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Beaver Handle Company keepsake makes it back home


Clint Branham CommunicaƟ ons Specialist


with my Mickey Mantle collecƟ on. He was just always a childhood hero of mine. That’s why I bought it. That would have been in the late 1980s so I have had it a good thirty years.”


W


e received a lot of feedback from readers on an arƟ cle featured in the


March issue of Northeast ConnecƟ on. The arƟ cle told the story of the Willhite family and its relocaƟ on to the Topsy community (near Spavinaw) from Beaver, Arkansas, to carry on the family enterprise, Beaver Handle Company, a wholesale manufacturer of tool handles and baseball bats. The company started in 1935 before moving its operaƟ on to northeast Oklahoma in the early 1940s. The business would ⇓ ourish and contribute greatly to the local economy well into the 1970s.


The piece caught the eye of Joe Clapp, a longƟ me Fairland resident and school administrator. Mr. Clapp called to tell us he enjoyed reading the story. He also informed us that he, indeed, was owner of an original Beaver Handle Company baseball bat. Clapp said he had discovered the bat many years earlier during his days as an aucƟ oneer. Being a longƟ me admirer of Spavinaw products and baseball legend Mickey Mantle, Clapp was drawn to the name “Spavinaw” that was burnished into the vintage bat. He added it to his personal collecƟ on of baseball memorabilia.


“My brother Jim and I were also in the aucƟ on business and we had an aucƟ on somewhere down around the Ketchum area and I saw that old bat,” said Clapp. “I didn’t know anything about Beaver Handle Company, but I saw ‘Spavinaw, Oklahoma’ on that bat and I thought it would ⇒ t right in


4 - NE Connection


AŌ er hearing that the family had kept no reminders of the business, Clapp expressed an interest in presenƟ ng the keepsake to the family. A meeƟ ng was arranged March 30 at the family home in the Topsy community. Rhonda Sloan, daughter of Vern and Ida Mae Willhite and granddaughter of George Edward “Pappy” Willhite and Wilsie Fay (Beaver) Willhite, was accompanied by husband Carl, daughters HonesƟ Williams, Natasha Tanner, and son Daniel Willhite Curry.


Sloan was moved to tears by Clapp’s act of generosity.


“Never in our wildest dreams did we ever think we would see a Beaver Handle Company bat ever again, let alone have one,” she said. “Saying ‘thank you’ just doesn't come close to expressing our graƟ tude to Mr. Joe Clapp. *913241* We are forever grateful to him for giving our family such a treasure.”


For Clapp, the decision to present the bat to the family wasn’t diĸ cult.


“When I heard they didn’t have anything leŌ from the old ouƞ it, I just thought if I was in that situaƟ on something like that sure would mean a lot to me,” said Clapp. “That’s the reason I decided to give it to them. And I was glad I did. She was just so thrilled to have that bat. It just made my day.”


Clapp added with a smile: “I’m just real happy how it all worked out. I probably got more out of it than they did.”


The lives of Rhonda Sloan and her family are surely not the ⇒ rst to be touched by Clapp. The 71-year-old spent 17 years as principal at Fairland High School, commencing those duƟ es in 1979. He taught vo-ag at the school nine years prior to that.


Clapp is a 1963 graduate of WyandoƩ e High School. He aƩ ended Northeast Oklahoma A&M in Miami two years and was a member of the livestock judging team there. He went on to earn a degree in agriculture educaƟ on from Oklahoma State University. He was oī ered his ⇒ rst job by Wheaton (Mo.) High School. He accepted and was vo-ag teacher there three years before returning to northeast Oklahoma in 1970. Clapp has been completely reƟ red from both educaƟ on and aucƟ oneering since 2014 and now focuses on caring for his ailing wife, Sharon.z


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