Events of the Fifties (1950s)

Oates Family Web Site



                  Chas  This picture of Chuck, or rather “Charles” or sometimes even “Charles Lee,” was made in early 1950 or perhaps late 1949, shortly after Charles’s birth parents divorced, a rare event in the late 1940s.  He was adopted by his maternal grandparents, Lee and Juanita Oates, who were then in their early fifties (Dad) and middle forties (Mother).  Charles lived with his adopted parents (grandparents) and birth mom, Nita J, until 1953 when Nita J re-married and moved across town.  Charles continued to live with his adopted parents through high school as something of an only child.

              Sandaled Cowboy  Charles visited Nita J and her second husband Lee Roy fairly frequently.  They lived across the street from Wayne Muller, who would be one of Charles’s high school band directors a decade or so later.  This picture of the sandaled cowboy himself was made at their house when Charles was about four years old.  The horse, saddle, hat, bandana, and chaps (pronounced “shaps” in the Texas Panhandle) were supplied by a door-to-door photographer who happened by one afternoon.

              Charles, Age 5  Charles, Age 6  Charles was five in the picture on the left and had not yet started school, since at the time Texas had no kindergarten.  Notice the brown hair gradually replacing his toddler’s tow-head.  A proud first grade Wolflin Wolf, Charles posed for his first school picture on the right.


              Chas_and_Dad  Looking_for_the_Landing  In the picture on the left, Charles, a third-grader, age nine, and his dad pose for a Polaroid camera demonstration picture at the downtown Skaggs Drug Store in Amarillo.  Charles is wearing a jacket with his Nard’s Trampoline Club patch.  Having developed exercise-induced asthma at the age of five or six and being unable to run more than about 25 steps before starting to wheeze, Charles participated in gymnastics and trampoline, activities that required exercise and developed skill, but did not require sustained exertion.  Nard Cazzell, the club’s owner, was an excellent coach who produced several AAU national trampoline champions, including Ronnie Munn, the 1950s and 60s.  See Nard's biographical sketch at the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame.  [Biographical sketches of the 2002 USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame inductees have mysteriously disappeared.  Nard is mentioned at the bottom of the text in the link above.]

              Nard, who went by his given name with his students, commanded instant respect.  One of his favorite pastimes was telling a trampoline student who was ready to try a new skill that (s)he was ready and should try it.  Sometimes, this was met with objections from the student, who was promptly waved off and again instructed to try the new skill.  As soon as the student had performed the skill in some fashion or other, Nard would call the student over and explain that he was now ready to listen to all the excuses the student had about why it was not possible for him to perform this skill.  This sequence of events seldom occurred more than once per student, because it so clearly showed the student that he could do what Nard believed he was ready for, even if the student himself had doubts.  The moral:  everyone can do more than they think they’re capable of—the lesson of almost all extracurricular activities.  In the picture on the right, made a year or two later, Charles or “Big Charlie” as Nard called him, un-tucks and looks for the landing at the end of a front flip (somersault).

              Lee_n_Chas_Pikes_Peak  The Oates family traveled.  Spring, summer, fall, and sometimes winter.  Charles and “Dad” are shown here atop Pikes Peak on the way to St. Helens, Oregon to visit Charles’s great aunt and uncle, Belle and Fred McCrummen.  Aunt Belle, Charles’s (grand-)mother’s older sister, was a K-8 school principal and was his absolute all-time favorite aunt.  Perhaps that had something to do with the fact that occasionally she would address Charles’s (grand-) mother, her younger sister, in an authoritative older-sister voice, “Juanita, I am going to do the dishes tonight; you go sit down in the living room.”  The younger sister would look a little irritated, then perhaps ever so slightly meek, and then comply with the order.  Charles could not imagine such raw power!

              The Oateses (yes that is the plural of “Oates”) typically traveled to St. Helens by car, but sometimes by train (wonderful!), and later by airplane, every other year or so from the end of World War II until the late 1960s.  On the way, they would stop at Colorado Springs (Pike’s Peak) or Yellowstone National Park on the northern route, or possibly at Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks on the direct northwest route.  Each of these places was a land of wander to a boy who had lived almost all his life on the ever-so-level High Plains of the Texas Panhandle.  The travelers would approach Portland, Oregon on the Columbia River Drive, one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in the Lower 48 (and Chuck has traveled in 47 of them).  After a day’s rest at the McCrummens’ house in St. Helens, the whole group would pile into the car each morning and go off on a day trip.  The beaches at Seaside and Cannon Beach were favorite destinations.  At more than 45 degrees north latitude, the beaches, even in August, usually required a sweater over a swimsuit for comfort.  The old town of Astoria, Oregon and the Astoria Column, along with the old coastal naval battery at Ft. Stevens were often day-trip targets, as well.

              The favorite trip, though, was over into the State of Washington, near the town of Randall where the road led south to Mt. St. Helens.  This was long before the mountain resumed its volcanic activity in 1980.  The area around Spirit Lake was as beautiful as any place Chuck could even dream of.  Douglas Fir trees standing 150 feet high stood in every direction.  The mountain itself resembled a gigantic, snow-covered, upside-down ice cream cone.  The beautiful blue lake was clear enough to see the bottom from a boat far off shore, and there were odd floating stones (pumice) that would remain afloat for several minutes when tossed into the water.  These portended explosive events to follow, although no one, least of all Charles, knew when that would come.  [When I locate it, I’ll post a picture of Mt. St. Helens as it appeared in 1959—gorgeous!  --CLO] 

              Lee_n_Juanita_Oates_Just_Married  For the sake of comparison with the photo above, displayed here quite out of time sequence is a photo of Charles’s (grand-)parents atop Pikes Peak about two weeks after they were married in late June, 1923.  In the 1920s world of almost no paved roads, few road signs, no road maps, and short mean-time-between-failures for automobiles, this honeymoon adventure from Mangum, Oklahoma to Cheyenne, Wyoming in a brand new 1923 Dodge Brothers Touring Car was remarkable, indeed.  (Dad was a Dodge salesman in 1923, by the way.  See the advertisement, at this link.)  The pictured automobile, however, is a Hudson Super used by a Colorado Springs business to carry six passengers to the top of Pikes Peak.

Coming Real Soon Now:    

              Juanita_Mildred_Higgins_Oates, edited  Boss_on_Horse  Amarillo_Oil_Mill_Co  

              [I’ll have much more to say about this in the 1920s section of the scrapbook, including Dad's journal of the trip in .pdf form.  Stay tuned!   --CLO]



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