The Holmes Series
The journey that brought Dwain Holmes to Iowa Park with his family begins in 1926, after a terrible ice storm hit Iowa Park knocking out all of the phone lines.
Shortly after the ice storm, Dwain’s parents were offered jobs in Iowa Park by Southwestern Bell where they were employed in Anson.
Dwain’s dad Jesse was offered the position as local manager, and his mother Mary Dee, as the Chief Operator.
Jesse was to head up the replacement and installation of new phones lines that were destroyed by the ice storm. Their office was located in a home built for them at 107 West Washington.
The family , Dwain, his parents, and older brother Jack, moved into the home in February 1927, when Dwain was less than a year old.
Dwain’s younger brother, Gordon Clark, was born in Iowa Park and Jesse was given a discount, from $25 to $15 for naming him after Dr. Clark, according to Dwain.
Dwain talked of how in 1927 the phone lines were operated manually with five or six operators that worked rotating shifts. His mother oversaw these operators.
Some of the operators Dwain recalled are: Billie Rogers, Ethel Copeland, Mel Madlin, Lorene Farmer, Lorene Craft, Agnus Taylor and Frances and Violia Datcefs, and Neva Joy Cane.
Phone service as Dwain recalls cost $1.50 a month for a party line, $2.50 for a straight line, and $3 or $4 a month for a business line.
When the phone system went dial, the building that housed the equipment was located in a 12X12 building on Bank Street.
Jesse opened two service stations here located at and near Bank and Wall Streets.
Dwain recalled how his dad opened the service station to give his family jobs.
“My dad was a good business man. Very honest to everyone. He believed in going to work before dawn and working until after dusk,” Dwain said.
He also recalled how his dad would help the families during the war that would stop at service stations, be hungry, and not have any money.
“You can’t believe the people that would come into the station needing tires, kids hungry, nearly naked and had no gas,” he said. “One time my dad called mother and said, “I am bringing a woman and three children home. I want you to clean them up and feed and clothe them.”
The family’s car had broken down and they had no money for the repairs. They spent the night and Jesse repaired the car, filled it up with gas, gave them $20 and sent them on their way, as Dwain remembers.
With trembling words Dwain said his family wasn’t rich, but they didn’t really know what the depression was as he told about a man who was begging for food.
“We had taken a trip to Colorado and just returned home. Our parents went to the grocery store and us boys stayed home. A man came up to the house and ask if we had anything to eat because he was starving. We told him no, but our parents would be back soon with groceries,” Dwain said.
When his parents returned the man was given a meal. The following day Jesse took him to the barber, and gave him a job for the next week at the station.
Dwain can recall a time when most vehicles had only 10-gallon tanks, and gas was 10-cents a gallon. “You couldn’t get very far on a tank of gas,” recalled Holmes.
In 1936, Dwain’s parents resigned from Southwestern Bell and moved the family to Ellisville where they bought the telephone exchange that ran from Ellisville to South Bend, just southwest of Graham.
This was a hard time financially for the Holmes family. Dwain recalled the Christmas that they spent in Ellisville. They did not have much money for Christmas and didn’t have a tree. Dwain and his brothers went out and cut a five-foot tree down and decorated the tree while their parents were in Graham shopping.
On the way home from their shopping trip Dwain’s parents noticed a tree on the side of the road that someone had lost off their vehicle and decided to pick it up. When they got home and found the boys had cut and decorated a Christmas tree they gave the tree to a family that did not have one.
That year for Christmas Dwain’s dad gave 25 cents to the boys to share to purchase their mom a Christmas gift. They picked out a Christmas tree shaped carnival glass candy dish.
That year Santa brought the family an ice cream maker, a checkerboard, and a football. In bad weather and at night the family played checkers and in good weather they played football and ate homemade ice cream.
In 1937, Dwain’s dad received a phone call from a man in Kamay who reported that there was an oil boom happening. That is all it took for Dwain’s dad to load up in his 1932 Ford and drive to Kamay to see if what he heard was true.
During Jesse’s short visit, he saw five or six drilling rigs up and running and they were reportedly making around a thousand barrels a day.
He returned home and received an update from his friend every two or three weeks.
Dwain’s dad was waiting until there were enough drills up and running to constitute building phone lines. In 1938, that finally happened.
There were fifty rigs that were up and running according to Dwain, but his dad did not have the money to build the phone lines.
In January of 1938, Dwain’s dad went to a family friend, Mr. Bearden and traded the Ellisville telephone exchange for crews to help build the phone lines. They extended the Wichita lines to oil companies and homes in Kamay, Valley View, Rocky Point, and Kadane Corner where approximately five hundred phone lines were installed by the crew.
It was only a month later and Dwain said that a person could stand outside the drug store and look north and see a hundred drilling rigs.
The area was booming. Dwain’s family had now taken up homestead in the area. Dwain talked of how his family’s home was between two honkey tonks, owned by Red Collins and Slim Proctor, and across the street from a church.
He can also recall his first visit to a beer joint that was nearby. He said he and a friend were hitch hiking one day and a car was headed their way, traveling very fast. It skidded to a stop just in front of them. The man told the boys to get in and they headed straight for Flory’s beer joint.
“He told her to fix us a cheeseburger and RC Cola and him a beer and make damn sure you wash your hands.” Dwain said.
He remembers that there were many trucking companies also starting up in Kamay during the big oil boom.
When visiting with Dwain he talked of a memory that has been in his mind since it occurred in 1939, when there was an accident involving a big truck on the Wichita River Bridge. A single axle truck from Dickey Trucking Company was transporting a bulldozer and was crossing the bridge. There were already two other vehicles on the bridge, a Coca Cola truck and a Chrysler car. When all of the sudden the bridge collapsed. Dwain said that no one was hurt in that accident but there were cans of Coca Cola all in the river.
“The kids got a lot of Coca Cola,” he said.
When the war broke out Jesse lost most of his crew, but he still had a contract that he had to fulfill installing Western Union lines from Iowa Park to Waurika, Oklahoma.
Dwain had to take some time off from school to help his dad. “I climbed every other pole from here to Waurika,” recalled Dwain.
Dwain, his father, brother, and uncle were also responsible for the first phone lines installed from Wichita Falls to Scotland, Windthorst, Blue Grove, Joy, Newport, Henrietta, and Post Oak areas. “Those communities had no phones, and many young men were gone to war”, Dwain said.
In 1942, Dwain helped his dad to put up around twenty miles of phone lines, coming from Ft Worth and Breckenridge to Caddo. “It was in 1942, and the company got a war contract and pulled all his men off. My dad was contracted to finish the job. I can recall how hot it was and how unhappy I was”, Dwain said.
It was also in 1942 when Dwain would meet the woman that would be the love of his life, and the following year that he joined the Navy and went off to war.