The Burnett Series
After Mr. Burnett’s death
December 26, 1938
I was nearly four years old when Mr. Burnett died. I remember him vividly. Everytime he would see me, he would give me a big smile, a hug, and a pat on the head and say, “And how are you Missy?”
During Christmas time, he gave mother a blank signed check and told her to take me over to the Perkins-Timberlake store in Wichita Falls and get me some clothes, shoes, socks, a coat, etc. He said, “Dress her up!”
After the shopping spree, mother always dressed me up and showed Mr. Burnett the purchases. She also said that I showed him all of my outfit - much to her surprise when I raised my dress and showed him my new pink underwear, too. He roared with laughter.
And, he often handed daddy a hundred dollar bill and said, “Here, go take your family to the picture show. And, there’s three cars in the garage, take one of them.” Daddy said there was not a kinder man to work for.What were we going to do now that Mr. Burnett was gone? Needless to say, daddy was upset and greatly saddened over the death of his employer and friend. We waited. . . . .
A decision is made
Several weeks after Mr. Burnett’s funeral, his daughter, “Miss Anne,” came to see my daddy. She told him that she wanted him to continue living on the premises and take care of her daddy’s house until she made a decision about it. He said she had wept like a baby and he felt so sorry for her. Daddy remained on the payroll and we continued to live there for three more years. By that time I was six years old.
Work continued without driving
Daddy kept the “big house” clean and dusted. Mother helped. While they were working, I was upstairs in the ballroom playing the baby grand piano and singing my heart out. I knew mother and daddy were very sad - but I was just a child and became lost in my “music.”
Once, when daddy was cleaning the ballroom, he showed me where the intercom system was located - tucked in a wall just beyond the northeast end where refreshments were served to guests. He said, “You stay here and I’ll go downstairs and call you.” When it buzzed I’d nearly jump of my skin, then say “hello!” I especially thought that was neat!
Daddy continued to keep the lawn immaculate and I, of course, helped.
The birthday parties
Mother gave me four birthday parties while we still lived there, my third, fourth, fifth and sixth. Cake, ice cream, lots of kids and presents came each May 15th. Games were played on the lawn and mother took plenty of snapshots. (No, we NEVER went in the “big house). We stayed out back at “our house.” But we did have one snapshot taken on the front steps of the big house at my sixth and last birthday party held there.
The lawn mower was very heavy and hard to push. I thought I’d be “big” and offer to help daddy only once; I couldn’t even get the wheels to turn. He laughed. When he would stop to rest, we’d go across the street west to “Shorty’s Station” and get a “soda pop.” I always looked forward to the breaks from yard work. Yes, I was a daddy’s girl! I was always helping him with his work (so I thought).
The basement floods
Speaking of other duties, I remember whenever we had excessive rain, the basement would flood. Daddy always hated that. He would have to get out the electric pump and long hoses and pump the water out. Sweep it out, clean it up. That was the only part of the job he disliked. Luckily, it didn’t flood too often.
The lavish parties
It was fun growing up in Burnett surroundings. Often times when Mr. Burnett entertained with lavish parties, mother and I would hide behind one of the large cedar trees, listen to the music and watch the guests talking and dancing. This made daddy furious but we did it anyway). Some would stand out on the veranda in the evening breeze. The ladies looked so beautiful in their long fancy gowns.
The spacious playground
I loved the big yard as there had been lots of room to play. I wasn’t, however, allowed to play in fron of the “big house” for fear that I might be mistaken as part of the millionaire’s family and kidnapped for ransom. I did, many times though, nonchalantly sneak around there as the spacious front porch had been an ideal stage on which to sing and dance and pretend. My mother, upon finding me, would paddle my hind side all the way to the back yard to the “little house.”
Pots and pans and taxidermy
Mr. Burnett’s kitchen always intrigued me. Richard, the cook, often lifted me on his shoulders to the kitchen’s work center, hand me a big wooden spoon and let me play a tune on the bottoms on the pots and pans which hung overhead.
We would sing and laugh with great merriment! Then he would run around the house with me on his shoulders. In the living room, a big deer head was mounted on the wall. Richard would always go near it. He thought it would scare me but it didn’t! I could never understand where the rest of the animal was though. I would search the other room to see if the backside was there. Taxidermy was unknown to me.
Visits by the Indians
I vivdly recall the frequent visits to the house by Mr. Burnett’s various Indian friends. I always anticipated their visits because eventually some of them made their way to the backyard to see us. Why? My mother would always make a big pitcher of lemonade for them. They never spoke a word but would sit cross-legged in a circle on the lawn and wait patiently until she brought out the lemonade.
There would usually be six to eight of them at a time. And, although mother always brought enough glasses to go around for them to drink from, they chose to pass the blue crock pitcher around and drink from it. Mother always thought that was so funny. I laughed a bit myself.
After lemonade, several of the squaws would take turns carrying me around on their hip like a sack of potatoes while others seemed to enjoy poking me in the belly or pinching and shaking my chin. They must have thought me a pudgy peculiar sight with my cotton blonde hair and blue eyes. While most children might have cringed from such a setting, I, on the other hand, was elated by all the attention and was a bundle of giggles.
But life was never the same for Daddy. With each passing year, he felt it would be the last for his employment.
Then, in May of 1941, he was notified that his services would no longer be needed after June. His final check came in the mail with a letter from the Tom L. Burnett Estate’s attorney dated June 20, 1941. The letter stated that we were to vacate at once as the property had been sold to Mr. Will Burnett. The last paragraph stated that he (the lawyer) hoped that daddy would be able to find satisfactory employment.
End of an era
Thus, my fairy tale existence made to a sad end. We had no place to go, no place to live, no transportation and very little money.
But, mother and daddy found a small rent house south of the railroad tracks. It wasn’t as nice as the little house we were leaving.Since we didn’t have a car - we had to rely on friends to move us. Daddy went back to work driving a truck for John B. Barbour Trucking company where he stayed until the early 1960s.
After I started to school, mother went to work as a dental assistant for Dr. Simpson, the local dentist who had an office in the Park Hotel here. When he closed his practice, mother went to work as a clerk at the local Rexall Drug Store.
I kept busy with my school work.