LIFE IN CLARA
was written by my uncle, Ray Johnston,
and my aunt, Edith Johnston-Hall.
They grew up in Clara." - Judy Johnston
family in Clara, circa 1929.
will try to tell you about Clara. Clara
was a farming community mostly of German extraction. We had a full-blown
school, 12 grades, where Edith and Revah both graduated. Clara was
absorbed into the Burkburnett
school system, and the three boys all graduated from Burkburnett.
Our school was the focal point for the community. There were school
plays, community singings, valentine parties where we exchanged valentines
which we made ourselves, and Easter egg hunts, using honest-to-goodness
hard boiled eggs rather than the fancy candy ones which can be bought
There was entertainment planned for adults as well as for meeting
the needs of the children. There were box suppers, ice cream dinners
and the domino and "42" games brought much good-natured banter and
laughter…heart warming and happy times which drew us closer together
as a community.
Christmas time was especially full of activities with the entire community
joining in the festivities. We always had a BIG tree decorated with
donated ornaments which were stored and used from year to year. After
a time of greeting and visiting with neighbors, at LAST the school
superintendent would give his welcome speech, say a prayer and then
we would hear Santa in the distance doing his "ho-ho-ho" thing! He
would rush in with his big bag thrown over his shoulder. Then he went
to the tree and passed out all the presents before he opened his bag
which had enough sacks full of fruit, nuts and candy for everyone.
At that time we were only thinking of the present -- not realizing
that memories were being made, but aren't memories great?
Osborne Store was about a mile from the school where the mail boxes
were posted. The postman came by every day to deliver our mail. Most
of the people would gather at the mail box to collect their mail and
gossip where we solved all of the world's problems-we thought!
three boys worked for farmers in the Clara area. Russell started for
the Merten farm driving a tractor pulling a turning plow, combine
and just about anything they wanted him to do. Mostly, I remember
him pulling a combine driving a grain truck along with the combine
which dumped the grain into the truck as it harvested the grain. He
would then drive the truck to the storage barns where he shoveled
the grain into the storage barns then back to the field to repeat
I particularly remember that the three boys worked for Mr. Bassett
doing everything that he needed us to do. Follow the binder and shocking
the bundles into shocks where it remained until the thrashing crew
came through the country. They would collect the shocked grain and
take it to the thrasher where the grain was separated from the straw.
We would help him plant his crops… cotton, grain, whatever. I remember
the first year I worked (I was 8 years old), Garland was 10 and Russell
was 12. For our summer work, Mr. Bassett gave us a check for $25.00.
Mother promptly collected it for us and bought a life insurance policy
for each of us.
Garland started working for the Klinkerman farm, and I took his place
as he finished his high school at Burkburnett.
I remember working for Walter Klinkerman during the week and for the
local cream station. Farmers collected their cream from their cows'
milk and brought it into town on Saturday where we tested it for butter
fat content and paid the going rate established by the creameries
who bought it from us. I had the job of preparing the accumulated
cream for the creamery truck to pick up on Saturday night at approximately
midnight. My employer, Vernon Thornton, was a good man to work for
and he paid very well. Of course I started about 6 a.m. and usually
did not finish until well after midnight…was a long day!!
Our Mother, bless her, would get up long before sunup to fix our breakfast
as we got to our various jobs at about sunup. We worked until sundown,
then back to the machine area where we made the equipment ready for
the next day.
Living in the country, we had a one-acre plot that the three boys
turned over with shovels. Mother and the girls would plant corn, beans,
okra, potatoes, carrots - most of the vegetables our family used.
We usually had one milk cow and sometimes two. We would save the cream
and churn it into butter and buttermilk. Mother would sell butter
and eggs. She also would do canning and she would keep 1/3 of the
produce which all the family joined together to produce. We also raised
a lot of chickens as well as a calf to provide meat for our table.
Mother would sell eggs, butter, fryers and baking hens.
Our father was extremely interested in education. He was elected to
the school board when Revah started to school and stayed there until
Ray finished the 7th grade which was when Burkburnett
consolidated Clara into their school system.
He tried to make sure the quality of education we received was the
best we could get in those days, and we did get a good education in
the Clara schools.
community had quite a few things to entertain the families. We had
a couple of baseball teams which would play each other and any other
team from the area. We would have picnics on election days where all
the people running for office would each make his pitch for their
Everyone around the area called our neighbor, Mr. Bassett, "Daddy
Bassett" as I remember. He always had LOTS of turkeys and one year,
there was an abundance of grasshoppers - like millions! Daddy Bassett
took advantage of the situation, and he would herd his turkeys using
a whip which he would crack over the turkeys' heads to keep them in
a group. Of course it was all open grassy range, so he moved the group
from one place to another and they happily gobbled up tons of grasshoppers.
Great stories were told about Daddy Bassett herding turkeys! Of course,
it made the turkeys fat and sassy, kept many of the grasshoppers out
of our gardens, and better yet, Daddy Bassett didn't have to buy as
It was a good life; we all worked hard as it was in the depression,
but we also had lots of fun along the way.
- Written by Ray E. Johnston and Edith Johnston-Hall;
submitted (with permission) by their niece, Judy Johnston, July, 2006.
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