Fern Baum (Overman), Belle Baum (Orr), Ella Sanborn (Baum)
Archer and Eileen Baum
I was born at a very young age on Feb. 24, 1923 in a very little town in Kansas. This little town, with the imposing name of Cambridge, is located in the Flint Hills of southeastern Kansas. In an encyclopedia, dated 1963, the population is given as 140. There may have been about 300 when I lived there.
When I was about four years old, my parents and I along with my only sister Beth, moved south into Oklahoma (an older sister, Claire Pauline, had died before I was born). There my younger brother, Gene, was born Aug. 12, 1927. My father, Frank Dewey Baum went to work in the oil fields and then became the owner of two different grocery stores. In the midst of the depression Dad lost the second store and we returned to Cambridge when I was about eight years old. I was in the 3rd grade. We lived in Cambridge until l was fourteen. I remember Cambridge very well.
Now back to Feb. 1923 when I was born. I was born at home so I could be near my mother.
One of my earliest memories is of Dad having a pack of coon hounds (about six I think). The small barn behind my grandmother’s house was, at least at one time, full of small animal skins stretched out drying ready to be sold. Dad periodically scraped excess fat and oil off the skins in preparation for market.
Cambridge was a typical western town built around the 1880’s, (an estimate). In 1931, when we returned from Okla., it consisted of the following buildings and business’s.
1.Santa Fe depot–small and typically western. You can see an exact duplicate in Dodge City, today.
2.Croquet court–hard packed clay–even men loved to play
3. Creamery –where farmers brought their dairy products.
4. Town Hall–the only activities I remember being conducted there were 5 cent movies (silent), square dances and basketball games.
5. Bank–went broke about1932–never reopened–it was a native stone building.
6. Odd fellows lodge hall–located in the only two story building downtown. There was a drugstore on the first floor and a filling station in a small corner room of the building. It matched the bank building.
7. Mary’s store–a red brick building setting out by itself. Mary had the best selection of penny candy anyone could hope for.
8. Post Office. There was no mail delivery in town.
9. Two grocery stores.
10. Blacksmith shop–Where men with fiddles, guitars, mandolins and banjos would meet on a Saturday night and play country music.
11. Shoe repair shop.
12. Lumber yard.
13. Hotel –two stories–frame.
14. Boarding house–two stories–frame.
15. Church of Christ–very plain–simple, rectangular.
16. Presbyterian Church–Where on rare occasions I went to Sunday School.
About 1933, the lumberyard, shoe repair shop and the hotel burned to the ground and were never rebuilt.
17. Elementary school–where l attended 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th grades.
18. High School and Jr. High –where I attended 7th and 8th grades–graduating from the 8th grade.
The two school buildings were the only ones in town with indoor plumbing. I remember what a delight it was to take a shower after playing a basketball game.
Out back of the high school were stables for horses which some (about 5 or 6) of the students from south of town rode to school. Very often after school they would all ride together down the main street at a full gallop like the Charge of the Light Brigade. How I envied them. This is one of my fondest memories.
So this was Cambridge, a “cow town” on the back roads of America, a very provincial backwoods place but a good place to grow up. Here was where I spent most of my childhood years and when I left there at age 14, I also left my childhood.
Oklahoma Years–1927 -1931
When I was about four years old my family (already noted) moved to Oklahoma. My sister, Beth Lorraine, was born May 2,1925. My brother, Gene Warren, was born Aug. 12, 1927. I was four when Gene was born.
Soon, Mother and Dad bought a country grocery store. The store building had rooms in the back (no plumbing) where we lived.
Among the things sold were feed for cows, chicken, hogs, custom cut plugs of chewing tobacco, cut by Dad’s old fashioned tobacco knife and Dr. Pepper’s pop, good for you at 10a.m., 2p.m. and 4 p.m. The sign on the front of the building said so.
Often before a bad storm in Oklahoma, the air in the summer time becomes very sultry and very still. There is a feeling in the air I can still imagine. The birds become quiet and the chickens running in the yard look for cover. At this time in my life I have finished 1st grade in the new schoolhouse just across the road. I’m learning how to write and one of the writing exercises is to make ovals something like this:
On this particular still, sultry afternoon, while playing in the backyard, I look up and from the West, God is using black clouds to make His ovals in the sky. They are coming very rapidly and I run inside to alert my mother at her sewing machine. About the time she says she is too busy to “come see”, the cyclone hits.
The store building has a tin roof. There is a driving rain, thunder and lighting and fierce winds, so you can imagine the noise. The store building has a lean- to garage, which adding to the horrible noise, is soon torn off by the howling winds. Mother and Dad say (I don’t remember this part) that every time there was a crack of thunder, I yowled to the high heavens.
Dad says that as soon as there is a slack in the storm, we will head for the school storm cellar across the road. When the slack does come, Dad carries my little brother, Gene, and we all head for the cellar. I well remember wading water almost up to my knees as we crossed the dirt road.
Another Okla. Memory: I’m in the back yard again. (I spent a lot of time there.) About 75 yards down the road is a filling station. I hear loud noises coming from the vicinity of the station. I look up and I see two drunken men fighting over the possession of a rifle. Dad quickly calls me into the store. Once inside we hear a rifle shot. We also hear the shot hit the tin roof. The men survived.
It was in the same back yard that my pet Rhode Island Red followed me about like a little pet dog and I played with my toy Buddy-L steam shovel. Recently I have seen two of these toys in museums.
We moved to Oklahoma City
Although the stock market crash happened in October, 1929, it didn’t seem to affect the oil fields badly until a year or two later. Meanwhile, Mother and Dad prospered so that Dad bought a new Ford truck and we moved to the outskirts of Oklahoma City where Dad built a new store building with all new fixtures. Small living quarters were built in the back of the building. Still no indoor plumbing. We had electric lights and natural gas for heating, however
Oklahoma City Memories
We brought my pet chicken with us from “49”. I loved him dearly. One day he disappeared. Red chicken feathers were found behind some neighbor’s house. I could have killed them. I cried for days.
One day a horrible odor assailed our noses. Following my nose, I soon came to the source. Some Federal officers had found a still just down the road from our store. They had dumped the corn mash in the roadside ditch, hence the bad smell. I think the year was 1931 and the prohibition amendment was still in force.
My parents taught me to share. Big red Delicious apples from Washington were at a premium in our store. The grade school was close by. Without informing either of my parents, I invited all my friends from school to come and have one of the big ten-cent apples. I was very popular until my mother discovered what I was doing. A dime was worth a lot in those days.
Several times my mother took me into the inner city. There I saw a number of oil derricks right on the grounds of the Capital Building. We also saw the depression bread and soup lines of men waiting to be fed.
I “belonged” to a “stable” of fist fighters. Next door to us lived a 14 or 15- year old boy who would no doubt be classified as a juvenile delinquent today. He “contracted” with about three of us eight year olds to be his “fighters”. The prize to each winner was a handful of marbles. The fighter who cried first in the fight was the loser. I never cried but what a stupid boy I was.
This same “boy next door” also persuaded us to go to various empty oil field buildings and help him strip them of copper wiring and brass pipefittings. He told us the oil companies didn’t want them any more. I later learned he sold the stuff to a nearby junk dealer. We little kids never saw a penny. We were lucky not to be arrested.
One last Oklahoma memory: As I stated before, our living quarters were in the back of the store. There was a thin wall through which Dad had drilled a small peep hole so an eye could be kept on the store. Above the peephole hung my Dad’s 12 gauge shotgun. We had a couple of scares but we were never robbed.
Return to Kansas
When the effects of the stock market crash finally hit the oil fields, oil wells were shut down, thousands of workers were laid off and my parents credit grocery business suffered severely. So much so that they were forced to sell out in order to pay off the debts on the building and fixtures. To my parents ever lasting credit, they refused to file for bankruptcy which was considered rather disgraceful at that time. What a delightful contrast to the prevailing attitude of today, which is “File for bankruptcy so you won’t have to pay your debt”.
So my parents moved us back to Cambridge where we lived in my grandmother’s four room house. At this time there were five of us. I was in the second grade.
My parents spent about a year going from former customer to former customer endeavoring to collect grocery debts, which were owed to them. They would discount the amount owed to them in order to at least collect something.
Then my parents opened a grocery store in Cambridge which soon failed due to lack of customers. The Great Depression was in full swing. Now my father (and mother) were unemployed and times were very, very hard. There was no such thing as unemployment compensation and my parents were too proud to go on relief. In fact they never did and neither did I. Relief was the public dole or welfare.
My Grandmother’s “Farm”
It was not a full-fledged farm. It was 90 acres in size. Sixty acres were pasture, and about twenty-eight acres were under cultivation. There was a small barn and a milking lot.
First, the house: It was simply built. It was square with a living room, kitchen and two bedrooms. There was also a small screened-in porch, closed in the wintertime. There was no indoor plumbing and therefore no bathroom or kitchen sink. It was wired for electricity with a drop light in the center of each room and one or maybe two outlets only in the living room. Only the kitchen was piped for natural gas and there was a gas cook stove there. The house was heated (poorly) by a wood-burning heater, located in a corner of the living room. Outside the screened-in porch was a cement slab which covered the well to which was attached an iron pump. This was the only source of household water. In the back bedroom was to be found the only “built-in” in the entire house, a tiny closet.
In the back yard apart from the house was a half-sunken storm cellar. It was a single room about 10 X 12 ft. in size with rounded cement roof. The whole structure was made of cement with steps leading down from ground level into the room. In the room were a couple of cots. Shelves were built against the walls. Here Mother placed crocks of milk to cool since we had no ice box, much less a refrigerator. Home canned fruits and vegetables were kept there also. Though I didn’t know it then we lived in “tornado alley” and I remember being wakened on numerous occasions by my father saying, “C’mon, kids, there’s a storm coming and we have to go to the cellar”. It was scary but we felt safe in the cellar.
Behind the cellar was a dilapidated chicken house with a roost for the chickens and nests for the hens to lay their eggs, which I was assigned daily to collect. The chickens were not penned and they had the run of the whole yard–a fact that I as a bare-foot boy did not appreciate. City bred children, ask your parents what I am talking about. My grandmother seemed to be in charge of the chicken raising business. At various times, fertilized eggs were placed under “setting hens” from which were born little baby chicks. So from the hen house came eggs and from time to time Mother would wring the neck of a young pullet and fried chicken would adorn the dinner table.
I must tell you this true story .When I was about 12 years old, my mother told me it was about time I took on the job of wringing the neck of our next meal. Now my mother really knew how to do the job. With a flick of her wrist the chicken’s head would come off and that was that. So l endeavored to do this. I caught the chicken after a merry chase. I took him by the head and swung him around and around and around but his head would not come off. Pretty soon my arm was so tired I had to quit. I put the poor chicken down and he shook his head wobbled off. To this day I seem to remember a puzzled look in his eyes and to this day I have never again tried to kill a chicken in my mother’s manner.
To the west of the chicken house was a small single room barn with a lean-to shed built on one side. Adjacent to the barn was a milking lot for cows and a ways behind the barn was our pigsty where my dad sometimes raised pigs for butchering. Here I did another foolish thing. I got inside the sty with a mother pig that had a litter of newly born piglets. Now mother pigs are very protective of their young and so she sent me scrambling over the fence after she had bitten me on the calf of my right leg. I learned my lesson and I bear the scar to this day.
Extending northward beyond the milking lot was the pasture (grassland) of approximately 60 acres. Grandmother’s farm was located on the edge of the town, which made it convenient for some near-by residents to own a cow or cows and rent pasturage for their cows from Grandma. Morning and evening they would walk from their homes with buckets in hand and milk their cows. On the west side of the pasture was a field of about 30 acres, which my grandma leased to farmers who usually grew kafir corn there.
About 100 yards beyond the milking lot was the city baseball diamond. Needless to say it was a very basic diamond. There was a pitchers mound and the infield was kept graded and dragged. The backstop was made of telephone posts and chicken wire. There were no bleachers. Spectators would park behind the backstop and watch the game from their cars. Others would bring their own chairs or sit on the grass.
Two actions were necessary before the beginning of a game. First, the cows would have to be chased to the back of the pasture. Then cow dung would have to be shoveled off the playing field. Next someone would have to be stationed at the barbed wire gate to make sure the Cows didn’t get out as people drove through to attend the game. It was here the town team (older men) and our high school team played. There were avid baseball players and fans in our little town. One of the men (my Sunday school teacher) made it to the big leagues. His name was Clay Smith. He played for the Detroit Tigers and pitched for them in the 1940 world series. I was always proud that my grandma owned the field. Of course all the kids in town made good and full use of the diamond
No, I never had to walk far to school while living either in Kansas, Oklahoma or Louisiana. However we did walk. I had never heard of a school bus.
There were two school buildings in Cambridge. One building had two rooms, which housed grades 1-6, three grades to a room. The other building across the road housed grades 7-12. Grades 7 and 8 were called Cambridge Junior High. There was a total of 25 or 26 in both grades. These two buildings were the only ones in town with indoor plumbing. They even had furnaces for heating.
My early “training” with a set of boxing gloves dad bought me, and the “marble prize” fighting led me to believe (wrongly) that most arguments could be settled with your fists. When we moved from Oklahoma City back to this little “‘cow town” of Cambridge, the other kids (my peers) seemed to think I was a city slicker. Therefore every kid my age and older challenged me. By this time I had come to enjoy a “good” fistfight and I arose to the challenge. I had a nose that could take a lot of punishment and didn’t bleed easily. I had learned to go for my opponents nose first for a lot of fight is taken out of the “enemy” when the eyes are full of tears and blood is running out the nose. Well, pretty soon, the challenges were over and I was accepted as part of the gang. My former “enemies” became my good friends. I did finally grow up and learned that a fistfight is the worst way to settle a dispute. I haven’t had a fight since I was eighteen and converted to Jesus Christ.
School was not difficult for me and I especially enjoyed reading. There was a new Bobbs-Merrill annually for every student from first grade onward. They were full of classic literature and poetry. They were so much better than the silly pablum, Dick and Jane stories recently in use for years, my opinion, of course. All opinions expressed in this writing are strictly my own and not necessarily those of the management.
Textbooks were not furnished by the state and as poor as we were we managed to obtain them. You may be very sure that they were kept carefully covered and handled equally with great care. The year following, the books in usable condition could be handed down to younger siblings or sold as second hand to other students.
As a public school teacher for twenty years in California, where the state furnished the books, I was, and still am, appalled at the ways students carelessly handled and destroyed textbooks within a year. What a horrific waste and what terribly poor training in personal responsibility.
Happily, there were no laws forbidding prayer in public schools at that time and I can remember teacher and students reciting the Lord’s Prayer on occasion. Psalms also were read.
The order of the day was quietness in the classroom (usually observed) and respect for the teacher. Never in all my school experience as a student, did I hear student sass a teacher. The prevailing attitude among parents was: “If my child needs a spanking give it to him or her and when they get home they will receive another”. Such were the sentiments of my parents. Consequently, there was order in the school and the classroom and I only received one swat when I was in the first grade and that was for dirty fingernails at hand inspection time. It was the only time I ever got a “spanking” in school. The only organized sport I was ever involved in was basketball during my seventh and eighth grade years. We had a good and kindly coach named “Clover” I think. I loved to play. It was not difficult to make first string both years since there were only about 12 boys in both grades. We never heard of Little League baseball.
During the summer of 1936, the W.P.A. (Works Project Administration) built a new gym, added to the red brick high school. We basketball players thought we were in heaven. My father helped in the building, the only time he ever worked for the W.P.A.
In May of 1937, I received my eighth grade diploma in the new gym. Eileen and I visited there in the summer of 1986. The high school was being torn down. The gym was to be left standing. It was sad to see the high school being torn down.
I learned to swim in Cedar Creek (we called it a crick) when I was nine years old. My friend, Cecil Carrier and I were wading in the crick near the railroad bridge just west of the cemetery. We had our pants legs rolled up and the water was only just above ankle depth. At this point, the creek bottom was granite. Suddenly (unknown to us) there was a drop off in the creek bottom and we found ourselves in arm pit depth water. The depth was fortunate for me because I couldn’t swim. The creek was thickly wooded on both sides, so we simply took off our wet clothes, spread them on bushes to dry and Cecil proceeded to give me my one and only swimming lesson. I later became a very good swimmer and diver.
There were three popular “swimming holes” (no cement ponds) in our community. They were one to four miles apart.
The closest one to my home was in Cedar Creek (or was it Grouse Creek?). It was fairly deep and had a “diving platform” which consisted of a tree stump about two feet in diameter near the edge of the water about four feet above the surface of the water. It was a co-ed swimming hole. I never owned a store bought swimsuit until I was about fifteen years old. Most boys used the kind I did. This was an old pair of bib-overalls with cut-off legs and with the bottom of the pockets cut out so the air could escape. I thought this was a delightful place to swim. The second closest (and the boys’ favorite) was the “Clay Bank” (named by me) swimming hole. It was strictly off limits to girls because we boys did not wear suits.
The third was, perhaps, the most favored of all and the one we used when we had enough ambition to hike about three miles through the hot Kansas sun. This “hole” was seventeen feet deep. Some ambitious person or persons had built a diving platform with a springboard fifteen feet above the water. A large elm tree overhung the hole on which were two diving platforms 20 and 30 feet above the surface. Suspended from the tree were two cables with two old steering wheels tied to each cable. From the diving platform we would swing out over the water and dive or drop off. At 12 years of age I learned to dive from the 20-foot one, but I never got up enough nerve to dive from the 30-footer.
I don’t know if boys needed a fishing license. I never asked. Store bought rods or poles were never owned by me or most of my friends. A bamboo pole was a luxury. Mostly we cut our poles from saplings or tree limbs growing on the crick (creek) bank, dug worms out back of the barn, put them in a Prince Albert tobacco can, grabbed a couple of hooks, some string, lead weights and a bottle cork for a bobber and away we went to either Cedar or Grouse crick to fish. Occasionally we caught a few and took them home to our mothers to fry. Best fish I’ve ever eaten.
A number of my friends owned horses and saddles. They were generous with me and I learned to ride at a very early age. I loved it. Nothing thrilled me more than being on the back of a horse at a good steady lope down a country road. One “happening” will illustrate my love.
One time my father pastured three racing horses (for a fee) for a friend. I owned neither saddle nor bridle but I wanted to ride those horses. I found some old leather straps in our little barn and with them, some bailing wire and an iron bolt for a bit, I fashioned a bridle.
One at a time I would catch those horses and using my home made bridle and riding bareback, we (the horse and I) would split the wind for they loved to run and so did I. I kept all this from my father but of course he eventually learned about it and in no uncertain terms brought my thrills to a halt.
Toys and Joys
My growing up years was done during the “Great Depression”. Toy stores never existed in my world and store bought toys were few and far between. For example there were (to my knowledge) only two bicycles in the whole town and they were jealously guarded by their owners, for which I didn’t blame them. It is difficult to learn to ride a bicycle without a bike. I did not learn to ride a bike until I was 14 years old.
However, “not to pity”. We learned to make our own toys and I am confident that we were just as happy with our hand-fashioned playthings as the children of today with all their plastic and electronic costly toys. In fact I have a real sense of believing that we were even happier and more contented. Some of the things we made were:
They could be made in all sizes and degrees of shrillness. The best time to make them was in the springtime when the sap began to run in the maple trees. We would cut a piece from a smaller new limb, lightly tap the bark all around, slip the bark off the limb, whittle out the desired sound chamber, slip the bark back on the limb and, voila, we had our whistle, much more prized and fun than any “store bought”.
These were made from a small forked limb, which we cut from a tree, an old shoe tongue to serve as a leather pocket for the stone, and strips of rubber cut from an old inner tube. Many boys became quite proficient in hitting their targets. Woe unto you if you broke a window! Most young boys could be seen during spring and summer with a slingshot dangling from the hip pocket of their faded overalls. They were always faded during the summer because one just did not get new ones (if you were lucky) until school started in the fall.
“Store bought” toy guns and rifles were few and far between. But no pity expected. We could do much better. We made our own. One of our favorite past times was playing “cowboys and Indians” with these hand made (by us) pistols and “machine guns” or “repeating rifles”. Girls didn’t much care for these games. Here is a rough sketch of what they looked like. The guns that is!
The pistol was sawed out of a ¾ inch board. It varied in length from 10″ to 16″. A spring type clothespin was firmly attached to the back slope of the grip. A rubber band was put around the mouth of the clothespin to give it a firm grip. Then rubber bands were cut from an old inner tube. One was stretched from the pin to the end of the barrel. A knot tied in the center of the rubber increased the accuracy. A squeeze on the clothespin fired the pistol. At a distance of 10 ft. there was a good little sting.
The rifle was like the pistol except it had no clothespin and it was much longer. Notches were cut on the top of the barrel. A string was attached in front of them and laid in the notches and rubber bands were stretched over the string beginning at front notch. It was fired by pulling up the string—one at a time or all at once for a machine gun effect.
A Group Game
We called it, “HEY! BARB-A-RENO” In the spring when the sap began to run in the trees and in the kids of the town, it was time to play, HEY! BARB-A- RENO. The game was usually played after suppertime. Shortly before dusk, the kids of the whole town, boys and girls young and old, would gather and teams would be chosen. There was no set number–the more the merrier.
Two leaders were chosen. Then a flat rock was spit on. The dry side was heads the wet side was tails. It was tossed to decide which leader had first choice. The team to be chased in this game of tag was “it”. Each team was to remain together. The “it” team was given a certain amount of time to run and hide. Their purpose was to keep as far away as possible. Their mobility was only limited by their ability to run. When the perusing team yelled, “Hey! barba reno, ” the pursued team was required to respond with the same yell. The game lasted until the pursued were caught. Then the roles were reversed.
One of my fondest memories is of those yells echoing back and forth across the hills of that little town!
There were no commercial rinks. We were limited to frozen creeks and ponds and then the freezing weather would have to be still so they would be frozen smoothly. None of the kids were blessed with shoe skates so we were limited to clamp-on skates, which had to be tightened periodically to keep them from falling off.
Besides the regular way, we sometimes would build a couple of forts made of wash-tub formed blocks of snow. Two teams were chosen to play “capture the flag’ using red and blue bandanas as flags. Much, much fun!
HUNTING AND TRAPPING
My friend, Todd Garretson, and I hunted for crows (on which there was a bounty) rabbits and squirrels with a single shot .22 cal. rifle.
Another friend, Milton Wade, was quite a little trapper. He had a small trap line, which he walked early in the morning before school started. Often he would find a skunk in one or more of his traps and after leaving his prey at home, he would scurry to school. Our teacher, Miss Kuykendall, after a few whiffs of the pungent odor, would promptly send him home to be deodorized. Some of us, including me, were rather envious of the $60, which he got for the sale of his pelts.
Looking back at Cambridge (after 63 years)
Having experienced 5 or 6 years of continuous drought and the Great Depression, some of my recollections are not too positive. There were the chiggers, the stubbed toes, the ever persistent fly’s, the hot summers and windy cold winters and the lack of indoor plumbing. Air-conditioning was non-existent and in winter the home was heated with a single wood stove.
I recall the measles when my eyes swelled shut, the 17 boils on my back at one time. I remember nails I stepped on and the cuts from broken glass. I still have the scars. I once stepped into the pen where lived our old sow who had just given birth to piglets. She didn’t trust the hand that fed her and quickly let me know by biting the calf of my leg. I still have that scar too.
I don’t think my parents had much faith in doctors. The only time I remember seeing a doctor in Cambridge was for blood poisoning caused by a scratch on barbed wire. Of course penicillin or other anti-biotic did not exist at that time.
But I do have some pleasant memories–the swimming holes, the wild gooseberries and persimmons, fishing, hunting, the freedom to roam the hills, Sat. night silent movies for 5 cents, open air talkies in Burden, the “Grand Ole Opera” And many more. One luxury we had was a table model radio with Gang busters, Dick Tracy, Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy, Amos and Andy, The Shadow, Fibber McGee and Molly and others.
My Life’s Darkest Hour (year)
It all began in. the early spring of 1937. Many Midwestern states had suffered severe drought for 5 or 6 years. The homestead of my great grandparents now belonged to the 3 children of Ella Baum, my grand- mother. Each year the tillable land was leased to neighboring farmers who planted which they hopefully harvested. After several crop failures my father was unable to lease the land for 1937. However the spring of 1937 , by God’s grace, was a little wetter than the last few years and volunteer wheat covering a number of years produced harvestable wheat. After paying for the threshing my father had a profit of $500.
Unbeknownst to me, my mother had told my father that if he did not get the family out of Kansas she would gather us kids and walk out. So with part of the $500 my dad purchased a 1928 Whippet and we prepared to leave our home in Cambridge, Kansas.
I was told very little about our planned migration. We kids were told to keep our going a secret. Why we were told this is still a mystery to me. However we did keep our going a secret. Therefore, there were no going- away parties or socials. We left in the wee hours of the morning. Our home was second to the last house on the edge of town and we were headed west. We slipped quietly out of town in the dark.
There was no room in the car except for the six of us, myself aged 14, sister Beth 12, Gene 10 and Duane aged 4 and of course Mother and Dad. We did not have a trailer; there was no car trunk. We tied suitcases between the fenders along side the motor. Nothing was tied on top. We did have a luggage carrier bolted to the side of the running board. It was shaped like this:
Needless to say we were traveling light, taking only the absolute essentials. We took a minimum of clothing, pie tins for dishes, some old “silver” ware, blankets and no food. All toys (a very few) were left behind, including a pair of roller skates I had used some of my corn hoeing money to buy.
If my sister took a doll. I don’t remember seeing it. Our main home entertainment was a table radio and a few table games. All of this was left at home including my BB gun, which had been given to me on my 11th birthday. Even my marbles were left behind.
The Trip to Yakima, Washington
I can only mention my own feelings. There was EXCITEMENT (going west!), MYSTERY (why did we leave secretly at night) ANTICIPATION, (I had never seen mountains), SADNESS (leaving familiar friends and places), DREAD (facing the unknown).
We traveled only 300 miles per day. It took us 7 days to reach our destination. We stayed in tourist cabins, which cost us $1.00 per night. They were primitive affairs consisting of only the bare necessities. There were only two rooms, a bedroom and a kitchen. The bedroom had a double bed. The kitchen usually had a wood burning cook stove and a table and chairs. There was no indoor plumbing. Outhouses were shared by the residents of the cabins. This is an apt description of the tourist cabin, which was to be home for the coming year.
The trip was rather uneventful except for a couple of semi-comic events. Just east of Denver, Colo. in irrigation country we saw plants commonly called cat-tails which we had never seen in Kansas. They grow in marshy places. My sister, Beth wanted some of them, so Dad stopped the car, Beth jumped out and headed for the cat-tails not realizing there were shallow water filled ditches between her and the cat-tails. But Beth had grit and determination. She would disappear from sight as she slipped and fell but she would arise and continue her course. Triumphantly she returned to the car, muddy but unbowed, with her hands full of her prizes!
The Whippet car had no gas gage. You measured the gas by dipping a stick into the gas tank. One day as we traveled merrily along the Lincoln highway, the car stopped and Dad could not coax it to start even by cranking. He had prepared to hitch-hike back to a gas station (few and far between on that lonely Wyoming road) when a good Samaritan came along and offered to help. Both my Dad and the good Sam tried everything to get the car started—nothing worked! Then the good Sam asked if Dad had checked the gas tank–problem solved! Much to Dad’s chagrin. Good Sam loaned us some gas and we went gladly on our way.
“My Journey to Faith and Beyond”
As I write it is Saturday morning, February 5, 2000. On February 23rd I will observe my 59th birthday as a born-again Christian. The next day, on February 24th I will observe my 77th physical birthday. During the early summer of 1939, I had gone to work for Mr. McMahan in his country grocery store and gas station where I was clerk, soda jerk, butcher, gas station attendant and janitor but mostly as a clerk behind the counter. I was 16 years old when I began. I worked 6 days a week, 12 hours per day. I was paid $12/week. The store was closed on Sunday. I continued to go to Wapato, Washington High School during the school year. At this time I worked 37 hours/week. The school bus brought me to the store at 4:00 pm and I would work until 9:00 pm (or later). Each Saturday I would work 12 hours/day. I have written the above that you may see that I had no time for sports (which I loved) nor any other kind of social life. I had no friends with which I could spend much time. At this time I never set foot in a church. It was a very lonely life. Though I was happy in my job, I longed for companionship with other young people. At this time, my sister, Beth, was 15 years old. Unbeknownst to me, my parents had told her that she could not date boys without first asking their permission. A young boy named Bill Schilperoot (sp?) asked Beth to go with him to a 3-week revival meeting to be held at the Grace Brethren Church of Harrah, Washington. The meetings were from February 2nd to February 23rd, 1941.
Without asking our parents, my sister told Bill, “yes.” When told, my parents said, “no.” After much persuasion (and tears?), which I was not privy to, my parents relented and said she could go with Bill, only if they were accompanied by Archer (me). Glad to have an occasion to lord it over Beth, I agreed to be their chaperon.
Thus, I find myself sitting in the last row of the balcony of this little Brethren church. It is February 2, 1941. I do not remember the message. I only remember that the preacher seemed to be looking at and preaching to me only (not true of course). It is a little scary to me and I thought it to be unfair that he spent so much time looking at me.
It is February 23rd, 1941. It is the last night of 3 weeks of meetings. I was there on the first night but I have not returned until tonight. I did not like to be preached to and be looked at. I later learned that, after 3 weeks of meetings, not a single person had responded to the invitation to receive Christ.
The minister, Conrad Sandy, has preached his last sermon. I am sitting in the balcony, last row. God’s Holy Spirit has brought the conviction to my heart that I need to give my heart and life to Christ the Savior. The last hymn is being sung and with eyes full of tears, wearing shoes with leather heels and steel cleats, I clatter down the wooden stairs to the altar and give my heart to Christ. This is my spiritual birthday. Tomorrow I will be 18 years old.
My going forward seems to have broken a spiritual dam. About 20 others followed in my footsteps. I consider the decision to receive Christ to be the most important decision of my life. I have never regretted it.
Dedication to the Ministry
Exactly four weeks later, with others of our youth at Harrah, I attended a Christian Endeavor conference in Sunnyside, Washington. In response to a message by the president of Whitworth College, I dedicated my life to the service of Christ. After spending all summer working 60 hours/week in a fruit warehouse, I left home to enroll in Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon.
Multnomah was only the beginning. After earning a diploma and marrying my lovely and beautiful wife, Eileen, we, still on our honeymoon, rode in a Pullman coach back to Winona Lake, Indiana where I spent a year as a student in Grace Theological Seminary. In 1945 and 1946 I spent a year and a summer at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. I then transferred to Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, from which I was graduated with a B.A. degree in 1949.
After spending almost two years as pastor of Wishram Community Church in Washington, we (including Eileen and our two little girls, Rebecca and Colleen) returned to Grace Theological Seminary.
While a student at the Seminary, I was a student pastor at West Etna Community Church from 1950 until 1953 where I preached and taught the adult Sunday School class. Just as God had blessed our ministry at Wishram with converts, so He did at West Etna. I was among the first to use the baptistery in the then new McClain Hall.
After receiving a Master of Divinity degree from Seminary in 1953, our little family and I were called to the First Brethren Church of San Diego where I became its fifth pastor. Here we served for over 7 years. Today I have been given the title, “Pastor Emeritus” of the church.
As I am writing this I am 77 years old.
After spending 59 years of study in philosophy, religion and Christianity, I am firmly convinced that in Christ we find truth and life.
With firm conviction, I can say with the apostle Paul, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
Reverend Archer Baum
Burden holds some memories for me also. My first milkshake (pineapple, two large glasses @ $0.10) was purchased in a drugstore at Burden after having attended the Sat. night movie to which I had hitch-hiked from Cambridge. The movie was shown in an open air affair. The building had an enclosed vestibule where tickets were purchased but then you stepped through a door to a roofless enclosure where there were seats and the movie screen and much pleasure.
60th Wedding Anniversary
Archer and Eileen Baum are celebrating 60 years of marriage on May 14, 2004. They met when they were students at Multnomah Bible College in Portland, Oregon, and married soon after. With Eileen’s support, Archer pursued his goal of becoming a Christian minister, as he graduated from Multnomah Bible College, Lewis and Clark College and received a Master of Divinity degree from Grace Theological Seminary. Archer served the Lord as a pastor, an army chaplain and later in life as a public school teacher. Eileen worked with the Traveler’s Insurance Company. They continue to serve with the Gideon Bible organization.
God blessed them with three daughters: Rebecca (deceased and with the Lord); Colleen, married to Pastor Phil Teran; Deborah, married to missionary Mark Schrock; eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Archer and Eileen have been godly role models to all who know and love them. They have provided a rich legacy. Proverbs 20:7 says, “But who can find a trustworthy man? A righteous man who walks in his integrity, how blessed are his children after him.” A family gathering will be held in their honor.