Click to Hear It

The lyrics of an earlier age

  "Wheelock, Wheelock, we love you. We long shall remember and honor you, too! We'll work for you, live for you, sing for you all through the years. Wheelock, we love you."

  Wheelock Academy closed its doors in 1956 but the girls still remember the lyrics of the song they sang every day in music hour. The group gets smaller every year but the remaining Wheelock students try to get together annually to visit and reminisce with old friends. Fifteen attended an alumni luncheon held in their honor April 1 at the Choctaw Community Center in Wright City before dropping by the old school campus in the afternoon.

  "We always had music," said Wylene NicholaWheelock Girlss Wadley. "We would go in to music hour and sing and sing! We had Easter and Christmas cantatas and the people in the surrounding communities would participate."

  Wheelock Academy closed its doors
in 1956 but the girls still remember the
lyrics of the song they sang every day
in music hour.

  Wylene learned to read music and play the piano. She has continued playing at church throughout the years. She attended first through eighth grades at Wheelock and went on to Haskell University in Lawrence, Kan. Wylene retired from nursing but is using her skills to help out a fellow Wheelock student, Theda Carnes, who has become blind. Wylene lives with Theda and they are facing the struggle together.

  Paula Wilson Carney also learned to play the piano during their music hours. She has sung and played the piano all of her life and credits her classes at Wheelock.

  Paula's fondest memory of her days at Wheelock, though, is of one of her teachers. Paula was playing in the yard and heard, for the first time, the lady praying. "She was calling out to God," Paula said. "I was probably in the third grade and had never heard anyone praying like that before. That was my first introduction to Christianity."

  Humorous tales were plenty during the special day at Wright City. Almost sheepishly, Paula recalls an incident that can be laughed at now but was a bit unnerving at the time.

  Pierced ears were becoming popular with the girls. Without the fancy salons of today, they had to improvise. "When someone wanted their ears pierced, we would all take turns holding the earlobe real tight to numb it," she said while demonstrating the technique. When one of the girls' arms got tired, another girl would step in to hold the earlobe in a tight grip with her fingers. This would go on until the ear was numb, then a threaded needle would be used to pierce the lobe.

  "We would pull the needle through, cut the thread and tie it off, then put Vicks on the ear and turn and turn and turn," Paula laughed. "They decided I was good at it so they were always asking me to pierce their ears.

  "One day, a girl stopped me in the middle of the stairway. She had everything we needed. I squeezed and squeezed on her ear. Well, about the time I got the needle pushed halfway through, she fainted! She fell backwards and just laid on the stairway with the needle sticking in her ear."

  Paula's voice rose as she described the funny, but scary experience.

  "I tried to revive her and finally ran to get a cold wash cloth. She woke up and wanted me to finish the other one," she said, still marveling over the escapade.

  The events that happened during their boarding school years stand out for many reasons.

  There is one day Maxine Wilson McCrary will never forget. All of the girls were called into the auditorium. They stood solemnly around the tall radio and listened quietly to President Roosevelt declare war on Germany. She said she didn't understand at first the implication of the announcement or the impact it would have on our country.

  Maxine and her three sisters were sent to Wheelock because there was a river between their home in the Ringold area and regular school. Their brothers went to Jones Academy. The girls loved it at Wheelock, she said, and always tried to participate in activities. She and sister Ilene Wilson Sparks enjoyed Sundays when a minister would come. They would have a different traveling minister from different denominations stop in to deliver sermons every Sunday.

  Sisters Leona Marks Marsh and Johnnie Marks McDaniel attended Wheelock in the early '50s. Johnnie was just 4 years old. Leona remembers Johnnie being brought in to the cafeteria 30 minutes early to start eating.

  "She was a slow eater who would take one little bite at a time," Leona said, stressing with her words how slow her sister ate. Often, one of the other girls would take her food before she finished it. "She was there when the others got there and sometimes still there when they left. She was the youngest one in the school."

  The sisters and their friend, Virginia Peters Jefferson, recall how they would go back to the barn after their day of classes to ride horses. Someone gave them a Red Flyer wagon to play with. They played with paper dolls, rode bicycles and played soccer, softball or basketball.

  "Someone donated roller skates to the school once," said Leona. "We would take turns skating up and down."

  Their memories also include having their hair cut when they were brought to the school. All of the girls' long hair was cut and fashioned into a Dutch boy style. None of them were allowed to speak their native language. Listed right up there with the not-so-fond memories the girls have of Wheelock was the time they were made to take ballet lessons, a bit much for the tomboyish group.

  Wheelock's heritage goes years beyond the boarding school days. Lois Pitts Brown, who attended the luncheon with her son, Johnny Brown, and her granddaughter, Karen Brown Main, tells of an early impact in her family. Lois' mother was brought to Wheelock orphanage before it was turned into a boarding school. Lois' mother was only 2 months old when her mother died and her father thought it was the best thing for his infant daughter. When he remarried he took her home. Lois said her grandfather was remarried in the Wheelock church.

  Born in 1918, Lois attended Wheelock from 1927 to 1929, along with a younger sister. She took "homemaking" classes and learned to cook and to sew using a pedal sewing machine. "Whatever you cooked you had to eat," she said. Many of the girls would get up early to help cook breakfast in the kitchen.

  The lessons and skills learned there have served them well for the past 60 to 70 years. The ages of the girls when they were brought to Wheelock varied, some as young as Johnnie, some as old as 14 or 15 when they entered the boarding school. They came from different backgrounds, different locations, but became one large family. The bonds made in youth have never been broken. The notes ring clear - "Wheelock ... we long shall remember."

This article and others came from the Choctaw Nation Biskinik. To see more history please refer to the following sites.
Sounds of Choctaw - Social Greeting
Sounds of Choctaw - Weather
Lesson of the Day