September 8, 2009
Clarence Ray Long (1889-1935)
Of Tulsa, Oklahoma
Clarence Ray Long, the only child of William George Long and Mattie Thompson Long, was born on November 19, 1889, in Parker’s Landing, Pennsylvania.
This account of the life of Clarence includes these sections:
The Young Clarence Long
Clarence apparently was the last of many in the Parker and Long families to be born in Parker’s Landing. Pictures taken in a Pittsburgh photo studio showed Clarence, probably about four years old, with long blonde curls and wearing what seems to be a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit. He was wearing short pants and high stockings and had a very large bow at the waist. The picture suggests the family was still in the Pittsburgh area around 1894. Other pictures of this much-photographed child were taken in Butler, Pennsylvania, as well as more in Pittsburgh. The one in what appears to be a school military uniform was taken in Morgantown, West Virginia.
Clarence’s letters indicated he always felt somewhat lonely, largely because he was an only child, which he regretted. The constant moving about of his father in the oil business left Clarence without clear roots, and he always seemed to be at odds with his dad about one thing or another. Clarence’s wife, Odie, was at odds with her own father. Clarence’s mother died when Clarence was only 26. In addition, both of his grandfathers – Samuel W. Long and Wesley F. Thompson, the fathers of both Bill and Mattie Long – had died in their thirties as a result of illnesses contracted during the Civil War.
Clarence’s parents, Bill and Mattie, moved from Pennsylvania to West Virginia sometime before the census of 1900. That census showed Clarence, 10 years old, and his parents boarding with a Boggess family in the “Ten Mile District” of Harrison County, which is close to Clarksburg. The town is not far from the southwest corner of Pennsylvania. A photograph taken when Clarence was about 16 or 17 showed him in a uniform that appeared to be that of a cadet at a military school, which seems uncharacteristic of Clarence in view of his later opinions. The picture was taken by a studio in Morgantown, West Virginia.
When he was 20, the census taken on May 5, 1910, showed Clarence living with his parents, in St. Alban’s town in the Jefferson District of Kanawha County, West Virginia, close to Charleston, in the southern part of West Virginia. The census showed that he was not employed. Clarence had written to Odie McLaughlin in September 1909, when he was still 19, saying that he had just entered Bowdoin College in Maine as a sophomore, and he may have still been there the following May. How long he stayed at Bowdoin is not known. It is possible that by May 10 he had dropped out and was living at home.
Meeting Odie McLaughlin
While the Longs were living in or near Clarksburg, between 1895 and 1910, the family of Charles William McLaughlin (1862-1940) moved into a house on the same block, possibly the next house. Charles McLaughlin’s wife, Jennie McClurg McLaughlin (1861-1895), had died in January 1895 at the age of 33, and on June 1, 1898, he had been married to Mary (Mayme) Eckhardt. Charles had had two daughters with Jennie, and he would have three children with Mayme, born in 1900, 1902 and 1905. It is not clear exactly when Charles and Mayme moved into the house in Clarksburg, and whether Mayme’s children had yet been born, but it appears the date of the move was around 1900.
The oldest of the five children of Charles was Odie Deetta McLaughlin. Odie had been born on August 27, 1888, in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, a small town in Butler County, Pennsylvania, not far from the area where the Parker and Long families grew up. Her father, like Clarence’s father, was involved in the oil business. Odie was 15 months older than Clarence, and she said she was about 10 when they met. She believed they were next door neighbors. Clarence wrote in one of his letters that he and Odie used to play together in Clarksburg. One family story held that when they were about 12, there was mistletoe hanging at the front entrance of one of their homes, and they ended up under it together. Clarence immediately remarked that they would have to get married. And, much later, they did.
The family history is that Clarence and Odie wanted to be married soon, but their parents opposed it. Odie’s half-sister Nelle McLaughlin said she understood that the fathers of both Odie and Clarence discouraged the marriage precisely because neither had ever had any other romantic interest, and they thought the two young people should get acquainted with others before making a decision on marriage. Clarence later said he and Odie had become secretly engaged.
In September 1909, when he was 19, Clarence went off to Bowdoin College in Maine. He sent a postcard from there to Odie, addressed simply “Miss Odie McLaughlin, Honeoye Falls, New York,” a village on a river a few miles south of Rochester, where she may have been on a vacation. He said he had just enrolled at Bowdoin as a sophomore. “Does it surprise you?” he asked. “Will write later.” The college confirmed that Clarence was enrolled in the Class of 1912 and joined the Psi Upsilon fraternity. (It seems out of character for Clarence to have joined a fraternity, given the strong opinions in his later writings, but the college said that he did. Bowdoin banned all fraternities in 1998.) Clarence did not graduate, but left school, perhaps after a year.
Odie went to the New York State Normal School in Geneseo, about 20 miles south of Rochester. Odie’s father was in modest circumstances, but Charles’ sister, Gertrude McLaughlin Westerman (1865-1914), paid for Odie’s expenses to go to school. It seems that Odie was somewhat resentful of her father. Much later, when Odie’s father was in some financial difficulty, Clarence wrote that he and Odie had a feeling that Charles McLaughlin “should be allowed to paddle his own canoe, for he turned Odie loose to paddle hers when she was sixteen.”If Clarence was correct about the age, Odie must have gone to Geneseo about 1905, a few years before Clarence went to Bowdoin. Geneseo began as the Wadsworth Normal and Training School, a teacher's college, in 1871. An internet photograph shows the 1929 baseball team wearing uniforms that say “Geneseo Normal.” Later, the school became a liberal arts college, and in 2006, it was called the State University of New York at Geneseo, or SUNY Geneseo.
Odie made excellent grades at Geneseo and got a two-year teacher’s certificate. Years later, when she had to defend her home-schooling of her son Billy, Clarence wrote that Odie produced her Geneseo certificate for the Tulsa school superintendent, “which seemed to make an impression.” After Geneseo, Odie began teaching in Rochester, New York, all the while staying in touch with Clarence. One summer during these teaching years, she went to Vineland, New Jersey, to study with Dr. Henry H. Goddard, author of The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness (1912). The book was an extended case study on the potential for inheritance of "feeble-mindedness,” and Odie studied how to teach mentally handicapped.
Odie taught for about eight years in the public schools of Rochester, perhaps beginning about 1906. Sometime between 1910 and 1914, Clarence moved to Tulsa, apparently with his parents. He then moved to Sapulpa, Oklahoma, a town of 18,000 a short distance southwest of Tulsa, and participated in the launching of a new newspaper, the Sapulpa Daily Herald. He became the city editor.
Although they had not seen each other for several years, Clarence wrote to Odie and persuaded her to join him. As he later told his son John, Clarence said, “I sent for your mother.” Odie took a train from New York to Tulsa, which required an overnight stay and several train changes. Clarence was quite opinionated about religion (he was against it), and he once told his son John that “your mother was worried about how an atheist could get married, but I surprised her. I had arranged for an Episcopal priest to marry us.” The priest was the pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa.
Odie and Clarence were married in Tulsa on the day after Christmas, December 26, 1914. When Clarence’s father, Bill Long, died 12 years later, Clarence got possession of some of the furniture in his
Over the ten years after their marriage, Odie and Clarence had four children:
William Charles Long (1916-1988)
Vallance McLaughlin Long (1917-1975)
John Vanderford Long (1920-2004)
Rachel Louise Long Misey (1924-2004)
More information on each of the children and their descendants is in the section on the Children of Clarence and Odie Long. See also the sections on the McLaughlin family, the McClurgs and the Ralstons. See also the genealogical charts for each of these family groups.
Aunt Mary Jane Vallance
Much of what is known about Clarence and Odie Long comes from letters that Clarence wrote to Odie’s friend in Rochester, New York, Mary Jane Vallance. Mary Jane was a demonstration teacher in a Rochester school where Odie taught retarded children. They were the best of friends, although Mary Jane was seven years older than Odie. Both Odie and Clarence wrote to her, very frequently, as did their children almost as soon as they learned to write. Mary Jane saved many of the letters written by Clarence and many years later gave them to Odie. This treasure of 151 of Clarence’s letters was written between September 1914, beginning three months before Odie and Clarence were married, and ending in September 1935 (just two months before Clarence died at the age of 45).
On September 8, 1914, in his first letter to Mary Jane, apparently responding to one from her, Clarence wrote this from Sapulpa:
A great deal of Odie’s letters have been about “Mary,” so, like you, I feel we are friends even if we have not seen each other except in pictures. It is indeed kind of you all to be so friendly to me when you know that I am going to take Odie away from you, for I know how I would feel if the positions were reversed. But then you will be down to visit us and, I hope, will be able to see why Odie is so willing to leave her many friends in Rochester and cast her lot with mine. It may be a hard lot, but we expect to be happy just the same, no matter what fortune has in store for us. I never knew a newspaper man to get rich.
Mary Jane Vallance had been born on April 14, 1881, and she remained single all her life. The 1910 census showed her, age 29, as a teacher in Rochester, boarding with the parents of another teacher. In 1920, she was boarding with a different family and teaching at a normal school. In 1930, she was living with her brother, Charles A. Vallance. She was 49 and he was 53, and both were teachers.
Through her extensive correspondence with Odie, Clarence and their children, as well as her visits to Tulsa, she was known as “Aunt Mary Jane” to the Long family. The second child of Clarence and Odie was named in her honor, “Vallance McLaughlin Long.” Mary Jane died in Rochester in January 1980, at the age of 98.
Clarence Long’s Letters
Clarence was a dedicated letter-writer, and he wrote his thoughts on many subjects to Mary Jane Vallance. Odie obtained the letters from Mary Jane sometime before Odie died in 1976, apparently when Mary Jane visited Odie near Washington, and they were preserved by Odie’s daughter, Rachel Long Misey.
A few of the letters were hand-written, but most were typed, single-spaced, with very few errors, on both sides of the page, usually with the second page upside down, and some of them extended to three and four pages. There is a gap in the collection of letters between 1915 and 1922, and presumably there were more similar letters during that period. In 1931, Clarence reported that his “Rex” typewriter had quit and he had obtained a heavy old Royal typewriter that had been worked over. In 2007, this machine was in the possession of his granddaughter, Johanna Misey Boyer, daughter of Rachel Long Misey.
Letter writing was a major part of Clarence’s life, and he encouraged Mary Jane to write often. “You know,” he said in 1933, “when I was a little boy, the mailman was a frequent visitor, family letters were numerous. Now that I am a lone wolf and Odie won’t write to her family, all he ever brings is bills, except on red letter days when we get an envelope with a Rochester postmark [from Mary Jane].” In 1934, Clarence told Mary Jane that this was the fifth letter he’d written that afternoon. He always wrote long thank-you letters to Mary Jane on the afternoon of Christmas Day, inevitably taking time away from his family. He wrote letters to the editors of major magazines, and he wrote to educators and psychologists and scientists, and often received replies from very prominent people.
Clarence hardly ever mentioned his formal work in these letters, but he was clearly involved in the oil business after a few years in journalism.
Clarence Goes to Jail
When he moved to Oklahoma, Clarence began working for the Sapulpa Daily Herald, a new newspaper started only in 1914. Clarence quickly became the city editor and was an active crusader to correct wrongdoing. His son Bill wrote in his Antioch admissions application that at the time his father worked for the Daily Herald, “the newspaper was fighting the liquor dealers and gambling house operators who practically owned and controlled Sapulpa as well as most of the other Oklahoma towns of that day.”
Clarence apparently bragged about this activity, and in June of 1916, Clarence received a letter from the president of Bowdoin College, William De Witt Hyde:
I am very glad to hear of the splendid reform work you and your paper are doing down there. Nothing gives us greater satisfaction than to know that our former students are in positions of influence which they are using for the public good.
But then came trouble. The Herald’s issue of September 9, 1916, told the story of an assault on Clarence and the senior editor of the newspaper, O. S. Todd, by none other than the mayor of Sapulpa, a man named Boggs. In the course of the assault, Clarence pulled out a gun. He was quickly overwhelmed by others in the mayor’s party, and put in jail.
The mayor had been angered about a series of articles run by the Herald and written by Clarence. “For weeks the Herald has fought a battle against the prostitution of Sapulpa and the use of its official machinery in the protection of crime,” the Herald reported on September 9, 1916. “Threats and rumors of threats against the Herald and its editors have reached the Herald, but after a two years battle with such cattle, the Herald pays no attention to such things.”
This explanation was on a front page that carried these headlines:
BOGGS ASSAULTS EDITOR
Mayor Descends on Herald
Carried City Editor Long to Jail
And Attempted to Kill Editor
MADE THREATS DAY BEFORE
On the day preceding the attack, according to the Herald, the mayor went to the Herald office and told Editor Todd he ought to be killed if Todd did not retract a recent story about an occupation tax. The next day, a third party reported that the mayor had said “he was coming down and beat Todd and Long to death at six o’clock.” About that hour, Mayor Boggs arrived with the City Attorney, Morals Inspector, and a motorcycle policeman. Before proceeding, they decided to get Boggs’ son and other reinforcements, even though Todd, Clarence Long, and Business Manager Young were the only people in the office. The paper provided this account:
The Long family understanding was that this incident was enough to persuade Odie that journalism was not such a good career for Clarence, who was then 27. She persuaded him to change jobs, and shortly afterward they moved to Tulsa.
Clarence’s Social Conscience
It is clear from his newspaper experience and the tales he told his family that Clarence was a hard-driving, muckraking reporter when he worked for the Herald. The episode was apparently only one of many such confrontations.
Both Clarence and Odie were active the populist movement in northeast Oklahoma, an area where it was said there were more socialists in the teens to early 1920's than the combined number of socialists in the entire country. Long family members were told that Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926), the founder of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and five times the Socialist candidate for President of the United States, was a frequent guest at the home of Clarence and Odie in Tulsa, although Clarence did not mention this in his letters. Historian Howard Zinn wrote that:
The strongest Socialist state organization was in Oklahoma, which in 1914 had twelve thousand dues-paying members (more than New York State), and elected over a hundred Socialists to local office, including six to the Oklahoma state legislature. There were fifty-five weekly Socialist newspapers in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and summer encampments that drew thousands of people. When Eugene Debs ran for president as the Socialist Party candidate, he got a million votes.
Within Oklahoma, socialism merged with agrarian reform efforts, especially in regard to the taking of land from the Indian tribes. Odie was an educated woman who was naturally concerned about the right to vote, child worker laws, exploitation of workers by business owners, and native American rights. All of these issues were strongly felt in northeast Oklahoma and were stimulants to the socialist movement, including the discussion groups in the Long home on Tenth Street.
This was the context in which Clarence and Odie moved to Tulsa in 1914. They were deeply involved in local social issues, including efforts to rein in the Ku Klux Klan and to reform the schools of Tulsa. Clarence wrote letters and articles to national intellectual journals, and on a local level he and Odie promoted their political views on presidential candidates, never favoring either the Republican or Democratic candidates. Their very liberal viewpoints inevitably had influence on their children, as is evident in the section on the Children of Clarence and Odie Long. Clarence’s opinions on these subjects are also evident in the excerpts from his letters below.
The Oil Business
When Clarence registered for the World War I draft in 1917, three years after marrying Odie, he reported that he lived in Tulsa and was “in charge of the Material Department” of the Casden Oil & Gas Company. It was clear that the journalism career was over, and the stay in Sapulpa too. Clarence’s first child, Bill, was born in Sapulpa in February 1916, and his second one, Vallance, was born in Tulsa in July 1917, suggesting that Clarence and Odie moved to Tulsa between those dates.
Clarence's letters written from home carried the address 2827 East Tenth Street, Tulsa. But many of the letters were written on his employer’s stationery, some at home and some at the office. From 1922 and up to 1931, many were on letterhead of the Sinclair Pipe Line Company. In the middle of 1931, he was using letterhead of the Stanolind Pipe Line Company, and later the Stanolind Crude Oil Purchasing Company. It was a turbulent time in the oil business, with many mergers and acquisitions and changes of names for the companies. The Sinclair Pipe Line Company was owned in part by Standard Oil of Indiana, which also controlled Stanolind. In 1985, Standard Oil of Indiana changed its name to Amoco, and in 1998 it merged with British Petroleum (BP). An interesting account of the shifts in the company and the oil business in general can be found at http://www.answers.com/topic/amoco.
It is clear Clarence was not happy in the oil business. He was usually very vague about his work, although it appears he was an accountant or at least involved in the finances of the company. He was distressed in some detail in July 1924:
The oil business is all scrambled and hard-fried just now, with too much oil above ground and all the various subsidiaries of the Standard fighting each other and disagreeing on what should be done to stop the overproduction.
This company has gotten themselves in a mess, and most of the trouble of straightening out the details is going to fall one me, or has already fallen. Most of these big company executives are about as brainless as the clerks under them. Most of them have arrived by accident and for reasons about as far from that of ability as the reason for the election of a congressman.
Clarence complained in September 1925 about “more grief coming on my desk. I wish I was out of this outfit. I think I would feel a lot better if working conditions were more agreeable.” He ended one letter to Mary Jane with “I must get back to my crude payments.”
In 1929, he wrote mocking the head of the company:
Did you know I got a personal letter from Harry Sinclair? Sure, I helped address the envelopes and mark them personal myself. . . . [The letter] was chiefly concerned with what a great company I have built with your help. You ought to have heard the ribald comments that were made when we all opened our ‘personal letters.’ . . . I wish Harry could have heard the laughs and the comments. He would feel worse than he did when he went to jail.
On the other hand, Clarence took on a project in 1932 that left him feeling he had made a real contribution to Sinclair’s company. “After fighting it for two years,” he wrote, I have finally gotten consent to put the crude on the Hollerith code machine. That has involved changing a great many things, including working up about 20 thousand code numbers, and since I am the one who wanted to do it, it is up to me to do the job myself.” Eighteen months later, in May 1934, he declared success, while indulging himself in industry jargon without any explanation: “Did you ever wait for eventualities? That is what I am doing at ten o’clock in the morning in the middle of crude time. Soon I must go in and wire the multiplier to crossfoot two taxes on the summary cards. How is that for a mouthful? My system that I worked on so hard last year has proved itself all that I anticipated. Getting out the crude checks is the easiest thing we do these days.”
The oil business also affected everyday life in Tulsa. Despite his apparent cynicism about his employer, Clarence was proud to take his children and visitors to the annual Petroleum Exposition and parade.
Living in Tulsa
It appears from Clarence’s letters that the family made several moves in Tulsa. In 1917, they lived at 121 East 13th Street. In 1920, the census showed them at 901 Woodward Park. By 1930, they were at 2827 East Tenth Street. That house was near the University of Tulsa and one block away from Eleventh Street, which was also known as Route 66. This was the well-known U.S. highway that for many years, before the interstate highway system was created, was the only continuous link between Illinois and California.
In 1928, when Rachel was only four, there was a Transcontinental Foot Race from Los Angeles to New York, and it passed down Route 66 through Tulsa. Parades were also held on Eleventh Street, which directly into downtown Tulsa about a mile away from the Long home. In 1948, when Clarence’s son Val was living in the Tenth Street house, President Harry Truman’s motorcade was coming down the street, but Val wouldn’t go to see him. His daughter Sandra remembered him saying, “I won’t walk even one block to see Harry Truman.”
At home the family developed a passion for ice cream, begun with Clarence and carried on at the Tenth Street house by Val and his family years later. The ice cream, as remembered by Clarence’s granddaughter Sandra, was made outdoors in the summertime in an ice-filled bucket. The simple recipe was to take any fresh fruit in season – peaches or raspberries, or whatever – and add a bit of cream, sugar, more cream and more sugar, and perhaps some vanilla. In June 1934, Clarence wrote “We made fresh apricot ice cream yesterday, and Was It Good!”
As she wrote many years later, Odie was very happy with Clarence:
He seemed to me to be the brightest person I had ever known. He read a great deal and reviewed books occasionally for such weeklies as The Nation. He also wrote some children’s stories, intending to write more when the children were grown. Evenings we all read in the living room, or some played chess, or your grandfather read aloud to everyone’s pleasure.
The Writing Bug
For most of his time in Tulsa, Clarence’s thoughts clearly were outside the oil business. On numerous occasions in his letters, he stressed his desire to write. “I have the writing bug and the gumption to stick to it just now,” he said in December 1923. “Having the first thing I offered the Nation accepted sort of gave me confidence to go on. Trouble is I want to write poetry all the time and poetry takes time, and I don’t know whether it’s any good and it doesn’t pay. So there you are.” On March 20, 1924, he wrote “I have the writing bug badly this time. I am as restless as an eel when I am home unless I am at the typewriter and this time I stick to things until I finish them. I sent a long article to the Atlantic this week.”
Clarence was fond of the Baltimore writer H. L. Mencken, and his writing was often very Mencken-esque – peppered with strongly held opinions that tended to the outrageous. He said he liked reading Mencken’s magazine American Mercury. “Odie reads it under protest,” he wrote, “but admits it is worth reading. We both get sick and tired of Mencken’s eternal harping on the good old days of the saloon.” Regarding the articles, “of course they all have a jaundiced point of view but they are well written, which is certainly more than can be said for the Atlantic.”
Typical of Clarence’s outrageous outbursts was this discussion of India in October 1927. He and Odie had read Mother India and several histories of the country.
You can never again take these Swamis and talk about the beauties of Hindu religion seriously. . . . You gather considerable respect for Gandhi and also realize that he is a voice howling in the wilderness. . . . There is just one satisfactory way to handle the Indian question and that is to get about 100,000 airplanes, load them with bombs containing lethal gases and depopulate the peninsula, then colonize it with decent people.
With similar hyperbole in 1926, he described a Unitarian minister who had arrived in Tulsa for a book seminar. “He is one of those evasive critters,” Clarence wrote, “all words that go round and round without getting anywhere. . . . Evidently he is one of those self-educated ignoramuses with a large flow of words up the gullet who mistakes sound for thought. They are rather frequent in liberal churches, from all accounts.”
On less volatile subjects, Clarence was regularly sending off submissions to the Nation and the Atlantic Monthly, and getting some of them published. In March 1928, he was especially annoyed at a review of children’s books published in the Nation, and the editor invited him to set things straight. Clarence explained:
You know I have peculiar ideas about children’s books. . . . After the Nation had its children’s book number last fall, I wrote in and scolded them severely for making such a hash of it, and Lewis Gannett wrote in reply and admitted that no one on the Nation staff knew anything about children’s books, and he himself would like to know what to get for his two children, that he had been trying to read Tom Sawyer aloud and not getting very far with it. So I wrote him seven single spaced pages one afternoon up here at the office, and as a feat of memory it was pretty good considering the number of books I named, with their authors and publishers and illustrators.
Gannett acted on my letter and found that his Christmas book buying for his children on my advice was quite a success, so he showed the letter to his wife and to the Van Dorens and several others, . . . and the Van Doren who is literary editor of the Nation wants a long article on the lines of the letter for the book number next fall. Odie violently disagreed with some of the things I said in my letter, and so did Lewis Gannett. He disagreed with my dislike for Mark Twain and Hendrik Willem van Loon. Since then, Billy brought home Tom Sawyer and we read some of it aloud and found it not so bad, but nothing to get very excited about, while Huckleberry Finn is hopeless and the boys found it so too.
Clarence was clearly well-regarded in the intellectual company that wrote for the Nation. In the issue of May 6, 1925, Clarence’s diatribe against gypsies ran alongside commentary by Felix Frankfurter, Harvard law professor and later an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; Harry D. Gideonse, a founder of Freedom House and for 26 years the president of Brooklyn College; and T. J. Walsh, a U.S. Senator from Montana. Part of Clarence’s comment: “The biological truth is probably that the reason why Gipsies dance and sing is because having a common ancestry, that ancestry is characterized by a jovial temperament. The only other explanation for their kind of happiness is that not having much to do, they have to kill time.”
Among the writings found in Clarence’s files were a story “The Mouse that Chased the Cat,” published in the Rand McNally monthly Child Life in August 1925, and related stories, “The Wee Mouse who was Wiser than his Grandfather,” and “The Waltzing Mice and their Whisker Watches.”
Also among his writings was an eleven-page treatise on “States Rights and the Modern World,” apparently written for publication in the Atlantic. There was also a set of writings for the Nation. These were several 1924 rebuttals of writings by Algernon S. Crapsey, one of them concluding “What the world needs is not more Christianity but a new religion.” And there was a long attack on applied psychology, which Clarence wrote under the pseudonym “H. S. Stockton.”
When they moved to Oklahoma, Odie couldn’t get a teaching job because married women were not being hired. Believing she could do a better job with her children than a school system dominated by the views of the Ku Klux Klan, Odie decided to home-school her children.
Clarence wrote many letters and poems in praise of Odie. One of these poems he sent to Mary Jane. “See how you like it,” he wrote. “Don’t let Odie know I sent it. Odie seems to like what I have written but I don’t think she is any judge of poetry because her sense of rhythm is so defective.”
Clarence made frequent mention of Odie’s dealings with the disliked school superintendent, who always accepted Odie’s reports on her home-schooling progress. In June 1923, he wrote that “Odie made short work of a persistent book agent woman the other day, and the woman went next door in a huff and said that Mrs. Long thought she was smarter than most people. And our neighbor very gallantly said he thought she was too.”
In August 1926, after Clarence had inherited his father’s Nash Ajax car, he wrote that “Odie is still learning to drive the car but it will be some time before she gets a diploma. So far all she has gotten is a puncture from not missing a broken bottle. I am going to try to get her to take a lesson this morning. We may go over to Turkey Mountain this evening and take our supper with us.”
In March 1928, Clarence told Mary Jane “you ought to see Odie drive now.”
Nothing but the five o’clock traffic on Main St fazes her now. She goes everywhere in the car and has been coming downtown in the evening after me lately. I laughed at her last night. She was scolding about some man who did not get out of her way fast enough when she was coming after me. And such a short time ago, I have heard her denounce the drivers for not going slowly enough for pedestrians. Not but what she drives slowly, but the point of view was so different. She is even at the point where she likes to drive.
In regard to education, Clarence wrote in 1926 that “after all we have said about schools here and all the books we have read on progressive education, [Odie] is visibly concerned because Billy [age 10] and John  are not getting all A marks a school. She is even offering rewards to them to do better work. I have not said anything but I am enjoying her inability to rise above the norms of her old schoolteacher years. Poke a little fun at her when you write and see what reaction you get,” he advised Mary Jane.
On the Ku Klux Klan. Clarence and Odie often joined friends to discuss the Ku Klux Klan and its efforts to affect elections for the school board. “We have had some great sessions at our house,” he wrote. Two people had been attacked by Odie and another woman for their lack of sympathy for the poor. “Where does Odie get such a sympathetic makeup,” he asked. “I have to keep a watch on myself.”
In March 1925, Clarence wrote that “you will not be likely to get any more from Odie for a while as we are getting mixed up in politics again. A majority of the board is to be elected again because of the resignations. . . . If we can get [specific candidates] elected now without any trouble and get rid of our windbag superintendent . . . I think things will look up educationally in Tulsa.”
A month later he wrote that “the political pot is boiling. . . We outmaneuvered the Klan before the nominations and made them accept a compromise whereby no matter how the election comes out, the Klan cannot control. They are doing a good deal of howling about it, but as the nominations are closed, they are stung. Odie engineered it. . . . She can tell you about meeting in committee with the Klansmen, one of whom carried a snake in his pocket as a pet. It was a lot of fun.”
But after one month more, Clarence was crushed.
The election was a farce. [Our candidate for board president] was defeated more than two to one. The Klan . . . broke their promise and double-crossed us. . . . Odie worked at the polling place in the afternoon and had a series of debates with the Klansmen and Klan women. One time she had an audience of about thirty on the college campus where the voting was going on. . . . Odie is convinced now there is absolutely nothing to be done here in Tulsa without a real political organization from the ground up and without openly fighting the thing on the Klan issue. . . .
It is curious how the Klan proves the psychology of the Catholic church to be right: the mass of people DO want authority and ceremony. The average Catholic and the average klansman are mentally of one piece, the difference being a matter of accident. There are just a few people capable of thinking for themselves and still fewer who are willing to try to make their thoughts effective, and about one in ten million in a generation succeeds.
Those Awful Tulsa Schools. Clarence and Odie were constantly on the warpath with the Tulsa school system and with individual teachers. Clarence’s own reading and expertise in virtually any subject, and in particular his voracious reading habits with all the classics of literature, gave him a very high standard to apply against lowly teachers.
In September 1931, he and Odie took Miss Force, the science teacher, along on an outing to their cabin in the mountains. They seemed to like her, and she wanted to rent a nearby cabin, but Clarence had this to say about her:
Her ignorance of anything except her own specialty is amazing, and she has been amusing to us because her fundamentalist religion is so at variance with her knowledge of science. Odie and I took turns dynamiting her idols during the weekend, and it must have done her some good, because last night she said she had not felt so well or had such peace of mind for months as after that trip.
In December 1931, he and Odie went to a parent’s night at the high school, following their children’s schedule.
It was as good as a circus. The music teacher was a caricature, about six feet tall and six inches wide, with some sort of tic about her face. She calmly stated that this was a required course, required for the children and required for her, and she told them they had been wished on her and she on them, and neither one was going to enjoy it much, but if they behaved they would pass, and if they didn’t they would be failed. She didn’t know whether any of them could sing and didn’t care.
[The substitute English teacher was a] girl who had been teaching in a little normal school in Kansas. She had had the class a week or so when this evening came around and had announced that the class would fail. . . . This woman, who was so nervous that the white showed through her knuckles, proceeded to belabor us for having such dumb children and the children for not knowing anything.
She and I got into a row for a few minutes when I tried to probe into her mind and see if she had any human feelings at all. By that time, she reminded me more than anything else of a cornered rat, fangs bared and trembling. We left and went straight to the class director, and due to the fact that Billy had A marks in Latin, History and Geometry, got him moved out of that.
Three years later, in February 1934, Clarence wrote that “I have been stirring up the animals again.”
This English teaching in Tulsa is terrible . . . The book list in Billy’s last semester class beat anything for trash I ever saw, so I took the list item by item and ripped it up one side and down the other, pointed out what I considered the fundamental defects in the English teaching, and ended up with the suggestion that the English department be abolished altogether. . . . It was a humdinger of a letter, and I sent a copy of it to one of the school board members I knew. . . About three weeks later, a large envelope, that cost twelve cents to post in the city, appeared at the house. It contained a short letter from the [school superintendent], and a nine-page answer from [the teacher]. . .
Then I was called by both the school board member and the Supt. Office and asked to attend a board meeting at which the English department was to be discussed. . . . When [the teacher] wasn’t reading a prepared paper that had nothing to do with my points, the president of the board was asking silly questions and making comments that forced me to help out [the teacher] by explaining to the boob in words of one syllable what we were trying to talk about. I learned afterwards that [the board president] had once been a country school teacher out here somewhere some twenty-five years ago, and that explained it.
On Books. Clarence and Odie clearly read as many books as they could get, and they stayed current with literary developments. They purchased a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica in late 1929. “Odie and I have been devouring all we can get on the League of Nations, disarmament, etc., and the international political puzzle is becoming quite clear to us.” Clarence was constantly recommending books to Mary Jane from among his eclectic interests. Some quotes:
On Sex. At one of their book club’s review sessions, the group discussed a book on educational problems by G. Stanley Hall. “On subjects like psychology and child training,” Clarence wrote, “he is fine, but on a subject like sex, he betrays a lack of knowledge and prejudices that such a lack of knowledge permits. I judged that he was a bachelor but I do not know about that. He certainly writes like it, and it is evident that he has no children.”
On the other hand, Clarence wrote in 1934 about a meeting in which a woman said she did not believe in democratic education. “I said that statement reminded me of when I was seventeen and six of us away at school [Bowdoin?] sat up all night discussing whether or not we believed in marriage and the consensus of opinion was that we didn’t. Looking around the room now [almost 30 years later] I was sure that for them as well as for me, the basis of that question had shifted somewhat with the years and what is now the debatable question is whether we better have that window open tonight and is there enough maple syrup so we can have pancakes for breakfast. It was absurd to say you don’t believe in democratic education.”
Clarence and Odie were both enthusiastic about a book on Love Life in Nature, by a German named William Boelsch.
It is a two-volume epic on sex and the various psychological, biological and philosophical ramifications of the subject. It some ways it is the greatest book that ever was written. . . . The book takes the beginnings of sex and carries it through the entire plant and animal kingdom . . . how the idea of monogamy and polygamy originated . . . Like Havelock Ellis, he believes in monogamy and has no fears for the future of marriage. . . . It ought to be required that any boy or girl contemplating marriage should read this as well as Forel’s The Sexual Question.”
Odie was so entranced by the book that she spent months digesting it for a book club discussion in 1928. “The boys have taken an interest in Boelsche and Billy has gravely made a number of suggestions as to how she should do it,” Clarence said. “We are in love with old Boelsche. He is so wise and his views on religion and sex and life and all the really important things in living are so in accord with ours that we feel as if he was a sort of older brother.” After Odie’s presentation, in April 1928, Clarence wrote that the evening was a great success. Of course, “she was careful to leave out many things that might bring some of the fundamentalists up short.” One woman came up afterwards and told Odie “she is somewhat miserable because Odie has taught her to think and read.”
On Religion. One of Clarence’s children, John Long, once described his father as an “outspoken atheist.” In a letter to Mary Jane, Clarence said “the subject of religion is agitating the club considerably just now and those members who have open minds, or are supposed to have open minds, are coming over to our house Wednesday night to discuss the subject of religious education for children. . . . I believe in letting well enough alone.”
I disapprove entirely of Sunday schools for children under 12 and disapprove of Sunday schools for anybody over 12, as they are at present conducted. . . . I think that our children are getting a religious education in the true meaning of the term, and when the time comes when they are capable of understanding an abstraction and can reason from practical value of right living to the principles behind those concrete examples that are the basis of all religions, then we can discuss theology with them.
On Clarence Darrow. Clarence told Mary Jane that she was “mistaken in thinking I am a follower of Clarence Darrow. I have very little respect for him. My incidental agreement with him on the subject of formal religion is a small matter compared to the fact that he is densely ignorant of all science and has not sense enough not to exhibit it.”
His philosophy of life both in speech and action is summed up in the phrase ‘all men are created equal.’ He thinks . . . that circumstances make criminals and justifies his defense of all sorts of people on that score. . . . He shows himself to be a good Christian if not a church member, and the two latter are not compatible anyway. Now I am not a good Christian because I do not believe in most of the essential teachings of the New Testament – such as the Sermon on the Mount – don’t think they are practical or desirable. My quarrel with churches is therefore on an entirely different basis from Clarence Darrow’s quarrel. He is a very clever man with a fine brain and a nimble tongue but he does not impress me as being very deep.
On Science. Clarence Long was also well read on science.
Odie says I
am getting too smart to live with since I
have read Thomson.
I have talked Einstein to her
until she has threatened
to throw me out. I have Einstein’s latest book
bought if it ever gets
here. I’ll probably have to take a course in
differential calculus before
I can read it. . . . I do not understand why he is considered so
Of course, the experiments and proofs are doubtless highly complicated
beyond my meager equipment of mathematics, but the theories themselves
quite clear to me. They certainly knock Euclid and the famous
his apple into a cocked hat. I was always skeptical of that
There was some more discussion about stepmothers a little while ago, the boys being determined to ask me how I felt about my stepmother and asking [Odie] why I would not talk about her. In the course of the discussion, Odie said of course Maud was not their real grandmother, just like Aunt Mary Jane was not a real aunt. Yes, said Billy, but Aunt Mary Jane acts like one.
Clarence the Tease
Writing to Mary Jane from his Stanolind office, Clarence complained in May 1934 that “my blackheaded Swede stenographer interrupted me for the third time, and I told her if she bothered me again until I had finished this letter, I would make her copy it for me.” Clarence continued:
She has sloping shoulders, black hair, dark eyes and high cheek bones. When I want to get her goat, I call her a Lapp. If there wasn’t some Finnish or Lapland blood in her, she wouldn’t look as she does. It’s Finnish, probably. Why it should be an insult to call a Swede a Finn or a Lapp only a Swede knows. Her name is Ebba, which is the name of the mistress of Gustavus Adolphus [King of Sweden 1611-1632]. She doesn’t like [being told] that either, being a good little girl and supt of the primary dept of the Lutheran Sunday School. I believe she thinks I will go to hell when I die.
Clarence’s outspoken views on other peoples probably would not have been accepted later in the century. He wrote frequently about Ruby, “our laundress, a most clean and refined light colored darky,” who is “satisfactory,” he wrote in February 1924. Two weeks later he referred to “Ruby, the light chocolate colored washerwoman-maid” and said she “is more of a jewel every day and she likes her job and the boys and us, and thinks the talk that goes on in our house is most amusing. . . . She is intelligent enough to be able to do again what is told to her once, quite unusual in either white or colored.”
The Depression and Love
Clarence was often concerned about his inability to provide for the children in a proper way. “The boys worry me and worry Odie,” he wrote in July 1924. “They are healthy but they need something more than a fifty foot lot and ugly neighborhood, and they need more of Odie’s time and mine. They are wasting so much time on things that are of no value to them and are not even interesting, and there is nothing we can do about it.”
In December 1922, he wrote that “Johnny is well and Vallance is well and Billy is well and Odie is feeling quite well and we are as happy as is possible with plenty of love and no money.” In June 1926, while complaining about the delays in settlement of his father’s estate, Clarence wrote, “Regarding the estate, we are still poor and it looks as though we might remain so unless we can make Maud’s brother cough up the ten or twelve thousand he seems to have gotten away with. However, we are happy and in reasonable good health, even if I haven’t had my teeth fixed and the boys’ tonsils out.”
In June 1925, Clarence talked about his relations with Odie in a letter to Mary Jane.
Do you know it has been nine years since Odie went back to Rochester with Billy and five years since you were down here to see us? That is a long time, but it does not seem so long to look back to when you feel you are still the same person.
I don’t think Odie and I are the same, though. We know more than we did and we have I think less charity for some things and people and more charity for other things than we used to have, and then we are much more in love with each other than we were then. How can some people get along when they never seem to have anything to talk about to each other and merely live from day to day like a pair of dumb birds. We never do have time enough to do all the talking and reading we want to do.
Clarence continued to worry a lot about the poor economic conditions in the country and how he and his family were going to fare. In February 1933, he told how he and an office colleague had been having lunch together.
We decided things are going to get worse. Our program is that we should buy a farm (with what?) off the beaten track so that when the inevitable breakdown in food production and in transportation arrives, we can retire and feed ourselves while the revolution is going on. . . .
We would like to buy a piece of land and build a cabin of our own. That takes money, though not very much. The physics teacher at high school, who seems to do his own thinking, has been talking of hiring a bus and taking a bunch of boys on a trip that would include Chicago. But that would take money too. And then there is Odie’s teeth to pay for, and the old Packard [he had bought it when the Ajax died] would take a lot of money to fix up for summer, and it’s not worth it.
Oh, well, we always muddle along somehow. What worries us more than anything just now is that the car is not in shape to take out in the country, and blood root is going to be in bloom pretty soon, to say nothing of dutchman’s breeches and birdsfoot violets.
The Presidency: Al Smith vs. Herbert Hoover
Clarence’s view on politics moved steadily to the left as time went on. He was offended by the power of big business, the economic depression and the inability of government to have adequate concern for the people. He and Odie campaigned for Robert LaFollette in 1924.
In June 1928, after they listened to the Republican convention on the radio, Clarence wrote:
It reminded us of a bunch of children playing grownup games. . . . The Republican Party is about the worst boss-ridden outfit that could be imagined. Hoover will be an infinite improvement over Coolidge, but we don’t like him much. He has been such an infernal liar and turncoat for the sake of office, and his training has been such as to make him an ardent imperialist. So far, we are still of a mind to support Al Smith, though Hoover is much his intellectual superior.
One month later, in July, he reported that “We are for Al Smith, all but John who is for Hoover. John is a strange child, that John. . . . He has a streak of hardheadedness like preferring Hoover when the rest of us are all for Smith, and having pretty good reasons for his choice at that.” Clarence added to Mary Jane:
What will happen between now and November I don’t know, but I am sure that if the election took place today, Smith would sweep the country. The drys may organize between now and Nov and defeat him but I doubt it. I suppose it sounds funny for me to be on the wet side, . . . but with us it is a choice between an honest man who tells the truth as he sees it and is publicly proud of what he came from and what he believes, and a man who sat for four years in Harding’s cabinet with that gang of highbinders and kept his mouth shut, and has kept it shut since, and who has retracted all the things he talked about and apparently believed in 1920 for the sake of gaining office. I hate a liar and a hypocrite.
Odie was also speaking out strongly in the book club in support of Al Smith. Clarence told Mary Jane in August that Odie had listened to both conventions, read the biographies of Al Smith and Herbert Hoover, and “the other ladies got their guns spiked in short order – you know Odie. The joke is that we are not so sure we are going to vote for Al after all. That experience of John’s [almost being involved in a bad accident with the drunken father of a friend] kind of takes the snap out of our enthusiasm for a wet candidate. But anybody who objects to a candidate because he is Irish, a Catholic and his wife did her own washing, is going to hear from Odie, as you can well imagine.”
Two months later, Clarence wrote that “we are for [Al Smith] stronger every day and I think most of the liberals are. But I don’t think he will be elected. I never voted for a winner yet.” On the first of November 1928, Clarence sent a special delivery letter to Mary Jane “in the hope that you will change your mind and vote for Smith.” Nevertheless, he said:
Hoover’s muddleheadedness and Smith’s delightfully clear mind would make no difference to us in the southwest in the face of the klu klux klan menace. We must elect Smith or we are going to have a reign of bigotry even worse than we have now. We have revivals in the grade schools and missionary meetings in the high school now. . . .
Now I have no love for the Catholic Church, as you know, but bigotry is bigotry no matter what label it may take, and all the historical evidence and the actions of the so-called Protestants in America right now proves to my mind that there never was a religious organization that wouldn’t cut your throat in the name of the lowly Jesus if they felt sure they could get away with it. . . . It is really a very serious matter and with Hoover associating with men who are openly spreading this propaganda there is nothing to hope for if he is elected.
Shortly after Hoover took office, Clarence softened a bit. In April 1929, he said “we think better of Hoover as a president than we expected to, perhaps in contrast to the insignificant nobody [Calvin Coolidge] we have had for seven years.”
The Presidency: Al Smith vs. Franklin Roosevelt
In January 1931, as the next Presidential election approached, Clarence wrote to Mary Jane that “it looks as though your governor [Franklin Delano Roosevelt] has the inside track on the Democratic nomination. My own opinion is that he is not a big enough man for the job. Odie and I are both hoping Al Smith will get it again. . . . I don’t really think he will be nominated, and it looks as though no matter who we get, the breakdown of the economic system is going to go on as long as business and government is dependent on borrowed money.”
In June 1932, Clarence listened to the Republican convention and reported that it “made the result this fall sure beyond a doubt. At least I am quite sure that Hoover will not be elected. . . . The Republican Party may look united from the front, but it is anything but enthusiastically supported from the rear.” He added:
The number of people I know, business men, etc., who are going to vote for Norman Thomas is astounding. That man has captured the imagination of the country, I believe, and if he had a fund to produce even a skeleton of an organization in each state, there would be a chance of a landslide, I truly believe. Everybody is sore at the two old parties and consider them both bankrupt.
On July 1 and 2, 1932, Clarence wrote long letters to Mary Jane and to Odie, who was with the children at their camp in the Ozarks. He had stayed up late in Tulsa listening to the Democratic convention. “I would work all day at the office, come home and turn on the radio, strip off a pair of trunks, load up the cigarette box, and settle down in a big chair to enjoy the most colorful entertainment that is provided anywhere in the world.”
In particular, Clarence seemed crushed by the performance of Al Smith:
[Smith] may have a better mind and a better character than the average Tammany man, but in the end he is a Tammany man, and the yellow stripes of the Tammany Tiger show up when the real test comes. For eight years, [Franklin] Roosevelt has put him in nomination, spoke for him, fought for him, ran for governor at his request to help him carry New York state, and when the vast majority of the delegates voiced their choice this time for Roosevelt in no uncertain terms, he [Smith] was willing to stoop to packing the gallery with Chicago hoodlums and make his pitiful handful of delegates block a unanimous nomination. And that in the face of acceptance of the wettest plank that he could wish into the platform. He is a true product of a predatory political organization. I wouldn’t vote for him for dog catcher.
The Need for Anarchy
Roosevelt made a “grand speech of acceptance,” Clarence told Odie, and “I have not the slightest doubt but that he will be overwhelmingly elected in November.” Nevertheless, he said, “I am still as strong for Norman Thomas as ever. . . . With Roosevelt, as with all nominees of the two major political parties, it is a case of tinkering again, and I do not think that any man, honest or able as he may be, can divert the stream that is flowing toward socialism of some sort. I do not think tinkering is enough . . . .“ To Mary Jane, he added that Roosevelt’s tinkering “cannot divert the movement of the forces leading to chaos. Only a major operation can do that, and only a third party with no load of traditions or dead weight of conservative interests can perform that operation.”
Just before the election, on November 1, 1932, Clarence got more pessimistic. “Politics? Blah!” he wrote to Mary Jane. “We are not allowed to vote for [Norman] Thomas in this barbarian state. I think Hoover will be elected by a very narrow margin, with a Democratic house – and the fat will be in the fire for the next four years. Thereafter, and during, there will be red riots and the outcome will not be what anyone desires.”
Shortly after the election, Clarence went on a rant about education in writing to Mary Jane. “I would like to start another family and have the courage of my convictions – not send them to school at all. Hire someone to drill them in math, and get them ready for a college like Rollins College in Florida and see what would come of it.” He added:
It is hopeful that Billy and Val both are sharply critical of the economic and political views of their teachers. They tend to conform after a fashion and the school injures their health. But thanks to the continuous diet of communism and anarchy they have been fed at home, they don’t take the conservative viewpoint seriously.
Fifteen months after Roosevelt took office, in August 1933, Clarence was distressed about the President’s National Recovery Act. “What about the NRA?” he asked Mary Jane. “So far that’s a big joke. The largest pair of restaurants in town went on the NRA. They had been paying their girls seven dollars a week and boarding them. Now they raised them to the minimum wage of fourteen dollars a week, and charged them seven dollars a week for board. . . . Kress raised their girls to the minimum and then fired twenty to make up the difference.” Clarence then went on in a more radical vein:
I have no faith in palliative measures or any attempt to salvage a capitalistic civilization. It has its advantages and when we lose it, we will lose some fine things out of life . . , but at present nothing but force is going to make the change, and the change will have to be revolutionary to be of any effect.
By November 12, 1933, Clarence had gone a lot farther. “In a week’s time, I plowed through the three volumes of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution,” he told Mary Jane. “It is a tremendous book and more fascinating than anything I have ever read in the way of history. Trotsky is a great writer . . . . I am more than ever convinced that the NRA will not work and all the gallant trying of Roosevelt is not going to patch up a rotten system. The people who are entrenched in a system of this sort are not going to give an inch more than they have to, and the sooner we realize it, the better.” Clarence went on:
There can be no compromise. . . . I am forced to admit that I was wrong in demanding of the Soviets freedom of the press and acknowledgment of democratic institutions, which has been the greatest criticism of their regime. If you can’t use the old building, you have to tear it down and rebuild from the ground up. . . . Trotsky is wrong in thinking that the same sort of a game could be played in this country or in fact in any country possessing a real middle class. The revolution in countries like this will have to take a different form. . . . We may have it this winter, for in spite of the lying newspapers and all the flourish of trumpets about the NRA, things are much worse now than they were at this time last year.
A year later, in November 1934, Clarence wrote that “I have never been very strong for Roosevelt – crop reduction and that kind of thing don’t go with me. But he better realize that the bankers [are not the ones who produced] that big vote for him, but the people who expect him to turn more left than ever.”
The Nature Lover
Clarence’s letters almost always included discussions of nature and his fondness for plants and flowers and for taking the children walking in the woods. A favorite family photograph, taken in 1926, showed Odie with her four children in the woods of Osage county.
The cabin that he and Odie rented in the nearby mountains for several years was a treasure for the entire family. “It is only costing ten dollars a month,” he wrote to Mary Jane. “There are sixty acres, fenced including half a mile of the stream, and nobody has any business there except us. Lots of room, lots of trees, and a great need for somebody to sing to us and teach us to sing. Come on down and see if we can’t show you a really pleasant Oklahoma summer.”
The cabin was near Locust Grove, in Mays County, Oklahoma, about fifty miles due east of Tulsa, reachable in a drive of a few hours. Numerous family pictures show the family in front of the one-story log cabin with a screened porch in front, as well as in the surrounding countryside.
Getting to the cabin was a problem, and the Nash Ajax was failing. (See a photo of a car of that vintage. http://www.nashcarclub.org/nccaphot/twenty/26_224mnu.html.) In April 1931, Clarence lamented the end of a wonderful trip through the woods.
We finished up the day by having four flats and finally coming in on one rim at ten o’clock. Since then, I found a kind-hearted friend in the garage business who has traded me a short coupe five passenger Packard with a huge trunk on behind, in perfect condition for my old car and so little extra money that Odie agreed we just had to have it. If Billy writes to you, I expect he will tell you all about that and how grand it is. You better come down and ride in it. The room and the comfort are certainly grateful after that jumping Joan we used to have.
A 1928 Packard, possibly similar to Clarence’s car, can be seen here: http://www.pbase.com/xl1ken/image/11639018.
Often in the summer, Odie would stay at the cabin with the children, including some friends of the children, while Clarence stayed in town working, driving out on the weekends. They dreamed of having their own place nearby. In July 1932, Clarence wrote this to Mary Jane:
Everyone is well and happy at camp. I cannot go up this week, which includes the Fourth, but I am not feeling very bad about that because there will be a lot of visitors . . . and I prefer to have Odie and the children to myself. Last weekend I stayed until Tuesday, and Odie brought me in and took the car back out. We had a glorious time. . . . It was warm enough that we did not mind the rain. Saturday we drove down the creek on a little side road and found the most beautiful site for a cabin with a deep hole under the bluff, trees on top of the bluff, water and swamp fed by seep springs back of the deep part with arrowhead and all manner of water plants growing in it. . . .
It’s just a pipe dream, of course. I don’t know how we could buy a piece of land, let along build a cabin, but it looks like the place we want. Full logs for a one-room cabin 10 x 12 can be had delivered (enough for the cabin) for six dollars. The labor to build it can be had for a dollar a day. I bought a 16 foot pine board at a saw mill for 12 cents.
In September, three months later, he wrote:
Odie and I tramped around [for ten days] and hunted for a place to build a cabin. . . . There are delightful places, and some of them, one ninety acres, especially, could be had cheap, but gee whiz, what could we do about it? . . . Odie can see herself retiring with me to an Ozark cabin and living among the Indians. She really means it, too. Can you see us raising chickens and bees and grapes and garden truck, and bringing it into town in a little old Ford truck. . . . BAH! That’s a lot of applesauce. Perhaps my willingness to do something like that is because I am so insufferably conceited that nothing could faze me. Well, in that case, it has its advantages.
The Total Poet
As much as Clarence was fascinated by poetry, he nevertheless wrote standard prose most of the time. But just before Christmas, 1932, he decided he should write to a number of people in verse. Remarkable about his poems is that he did his rhyming on the typewriter, with barely a strikeover or correction – poetry right out of his fingers.
These excerpts from a two-page single-spaced poem to Mary Jane on December 20, 1932, show how deft Clarence was at rhyming while composing and at the same time discussing illness in the family, preparations for Christmas, gifts for the kids, and the impact of the depression on the Longs:
Odie has gone to see Mrs. K. Alice
While I sit here in our palace
And make rhymes to amuse myself.
I have written one for the Andersons --
Esther, Mary and Ann.
I have written one for poor old Bill
Who has been a bedfast man.
I have written one for the Searles
All about bloodroot and spring
And a little one for the Forces
Abour birds or some such thing.
Rachel and Val have been sick with the flu
And Val had a temp. of one-o-five.two
Which scared his mother and she worked fast
Till she got it down and the danger was past.
They are both up now with nobody sick.
So with Christmas so close, we had to be quick
And went shopping today – bought a bed for V.,
A briefcase for Bill for his books, and a tree.
We tried to get doll shoes and, rushed in the jam,
Someone stepped on my toes, and I nearly said D---.
No doll shoes – but I think we will get
John a small Kodak, that’s his second best bet.
What he wants is a microscope, a good one, of course,
But they cost real money – cheaper to buy him a horse.
I tried all the pawnshops, but this town’s too new,
The doctors too rich and the micros too few.
We are not spending much, there’s not much to spend,
But we’ll have a good time, we always do in the end.
We’ll trim up a tree as we’ve done thirty years
And monkey around till old Santa’s time nears.
A promise: in Feb., she will be nine – no, is it ten?
Doggone, I never can figure the when.
Anyway, we will get that gift when she still is a girl
And hasn’t grown up and her head’s not in a whirl.
They get sort of snooty and sophisticated then.
If Rachel gets any more snooty, the men
Will have a tough time of it, suiting her book.
She’ll turn up her nose and slay them with a look.
Some of our friends are down in the dumps.
Business is worse, and they all have the jumps.
We are cheerful, by accident, not by design,
But whatever the reason, since nineteen two nine,
We have been watching this coming.
We did our shivering then. We are helpless to help,
And we don’t think we are aiding if we weep and we yelp.
The cabin’s still there
We have clothes to wear.
We have food – not to spare.
If we’ve trouble to bear,
They are small by compare.
The next day, Clarence wrote Mary Jane to explain. “I had a regular poetry fit on last night. This morning I don’t feel so good.”
Clarence’s Illness and Early Death
Clarence’s letters are replete with accounts of the illnesses of Odie, and the children. For himself, he talked mostly about “tummy trouble,” attributed at various times to kidney stones, an inflamed appendix, the heat, “nerves” and possible duodenal ulcers. Some of it seemed to be of his own doing. In August 1927, he wrote that Odie had been suffering from indigestion:
As an expert on indiscretions in eating, I can assure you this last flare-up was that. I made a chocolate cake and hard sauce to go with it, and we ate it, or rather she ate most of it. And then the next day or so, I tried my hand at making an apple pie while she was resting in the afternoon. It was a good pie but rather rich, one piece was enough for me and she ate the rest. Thereafter, she was sick for three days and ran a temperature, but after I made her take some castor oil, she was all right.
A month later, he wrote that “my tummy is better again. I am taking Acidophilus Milk, a quart a day, and eating Karo and bread and butter with it for lunch.”
Problems with teeth also occurred frequently, and Clarence had a number of them removed and false teeth prepared. His letters show that he lost a considerable amount of time at work due to abdominal pains, but this didn’t prevent him from continuing his writing and attention to the children at home. He always maintained his stoic outlook. In November 1934, a year before he died, he wrote this about his kidneys:
I think I will lie down and take a little snooze. . . . The doctor got some diamonds out of my kidney, and I have been better since, so far as pain is concerned, and I have kept my meals since Monday morning. There may be something to the kidney stone argument. Certainly, there were enough of them and they were sharp enough to have raised a lot of Cain, but I don’t take them very seriously.
There was no hint in any of Clarence’s letters that he thought his problems were potentially fatal. As early as September 1924, eleven years before he died, he wrote that “I have been sick with my appendix and just able to drag around to the office. . . . They are going to take a look at my duodenum too while they are poking around in there. . . . Maybe I will get a chance to do some writing.”
“I am very well, indeed,” he wrote on September 1, 1935, ten weeks before he died. “I have gained 11 pounds since the hot weather started and have not had a pain in three months. I actually weigh more than Odie for the first time in about three years.” Four weeks later, a long letter to Mary Jane made no mention of his health at all and instead focused on family issues. In what was apparently his last letter to Mary Jane, he somewhat effusively (and presciently) expressed his appreciation for all she had done for his family, in particular helping pay for Billy to get to college in Fayetteville:
There never was a fairy godmother or a favorite aunt, or an indulgent uncle or a doting grandmother who had anything on you. I won’t say thank you because that sounds too much like the answer to the receipt of the pickle dish. There really isn’t anything adequate to say. I couldn’t have asked it, even of you, and I could ask you for things. I couldn’t have asked my father [either].
Clarence died on November 12, 1935, six weeks after writing this letter, and the family understanding is that the cause was duodenal ulcers. The family believed a bleeding ulcer had not been caught in time. “His ulcer would have been cured today,” Odie wrote much later, “but it was not even diagnosed properly then.” Clarence was 45, just seven days short of his 46th birthday. The children were still young: Bill was 19, Val 18, John 15, and Rachel 11. Clarence was buried in Rose Hill Memorial Park in Tulsa. Forty-one years later, in 1976, Odie's ashes were buried there, and in 2007, the ashes of their daughter, Rachel Long Misey, were placed in the same grave. It was discovered at the time of the burial of Rachel that there had been no marker on the grave for Clarence and Odie, and in 2007 their grandchildren contributed funds for a marker to honor Clarence, Odie and Rachel.
Odie, After Clarence
Odie had just passed her 47th birthday when Clarence died, and she would live for 41 more years. Among other things, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Tulsa. She got all A’s in her classes, and graduated with honors.
She clearly continued to drive. Photographs show Odie getting into what appears to be a 1936 Ford two-door slant-back sedan, apparently purchased after the old Packard gave up. One of the photographs was taken in West Virginia, where Odie had gone to visit the McLaughlin family.
About 1943, Odie moved back to West Virginia, probably to the Morgantown area. She moved after Rachel had completed two years at the University of Tulsa, about 1943. Rachel completed her degree at the University of West Virginia.
At the time of the move, Odie’s three sons had moved on, and she rented out the house on East Tenth Street, fully furnished. When Val completed his military service at the end of World War II, about 1945, he and his wife bought the house from Odie, with the furniture, including the round oak pedestal dining room table, the glass-fronted bookcases, and many of Clarence’s books. Val sold the house around 1952 and moved to 41st Place in Tulsa.
Later, after Rachel married and moved to Washington, Odie Long also moved to the Washington area. Initially, she lived independently, and later with her son John in Bethesda, Maryland. She died at the age of 88 in a nursing home in Washington, D.C., on December 26, 1976, the 62nd anniversary of her marriage. Clarence had been buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Tulsa, and Odie’s ashes were placed in the same grave. See the section on the Children of Clarence and Odie Long and later generations.
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Clarence Ray Long
Children of Clarence and Odie Long
William George Long
Samuel W. Long
Samuel Parker Long
Parkers and Vanderfords
Neil Boyer's Family History Page
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