Ova Farmer recalls hanging stockings as big part of Christmas

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ova Clary Farmer, 92, is Monette's Christmas angel this year. She is a very active lady and does not let her age slow her down.

"I have always had a lot of energy and wasn't one to sit still," Mrs. Farmer said. "I grew up on the farm and there was always something that needed to be done. I don't ever get bored. I can always find something that needs doing, still today."

Ova Clary Farmer, Monette Christmas Angel

Mrs. Farmer was born the middle child of Harve and Pearl Clary, of Marmaduke. She had an older brother Alvin and a younger sister Hazel (Root). The farm family moved to the Childress Community, north of Monette, where the children grew up.

"I'm the only one left now," Mrs. Farmer said. "Although it has been a long time I can still recall those happy times as a child looking forward to the excitement of Christmas.

"We always had big family reunions at my Clary grandparent's house. We had tables full of food to eat and a lot of people to share it with.

"My mother always cooked custard pie, and chicken dumplings and dressing. I think she baked cookies for us every day. We got to eat them hot out of the oven.

"My father was a good provider. We went through the great depression in the 1930s and I don't recall us ever not having enough to eat. We raised so much of the stuff ourselves in gardens, as well as having cows, hogs and chickens. We didn't waste food. I recall getting so tired of sitting up at night shelling peas for Momma to can.

There were a couple of grocery stores at Childress, a gin, a school and two churches. The family got all the supplies they needed there, from food to chicken feed.

Mrs. Farmer recalls special days for doing chores that were a matter of routine. Every Saturday she cleaned the globes of the kerosene lamps, along with the water buckets and dippers. Water had to be boiled outside in large pots for washing clothes, during the first part of the week. They used wood for cooking and heating.

"I learned to sew on a treadle Singer sewing machine," she said. "At first I had to slip around and sew when Momma was out of sight, as she was sure I was going to get my fingers under the needle and hurt myself. I was careful and never got punctured with a needle.

"My father and sister and brother all played musical instruments, and we would sing along. I never learned to play, as I was always just interested in cleaning and polishing things. I would be in the house washing windows when they were outside playing in the yard. When I dreamed, I always dreamed of having my own family and a house of my own to keep pretty and clean.

"As Christmas drew near we would hang our stockings by the stove. I don't recall us putting up a tree but the stockings were a big thing. We would get fruit, candy and nuts. I always got a bald headed doll for Christmas and a storybook. My brother got wind-up toys, which he usually tore up the first day."

Ova grew up knowing Orval Farmer, as he and his family were neighbors. "When we were teenagers we started to date seriously. We decided to get married when I was 18 and drove into Monette to the home of the Justice of the Peace, in 1934," she said.

Orval's parents were John Oscar and Lilly (Jennings) Farmer. They had a large family consisting of nine children.

"I was so happy when I finally had a home of my own to take care of," she said. "It was only two rooms, but it was heaven to me. We had a good wood cook stove, a drop-leaf table and chairs in one room, and two beds and a dresser in the other. I had everything fixed up so cute, and it was a dream come true.

"We busied ourselves with farming and raising our family. I never worked outside the home, except on the farm. We stretched out our family, and got to have kids at home for about 30 years. Our daughter Louise was born first. Son Jerry was born seven years later. Then much to our surprise, our daughter Janetta came along 11 years later. These kids are the joy of my life.

"We had such fun Christmases, when they were little. The girls liked dolls. Louise always acted so grown up, and took good care of her toys. Her dolls looked pretty for a long time. Janetta, on the other hand, always played hard with her dolls, dressing and undressing them, and cutting their hair. She grew up liking to cut hair, and she keeps mine trimmed short even today. She was quite a surprise to us when she was born, as Louise was already grown. We always played with Janetta like she was a toy, and tried to love her to death.

"Jerry liked pedal cars and wind-up toys when he was little. I think his father had as much fun out of the toys he got for Jerry as he did. One Christmas Orval played all Christmas Day with a wind-up Caterpillar he got for Jerry, and almost wore it out.

The Farmers would always put up a Christmas tree for the kids and decorate it with strings of popcorn, berries and paper chains. "We put lights on it as soon as we could purchase them," she said. "The kids loved the bright lights. We still did the stocking thing, and they got toys, candy and stuff packed inside for Christmas morning.

"We went to our parent's houses for Christmas dinner, and they always hated leaving their toys behind. They could hardly wait to get back and play with their stuff. I always fixed lots of candy, divinity, fudge and turtle candy. They especially loved peanut brittle and pecan logs."

Mrs. Farmer was a widow for 19 years, after Orval died with cancer in 1982, before choosing to move to an apartment in Monette in 2001.

"My friend and neighbor, Evelyn Markin, moved to Christopher Homes in Monette, and I thought I would like that too," she said. "I have loved living here and being close to my friends. I lost two of my best friends this year, Evelyn and Tootsie Markin. I saw them every week, and sat between them at the Monette Assembly of God Church each week. The sad thing about getting older is that so many of my friends have passed on.

"I have good neighbors who live next door, Madge Pruitt and Bertha Sparkman. If one of us cooks something, we share it with the others. I don't drive any more as my eyesight is failing. Madge is our designated driver and is so good to take us around."

"All three of my kids call me everyday," Mrs. Farmer said. "They really have me spoiled. Louise (Yonce) lives in Flint, Jerry lives at Alexander and Janetta (Whitney) lives in Little Rock. All the kids are good to come and check on me. Jan and her husband Mel will be here for Christmas.

"After all these years, I still get excited about Christmas. I like to hear what my six grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren are getting for Christmas. I want to know what everyone is cooking for the holidays. Pecan pies are still special around here, and full tables are still something to look forward to."

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