Robert N. Tipps Remembers
Written in 1988
His name may have been Robert Nolan, but I knew him as "Red." He was a favorite great uncle, ten years older than my mother. He held the Tipps family intelligence and wit alongside a huge heart and gentle spirit. Red was a lover of life and people.
In my adult years, I loved to go visit Red, his wife, Hannah, and the granddaughter they raised, Shelby. When introducing himself at the beginning of Shelby's kindergarten year, 82-year-old Red started by saying, "You remember the story of Abraham and Sarah..." Parenting this second time around kept him young.
With his twin, Thomas Olan/"Chunk," they were the "babies" of the family of 10 children.
After my mother died in 1986, I asked all of my great aunts and uncles to write down memories of their childhood to go alongside mother's genealogical research and her reflection of each generation of our branch of the Tipps family since we emigrated to the US in 1738. This is part of Red's story.
Robert N. Tipps Remembers...
January 29,1917-October 13, 2011
Written in 1988
Ninth child of Arthur Vandire Tipps and
Allie Gertrude Rucker
... When Chunk and I were born (I was the first by five minutes), we had eight older brothers and sisters. Kate and Martha were twelve and ten, and they became surrogate mothers for Chunk and me. I remember that I slept with Martha and that Chunk slept with Kate, and I remember our running across the pasture to meet our respective "mothers" when school was out each day. But few French chefs ever spent more time wathing their master ply their trade that I did sitting on the cabinet watching Mama make bread while she told me mostly Bible stories. By the time we were five, Chunk was probably much more adept at harnessing and hitching the team, but I am sure I could have made better biscuits.
We went to Lloyd, a store about two miles away, fairly often to buy supplies, have work done at the blacksmith shop, and to have the corn ground into cornmeal. And on many Saturdays, we would go to Aubrey, about seven miles away, for socializing and for "the drawing." Merchants would give tickets with each purchase, placing a duplicate into the hopper; if you were present when your number was drawn, you would win the accumulated pot. I do not remember any of my family ever winning the pot, but "hope springs eternal."
Going to Denton, about twelve miles away, was a journey I could expect to take no more than once a year. Mama's parents lived there as did her youngest brother, George, and Papa's oldest sister and her husband, Abe Scott, but we seldom saw any of them. The trip to Denton that I best remember was when we were about five; Chunk and I went with Papa and Mama to take a wagon load of watermelons to try and sell "on the square." We were able to sell a few of the melons, but then the horses were frightened by a passing car on the road and "ran away." No harm was done, but riding down the road on a wagon loaded with "mountain-sweet" watermelons as fast as two horses could run was pretty exciting for a five-year old.
Lone Oak was a two-room school less than half a mile away. Eight grades were all that were taught there, and the school term was six months. Evidently, it was fashionable to give twins sound-alike names, so Chunk and I were named Olan and Nolan. But we were always called Chunk and Red. When we started school, Miss Plummer was a new teacher. She was insistent that we give her something other than our nicknames. We knew that we were Olan and Nolan, but neither of us knew which one we were. Kelly was in the same room, and she asked him which was Olan and which was Nolan. He told her, but to this day, I believe that Kelly's contribution had no more than fifty-percent chance of being correct. ...
One of Mama's brothers, John Rucker, and one of her sisters, Molly Hawkins, were living in Quitaque, Texas, about three hundred miles west of Denton. Ruby went to visit Aunt Molly and to help her care for one of her children, who had been injured. While there she met and consented to marry Norvil Hamilton. There were married in Denton County, but "set up housekeeping" in the Quitaque area. At Christmas before I was five (1921), Ruby was living in Quitaque, and O.R., Hazel, and maybe Kate were teaching there. Mama decided to take Chunk and me on the train to visit her family members during the Christmas holidays. That was the most memorable event in my life.
I always thought Mama's brother, George, was a cut above the rest of the family. He had "done well" in Denton, had married a fine girl named Kenny Holt, and built her a new house. (I thought he was the city secretary or maybe the mayor of Denton at the time.) Our train left Denton about 10 p.m., and Papa took Mama, Chunk, and me to Uncle George's house during the late afternoon to wait there until it was time to catch the train. His house was new and had a long hall with a highly varnished hardwood floor. No house that the A.V. Tipps family ever lived in had either running water or electricity, and surely not a hallway like that one. It probably took Chunk and me two minutes to find that, by running two-thirds the length of that hall, we could slide out hobnail shoes the remaining third of the length. I don't know why, but Aunt Kenny insisted we get to the depot at least two hours before train time.
We had to change trains in Wichita Falls and had about a four-hour wait between 2 and 6 a.m. Mama was tired and wanted to sleep. But the Wichita Falls depot waiting room had a marble tile floor, and Chunk and I had some glass marbles. We soon found that, if one threw the marble against the tile floor hard enough, it would bounce all the way to the ceiling. None of the other patrons of the depot agreed but Chunk and I found this a lot more fun than sleeping. ...
Growing up in Quitaque was a happy life. We never had a telephone or radio, but we had a phonograph and learned that a mesquite thorn could be successfully substituted for a phonograph needle – if you were a little less than a sound purist. We hardly noticed the Great Depression.
We were all avid readers. I read all the boys' books in the school library, including all the Tom Swift series, Zane Grey, the Tarzan books, Boothe Tarkington, Mark Twain; but my favorite was Fox's Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come. We received the Wichita Falls Record News newspaper in the mail and always subscribed to Colliers and The American Magazine. But The Saturday Evening Post was our favorite. It always contained four or five short stories, one or two novels in serial form, and a couple of nonfiction stories. Many of the writers appeared regularly, but at our house Octavius Roy Cohen got read first.
Ours was a pretty straitlaced family. Of course, the 18th Amendment was in effect until I was seventeen, but if there was ever a drop of alcohol in our house, I never did know it – and neither did my mother! We played dominoes, but there were never any playing cards or dice in our house. Going to baseball games on Sunday was verboten, but I believe some of us slipped off a few times and watched the "town team" play a few innings. No profanity and very few coarse expressions were allowed. Bad grammar and mispronunciation seldom went unnoticed and were often commented upon.