Owens Family

Claud G. Owens' Remembrances

This article was written for the "Sheridan Celebrates" booklet from September 26, 2009.

The Owens family consisted of father Clyde and mother Edna Owens. Their children, in order of birth, were Betty, Frank, Claud, Charles, and Dorothy. Betty was born in Englewood, Frank at Fort McIntosh at Laredo Texas, and Claud in Salt Lake City, Charles and Dorothy at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital.

"Father first enlisted in the Army at Fort Logan in 1919. After ten years he took his discharge and went to work for railroad in Salt Lake City. In August 1931 Father quit his job with the railroad and re-enlisted in the Army at Fort Logan, Colorado." Claud's earliest memories are of life at Fort Logan where the family lived from 1931 to 1941."

At Fort Logan Army Post the family lived in an old apartment building in an area called Rucker's Farm [south of the Fort on Quincy Avenue where the Fire Station is]. The apartment had an in-door toilet and a screened back porch. He mentions the indoor toilet because in those days most houses in the area had outhouse toilets. The building was heated by a coal fired furnace, and his father Clyde had the occasional chore of tending the furnace. Even today he can remember the rattling noise made when he was shaking down the ashes in the morning to get the fires burning. At night Dad would do a thing called 'Banking the fire." This entailed putting a large pile of coal in the furnace that smothered the flames, but continued to smolder all night. When he shook down the ashes in the morning the flames would re-ignite.

"Two other memories come to mind when I think about the life at Rucker Farm. I recall my sister Betty and her friend making snow ice-cream by simply mixing cocoa with the snow. I also recall the time that Frank and a friend decided they wanted to build a fire. They did not want to get caught so they started their fire at the back of a shed that was across a field from the house. The fire was too close to the shed and the wall started burning. There was a time of total panic until Dad Owens rushed out and put out the fire on the shed, he then built a fire in Frank's behind."

"Later we moved to a house at 3842 South Knox Court in Logan Town (now Sheridan), where we lived for about four years. My memories of life at that house are a little sketchy because I was only three or four years old, but two incidents standout clearly, Mom was doing laundry one day. She was using a washing machine that had an attachment on the top called the ringer [wringer]. The ringer consisted of two closely spaced rollers that were used for squeezing water out of the things that had been washed. Mom was running some bed sheets through the ringer and I was watching this amazing machine do its work. When mom went into the house for a moment, I decided I would help the ringer do its job. I started pushing the sheets into the rollers. Bad decision! My hand got caught in the rollers. By the time Mom heard my screams and ran out to rescue me, my arm was up to the elbow in the ringer and I had lost some skin. After that I watched the washing machine from a safe distance. One day I was playing in the back yard. Daddy's Model T Ford was parked on the driveway. I thought it would be fun to pretend driving the car, so I climbed onto the driver's seat, put my hands on the steering wheel, and pretended I was driving. Remembering that Daddy always did something with that a black handle that stuck up from the floor, I grabbed that handle and stated moving it around. This is when the real fun happened. The handle was the brake handle and I had managed to release the brakes. The driveway had a slight down slope to the alley behind the house, so when I released the brake the car started rolling down the drive. It stopped after crashing into the neighbors' concrete way on the other side of the alley. No serious damage was done to either the car or the wall, but Daddy made sure I would never do that again. About 1935 Mom and Dad were able to buy a house with money given to them by grandfather Lawver. It was just across Knox Ct. from the first house. The address was 3827 S. Knox Court. We lived in that house until Dad was transferred to Vancouver Barracks in Washington State."

"Some remodeling has been done. There is now an indoor bath and the outdoor toilet had disappeared from the back yard. Also there were no trees around the house when we lived there." "Life at Fort Logan was generally happy for all of us Owens kids, and I think for our parents. The area was generally agricultural in nature, except for the army post .and there were lots of horses on nearby farms. Horseback riding was among the favorite things for us boys to do. Not the kind most people think of today with a saddle and bridal, but going out into the woods or fields, catching a horse, putting a piece of cotton rope on his nose, and then jumping on and riding bare back "

"One day we were down along Bear Creek, I caught a yearling colt that was a pretty as a picture, and seemed very gentle. I put the rope on him, climbed aboard, and gave him a nudge with my heels to get him going. He wouldn't move. I gave him a little kick with my heels. He wouldn't move. My brother Frank and his friend Ed VanFleet were .watching. I asked them to do something. Ed picked up a switch and gave the colt a good swat on the rump. The colt was off like a rocket-straight up. When he came down, I was still up, but only for an instant. I came down into the sand with a mighty crash. At that point I decided I didn't want to ride that colt after all."

"There was another horse that was owned by the J. P. Mullen Home for Boys that was on the northwesterly edge if the town. The horse's name was Buster, he was a brown and white pinto, and he was my favorite. Whenever I was in the mood for riding I would go out into the fields and find Buster. I was riding him one cold winter day when there was a lot of snow on the ground. We were coming down off of a hill at an easy gallop when we suddenly came to a barbed wire fence. It was too late to stop so Buster jumped the fence. When he landed on the other side, I lost my balance and fell, landing under him. Buster froze. I'm sure he knew that if he did not stop he would step on me a d cause serious damage. I got out from under him, gave him a loving hug and pat on the cheek, and then climbed back on for the ride back to the pasture where I had found him."

"One summer day in 1937, my brother Frank, his friend Ed VanFleet and I were playing near the bridge across Bear Creek Frank and Ed had managed to get around to the opposite side of the bridge from me, and I decided to join them. Instead of going along the bank under the bridge like that had, I decided to climb up the bank and cross the road. I got to the top of the bank, and started to dash across the road. I never made it. Suddenly there was the loud sound of a car horn and tires squealing followed by a huge thump. I had run in front of a car, and it hit me. I had a terrible pain in my left arm, and was screaming and crying. Ed Van Fleet later told how Frank had climbed the eight foot high concrete wall of the bridge support to get to me. Nobody was ever able to figure how Frank had done that, because the wall was slab concrete with no place for hand holds. Frank simply said that he heard me scream, and knew he had to get to me. He did not remember climbing the wall."

"The driver of the car was an army captain from Fort Logan. He, my brother and Ed loaded me into the car and rushed me to the hospital on the army post. A doctor examined me, took X- rays and determined that the only damage done was to my left elbow which was broken. The doctor managed to set the break and put on a cast. I was then released, and the captain drove me home."

"Needless to day my Mom went into crying and panic when she saw me with my arm in a sling. Frank and the captain explained what had happened. Mom quieted down and offered the captain a cup of coffee which he declined because he wanted to get home to his own family. The captain returned a few days later with several quarts of strawberry ice cream for me. The gift of the ice cream almost made the whole thing seem like lots of fun. But after that I was much more careful about crossing streets and roads. Because of the damage to my elbow, the doctor ordered that I carry a small bucket of sand for about a month after the sling was taken off to help straighten my elbow. I felt embarrassed by this and ditched the bucket as soon as I left the house. To this day I cannot fully straighten my left arm."

"Life was not all fun and games. There was the matter of chores. Frank and I got the job of chopping wood for the stoves and brining it into the house. They also took turns to keep the coal buckets full. I hated that job as the buckets scraped my legs." "Frank and I also got the job of keeping the weeds out of Mom's garden and the rest of the yard. I spent many long tiring hours sweating at the end of a hoe handle. I hated that work, and on occasion when there was nobody to hear I voiced my feelings in not so nice language. If Mom had heard me she would have washed out my mouth with soap."

"We lived in fort Logan during the majority of the Great Depression that started after the stock market crash in 1929, and I have memories of the effects of that depression. It was a time that I hope never again happens in the United States. Because of my age at the time I did not know what a depression was, but I did see things that remind me today of how bad things were."

"The Kyruss family lived about two blocks from us. The kids all wore worn out clothing with lots of patches, and usually did not have shoes. I vividly recall walking behind two of the boys one cold January on our way to school. The Kyruss boys had no shoes and as they walked they left bloody footprints in the snow. I told my mother about it when I got home, and she took some of our shoes plus some clothing and gave them to the family. We usually had no problem with clothing because Dad could bring home old uniforms and shoes from the army quartermaster which mom repaired and fitted for us to wear."

"I went home with one of my classmates one day. The family was living in a 'dug out' house. The father had lost his job in Chicago and moved the family to Colorado. He and several of his friends dug a large hole in the ground, laid logs over it and built a roof over them. That became their home, which was furnished with a wood burning stove and hand made furniture. Being very young it all seemed to me to be a rather fun way to live. Eventually the parents got enough money together to build a house."

"I also remember the "Hobo Jungles" where men who were roaming the country looking for work lived in little shacks built from whatever material was available. Often one of those men would come knocking on our door looking for work in exchange for food. My mother always tried to find some small task for them to do while she prepared some food, often sandwiches."

"I started school at Fort Logan School just before my seventh birthday because the school policy said you must be six." It was not unusual for people seventeen and eighteen years old to be just starting the first grade. These were the farm kids from remote areas who had never been to school. The school building was built in 1923 to replace an earlier building that had burnt down. The class rooms were on the main floor, and the basement contained the kitchen, utility room and auditorium. Outside there were play areas on each side of the building. On the right side of the building were swings, teeter totters and a slide. The play area on the right had swings, a merry-go-round and parallel bars. At the rear of the building was the football field. There was also a small barn on the right side. An irrigation ditch that ran north to south bordered the playing field on the east, and beyond that were farm fields. Some of the kids who lived out on the farms rode horses to school, so there was a hitching rail under the trees on the left side of the building where they could tie the horses.

His first grade teacher was Miss Everest, and when asked his name he couldn't remember it. Miss Everest finally excused him to run home and ask his mother his name. Mom wrote his name on a piece of paper. The principal was Miss Bodine [Mrs. Alice B. Terry].

"Airplanes were still mysterious flying machines to most people in the 1930s, and few people ever got up close to one. The Army airplanes from Buckley Army Air Field, which was located east of Denver, were flying mock combat over Fort Logan. The planes were old World War I biplanes, and they were wonders for us on the ground as we watched them swooping and diving around each other. One day one of the planes suddenly started dropping away from the others, and we watched it land on our school playground."

"When the teachers saw what was happening they quickly herded us kids out of harm's way where we could still see what was happening. The plane rolled to a stop; the pilot jumped out. He immediately started doing something to his engine. After a few minutes some Army men arrived to help him. They worked for about twenty minutes, then the pilot climbed back into the plane, one of the soldiers took hold of the propeller, gave it a spin, and the engine started. The pilot taxied to the end of the playground, turned into the wind, and took off. We poor earthlings were left with a story to remember for the rest of our lives. I was left with a never ending desire to become an army pilot."

In 1941 his dad's unit the 18th engineers, moved to Vancouver Barracks, and that was the end of his happy days of learning in Fort Logan.

Claud is now 80 years old, is married to his third wife, he has one son, John. He remembers Justice Smith, Charley Huffman, Ed Van Fleet, Georgine Straten, Adaline Pitzer, Waldo Cadwalder, Patty Cutlip, Jodene (no last name) and Shirley (no last name). He also remembers the Bush family that lived across the street from Fort Logan on the corner of Kenyon Avenue.

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