OUR FAMILY HISTORY
July 9, 2004
This will be the beginning of a long overdue attempt to compile some sort of record – autobiography – history of – obituary = whatever you choose to label it of the life (so far) and times of Gerald F. (Jack) Daugherty).
Subject hereafter referred to as JD for brevity’s sake, arrived in this world on October 31, 1922. The hour is unknown to me. This event took place in an austere farm home 1 ½ miles south of the small farm town of Hastings, Nebraska.
The local custom in those parts at that time was to have a midwife in attendance and a country doctor to attend the birth – if one was available. Any other children were usually sent to stay with relatives for a short time.
I was the third son born to Emma Litchenberg Daugherty and Chester A. Daugherty, a farmer in that community. The other two sons being Ivan G. and Melvin J. Daugherty.
With the “beginning” out of the way – one must search for earliest childhood memories and failing in that, rely on what you have been told as family history.
At approximately the age of five years – one summer day – my two brothers and I were trying to catch (trap) a rabbit in a culvert about 100 yards south of our farm home. In the excitement of the chase, I was on one side of the road and my two brothers were on the other when they hollered that they had caught him. In my eagerness to get over there and see him, I dashed in front of a farmer in his car going to town and was struck by same.
The only knowledge I have of this accident is a visible scar on the side of my forehead to this day and my brother Mel’s account of same. He said it tore the whole top of my head off and further after I was rushed to town to the hospital, he said he climbed to the top of a haystack and for the first time in his life he can remember he prayed for my life. He must have had a direct connection with God because here I am at 81 years old going for 100 (at this rate, it will take that long to chronicle my time on this earth).
This takes me to the next event that stands out in my memory of my life. On the evening of May 8, 1930, in my seventh year of life, a tornado approached our farm home from the southwest. My Dad, thinking he had plenty of time, told Mom and us three boys to wait going to the “cave” until he got back from covering a wagon load of seed corn out in the machine shed.
He had almost made it back to the house when the door on the storm shelter was torn off and knocked him unconscious against the windmill. There he laid, fifty feet from the back door of the house, with the four of us waiting, not knowing anything had happened.
The storm increased in intensity and there is one memory I will take to the grave with me. That is the feeling of the kitchen floor in the only home I had ever known start “dancing” up and down. Right at that time, Mom decided we could wait no longer to seek shelter and she and Ivan wrenched the back door open to go to the cave.
It was the custom in those days to build a brick chimney from the ground up to vent the kitchen cook stove. Ours stood right beside the back door and when the door was opened – it apparently shifted the house on its foundation enough to bring the chimney down right on top of Mom and Ivan who were first out.
A pile of bricks falling from ten to twelve feet was enough to break ribs and heads – her ribs and Ivan’s head. So there they lay, both unconscious. My recollection was of being sucked out the back door and deposited under a ton of prairie hay out of the haymow and pinned against the garden fence.
My Dad had regained consciousness and was gathering his family together and left me until last because as he said later “nobody could make that much noise if there was anything wrong with them.”
One other grisly memory – with all the confusion caused by the tornado, the Hastings Daily Tribune reported my Mother as having been killed in the storm. We have a copy of the clipping in the family album. She was to live 23 more years, passing at the age of 67.
Perhaps this is too much emphasis to put on one happening but it had a profound effect on my life from that time forward.
Using my Mother’s Litchenberg inheritance money, she and my Dad set about building a new country home to live in. They were aided in this undertaking by her brother John Litchenberg who was a Master Brick Mason and builder.
They put up a structure that was way ahead of its time and still stands today. I have many happy memories living and growing up in it.
The Great Depression of the “Dirty Thirties” as they were known left a mark on all who survived them. Being on the farm and having our own meat and poultry and a huge garden and lots of canning and freezing – we didn’t go hungry but our crops were nearly worthless when we took them to market.
I finished the eighth grade in country school – District 60 in 1936. Going from that to Hastings High School in 1937 and graduating in 1940. This was a culture shock for a simple country boy, but I survived it.
At the urging of my Mother, I started school again in the fall of 1940 enrolling in a business course at the Nebraska College of Commerce in Hastings. I still lived at home and helped my Dad on the farm.
December 7, 1941 – “A Day that will live in Infamy,” according to FDR. Another memory milestone in a lot of lives, mine included.
In early 1942 as I recall – I took a Civil Service test for a job in Washington, D.C. It was for a clerical job – I passed and was awarded the $2,400 per year job.
At that time, my oldest brother Mel had been living in D.C. for several years. Other brother Ivan was also out there working for Potomac Bell Telephone Company. Mel worked at the Government Printing Office, so it was like a reunion when I got there.
Just before I got there – Mel was called up for active duty in the Marine Corps at Camp LeJune, North Carolina. These were turbulent times in the life of a nineteen year old farm boy from Nebraska.
I was assigned my first job in the Army Signal Corps Warehouse and found a sleeping room on the 14th Street N.W. with a bunch of plumbers from New York City – a rowdy lot, but it forced me to grow up.
After a few months in that situation, brother Ivan and Vivian Blevins got married and rented a house with a spare bedroom which I promptly rented and lived with them until the job took me to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – still Signal Corps – different warehouse, this one at 2200 Wissachickon Street in Philadelphia. I found a sleeping room in the Germantown section in Philadelphia. I had a roommate, who also worked where I did, he was an Okie – Luke Palmer from Oskulgee, Oklahoma. We got along fine.
One day while hanging out in Philadelphia – Luke got the idea we should enlist in the Navy. We took the tests – Luke passed – I failed – Color Blind! First time I was really aware that I was flawed. Luke went off to war and I stayed.
Within a few months – my draft board in Hastings notified me that my number was about to come up and it might be a good idea to head back out to the Middle Western part of the country. My work compadre’s threw a going-away party for me at the Signal Corps Depot and I rode a bus to Hastings.
While waiting to be drafted – I worked temporarily – at the Navy Ammunition Depot east of Hastings.
February, 1943 – Milestone – Drafted into the U.S. Army. Reported at Hastings – bussed to Omaha – Fort Crook – poked – prodded – inoculated – issued uniforms and them big brown shoes. Next, Camp Dodge, Iowa for assignment. Next stop, St. Petersburg, Florida for basic training out in the swamps. From an ocean-front luxury hotel one night to a five man pyramidal tent in the Florida swamps the next night. Cultural Shock! Every day an ambulance would take a few troops to the hospital with pneumonia, flu, etc. We never saw them again. Nebraska winters had hardened me to endure.
From St. Pete to Arkansas State College at Jonesboro for Military Record Procedures training. All this was moving so fast – we never knew where we would sleep that night. We stayed in the dorms at Jonesboro and attended classes just like the college kids and they fed us in the school dining room. Good Duty!. Took a bus into town Sunday – Mother’s Day – met future wife Evaleena Wyatt while attending services at the First Methodist Church in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
From Jonesboro to Camp Kearns, Utah for Combat Infantry Training. We wondered if they couldn’t decide if they wanted us to be able to shoot or type.
From Kearns, Utah – home for a week furlough. Married Viola Reining, a farm girl from Lawrence, Nebraska. I had been dating her for about a year. First Baptist Church in Hastings. She was a Catholic, born and raised. Gave it up for love.
On to Port of Embarkation, New York City, where I boarded the Queen Elizabeth luxury liner bound for Greenock, Scotland. Me and 15,000 other soldiers – took turns sleeping and eating. Fourth of July, 1943 – middle of Atlantic Ocean. The Brits announced the nearest they could come to fireworks for our Holiday would be to fire all their deck guns at the same time. Fine effort and went a long way toward reminding us – we were all on the same side in this war and there were wolf-packs of German subs out there hunting for us but we were too damn fast for them, besides, we zig-zagged every seven minutes all the way across the Atlantic.
Landed safely in Scotland – troop trucks to Ascot, England, close to Queen’s Windsor Castle. Assigned to the 8th Air Force Support Command. Later, the 8th was getting too big and unwieldy so they brought the 15th Air Force up out of Egypt and formed the 9th U.S. Army Air Force who took over all the fighter planes and medium and light bombers from the 8th. I was to stay with that assignment for the rest of the war.
Headed home November, 1945 – loaded aboard the “Wilson Victory Ship,” in LeHavre, France, bound for New York City. First time I was ever seasick! Thought I was an Old Salt from crossing on the Queen in five days in ’43.
Milestone: When we first got in sight of “Our Lady in the Harbor” – most beautiful sight I ever saw.
Home in Hastings, December 24, 1945! Thirty months (2 ½ years) overseas. Good to be home.
1946 – Home from the war – Divorced from Viola (first wife), mutual agreement. Gone too long.
Gotta find a job or use G I Bill and go to college. Footloose and fancy free. Bob Daugherty sold me a good ’35 Ford two-door sedan. Cars were hard to find after the war years. I signed up at the local Ford dealers for a new one. Got it in 1948 – a maroon club coupe, 85 horsepower V8 engine. I thought it was the coolest wheels on the road. My first New Car! Also a new wife, Evaleena Wyatt and I were married on June 8, 1948 in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
By this time I had a job with Stanalind Pipe Line Company, headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Their reason for existing was to refurbish the old Sinclair Teapot Dome pipe line from Casper, Wyoming to the Kansas City refineries. This involved all the pump stations, tank farms, pipe line, etc., in Wyoming – Nebraska – Kansas and Missouri.
Quite an undertaking to say the least. I reported for work at Ayr Pump Station about ten miles south of Hastings. All “new hires” started in the Gang doing manual labor around the pump stations and on the right of way. I liked the outside work and stayed with them from April, 1947 until I was laid off in December, 1954.
We, Evaleena and I, had bought a small house in Topeka, Kansas and had started our family. Three daughters had to be fed and clothed, etc.
I got a job at the Goodyear tire plant, a mile or so, north of Topeka to keep bread on the table. They put me on a production line and I didn’t like it. It was dirty and stressful.
When Bob and Pauline Nations stopped by Topeka to visit while on their way from Julesberg, Colorado, to Tulsa for Christmas – Bob asked me if we would consider moving to Tulsa and buying a hardware business his Dad told him about? We were interested and told them we’d come down and take a look at it.
What we looked at was a ramshackle building full of auction and close-out merchandise, a lot of it used – in a run down part of town being operated by an older couple, C. G. and Mrs. Howard. They had few records of sales or inventory. He was tobacco-chewing, North Carolina mule-trader by his own admission, but he happened to own some land out north by Mohawk Park that joined Lee Nation's property. That was the way we came to know the store was going to be up for sale.
Consider the odds against that taking place! He made us an offer of very little cash down and a series of notes to come due each year.
We opened the doors at 1904 North Kingston Avenue, Tulsa, Oklahoma and called the enterprise Dawson Hardware Company on April 15, 1955.
Neither of us had been in any kind of retail business before – had not dealt with the public before – to say the least – it was a shaky start. We did both know hand tools and plumbing and electrical fittings from our warehouse jobs with the pipe line company. The rest would have to be learned the hard way.
A few months after starting – an old pipe line friend – Dale Savage – asked to see our Partnership Agreement. We looked at each other and said, "Huh?," all we had was a hand-shake.
Dale was a registered engineer as well as a CPA and head of the Personnel Department at SPL Company. He was to become our best friend and confidant and bookkeeper and lawyer.
This partnership was destined to last for 25 years and then be dissolved amicably when Bob decided he wanted to retire.
In July, 1980 – with Dale’s help and supervision – Bob signed over his shares of the Corporation to me and I signed over my half ownership of the store building which we owned free and clear to him and we started paying him rent each month.
This brings this saga to 1996. Evaleena passed away on December 26, 1992, leaving me to go on alone. One day while driving south on Sheridan to go home for lunch – a voice spoke to me saying “Let’s use some of this money we have saved and help our son buy his own building!” I will swear on a Holy Bible – this took place. Just as dear and firm as if she had been sitting beside me. It shook me up!
When I got back to the store I said to Mike, I could come up with half the 100 G’s that Val Scaggs was asking for his strip center at 1618 North Sheridan and if he and Dana could raise the other half – let’s go for it. The rest is history.
A bizarre aspect of this transaction was: Val insisted on being paid in gold coin. There are a lot of stories in this connection, but we did exactly that.
A chapter in my life that has been omitted is my love of motorcycle touring. I bought my first cycle in Cushing, Oklahoma from the Ed Meeker Company, a 350cc Honda. Went from that start to own four Goldwings – a 76 – 82 – 85 and my current 1993 SE Goldwing. I estimate that I have ridden well over 100,000 miles in my travels since 1981 and covered 18 states with no accidents.
Tornado damage to the Chester and Emma Daugherty Farm on May 8, 1930. My Mother and brother Ivan were nearly killed by falling brick from the chimney of the house (at left). We were trying to get to the cave and Pop was lying unconscious by the tree (middle of picture).
Jack, Pop, Ivan - I was 19 - Ivan was 21, Pop was 57. FDR had declared war on Japan and Germany. Mel was already in the service - USMC. Ivan and I must have come home from Washington, D.C. for Pop's birthday
(August 5). He lived for six more years and passed in 1948. I guess he wanted to see his three sons home from the wars before he left us. Picture taken August 12, 1942
This is the house and barn that were built in 1930 and 1931 after the devastating tornado. I have many fond memories of growing up in that house. The foreground of the picture on the right is close to where I was run over after trapping a rabbit. The tree house in the center picture was built by my son, Mike.
Here I am listing corn on May 28, 1943. I was home on furlough from the Army
Dad and first born (Lisa) in first home
(26 foot trailerhouse). Picture was taken in
March or April, 1951 - Topeka, Kansas.
The "Old Home Place," at 7315 E. 25th Place, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Purchased in July, 1958.
A lovely lady and me ready for church on Sunday morning.
Mary Ann Morton has become a vital part of my later years
Retiree visiting new store. They have dedicated a comfortable chair for me