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“Everett Campbell was a smart guy,” said Bessie. “Clarence learned everything he knew from Everett.” Added Bessie: “We were all just a bunch of poor farmers. No one had any money back then. But, we did have a good group of men who were willing to do anything they could to improve things.”


-o0o-


The Kinions’ first electric bill was $3. Years later they added a brooder house to quiet son Jimmy’s con- stant pleading. The bill shot up to $9. “We like to have died when we saw that bill,” Bessie laughed. “But that boy had to have those chickens.”


Additional “luxuries” would soon follow. Bessie’s first purchase was an electric iron. She said ironing with the old flat irons was a chore she did not miss. She had three irons she would rotate, using the removeable handle with one while the others heated atop a wood stove. A refrigerator came next. Bessie also bought an electric mixer, which was still going strong until a few years back. Clarence was proud of his electric welder and the electric cooler in the barn for keeping milk and eggs.


For all the convenience those General Electric appliances afforded, the Kinions never forgot what life was like before the advent of electricity.


Bessie recalls those Saturday nights when they’d pull the Model T up close to the house. The only radio for miles—it was an old Philco—was hooked up to the car’s battery and set in the window. Neighbors would come to just visit and listen to the radio. “We couldn’t do without that little old radio,” Bessie


said. An extra battery was eventually purchased as a backup. Meal preparation was quite different without electric kitchen appliances. Putting together a meal of fried chicken, creamed new potatoes, creamed peas and wilted lettuce took several hours. Cream was plentiful so potatoes and peas were always served creamed, Bessie explained. “And you didn’t just run off to the store and buy all that stuff,” she said.


A kerosene lamp (right) converted to electric by Clarence Kinion and (below) the wooden wall phone that still hangs in the Kinion home.


Sewing machines were a popular item, but Bessie never saw the need. She is an accomplished quilter and has plenty of practice using only a needle and her two hands. “I bet I’ve made a thousand quilts,” she laughed. “I used to quilt for people.”


It has been a while since Bessie quilted, so she started a project just recently to see if she still had the knack. She does. It is beautiful.


“A sewing machine never touched this quilt,” she assured. “I’d rather have one quilt I’m proud of than a dozen I’m ashamed of.”


-o0o-


Growing up a farm girl in rural northeast Oklahoma gave Bessie (her maiden name was Hamill) a unique and authentic perspective on life. She certainly has a deep appreciation for things many of us take for granted.


By no means was it an easy life. She walked a mile and half every day to the one-room schoolhouse at Lone Elm.


When the weather was bad, she remembers her father taking the


family to church in a wagon. He would load the wagon with hay and they would duck under a tarp to protect themselves from the elements.


Hard work was the norm, but there were exceptions. Bored one day with nothing to do, Bessie decided to crank up the old Model T and drive around the pasture. She’d seen it done time and again and felt confident she could operate the vehicle. No one was around to stop her. So she climbed behind the wheel and headed out for a joyride. She was only eleven years old.


Bessie and sister Emma attended high school at Adair.


Bessie’s father rented a house in town for the two girls and their friends Juanita and Ava Petty during the school year. He even brought them a cow to keep in the yard so they’d have plenty of milk.


She saw how very different life was for the city girls and swore she’d never marry a farmer.


-o0o-


Bessie gave up driving a few years back, but she still gets around well enough to live on her own and can keep house with the best of them. Her home is full of vivid reminders of the past.


Many have never seen a wooden phone like the West- ern Electric Company model that still hangs on the wall of Bessie’s home. The Alladin #11 kerosene lamps are still


(continued on page 9)


March 2013 5


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