Larry Larkin

Among many other topics concerning “old age” it is said a person starts having problems at times with their long or even short memory storage. Not true for me. My only trouble here is the times I try to retrieve a memory.

Even so there are moments when a former event comes to mind and I can’t help smiling. Instead of devoting today’s column space to one topic I would like to share a few memories that have popped up recently…

MY GENE AUTRY BOOK

A few weeks back I was attending the funeral of Tommie Graham. Not only was this sweet lady a good friend, she was family. My mother and Tommie were first cousins.

As Pastor Paul Simpson was telling a few humorous stories about her, I couldn’t help remembering a valuable lesson she taught me years ago. I discovered what librarians do with old books.

Tommie’s side of the family has turned out more public school teachers than I can count. The list has and even now included a husband, sisters, brother-in law, daughters, nieces, nephews…get the picture?

For years Tommie was the librarian at Sequoyah Schools. One day years ago she called me and asked if I would want a Gene Autry children’s book. She was updating and old books were being replaced with newer ones. The book in question had been printed in the early 1950s and in was probably time to let old Gene ride off into the sunset.

“Yes, of course,” was my answer. My collection of movie and television cowboy memorabilia was about to grow.

Up until then I hadn’t given much thought to the practice of dispensing of books no longer wanted. Think about it. Burning books is totally wrong. Throwing them in the trash is sad. Tossing them in a hole and covering it up isn’t right. In this case giving them to a library was out. What happens to them?

My sweet and kind cousin and friend Tommie showed me that day what a good librarian could pull off. Not only did she give me the Gene Autry book, she talked me into taking three full boxes of other books she needed to get rid of.

Today that my Gene Autry book is displayed among my cowboy items.

The remaining three boxes full are in the back of my closet. I had to move them when I was looking for my dress shoes to wear to her services.

THE MISSING NOTES

I cannot think of Tommie without missing her husband Olan Graham. Funny stories and great times went hand-in-hand with this gentleman.

One of my favorite stories with Olan was the day he told of his interview with the Sequoyah Board of Education the night he applied for the superintendent position.

He had spent considerable time preparing a list of notes he wanted to offer to the board. When it came time for him to speak, however, his notes were missing. He had stepped outside the board room while other business was conducted, leaving the notes behind.

Apparently one of the board members removed them.

Olan said he was forced to deliver another presentation by ab libbing the whole thing.

Apparently he pulled it off. He got the job. School facilities showed a remarkable growth and improvement under his guidance over his long career there.

Referring to his missing notes, Olan said he wished he knew who took them. He would have liked to thank the person because by hiding his notes, he probably helped him get the job.

Here’s another short item about Olan. Before going to Sequoyah he served as principal at Northeast Elementary, now named Stuart Roosa. A misbehaving student was sent to his office for a paddling. (Yes, this was back when principals could do such things).

My wife Cherl was Olan’s office secretary at the time. She was there to hear the following words:

PRINCIPAL: “Bend over, young man.”

STUDENT: “Mr. Graham, you do know I have heart problems, don’t you?”

PRINCIPAL: “Don’t worry. This is not going to hurt your heart in the least bit!”

CATCH OF THE DAY

There is a major sad sidebar about growing older. You start losing friends more and more. One of the latest was Dr. Darryl (Ball Park Frank) Reed who died last month. It seems like it was only a few months before (it was actually almost four years ago) he spoke at friend Mark Haggard’s services.

Although they grew up in the same north Tulsa neighborhood, they didn’t become friends until meeting years later in the press box at Claremore’s Legendarily Legion Field. Not only did they share a love of baseball, but also fishing.

They liked to tell anyone listening about their fishing achievements at Oologah Lake. The best tale was the day Mark told about being in the front of boat facing forward and he heard a loud splash behind him. He said he turned to look and he was in the boat alone.

Somehow his fishing buddy Darryl fell into the lake. Of course he quickly pulled him out of the water and back into the boat.

That night at the ball park “Hag” bragged he had made his biggest catch ever at Oologah Lake. The only thing “Ball Park” could do was agree.

A SMILE AND A NEAR TEAR

And finally the following scene occurred at this year’s annual Claremore Baseball Banquet.

Each year thanks to a small group of boosters dedicated to supporting local college, high school, and teenage summer baseball, fans gather for the event. The past few years the dinner and program has been held at the Claremore Conference Center.

While people arrived and started looking for their assigned tables, I noticed one couple already seated. Must admit here I always look for them.

Winnie and John Tabor are special to everyone that knows them.

They have been married for more than 60 years now.

That’s exceptional time.

There they were sitting at their table…still holding hands and in love with each other.