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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Alcaraz

Wilma Stratton from Juniper Springs Senior Living

Wilma Stratton - Wilma’s Early Life

“My name is Wilma Stratton. Today’s my 93rd birthday. I’m so old I don’t even know how old I am! My dad was a lead miner. He worked in the lead mines. Very religious. But they had to wear dark socks and everything black you know. So we were brought up pretty strict and we moved to a little town in Missouri called Licking and I went to the first 10 years of school in Licking. And then my dad was an abusive father so I left home at 15. My sister found a job for me taking care of some peoples children. I slept on an army cot in their living room and took care of their three children and got up in the morning and took care of the baby and let her sleep in. And I did their laundry for them. Seven dollars a week I made.”

Wilma Stratton - Wilma and the Candy Factory

“My sister found me another job in a candy factory and that was fun! They would turn the belts that had the chocolate candy on them and whatever was left on the belt when the end shift ended would go down into the floor and we could take them all home with us. So when I’d get off of the bus that I had to take all the way across St. Louis from where I was working. When I get off of the bus all of the little girls and the boys in the neighborhood would meet me at the bus because they knew I brought candy home.”

Wilma Stratton - Wilma’s Siblings

Interviewer: How many siblings did you have? Did you come from a big family?

Wilma: There were six girls and one boy in my family and my brother worked at my uncle’s sawmill. I don’t know if you know what it is or not but they made the wooden slats in wine barrels. They’re kind of curved. So he worked making those wine barrels slats and then when he got off of that he worked in the bowling alley until the bowling alley closed. So, he was a hard-working young man because he brought his check home and give it to his mom.

Interviewer: He helped support all the kids?

Wilma: All of us kids yeah. Whenever we moved to St. Louis, I moved in with my cousins and her husband and they had three young kids. So I took care of them in exchange for their nights out on the party, you know the town.

Wilma Stratton - Schooling

Interviewer: So you didn’t graduate from high school? Sounds like you went right to work.

Wilma: To the 10th grader is as far as I went. But then I went back to school and got my degree.

Interviewer: How old were you when you went back to school?

Wilma: 53 was when I went back. I was born in 27.

Interviewer: So in your late twenties it sounds like.

Wilma: Yeah I went back and got my degree. Randy was probably about five or six years old when I went back to school.

Interviewer: So you were married with Vern.

Wilma: Married with the family.

Interviewer: Had two little kiddos.

Wilma: Yeah.

Wilma Stratton - Wilma’s Dad

Interviewer: So tell me, I know you have a really interesting story about your dad and how he got to be the sheriff. So talk a little bit about that.

Wilma: Okay, well my hometown was, we moved to Licking, Missouri when I was in the first grade so I was about six I guess. Five or six. My dad was, worked for my uncle's sawmill. He went out in the forest and marked the trees that he wanted the guys to saw down and then they had an election coming up for the, someone for the sheriff. It was the first sheriff that they ever had. He was the only one that ran for the office and he got it! But he was not too tall, just an average size guy but he was built, muscular and they had two different families. The boys were big 6 foot tall guys, you know and they came to town every Saturday just to fight in front of the feed store. That’s all they came to town for was to fight.

Interviewer: Two different families would come and clash?

Wilma: Two different families with big tall boys, Yeah.

Interviewer: How big was Licking?

Wilma: When I was there it was 598.

Interviewer: And that was when your dad was the sheriff?

Wilma: Uh huh. And they elected him City Marshall.

Wilma Stratton - Johnny Cash

Interviewer: Now, I know you have a really good story about meeting Johnny Cash. I want to hear a little bit about that. Like how that happened and what you thought of him.

Wilma: Johnny Cash the first time I saw him, Vern had an auto body shop and this guy brought his car in and it was Gordon Terry and he was the guy that played the fiddle for Johnny Cash. And he brought the car in for some repair work. Vern fixed the car and he got acquainted that way with Gordon Terry. And his wife’s name was Virginia and they were southern people. So you know, Vern and him hit it off real good. They’d come over and eat dinner with us and we'd go over their house and play cards and stuff. But we got to know Johnny through them and their water line. Johnny's water line broke in their house while he and his wife, he was married to Vivian then it wasn’t June Carter it was Vivian. And his waterline broke in his house so Virginia, Terry, and I went over and helped the guys to clean the house up.

Wilma Stratton - Johnny Cash pt. 2

Wilma: My sis asked him one time when we were at one of the taverns where he was playing, how long it had been since he had any cornbread and beans. He says it’s been a long time. So she said well, come over tomorrow night and you’ll have some. And he showed up! She fixed him cornbread and beans and one of her girlfriends were there and he took off with the girlfriend.

Interviewer: Were you there for the meal?

Wilma: No but the girlfriend was a divorcée. So that was when he was in his wild days you know.

Wilma Stratton - Wilma’s Husband

Interviewer: I know you were married for many years. How many years were you married to Vern?

Wilma: 79 years. That’s a long time but he was sure a sweetheart. Just real sweet guy. You know they have to be to stay together that long and you can just look at his picture and see the sweetness in him.

Transcription and Audio Edit by Ileana Chavez and Samantha Alcaraz.

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22. Juli 2020

I think this is a great project and thoroughly enjoyed listening to Wilma Sttraton’s memories. I hope to hear more of Wilma’s life story. I have great affection for you, my friend. I have high hopes to visit with you again after the COVID-19 passes. God Bless You, Judy McCoy

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