Orrie Lee Clark is my granddaddy
Orrie Lee Clark was born on 23 January 1905 in Cross Plains, Callahan County, Texas. He was the fifth of eight children born to James Ransom Clark (1869-1918) and Kate Emeline Harrell (1874-1958). Not long after his father’s death in 1918, the family moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. There he met and married Daisy Mae Hughes on 05 November 1927. They raised two daughters and he served his county honorably during World War II (see Image 1) 1. Orrie died of complications from brain cancer in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, just eight days before his 63rd birthday.
Although these milestones provide an overview of Orrie’s life, they say little about the grandparent that I came to know and love. As I look back on my childhood, many of my most cherished memories center around my granddaddy and the things we did together. Since today marks the day he was born 111 years ago, I would like to honor him by sharing some of my recollections of this kind, quiet and gentle man.
A brief disclaimer
Before I relay these memories, I need to be clear that I will always love and idolize my granddaddy. That’s why I stating up front that the opinions and stories shared in this blog post are solely my memories and my personal perceptions of my granddaddy. I fully realize that there may be other people somewhere in the universe whose impressions of Orrie Lee Clark do not match my own. But, he wasn’t their granddaddy. He was mine. So… here goes.
Spending quality time together
There are many things that make me smile and remember how much I love Granddaddy. Like the morning when I was awakened by a kitten softly mewing on the windowsill next to my bed. My mother swears that Granddaddy put that kitten there to force them into letting me keep it. Then there were the weekend pony rides, the trips to the root beer stand and a shiny new bicycle. Granddaddy and Grandmother Daisy were the persons responsible for these golden memories. But there are three things that stand out and provide a special kind of comfort for me each time I encounter them. They are swings, sandboxes and gasoline. Crazy! Right? So let me explain.
Grandaddy was an expert automobile mechanic. He would spend all week working at the local Oldsmobile dealership fixing other people’s cars. Then he spent almost every Saturday tuning up his own car in his garage. I loved being with him, so I was often there in the garage in the middle of his tools, greasy rags and cans of oil. As you might expect, this was not the safest place for a three-year-old even though granddaddy was always there with me.
Now, many grandparents might have encouraged me to go back into the house or find something else to do. But not Granddaddy. He built and installed a swing just inside the opening of the garage. It was the perfect setup for a granddaughter and grandfather to simply be together. So when granddaddy backed his car out of the garage to work on it, I would help him by spending hours just swinging. I loved swinging back and forth while listening to the clanking of his tools and being surrounded by the smells of grease, oil, and gasoline.
Around the time that Granddaddy installed the swing, he also built me a sandbox (see Image 2) 2 in his backyard. Once again, he had come up with a way that the two of us could still be together while he mowed his lawn and trimmed the hedges.
Memories of those hours together come rushing back every time I’m near a swing or see children playing in the sand. And I know it’s more than just a little bit crazy and very unhealthy that a feeling of warmth and comfort come over me every time I pull up to a gasoline pump and begin filling the tank. Swings, sandboxes, and gasoline fumes are powerful reminders of how much I adore my granddaddy.
So here’s to my granddaddy, Orrie Lee Clark! I love you and miss you!
- Orrie Lee Clark photo, ca. 1944, Nina Clark Smith Collection; privately held by Nina Clark Smith, [Address for Private Use,] Conway, Arkansas. Mrs. Smith inherited this photo of her father from her mother, Daisy Mae Hughes (1906-1986). ↩
- Photo courtesy of author’s mother; privately held by Joan Moreland, [Address for Private Use,] Flagstaff, Arizona. ↩