Haskell County Historical Society

Clement, Bill - Interview by Heather Gee

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BELLE STARR Rides in Haskell County, Oklahoma

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Stigler, Oklahoma

Interviewed by Heather Gee
March 5, 1984

BILL CLEMENT: This is Bill Clement, I was born in Stigler on 26 February 1919. Lived here all my life, except for the time I was in the service.

HEATHER GEE: Can you tell me about your early life and about your family?

BILL CLEMENT: Well, there were five children in our family, three boys and two girls. I'm in the middle. I have two older sisters and two younger brothers. We were all born in Stigler. One sister still lives there.

HEATHER GEE: What were some of the things you, your brothers, and sisters did for entertainment?

BILL CLEMENT: Well, we mostly manufactured our own entertainment. Of course, we swam and skated and we.... A bunch of kids would get together and play games like hide and seek when we were little, you know. A lot of the old time games that I don't suppose kids play anymore. But, we took part in sports, track and field. I remember one time I entered a track and field at the same time as a thing call expressions where you read a speech. Then it was called an Expressions Contest. I didn't win it!

HEATHER GEE: What was your school like?

BILL CLEMENT: Well, I went to grade school down where the Boone School is now. However, then there was a big two-story red brick building and I went to grade school there. And I went to high school where the kindergarten building is now, there was a two story brick building there. I took part in sports, football and wrestling, some basketball. I graduated in 1937. Didn't have any college education.

HEATHER GEE: What did your father do for a living?

BILL CLEMENT: Well, he was an officer for a long time, an under-sheriff. Then he was a city police and the last 12 or 15 years of his life before he retired, he was a teller in a bank. He retired at age 65 and he died at 69.

HEATHER GEE: How did you train and become a game warden?

BILL CLEMENT: When I worked at the Dept. of Wildlife it was a political appointment. We trained on the job. I was trained with older rangers, you got your experience by working with them. Now you have to take a competitive examination, then it takes, I think, 5 or 6 weeks training every summer, usually at OSU of the Highway Patrol training center.

HEATHER GEE: Were there any kind of interesting things that happened while you were a game warden?

BILL CLEMENT: Oh yes, there were lots of interesting things. To me it was kind of like a hunting trip only you were hunting violators. It was fascinating only I didn't enjoy arresting people, but that was part of the job. I enjoyed catching them.

HEATHER GEE: How has Stigler changed through the years?

BILL CLEMENT: Well, of course when Stigler, the town, the business section of Stigler first was down in the east end of town. Where the tire shop is now, and the laundry. The businesses were right there then. Now I can't remember that far back, they had already built the main part of town up here on Main and Broadway. Stigler then had nearly as much population as it has now. It wasn't near as big as far as area is concerned, but families were bigger and I think we had over 2000 people here when I was a kid and there's not too much over 2000 now, close to 3000, I think.

HEATHER GEE: I've heard a lot of people say that Whitefield was going to be the county seat. How come they changed it?

BILL CLEMENT: The county seat was decided a long time before I was born and I don't really know an awful lot about that, but Whitefield was a bustling little city at one time and so was Tamaha. Matter of fact, Tamaha was bigger than Stigler at one time. They had several gins there, cotton gins and had a barge that went across the river and all the people on the other side of the river brought their cotton to these gins. There were several stores there, post office. It was a pretty good sized settlement.
Stigler was named after a man named Stigler and he had a son. Can't remember his father's initials, but his name was Bill Stigler and he served several terms in Congress. When I was just a kid I swept his office out once a week, for 10 cents a week. He died, I don't remember what year, but he didn't live to be an old man. I think he was in his fifties. But that's how Stigler got its name.

HEATHER GEE: What were some of the wages like?

BILL CLEMENT: Most men worked for a dollar a day in town, and on farms most of them worked for fifty cents a day and their noon meal. They worked from sunup till sundown. Of course, fifty cents then would go where ten dollars nearly would go now. Until the early thirties when President Roosevelt was elected and started the WPA-Work Progress Administration-where they hired people out of a job for so many days a month and they paid them $23.10 a month. Seems like it was 12 or 14 days a month. I worked in the store then and I cashed the checks. That went on until the war in 1941 they declared. The Depression had improved some, but times were still hard. Of course when war was declared people went to work and wages increased. I went to California a year before the war and worked in a defense plant. There I made $25 a week starting out. Wages increased rapidly after that.

HEATHER GEE: Did you stay in California all during the war?

BILL CLEMENT: No, I came home a month before war was declared and joined the Navy. I spent 3 years and 8 months in the Navy as an aviation motor mechanic.

HEATHER GEE: Did you get to go a lot of places?

BILL CLEMENT: No, the only place out of the U. S. was the Hawaiian Islands. I worked on B-24 Bombers. I was there when the war ended. I went to two schools in Chicago when I first joined the Navy, then I went into a squadron as a mechanic. I wasn't on flight crew, I did fly some, but not in combat. I got out of the Navy in October, 1945.

HEATHER GEE: When did you get married?

BILL CLEMENT: Wed in 1939, a year before the war started.

HEATHER GEE: Did your wife stay here or go with you?

BILL CLEMENT: She was with me some of the time. In California she wasn't with me except weekends when I was in Chicago. I was up there a year going to school.
I started work for the Dept. of Wildlife in 1952 and worked 29 years. Our job mainly was to enforce the game laws and when I started to work our salary was $200 a month, pretty good for that time. We drove our own car, they paid for our mileage. We worked--we didn't have any set hours, just when we needed to work. Sometimes I worked 8 hours a day and sometimes I might work 24 hours straight. One of our main jobs was checking for fishing licenses and hunting licenses and for people who poached game. One of the main problems we had was deer poaching at night with spotlights. We would sit all night in one spot watching roads, a field or a mountain for a spotlight. And of course if we saw them we'd go try to catch them. There's a lot of interesting things about being a game ranger. I met a lot of people and got to know a lot of people, local and all over the state. It was really an enjoyable job. I got to hunt and fish about any time I wanted to. We tried to help people, always got lots of questions about where to hunt or where to fish and we tried to give people information where they could be successful in their attempt to take game. But after 29 years I decided I had been at it long enough so I retired. And I'm still hunting and fishing, but I don't catch people anymore!

(This concludes the interview of Bill Clement by Heather Gee.)

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Haskell County Historical Society * P. O. Box 481 * Stigler, OK 74462 * 918-967-2161

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