Haskell County Historical Society

Bidwell, Gertrude - Interview

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BELLE STARR Rides in Haskell County, Oklahoma

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By LaFonda Turman

LAFONDA TURMAN: What is your name?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: Gertrude (Jenkins) Bidwell.

LAFONDA TURMAN: When did you move to Stigler?


LAFONDA TURMAN: How have things changed in this town, since way back then?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: Well, we have quite a few more buildings. The city limits are quite a bit larger than in 1945. Now we've got ahospital and two new drug stores, and several new churches have been built.

LAFONDA TURMAN: What were the depression days like?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: The depression affected people differently according to how well they were equipped to face it. But they were awful days, there wasn't any money. That was the main thing. The worst hit in the depression, were people who lived in large cities, they had to be fed in soup lines. Or so I was told, I never saw any of it. 
But we were living on the farm, and we paid for our farm during the depression. We had plenty to eat.  Money was scarce, but we always had plenty of food on the table because we raised it. We had our own milk, butter, chickens, eggs, and meat. Farmers didn't have to buy those things, because you had them at home. I always made a garden. We had chickens and eggs to sell, and that brought in a little money for things you had to have.
People would buy a pair of overalls, wear them, and they'd have to be patched after awhile and that patch, maybe, would wear off and they'd put on another one. Clothes were just really scarce, 'cause there wasn't any money to buy them.

LAFONDA TURMAN: How many children were in your family?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: In my parents' family there were seven children and my mother reared two grandchildren, so my mother really raised nine children. Their mothers died, but there was three boys and four girls in the family.

LAFONDA TURMAN: How many children were in your family?


LAFONDA TURMAN: What did you do for entertainment?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: Well, back when I was a girl at home there wasn't very much entertainment.  This was before radios, or TVs. I don't know if anybody had them, I didn't see any. I guess it was before their time, back then when I married in 1926.
I was the youngest in my family, so the older children were grown when I was just a tiny girl. The boys and my older sister would go to parties and dances.  My parents would let her go because she had brothers that were older and would look after her.
There were two of us younger girls, and we didn't go to dances and places like that. Church and Sunday school was about all we knew. 

LAFONDA TURMAN: Were you allowed to date?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: Yes, they allowed us to date. I was about 14 when I began going out on little dates.

LAFONDA TURMAN: Did you have a certain curfew time you had to be in?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: Oh, it had to be a reasonable time. Whatever we went to would be over by a certain time and we knew when to come in.

LAFONDA TURMAN: How did you get your clothes to wear?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: Our clothes? Work for them! We were farmers and my daddy would always pay us for picking cotton. So that's where we got our money. We worked hard at it and we would really take care of our money. That's the way with our clothes. We made this money last from one fall to the other...that was for cosmetics, clothes and everything. We didn't go back to Daddy for money.

LAFONDA TURMAN: How long did you go to school?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: I finished country school in Galconde Bottom. My daddy wouldn't let us go off to go to high school, so I didn't get any high school education.
At that period of time, when you finished the eighth grade then you could teach. I figure when you finished the eighth grade then, you were as far advanced as you are in high school now.

LAFONDA TURMAN: How old were you when you got married?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: Well, I liked about six months being 19, so I was six months past 18.

LAFONDA TURMAN: When did you have your first child?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: I think about 23.

LAFONDA TURMAN: Can you tell me some about the kids you went to school with?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: The young people then were pretty much like we see today, but you just didn't hear of the things going on in school like we do today. There are so many more children today and brought up different too. Until [the present time] you never heard of any drinking, or doping. Back then, the [students] had a lot of respect for the teacher. I'm sure some of the children do today, but there's an awful lot of them that don't.

LAFONDA TURMAN: Do you remember when the first cars came about?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: Well, the first [ones] I remember must have been when I was about eight years old. You'd see them and [they would] just scare the team to death. Horses used to be afraid of cars, but they are used to them now, [because cars] are more plentiful.

LAFONDA TURMAN: Do you remember when the first televisions and radios came about?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: It was in the 1930s before we ever had a radio. I don't know how long they'd [been in existence] at that time, but it was 1932 or 1933, the best I can remember.

LAFONDA TURMAN: Do you remember when the first movies came about?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: Silent movies were what we had when I was young, no talkies.

LAFONDA TURMAN: Do you remember when the talking movies came in?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL:  I made no point in remembering when, but they had talkies ever since we've been here in 1945. I think they had talkies then and I don't know how long before then. 

LAFONDA TURMAN: Do you prefer living now or would you rather live back in the older days?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: Modern times are much more convenient, [so] in a lot of ways I would prefer today. The old days had their [own] advantages in a lot of ways, too, but not in conveniences.
There was no electricity. No electric lights, no fans. I did my cooking on a big range stove and you heated that thing up to do canning. There were no electric fans to cool the house, and it was awful inconvenient.

LAFONDA TURMAN: Do you remember seeing kids that weren't allowed to go to school because they had to stay home and help their parents?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: [I remember] a number of teenage kids that should have been in high school when I was a little girl. When I was about nine years old, there were some good sized, teenage men, and they were just learning how to read.  It's embarrassing for children when everybody else is far ahead of them, I think that hindered them [from learning]. You wouldn't see that today, because the law says you have to go to school, and it should have been that way then.

LAFONDA TURMAN: So the kids were embarrassed?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: A lot of them were from families that didn't see much need in education, and they didn't send them [to school] like they should. Finally, they passed a law that everyone had to go [to school], and more [people] got an education than would have, if they hadn't passed it.

LAFONDA TURMAN: How did people receive medical attention if there were very few hospitals?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: In those days a doctor would come to your home. There were very few hospitals, and you just never heard of anyone going to a hospital.

LAFONDA TURMAN: Was it common for people to die because there weren't very many hospitals?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: I'm sure there was a few that died for the need of an operation. I lost a brother that died, but if there had been a hospital they could have rushed him to, they might have pumped his stomach and he might have been living today. I was about nine years old then.

LAFONDA TURMAN: How did people pay for their medical expenses?

GERTRUDE BIDWELL: If they were farmers, they paid for their expenses out of the crop that was made. Whatever they made their living at, is what they paid their medical expenses with. On the farm they could sell a cow now and then if they needed money.

(This concludes the interview of Gertrude Bidwell by LaFonda Turman.)

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