Lloyd M. Staley
(1895-1983)

AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY

      If it had been possible to choose the period in the eons of time in which to live, this one into which my lot has fallen would certainly have been considered among the first. There is no need to enumerate the many scientific advances that have been made. Sufficient to say that it has advanced from the horse and buggy to the jet airplane age and I have traveled in both in my lifetime.

      It is a matter of record that I was born on September 10, 1895, at the farm owned by my parents and, earlier, by my mother's parents. This farm is located six miles south of Wellsville, Kansas, and between the New Hope Church on the south and the Evergreen District School on the north. The school has fallen to the march of progress and has disappeared from the scene, but not from the memories of its former pupils.

A toddler
      The first memories of anyone's life are hard to place in order of time. Some events have been related by other members of the family until the person really believes he remembers those events. Like the time I either fell or climbed into the pen of a huge boar. Then my two older brothers ran screaming to my mother that I was being devoured by said hog. Suffice it to say that I escaped.

      I am sure that I do remember one event quite well: That is the one concerning the purchase of a new corn binder by my father. This took place in the dry year of 1901, for it was necessary to buy this machine in order to save some of the fodder for livestock feed the following winter. There is no explaining what will stick in the memory of a child. I am sure this one has stayed with me.

      My school life began in the fall of 1900 when I was five years old. As the school was only one-fourth of a mile from home, it was quite easy to walk there, even for a small boy. Many of my schoolmates walked as much as two miles, which was quite a test of fortitude for sure. My first school teacher was a man by the name of Sam Frazier. There were more men teachers in those days, partly because of the ruggedness of the life then, and also because women had not entered the teaching profession as they have today. I can remember four other men teachers during my school life at this country school. One was my Uncle Ira C. Staley. I believe he taught my second year.

      Our activities in this country school were normal for the period. We arrived at school as much before the nine o'clock beginning of classes as possible in order to play the usual games of "move up" ball, blackman, shinney, darebase, etc. We all carried our noon lunches in dinner buckets; usually a gallon syrup bucket. Our lunches were eaten outside during fine weather -- hurriedly done in order to get in more play time.

      The school consisted of all eight grades in one room. Sometimes there were as many as thirty or more pupils enrolled. There was always one class reciting from the long special benches in the front of the room, placed there for that purpose. It was a case of trying to concentrate on your own work if you were to escape the wrath of the teacher for not having your lesson well prepared when it came time for you to recite your lesson from that same long bench.

The country schoolhouse
      The schoolhouse was a rectangular building, probably 25 by 40 feet. A large double door opened onto an uncovered porch. Inside the door, there was a long hall across the front end of the building. To the right and to the left of this double door were two doors leading into the main school room. This long hall was a favorite play room when the weather was too bad to play outside.

      In the front of the schoolroom was a platform about eight inches higher than the floor. This contained the teacher's desk which was made of iron scroll legs supporting a work top that had a sloping lid that lifted up. When this lid was down, the teacher did his writing on top of it. The space beneath was used for book storage. There were blackboards behind the desk. Directly in front of the desk was the huge Round Oak stove which was literally our central heating system. Two rows of desks were placed on each side of this big stove with the smaller ones near the front of the room.

      In the rear of the room was a door that opened into the coal shed. This shed was a lean-to attached to the back end of the building. There were four windows on each side of the building which were covered with hail screen -- more to protect the windows from stray rocks and baseballs than from the hail.

      This building was the original one for that location. The first school building was located one-half mile west of this one off the main road which was no problem as there were no roads then. This was before my school days. Our drinking water was obtained from a well located across the road and beside a small slough. According to modern standards, we should have died from typhoid fever or some other dire disease. This building was destroyed by fire several years after I graduated.

A man's work
      My school life in Evergreen School did not end with graduation from the eighth grade in 1910. My older brother Glen was still in high school at the time, so I spent another year in our country school. This last year I did not start at the beginning of the school year as this was silo filling time and my help was needed to get this autumn task completed. I will add that I was doing a man's work on the farm at this time and had been doing so for a year or more before. This work included the hard labor at harvest, when we shocked all our wheat and oats in the field and left them there for a curing period before threshing. Final harvest was done by an old steam engine operating a grain separator. The activities moved from one farm to another until all in the neighborhood were finished. Threshing time was a period of great excitement for the whole family. Meals were prepared by my mother, usually with the help of a neighbor lady, Lou Mercer, who was mother's favorite assistant on all special occasions.

      There are many more activities that could be related of boyhood on the farm. One I especially like to remember was swimming at the old swimming hole, located about a mile from home but in a very secluded spot in the woods far from any road or dwelling. This was preferred because swimming suits were not the vogue for small boys in those times. My brothers and I and the neighbor boys spent many happy hours on hot summer days in this swimming "pool" on Turkey Creek. It was strictly a segregated affair -- no girls allowed.

      Another favorite boyhood pastime was hunting rabbits and squirrels which were more plentiful in that country in those days. My brother Glen and I would hurry the wood cutting chore which we did every Saturday so that we could take a few hours for hunting. The results of our venture were not always successful, but often we did add variety to our farm diet. There were other interesting activities, like apple butter time. The apples were cooked in boiling apple cider in a huge copper kettle on an open fire out-of-doors. A half-dozen or so crockery jars of delicious spread were the reward for our efforts and it tasted wonderful on hot biscuits later in the winter. Butchering time was an event not to be forgotten. I well remember coming home from school to see four or five freshly butchered hogs hanging from a scaffold. This entailed a lard rendering which usually took place the next day along with sausage grinding.

Ottawa High School
      My high school career began in the fall of 1911 at Ottawa High School. I had a little exposure to Latin and Algebra my last year at the country school so the new subjects were not so unfamiliar. My study assignments for my first year were: Algebra, Latin, English, and Manual Training. I lived with my Grandmother Lamb as my two brothers before me had done. This was the principal reason that I went to Ottawa for my high school work. At the beginning of the second half of the first year, I was accepted into one of the Literature societies as a reward for receiving grades above a certain limit. Also, I began to play football which activity I continued all through high school. The sophomore and junior years went by in much the same way. In my senior year, I was captain of the football team and also president of the senior class. The most significant event of my high school career was that I met my future wife, Mary Gray. She had moved to Ottawa from Kansas City with her parents and, as a new girl in school, caused quite a surge of attention from the boys of the class. My attention was included in this wave of interest in the girl from the city.

      The graduation exercises for the Ottawa High School class of 1915 were held in the old Rohabaugh Theater while the rain rattled the roof of this ancient building. That spring, there was another flood on the Marais des Cygnes River that ran through the town, flooding Forest Park and a number of residential areas.

      The following summer I went to central Kansas to work in the wheat harvest to earn more money to go to college the next autumn. It was my ambition to attend Kansas State at Manhattan but a shortage of funds caused a change of plans. So I enrolled at Ottawa University along with two of my best friends, James Gasaway and Douglas Walsh. This school period lasted for only one semester but I did get to play football for that year. The next year I returned to Ottawa U. after working the summer in the oil fields that were drilled on the farm that produced considerable oil for a good many years. I have some newspaper clippings that will explain some of my athletic accomplishments at Ottawa University.

      While I was attending school in the spring of 1917, there was much excitement concerning the possibility of war with Germany so, in a spirit of intense patriotism, I enlisted in Company 1st Infantry Kansas National Guard which was being recruited at the time. This is the best explanation I have for my action. On looking back on this display of patriotism, I do not now believe it was done in the exercise of the best judgment.

War!
      My army career began August 5, 1917, at Garnett, Kansas, which was the headquarters for Company K. Our company of raw recruits stayed at Garnett all of August and most of September until our training camp at Camp Doniphan, Lawton, Oklahoma. Company K left Garnett for our training area on September 30, 1917. I spent the winter of 1917-18 in camp at this Oklahoma cantonment. We lived in tents which had wood floors. They were heated by small conical stoves set in the center of the tent. The stovepipe went through the peak and there was no spark arrestor. As a result, there were many tent fires throughout the camp. It was an unusually cold and snowy winter and it seemed the wind blew constantly. Because of the strong wind, we lived in a continual dust storm. It was a common saying in the camp that Texas blew by one day and Kansas came by the next.

(Link here to letters Lloyd wrote home during the war.)

      Our company was now part of the 35th Division U.S. Army and Company K became Company K 137th U.S. Infantry, formed by recruits from the states of Kansas and Missouri. The 35th Division entrained for Camp Mills, Mineola, Long Island, New York, on April 14, 1918. We went aboard the White Star Liner H.M.S. Adriatic for overseas duty April 24, 1918, arriving at Liverpool, England, May 7th. From this port, we went by train to Southampton and crossed the English Channel the next day. On the 9th of May, the Division landed at Le Havre, France. I will not enumerate the many places in France we were stationed. I will say that I was fortunate enough to be detailed to the Postal Detachment of the 35th Division, A.P.O. 743, where I served the rest of my army enlistment. I was discharged from the army May 4, 1919, at Camp Funston, Kansas, with the rank of Sergeant.

      After my discharge from the army, I returned to the home of my parents and helped on the farm for the summer of 1919. This was the year of the big wheat crop so this was my principal job for that summer.

The business world
      In September of 1919, my brother Clarence and I enrolled at a business school in Quincy, Illinois, where we studied until December of the same year. The school was forced to close at that time because of a strike of the coal miners and, as a result, there was no coal to heat the building.

      After returning home from Gem City Business College, I went to Kansas City, Missouri, to work for my future father-in-law, George Gray, who had just started a business manufacturing furniture for banks. I became his bookkeeper and office help. After this business slacked down, Mr. Gray (now my father-in-law) did some house building in which I assisted in various capacities.

Marriage
      On September 15, 1920, my high school sweetheart, Mary Gray, and I were married at her parents' home at 5409 Cleveland Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri. The next spring we moved to 57th and Bales Avenue, Kansas City, into a house Mary's father had built a few years before but did not own at this time. We lived in this house a short time and then moved to a house on 62nd Street, just north of Swope Park. Our first son, Warren G., was born July 8, 1921, while we were living in the house on 57th Street. The second son, John D., was born November 2, 1922.

      During this time I had been working at various jobs, mostly in the building and construction industry. Not satisfied with the prospects in this business, I decided to move back to my father's farm as he was desirous of retiring and moving to Wellsville. With my small family, we moved to my parents' house in Wellsville in order to do some remodeling that my mother wished to have done before they moved from the farm. The fall of 1923 and the winter of 1924 we lived in this house while I built on two more rooms.

The family farm
      In the spring of 1924, after my father held a farm sale to dispose of his personal property (most of which I bought over the auction block), we moved to the farm. We continued to live on this farm through many and varied experiences of good and bad years until 1928 when we moved to another farm a mile and a half east which was owned by our neighbor, Frank Miller. The farm price depression really hit us here so we held a farm sale in the spring of 1929. We left the farm for Garnett, Kansas, in considerable debt to work for my father-in-law, who was now manager of the Garnett Church Furniture Company. We lived in various houses in this town and did quite well until the depression stopped the church furniture business. Then making a living for the family became really hard. While we never lacked for food and a place to live, it did take considerable scheming and close planning to make ends meet. I might add this was not always accomplished. However, our Lord was good to us and did not allow His own to beg bread. His promises we found to be sure and certain. At one time I worked for fifteen cents an hour. Whatever was convenient to do, if it brought in a little money for the family larder, I did it. So we came through the hard times.

      In March of 1936, the U.S. Post Office Department held an examination for the position of Railway Mail Clerk. I took this examination and passed with a high enough grade to be accepted for a position as a substitute clerk. On August 25, 1936, I began my first assignment at the Kansas City Missouri Terminal Post Office. In a short time I was working as a Railway Postal Clerk on the Santa Fe Railroad, known in postal language as the K.C. & Albuquerque. I was more than thrilled to receive my first check for seventy dollars for two weeks' work. However, there were times when the depression reached even to the mail service and, as a substitute clerk, I did not always get to work at a steady job.

      The family now consisted of five boys and three girls and sometimes my wife's parents or my father, so it was necessary to have a steady income to keep the family provided for. However, we did quite well and never lacked for any of the necessities of life.

      Our first home after moving to Kansas City, Missouri, was 142 South Kensington, in what was known as the Northeast district of the city. We rented a big eight-room house for twenty-five dollars a month and the owner was happy to get it, even from so large a family of children. After living at this address for a few months, we moved to 3231 College Avenue -- another rented house directly west of Central High School. The children were all in school, attending the various institutions of the neighborhood.

Our own home
      In June 1940, with the assistance of an aunt of my wife's, Mrs. Jeanne Thomson, we were able to make a down payment on a house at 2714 East 36th Street. This was quite an experience to be the owner of a home and it was the best move financially that I had ever made. I was now a regular clerk in the Railway Mail Service so that I now had a regular job with a steady income which made things considerably easier than we had had it up to this point in our lives.

      World War II was now going on and our oldest son, Warren, had gone into training at Camp Robinson near Little Rock, Arkansas. He had enlisted in the 110th Engineering Regiment, a unit from Kansas City. Our second son, John, after working for a time for the North American Aviation Company in Inglewood, California, came back to Kansas City to work for the same company in the Fairfax district of Kansas City, Kansas. He was called into service in the spring of 1944. He chose to serve in the Navy. Our lives went along very much as most families of the time. Warren decided to transfer to the Air Corps as an aviation cadet. He received his wings as a pilot with the rank of second lieutenant at a training field in Yuma, Arizona. Promptly after receiving his wings, he married his boyhood sweetheart, Bonnie Crippen. They were married at the Air Base in Yuma. After duty at several different air bases in the United States, he left for an overseas assignment in November 1943. He was now serving as a co-pilot on a B-25 bomber.

Missing in action
      In February 1944 we were shocked and grieved to get the official news that Warren was missing in action after a mission flown over the Dodecanese Islands of the Mediterranean Sea. We never heard any more officially as to what happened on this last mission. He was later declared killed in action and is so listed now in the War Department records. John served his enlistment time in the Pacific theatre on board the aircraft carrier Thetis Bay. He made several crossings of the Pacific Ocean during his navy career. Robert T. also served in the Navy as a student in officer training but did not receive his commission as the war ended before his graduation. Malcolm enlisted in the Navy, too, but was in boot camp when the war ended. He did serve overseas in some of the Pacific Islands after the war. Benjamin chose the Air Force, serving for a time at a base near Ramsgate, England, and also at a base near Rapid City, North Dakota.

      While we were still living at the 36th Street address, our oldest daughter, Marjorie Ruth, was married. She had completed junior college in Kansas City, then planned to finish her college work at Fresno State in Fresno, California. But she met a young man who changed her mind. She and Glenn L. Layton were married at the Troost Avenue Gospel Hall in December 1947. We were pleased that she came back to Kansas City to be married.

Merriam, Kansas
      In the summer of 1950, we made another move, this time to Johnson County, Kansas, to the town of Merriam (834 Goodman Road). We bought this house new -- the first all-new house that the family ever owned or had ever lived in. Only four of our children were living at home at this time. Two of them, Malcolm and Ben, both left home soon after for military service. This left only Ida Mae and Mary Lou as the remnant of our once large family. These two daughters were both married while we were living in this house. Ida Mae left immediately after her marriage for Fairbanks, Alaska, where her husband, Gerald V. Keller, was stationed. They spent two years there. Mary Lou also married a man in the service, Lawrence A. Bush, whom she met at a young peoples' conference at Hutchinson, Kansas, where he was stationed. They left for Pensacola, Florida, soon after they were married.

      Now the family was reduced to my wife and me. Also living with us was my mother-in-law, Mrs. Georgia Gray, who was an invalid by this time and was cared for in our home as long as was possible. Later on it was necessary to have her cared for in an old folks home until her death in the summer of 1962. California, here we come!

      As most of our sons and daughters were living in California or Arizona, we sold our house in Merriam. Placing our household goods aboard a moving van, we took up our residence in Atascadero, California, in 1962. Here we expect to live until the Lord calls us home or He comes for us in the air.


Epilogue (by Jeff Staley, Dec. 16, 1983):

      Grandpa was an elder, treasurer (I think), and missionary secretary at Atascadero Gospel Chapel in his later years. He resigned in the late 1970's. He loved to garden, write, and visit his family.

      Lloyd M. Staley passed away December 15, 1983, at 1:00 p.m. after a two-week illness. He had fluid building up in his lungs due to an irregular heartbeat. Marjanne (Layton) Claassen, his granddaughter, and her two children had just been visiting with him. After they left, he fell asleep and never awoke.


Mary Beatrice (Gray) Staley
By Lloyd M. Staley (1895-1983)

      It is with a feeling of inadequacy that I write this biography of my wife, Mary Beatrice Gray. Because I have been asked to write what I know of her life by some of my grandchildren, I will attempt this short history, knowing that if I do not, all record will be lost when I depart from this life and all that will be known will be the birth, marriage, and death records we have of so many of our ancestors.

      Mary Beatrice Gray was born on her grandfather John Johnson's farm near Holdredge, Phelps County, Nebraska, on May 1, 1897. Her father, George Gray (no middle initial), was born in Rutherglen, Glasgow, Scotland. He came to this country in 1892 going directly to Denver, Colorado, as Denver was recommended by a doctor who thought he probably had tuberculosis (which was not the case).

      Mary's mother, Ida Natalia Johnson, was born in Galesburg, Illinois, July 16, 1870 and died January 16, 1902, in Garnett, Kansas, at age 31. (Mary would have been almost five at the time.) Some time after Ida's death, Mary's father married Georgia Stewart in Garnett, Kansas. She was always known by my children as Grandma Gray. Of course they never knew their real grandmother.

      The Johnson family, Mary's grandparents, emigrated from Sweden some time before the Civil War. They lived in the vicinity of Chicago, Illinois, until moving to Phelps County, Nebraska, to homestead. They homesteaded 160 acres and had 160 more acres known as a timber claim. They could prove up on this timber claim by planting a certain number of trees.

      George and Ida were married in Perry, Kansas, on May 1, 1896. The varied locations for these important events need some explanation. George Gray was an itinerant preacher for the group known as Plymouth Brethren. He went from Denver to Holdredge, Nebraska, where he met Ida. I do not know how long he was there nor why they were married in Perry, Kansas. Only that he was having meetings in a small assembly there.

A sod house
      The couple went back to Nebraska and lived in a sod house on the timber claim of Ida's father. They were living there when Mary was born. She was born at her parent's home, not in the sod house, as was her brother Robert later.

      The family lived in several places in Nebraska. Mary started school in Nebraska and I have heard her say she could remember walking to school between snow banks as high as her head.

      Later they moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where her father was employed as a designer of bank furniture. I recall Mary telling of being in a school play depicting the midnight ride of Paul Revere. This school was in the northeast district of Kansas City.

      The family lived in Kansas City several years as Mary started high school at Westport High School. They were living in the south part of the city near 57th and Swope Parkway. She went to and from school by riding the streetcars. No school buses in those times.

      In 1914, the family moved to Ottawa, Kansas, where her father was manager of a bank furniture factory. This was in Mary's junior year in high school and where we first met.

Mary, a journalist?
      In 1918, the family moved back to Kansas City and Mary took a job as reporter for a number of trade magazines. The man for whom she worked, a Mr. Brown, called his firm the Kansas City News Service. They had their office in the old Railway Exchange building at 7th and Grand Avenues.

      She was working there when we were married but, as the custom was in those days, she did not work there anymore after we were married.

      We were married at her home (5409 Cleveland Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri) on September 15, 1920. We lived in Kansas City in the same house built by her father (but not owned by him at that time). We moved to my parents farm near Wellsville, Kansas, in 1923. From this time on we were a family of our own and all other events of our lives are recorded in the account I have written of my own life.

A higher calling
      Mary Beatrice Gray went to be with our Lord on October 11, 1974. We had fifty-four years of married life and I believe that we both would say they were good years. Times were sometimes difficult but we faced our difficulties together and were strengthened because of them. After we moved to California in 1962, life was considerably easier for both of us and I believe Mary really enjoyed her more relaxed lifestyle.

      Now we are waiting the Home call when we shall be together again. "The dead in Christ shall arise first, then we which are alive shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. Then we shall forever be together with Him." Hallelujah.


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