I also admit to some jealousy that I hadn't gotten such great stuff from my family!
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  5. A real picture of the way things were, and the hardships of life in the depression years.

  6. The older you get, the more the past becomes alive for us. We want to know our roots! Thank you for this family history.
    Have a great week.
    Wil, ABCW Team.

  7. Love when we still use the word Daddy--that's what I called my dad too. Its wonderful when our parents leave us the written word instead of by memory. Beautiful story.

  8. What a history treasure to be given. Sounds like he had a hard life, I'm glad he found his paradise towards the end of his life.
    Joy - ABC Team

  9. Very interesting, as I've always been interested in my genealogy, and of course the Lawry's figure closely into my family history. Grace Jane (Yeager) Helms-Lawry, was my great great grandmother. :-)