The night I thought I was hit by a poison dart
By John Greiner
I was probably 7 or 8 years old and already had heard tales about Mr. Bramble, but I wasn’t sure if I knew him or could recognize him. All I knew was he lived in a two-story house with lots of supplies and sometimes junk in his front yard and kids were scared of him because he was eccentric.
One night I met him but didn’t realize it at the time. But for a few minutes, it was scary.
It started when my Dad bought a small gambler’s pistol from someone who found it when the lake road was being built or improved. The pistol fit in the palm of your hand and the barrel opening was so small that not even a piece of buckshot would go in it. I think it’s called a pin gun.
No one seemed to know much about it so my Dad took me to see a gun collector he called ol’ man Riddle.
Riddle lived upstairs in a two-story red building on the east side of 4th street near the intersection of Broadway or Moore. Bramble lived around the corner.
My Dad and I climbed a metal staircase on the south wall of the two-story red building, knocked on the door and entered after Mr. Riddle answered the door. Sitting in a chair in the room was another man I was not sure of.
I would learn it was Bramble.
The room was small, and I think the only real room besides a bathroom.
Ol’ Man Riddle, tall, thin and white haired, sat on his bed and looked at my Dad’s pistol. As they talked, he pulled out a German Machine Pistol from under the bed. I watched with the amazement of a little boy. The pistol was a German Mauser. Its wooden carrying case became the stock of the gun when the gun was assembled...
The other man with Ol’ Man Riddle said nothing and continued to sit there, glancing my way once in a while.
I still wasn’t sure who he was, but that was the way when we were kids. We didn’t always know someone who was talking with our parents unless they introduced us.
For some reason, I thought it might be Bramble. I would know soon enough.
While I sat their watching Mr. Riddle and my Dad talk, I was sure I saw the other man throw a dart at me. I had been looking to the right and vision in my left eye never has been good.
Anyway, I was hit and was frozen with fear.
I just had been hit with what I was sure was a poison dart.
Neither my Dad nor Mr. Riddle saw it happen. They continued to talk.
I continued to be frozen with fear, thinking I would die and no one would know why.
Nothing hurt but I still thought I would die soon.
Finally, I turned my head to the left and saw the back of the dart sticking out from near my chest.
Carefully, I looked more closely, fingered the back of the dart and pulled it out slowly, praying it wouldn’t hurt.
It was a purple colored square shaped candy sucker.
I was relieved. I wasn’t going to die.
The man must have reached over and stuck it between my chest and left arm.
It was Bramble.
But he just was giving a kid a sucker the unorthodox way. He wasn’t trying to kill me, despite all the stories I’d heard about him.
I later told my Dad about it.
He laughed and said Mr. Bramble wouldn’t hurt anyone.
I sure was glad. I was more than glad.
This was from Bill Miller
Wanted to wish each of you and your families a Happy New Year and hope and know that you enjoyed the merriest of Christmases.
Also wanted you all to know and especially the planners and leaders of the reunion again how much I and my wife Nancy appreciated the invitation. I have to admit that I was pretty much at a loss for conversation and perhaps more than a little nervous. It is difficult to reconnect to so many folks after 50 years but you did make us feel welcome. If any of you every find yourselves in the Houston area, our home is open to you.
Still find it hard to believe the girls were not aware of the punishment in school we boys received by wooden rulers, ping pong paddles, and leather straps way back then.
Since this past summer, I have continued to road travel mostly through out the southern states. After 309,000 miles, I finally had to put my old red truck down and shop for a new one. Waxed it, parked it out front and sold it to the first guy that came along with cash. Nancy said that my last four trucks had been red in color and she did not care what I got just so that it was not red. I got black to keep the peace.
Ron, I have given considerable thought to the hand grenade story at Nickel's Park and I do have a vague recollection of Nick Hamra telling me that it was found at an Easter Egg hunt and the pin pulled and thrown into the lake for disposal. At the same time he was also telling me how he had found a prize egg and won an airplane ride on a four engine plane, so you can see why I might have dismissed the entire matter as a bit of a tall tale. Maybe some truth in it after all? I can at least tell you I do recall being told about it.
I have been making a few improvement around the house. New well water storage tank, enlarged septic system, added carport to barn/garage/workshop and built a steel bridge to playhouse for our new granddaughter.
I did go through Henryetta a day or two before the all class reunion and stop-ed to visit with Mike Doak with whom I am indebted too for making me a part of a past I had long forgotten. His office turns out is in the towns bookleggers domain back in the day.
Dick Cameron bringing Ron Siegenthalers Mom to see me was very special. We lived and played on the same street for years. His Dad was Mr. E.G. to all us kids and very witty. When teaching us to play badminton, he would miss the bird and then look at his racket in disbelief as thought it might have a hole in it. He cheated in croquet and swear he did not to all us kids delight. I was home when he was very sick & in the local hospital. I went to see him but was never quite sure if he new.
I subscribe to the Free Lance and also receive the News Letter. I read the articles and John's recent article got me to thinking and wondering if anyone remembers some of the character's and places that I recall that seem to make Henryetta so memorable, at least to me.
I'm sure we all remember Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Jonus that ran the penny candy and pop stores. Their were lots of those little neighborhood store around town. On our street was Mr. & Mrs. Hammel. He kept a pet crow in a large pen and she was deaf. This is the lady I told you my grandfather made me return half my earnings for shoveling snow as he felt she could not afford it. Miss Piper used to make us cinnamen rolls and Mr. & Mrs. McKay let us have all the green pears we could eat off there trees.
My mother used to point out a lady in a flat black hat who always seemed in a hurry that ran the Red Cross, Gostley was her name I think. Mom said almost any family in town that had a service member was in someway indebted to her. She also pointed out the man who sent and received telegrams from the Rexall drug store and pondered all the happy and sad messages he had seen.
There was a very large heavy man with the nickname of "Tiny" who cleaned up the different pool halls. It was said that Tiny had been born with two hearts and lived on a pension from a foundation that he had sold his body to after his death. He could be seen sleeping in the movies a lot but I never heard an unkind word and he always smiled and spoke.
The Phillips 66 station at 7Th and Main was a great place to get air for your bike tires and a decal for your bike fender. The Dodge, Desoto, Plymouth dealer next door or the Studebaker and Ford dealers across the street and the Chevrolet dealer all unveiled new cars that were kept covered until that specific date to the expectation and delight of the entire town.
The Winters dairy on 8th and Main where folks would be allowed to chill watermelons in the big walk in coolers [for free or for a fee, I'm not sure]. The same was true at the Peoples Ice Co. across the track where you could buy blocks of ice and which was still delivered to houses under a old tarp in the hot summer sun on the the back of an old pick-up truck by the thinnest, strongest, kindest man I had ever seen. We kids would chase after his delivery truck and he never spoke, but always chipped off a piece of ice for each of us before loading his shoulders to make a delivery.
On Saturday, everyone came to town and the stores stayed open until 8:00 pm. Folks from the country sold their garden produce from the backs of old trucks and wagons and old men gathered on the corner of first and main where there were several benches. They were fondly refered too as the spit and whittle club.
There was the pleasant aroma of a bakery and half dozen grocery stores located on main street, the heat from the dry steam cleaners as well as the unpleasant smell of beer and tobacco emitting from the half dozen pool hall / saloons. You could smell pop corn when you past the picture shows.
There just is no good way to describe the smell of the chicken slaughter house just across the track on Main. Breath taking I guess. We peddled fast on our way to and from the swinging bridge across Coal Creek. If afoot to Cameron field, it was quicker steps, shorter breaths.
Nothing smelled better than that of home cooked meals from the different cafes along with home made pies and cakes. The City Cafe on 5th & Main and the small dinner operated by Mr. & Mrs. Moore next to the town bus station where Wayne, Don & John Morris's Mom worked, just across from Jim Hudson's dad's business.
Understand now, there was no A/C in those days. Men wore hats and women carried umbrellas to shield them from the sun. Merchants provided roll out awnings for shade. My earliest recollection of A/C was the American Exchange Bank and as it was made of Marble and Steel and Brass, it was down right cold in there. The two movie theater Morgan & Blaine were next. You would get a head ache coming out of there into the hot summer sun after the movies. Next door to the Patty Ann was restaurant called the Whiteway Cafe. You could could get six hamburgers for a dollar. They had a Willie The Penguin neon light that advertised to come in, it's Kool inside.
My next door neighbor was a man named Tad Sherman who had a dog named Lady. He was a wonderful man who treated the entire neighborhood kids as though we were his own. He taught us to hunt to fish and to sane for our own minnows and crawdads. He haulled us kids everywhere in an old Model T. That dog used to follow me to school and to the movies, waiting outside for my return.
One summer we were invaded by grasshoppers, another by crickets. The smell of DDT white powder on the sidewalks hung heavy in the air. A wonder, we didn't all up and die.
Do you recall Marlers Shoe Parlor and Mr. Marler the town cobbler, where you could get your shoes re-soled and re-healed and later when we were teenagers add steel taps to our boots toes and heels just to see how much noise we could make.
As I recall there was only one Furniture store and two dime stores on main and of course a Penny's and a CR Anthony's store. My oldest brother Jack, class of 48 had an excellent career as a Penny's executive and retired from them after 50 years. I know we had a Ginsberg's, Hamra's and several other speciality clothing dept. stores as well as Brown's book store.
Doc Burnett owned the hardware store on 5th & main where the town siren was mounted on the roof. There always seemed to be a group of men gathered there visiting as was the case at Jack Whips Men's store where our Scott master Doug Hart worked and where scouting gear was sold.
The old firehouse, courthouse, jailhouse were all interesting places for us kids to drop by. You could sometimes sneak down this winding staircase that led to the jails from the courthouse. Sometimes during the summer they had free movies at the courthouse for the kids. I think think the C of C sponsored them just as the Rod & Gun club sponsored fishing tournaments at the lake. I had a cousin die in a drowning accident in the lake one year.
Bill Tharp, a former teacher and then newpaper editor stopped me on the street one hot summer day to accompany him in an effort to fry an egg on the court house steps. It did not work and we had to clean it up.
Even the police could provide unintended entertainment. Like the time it was discovered that the local bootlegger, Johnny Wilson just showed up the first of each month regular as clockwork to pay the fine for breaking the law for selling booze rather than being arrested every day. Talmage Watkins [nicknamed high-pockets] who collected from the parking meters and wrote tickets if your time expired, unless of course you left a coin in the slot to be be pushed into the meter in the event you over-parked. Times were different then. Anyway, Talmage was practicing his "quick" draw at the station under the courthouse and the gun went off and he shot a hole in the police booking log. ".
The police would also take a fellow home if they knew him when he had a little to much to drink and not causing trouble. Case in point was one of the town founders, Barkley Morgan who had fallen on hard times and liquor had bested him.
Down on about 10th and main were two drive inns. One was call Jones & Whitey's, don't recall the others name, but it burned down one night. I went to a ministerial show on that location before the drive inn was built.
We used to go the Post Office Drug which was owned and run by Mr. Russell. He let us review the new comic books before buying. We played the pin ball machine and visited with an old gentleman named Sam who worked there. When I used the pay telephone, he would tease me about "sparking" and "courting" the girls. There must have been four or five drug stores in our town. You could get a hobo Sunday on any hot afternoon with a smile. People were just genuinely nice. Teachers that smoked could get there cigarettes in a brown paper bag there. I know, because my mother worked at several of those drug stores for many, many years.
Somebody wrote recently about a boy that was shot and killed when we were kids and that was bad. Few may know or recall that the boy back then that was killed was a sub. newspaper carrier and had purchased the papers for the regular carrier that week. Part of the purchase was a .05 charge weekly that we carriers each paid for a life insurance policy. Gene Fields, the circulation manager went to work and got his family the $500 insurance money. Just a darn nice thing to do in in the face of tragedy.
A very kind old gentleman ran a rock shop behind the Patty Ann and he let us watch him work, cutting & polishing. He lived next door and had several large tower bells in his front yard.
Another old guy lived in and run the Calico Rock Bicycle Shop near 2nd and Main. He sold stringed musical instruments and an assortment of other interesting items. He had an honest to God wooden leg that he swang forward from the hip in order to walk and it squeaked and thumped loudly on the wooden floor. Believe me when I tell you he had a Parrot that could talk and it talked and cussed a lot. The old guy would scream "shut-up" to the bird when he was busy with a customer and the bird would answer back in kind.
No one could forget Barney our Cub Scott Master who also ran the projection at the movies and would let us visit him in the booth sometimes and another named Barney at the Main Barber Shop where my grandfather took me to get a haircut every month. Barney always gave me a nickel for being good.
Every Saturday night Papa Tate would take me to the cowboy picture show at the Morgan threater. Everyone in town knew him. My grandfather used to be police chief and was Mr. Tate to all but us kids in the neighborhood and I think John Greiner counted near 20 of us. To most of us he was just Papa.
He died at age 90. His Dr. Tanniehill of 50 year stood by his bed and wept when he could do no more. Dr.'s used to come to your home in the middle of the night in those days. One night he came and operated on my grandfather in his bed. Another he came and took my mother to the hospital but not until he explained to three frightened kids what was going on.
Papa Tate is buried at Westlawn with his wife, his parents, three daughters and three grandkids. One of his grandsons ashes, Buddy, class of 49 were spread on a hill overlooking the town of Henryetta at his request. One granddaughter, Kay class of 62 is buried in Okmugoee.
When my mother died, she had a fine church service and burial with all five of her kids from as many states in attendance. My wife Nancy glanced over her shoulder at the long line of cars coming behind up the hill to the cemetery and remarked that the overflowing church and the long procession of cars made this a "good funeral" down in Temple TX where she was raised. I told her she should have seen my Papa's funeral.
I never met so many nice people as I did in Henryetta. What a great town to have been raised in.
Thank you for sending this very great history of our times in Henryetta. It is what I call vintage Americana. I am going to print it out for my files and also save it in my computer. When we were together at our 50th reunion, we talked about Hawks Hometown Dairy and the old barn in the alley between 7th and 6th where Hawks stored the milk. You were able to fill in things I never knew about the Hawks company and hopefully, I was able to fill in some others. Today you filled in some other things I never knew. I remember when the Free-Lance ran a picture of you looking at an egg on the sidewalk to see if it would fry in the hot summer sun. You mentioned an invasion of crickets. I didn’t know anybody else remembered that. I remember that merchants were sweeping the crickets off the big sidewalks. Crickets covered the sidewalks on Main like a rug. I completely forgot about the Willie the Penguin sign. I think Jones drive-in was run by Maggie Shaw. She ran one of those places near the laundry that Roy and Ron Rakestraw’s parents owned. I remember all the people you mentioned, including Barkley Morgan, Talmadge Watkins, Earl Russell, Sam(Mrs. Russell’s father); Tiny and most of the others. One of Mrs. Ghostly’s daughters was Alice Ghostly, the famous actress. Allen Wadsworth knows the name of the boy who got killed. I never knew about Mr. Fields’ kindness to his family. I think the boy’s name was Danny. Allen would know. I too got to talk with Mrs. Siegenthaler. I told her I think we kids had a lot more fun growing up in those days than kids do now. It seems like we spent lots of hours in the Siegenthaler’s backyard and also in that particular area of the neighborhood, playing kick the can and other things. Tad Sherman’s daughter was older than we were. Her nickname was something like Pookie. Her real name was Georgeann and she was the football queen in the 1952 season. Well, unless something disastrous happens, I will be at the next all-school reunion. Bill, we’ve got more things to talk about. Ron Rolen and I took a field trip to Henryetta one day about a year ago and walked all around the old neighborhood. Last thing I want everyone to know: Bill Miller was responsible for me scoring the only touchdown our 8th Grade Junior High School team scored in 1955. Our coach was Larry Campbell, who I believe was one of the great ends in Henryetta history. Anyway, we were playing Alice Robertson’s 8th grade team from Muskogee. For some reason, I rushed the quarterback who threw the ball. I tipped it and it wobbled toward our defensive line, which was anchored by Bill. I yelled for him to catch it, but for some reason Bill batted it back to me, I caught it, turned and raced into the end zone. To everybody else, Bill and I talked about that play at our 50th reunion. I told him my Mother laughed and said, “I’ve seen you boys do that in the backyard.”
Well, thanks Bill for the great email about our town.
It’s good to hear from you.
Bill - John,
You guys made my day. Bill, your historical remarks are great and brings back old memories and made me recap my memory on things that I had forgotten.
The Calico Rock Bicycle Shop brings back a lot of memories as my mother owned the Stanley Help-U-Self Laundry in the early 50's at 204 W. Main. Our family lived in the back side of the laundry so the 200 Block of Main street was "my neighborhood" for a few year so we would see a lot of Main Street business people, police and others daily while living there. There was also a blacksmith in the alley in the 200 Block between Main & Trudgeon that was also very interesting. That guy could fix anything and if he did not have the parts to fix something, he would forge the steel and make it. Talmadge Watkins would stop our laundry often to say "hello" to my mom and family. Same for Police Chief Chester Beard and others.
My brother Bill worked at Whipp's Men Store and the store was a good hangout for many of the guys. Mrs. Ghostley would have dinner several times a week at the Patty Ann and I had the opportunity to serve her often, and occasionally her daughter Alice would come to in town so I was able to visit and serve with both of them. And, my two brothers, Jim and Norman, ran the shoe shine stand at Ritz Barber Shop from 1951-53, adjacent to what is now the American Exchange Bank; then, Norman and I ran the shoe shine stand at the Main Barber Shop from 1953 through 1957.
Henryetta was a great town to grow up in, to be from, and to have great memories about!!
Thanks to Bill and to John for your great emails about "our' town. It was good to hear from both of you.
John, Thanks for all of the updates. Bill Miller certainly has me beat in recalling a lot of the names and events. A couple of quick notes on memories maybe you can pass along to the group. Does anyone remember an old man about town that went by the name of Bramble or something like that. I remember he would always reach in his pocket and give us candy but Mom would never let us eat it. If I remember right he was pretty disheveled in appearance and a little scary. Let me know how I can get on "Memories of Henryetta" list and I'll try to make a few more contributions as I probe my way through the fog of my memory. Thanks again.