From the time I was 10 years old, I was learning how to be a farm hand and helped with the animals and farm work such as planting the crops, cotton, corn, peanuts, watermelons, and cantaloupe and cultivating, hoeing, and maintaining them through harvesting and storage. It was hard work, but it was fun when I was young. Grandpa McCraven was good with kids and I would tag along with him because he was always teaching me something.
Between them, they had 10 kids, the oldest to the youngest: William Marion, Joseph Perry, Georgia Hairnet, Mary Thelma, Jessie Gladys, Lola Peart, Ola Earl, Hiram Benjamin, Frankie Thomas, Elva Evelyn, McCraven. One of their children died at a young age and I think it was Frankie, but I'm not sure.
James McCraven (Grandpa) died on January 28, 1953, at 80, when one of his dogs treed a coon while he was plowing the watermelon field. He had a heart attack and died at the foot of a tree, doing what he loved to do. His horses (Clyde & Ed) were so well trained that they stood there until someone brought them home. I was told.
Cordelia (Cordie) McCraven, his wife, died on July 5th, 1974 at 92 in Oklahoma City while living with Ola, her oldest son. She outlived her husband for 21 Years.
A few days before (23rd) I had just turned 13 and was in school when he died and was not happy to learn about it. He was like a father to me and it was the first time I had someone pass away in the family that I was close to.
I went to the funeral and didn't shed a tear. I guess because it hurt and didn't want him to be gone. It was too little too late because he was gone forever and I had to fill his shoes around the farm.
Shortly after Grandpa died, Fred Stanley's home (neighbor) burned down, which was not too far from Grandma's house. I was at the fire and carried a trunk out of the house on my back. After the fire was over, I couldn't pick the trunk up to load it onto a truck. I guess the adrenaline kicked in during the fire and abandoned me after the fire was out.
The Stanley's bought a place in Prescott and moved there shortly after the fire.
Not too long after the Stanley fire, Grandma's house caught fire and burned down. I think I was at school. Fortunately, Mom and our boys were living in the small house a short distance from Grandma's place and took Grandma in for a while. She and Uncle Joe moved into the Stanley place garage and made a home out of it.
I tried to share cropping with my Uncle Hiram McCraven, and after spending all summer working in the crop and harvesting it, I was told there weren’t any profits. I think I was 16 at the time so I called my Dad and told him I was leaving going East or West it was up to him so he brought me to California and I started school again at El Camino High School somewhere off Watt Avenue in Sacramento.
It wasn’t long after I started school when I was talking to a girl and two boys started heckling me about my accent so I ask them to stop and they wouldn’t, so I beat them up and had to deal with the principal over it.
The same thing happened again with the same two boys, so I put them in the hospital and got expelled from high school, which was not good. My dad’s wife (Norma) went through the roof. She had me delivering Spud-Nut donuts to the neighbors to keep me busy. Then Dad got me into the Iron Workers Union and put me to work at McClellan Air Force Base building some hangers for the F-14 Fighter Jets.
It wasn’t long before Norma wanted me out of the house, so Dad put me in the North Sacramento Hotel, where I lived for a couple of years. At some point, the job at McClellan was finished, and I began getting dispatched to various jobs around California. I remember one job working Rebar on a bridge on the way to Reno, and I don’t remember which one. I also remember working for Herrick Iron Works and was given a paintbrush and a bucket of paint to paint the bolts and nuts. I was 50 feet up on a beam and almost fell off, so I came down and quit the job. It was a bad omen, I guess, because I had learned how to walk beams at McClellan.
At some point I wound up with a 51 Oldsmobile and went to live with My Grandmother in Mount Vernon, Washington. Actually, they live in Bow Hill, which is about halfway between Bellingham and Mount Vernon.
Florence & Jack Cypher were my grandparents on Dad’s side of the family. Florence, my grandmother, was Dad’s mother and after leaving Newton Steele, Dad’s father, she married Jack Cypher. He was an Iron worker also and could put me to work in Anacortes Washington for Bechtel at the Puget Sound Oil Refinery.
That’s when I decided I wanted to be a Bechtel Superintendent. There was a guy named Cal that impressed me and was a Bechtel Superintendent that Jack worked for and I liked him. I later moved down town to Mount Vernon and became friend with a guy named John and we used to go to Seattle once in a while.
Between Mount Vernon & Bellingham there was a dance hall that played big band music that I enjoyed so I went there to learn how to dance to different kinds of music.
When that job was finished I came back to Sacramento and went to work for Ace Muffler Company.