Discovery & Research By Mark House
I always enjoy finding bits and pieces of information, images and/or memorabilia relative to my old hometown of Lookeba, Oklahoma. The discovery process of the genuine way of life before I arrived there as a new born in 1962 certainly peaks my interest. A deep archaeological dig into cyber space has led to a most fascinating capture from the depression era of the late 1920's and early 1930's.
It wasn't too long ago that I ran across a floating piece of cyber text that amazingly described life as lived some eighty years ago. This particular body of information, recognized as "Memories Of Lura Cox Brand," was written by none other than Lura Cox Brand. Little Lura just happened to live in Lookeba from 1925 to 1933. Although her time in town was somewhat brief, her description of geographical elements and people from this depression era period are quite recognizable and considered, by me, as most valuable in regard to the historical preservation of Lookeba's identity and existence.
For those who have lived there, visited there, or, maybe just drove through on the way to somewhere close to there, I gladly share the first hand thoughts and memories of one Lura Cox Brand. This with effort to preserve and share a portion of the historical presence of a place not so far away that I call home.
With no reference to the exact date of writing, Lura Cox Brand shares:
"My name is Lura Cox Brand. I was born September 18, 1923 in Carter County, Oklahoma, sixteen years after Oklahoma became a state. My mother, Amanda Fletcher Cox, was born in Indian Territory and my father, Tensley Eli Cox, Sr. was born in Alabama. I am a "red dirt" Oklahoman and proud of it.
My family moved to Lookeba, Caddo County, when I was 2 years old, to a farm located on the first section line east of Lookeba going south toward Binger. It was called Mr. Barthell's (Barthel's?) "90" which meant it was ninety acres with house and barn which my Dad sharecropped on the "halves." We lived there until I was 5 years old, then we moved across the road to a little house in John Deball's (spelling?) pasture. From there we moved into a white stucco house in Lookeba.
Lookeba was a thriving village in those days. There was Beach's Store built into the side of a hill; dry goods store on the upper level and grocery store below. You could go around the hill and enter either store at street level.
At the back of Beach's near the railroad track which followed Sugar Creek was Warren's Elevator. There was a train, which you could almost set your clock by, that came through everyday at 1:00 o'clock.
Lookeba had a bank, Edward's grocery store, a post office, a drug store and a telephone office. Across the street from the front of the school was a barber shop and the "Lookeba News" newspaper. On the sides of the main street were wooden sidewalks which were typical of western towns of that era. However, by the side of Standridge's store south there was a concrete walk with steep stairs.
Lookeba had three cotton gins. The one I remember best was Caulk's gin on the northern edge of town. A tornado blew it away in 1932 or 33 and my Dad helped rebuild it.
I started to school in 1929. I thought the school was magnificent; red brick with lots of windows. The upper grades were on the east side, elementary grades on the west side. They were joined in the middle by a big gymnasium with a stage on the south end. You crossed the stage to go from one part to the other. The school bell was a triangle which was rung by whirling an iron rod around hitting all three sides of the iron triangle which was suspended from the ceiling at the end of the hall. The triangle was sounded "to take up books" (begin), let out school and for fire drills. My older brothers, Roy and Henry Cox, were asked many times to ring the triangle.
When I started to school in 1929 Miss Bess Atchley (Ashley) was my Primary teacher through 2nd grade. Our classroom was sided with blackboards outlined across the top with the ABC's done in a fine Spencerian handwriting. Fine penmanship was prized in those days so we did pages of push and pulls to learn how to write well. Miss Atchley taught the ABC sounds by making their sounds as she read them off. I'll never forget she would say "m goes mmmmm like a sewing machine". I could just picture my mother's old treadle sewing machine humming along when she treaded really fast.
We had a chart stand from which we learned "I Am A Little Gingerbread Boy". As the teacher flipped the charts we learned the story.
School was so fascinating to me and when I learned to read the whole world opened to me and I've been an avid reader since. I learned fast so I was passed from Primary to first grade at mid-term and to second grade at the end of school. I loved learning and still do and it all started at Lookeba school.
Our classrooms then were heated by coal stoves and only boys were sent to get a bucket of coal. However, it took two people to go get a drink. There was a well on the east side of the school with a long handled pump (not a pitcher pump) and fastened to its spout was about a 5 foot long 2 inch pipe held horizontal by shafts. The end of the pipe was stoppered and about every six inches there were holes drilled in the pipe. When the water was pumped it came up the holes like a fountain. One pumped, another drank and visa-versa. Girls loved it because girls always liked to do things in 2s.
We had concrete storm cellars; one for the girls and one for the boys. I remember going to the storm cellar once. It was dark; we had no lights. When we came out there were leaves and twigs scattered about and rain drops dripping every where but no damage. Lookeba has long been known as tornado alley. In later years I heard that the southwest corner of the school was damaged by a tornado.
The administrators of the school in my years there were a Mr. Copeland and Paul Genung.
When I was in Miss Atchley's room she intered (entered) me in a county meet in Declamation. I said a 3 stanza poem called "Moo Cow Moo." I wish I remembered it all but I recall only the last verse which goes:
The hired man
Sits down close by
And he squirts
And he squirts and he squirts.
When I finished my work Miss Atchley would send me out in the hall to practice with someone from the upper grades. Often it would be my brother, Roy.
My grandmother Cox made a pongee dress for me. It had a long waist and little pleated skirt. My Dad polished my brown oxfords and I wore long white lisle stockings probably bought at Beach's store. My Mama gave me a dime to stop by the barbershop on the day of the County Meet to get my Buster Brown haircut trimmed. I was late for school but that was all right because I was going to perform at the Meet.
We went to Hinton in Mr. Genung's car. I was so proud to be going but I was a bit dismayed at the large crowd. I took the stage at Hinton to declaim the "Moo Cow Moo." I won a ribbon but I'm not sure it was first place. My family was proud and shared in my great adventure when I got home to tell them about it.
When I was in 3rd grade I had Miss Daisy White as my teacher. I remember some of my classmates: Jimmy Warren, Margaret Optiz, Loveda Vance, Roy Tucker, Geneva Reddeck, Norma Dunn, and Howard Cox, my brother. I, also, remember Ellen Dunn but she wasn't in my grade. She played "Mother, May I" with me and others on the big brick portico porch which opened into the gym at the front door of Lookeba School. One popular attraction was what we called the "Johnny Stride." It was a big iron pole sunk in concrete with chains hanging down around it. Each chain had a handle to catch onto and we ran around the pole in a circle until we were going fast. Then we would pick up our feet and glide. I see now that it was a good exercise machine. We, also, had the usual "seesaws."
The school yard had a distinct slope from the school to the street. The front walk accommodated this by having a space of concrete about 6 feet long then 2 steps down, repeated all the way to the street. It was fun to go running down the walk taking 2 steps down every so often to the end of the walk then come runnin back up. This was like a game we played hundreds of times.
While I was in Miss White's room she would read to us after lunch which we brought from home and ate at our desks. Howard and I carried our lunches in little half gallon syrup buckets which had bails and holes punched in the lids to keep our lunch from sweating and getting soggy. Miss White read from the adventures of the "Bobbsey Twins." I couldn't wait for the next chapter.
While I was in Miss White's class we put on a play which was chosen to be presented at a night program at the end of school. I was the mother in the play and Bobby Paxton was my little boy. I borrowed a dress from our neighbor, Mrs. Bass, who was a small woman. It was navy blue crepe and I thought it made me look grownup.
I had to go to the play with our neighbors, the Styles (Stiles?) They owned a car. (We played with their son J. T.)
The end of school program was a big success. I had on new patent leather shoes and I pulled them off because they hurt my feet. Somehow in gathering up my things after the play I lost one of my shoes which we never found. I remember that night when the Styles (Stiles?) let me out of the car and I started toward the light in the window of our house (We lived in McSparrin's rent house) I had never seen a night so black nor stars so shiny. It almost seemed I could touch the stars if I tip-toed.
That play, though I did not know it at the time, was my last association with Lookeba schools. For in the fall of 1933 we moved to Texas before starting to school.
I go back to Lookeba every chance I get. I have relatives there and in Hinton, Hydro, Sickles and elsewhere. I usually visit the cemetery at Lookeba where my aunties, Clara Harper, Ruby Phillips, Dora Smith and Maggie Franklin and my uncle Tom Fletcher are buried. Also, cousins Clifford and Carl Franklin. My grandmother, Manila Stidham Cox is buried in Hinton Cemetery, Caddo County, along with my Aunt Effie and Uncle Ernest Henson, my cousin Ita Howard and others of the Cox Clan. I try to attend the Fletcher, Franklin, Hoggard Reunion in Hydro every year if possible.
My immediate family are Texans; my husband's family since 1870. My sons, my grandchildren and great grandchildren all have orange blood at the great Texas Shootout but my blood runs Boomer Sooner red.
One time a Texan said to me, "I'm a Texan to the bone!" I replied "I'm an Oklahoman bone and all!"
How beautiful Caddo County must have seemed to the first settlers when they spied the red hills, the Post Oak and Black Jack trees and the Willows along Sugar Creek.
Other names I recall of families around Lookeba in 1929-33: Chatham, Moggs, Dodd, Duff, Barger, Cencentaffer (Sensintaffer), Harbison, Roselle, Vanomen (Von Allman), Hefferin (Hefferon) twin boys, Kenneth and Dennis, a teacher by the name of Gathers, Ancil Ross and Bob Palmer."