My parents were Edwin Clay and Myrtle Reece Stephens Beaver. I was born April 7, 1922, in a two-room shack located in a pasture about 300 yards from Grandpa Mikiel E. Beaver’s house, and about one half mile southwest of Girard, Kent County Texas. I am told that it was a very windy, dusty day. The only other thing that I have been told about that day was that my mother’s sister, Winona, said that she ran all the way home from school, then to our house to see her new little nephew. She was nine years old at the time. All that she saw was a wrinkled, red-faced baby boy.
Sometime later we moved into Girard where my dad worked in a cotton yard. Tragedy entered my life when I was about four years old. My mother was in the small house where they kept the cotton samples when it caught fire, the samples ignited, and she was so badly burned that she died shortly afterward. My memory of her is limited, although I do have a few memories of her. For some time after her death, Dad and I lived with my cousins, Lolete (the daughter of Dad’s sister, Elizabeth) and her husband Gradus Partain. Later we moved in with Grandpa and Granny Beaver and their children who were still at home, Jane and Sam.
Grandpa’s house was a four room bungalow, a kitchen, living room, and two bedrooms, but it was a loving and secure home for the six of us. I have many fond memories of living there for eight or nine years. I always felt loved and my needs were always supplied. Some of the time, mainly on weekends, I spent with my mother’s family, A.A. and Lola Stephens and their children. Everyone in the community, including both sets of grand parents, seemed to try to fill the gap in my life caused by the loss of my mother, and try to take her place. As a result, in later years many people would say, “I always felt like Merle was mine.”
I have many fond memories of my childhood, such as, annual Beaver family reunions, riding my horse, helping Grandpa in the field, and getting into the candy case at my dad’s grocery store. Many times on my way to school I would go by the store and get a package of gum to take to my favorite girl friend.
On September 1, 1935, my dad married Bernice Parks who had been my teacher for one year in school. We then moved to Jayton, then Post, and then Lamesa, as Dad was being transferred so much with his job for the State of Texas. This was during the depression, and times were hard, but we were fortunate that Dad always had a job. It was after the move to Jayton that I sold my horse and bought a bicycle. I know it must have been difficult for Bernice to take on a thirteen year old boy, along with a new husband, but she was a good mother to me. Sometimes yet, I have a conflict of mind on Mother’s Day. I think of wearing a white rose for my natural mother, and then I think of wearing a red rose for Bernice, and I get a little mixed up over which one to wear. We have one rose bush, though, that is multicolored, white and red. Most of the time now, I try to wear one of those roses.
In 1937 we moved to Abilene from Lamesa. It was there, on March 15, that competition came into our house. My first half brother, Gail Parks Beaver, was born. I attended high school in Abilene for two years, and during those two years my great love was playing basketball and football. In 1939, I was fortunate to go with the rest of my team to the state basketball tournament in Austin. As an old country boy, I was really “movin’ on.” Dad and Bernice moved to Borger in the summer of 1939, and I joined them in the fall and entered high school there, where I graduated in 1941.
October 14, 1941, I went to work for Phillips Petroleum company in Borger. World War II was upon us, and in July of 1942, I enlisted in the Coast Guard, where I spent three years and seven months. The first half of my service tour was spent along the Texas Gulf Coast, and parts of the East Coast. The latter half of my time was spent in the South Pacific, in the Philippine Islands. I was more fortunate than many World War II veterans for I was never in combat and never captured. I was stationed on a cargo ship that hauled supplies throughout the islands. I was discharged in February 1946, with the rate of a third class gunner’s mate.
While I was away serving in the Coast Guard, Dad and Bernice presented the family with two more boys, Dennis in 1944, and Olin in 1945. When I returned from overseas, these two very young boys, along with Gail, were very much a pleasure to me. I still think of them with a great deal of love for they are the only brothers I have.
At the time I was discharged, my family was living in Stamford, Texas. There is where I met Jerry Stephenson, later to be come my wife. I stayed in Stamford until May of 1946, at which time I returned to Borger to resume work for Phillips Petroleum Company. By returning within three months of my discharge, I was able to claim my military service as company time. From May until September, I made regular trips to Stamford to visit the “one and only.” On September 22, 1946, Jerry and I were married in Stamford, and we moved to Borger two weeks later. I continued my work with Phillips; Jerry worked for a short time in industry, but she returned to teaching school in 1947.
In 1948 Jerry and I moved to Dumas, Texas. My work was still with Phillips and Jerry taught school for the Dumas Independent School District for twelve years. We had a good life, but we were often discouraged because we had no little ones to join our home. We can both remember the time, not long after we were married, when we were visiting with Grandpa Beaver. He was telling us some of his family’s history, and we told him that we planned to name our first boy after him. He asked, “How are you going to spell his name?” We said, “We don’t really Know, MICHAEL, We suppose.” “Then,” he said,”You will not be naming him for me unless you spell his name like I spell mine, that is MIKIEL.” We never had any children of our own, however, we were able to adopt a baby boy in 1955. He was named MIKIEL CLAY BEAVER. Seventeen months later we learned of a family of children who were needing homes, and we took one of the little girls into our home October 26, 1956. Janice Irene became Janice Jane Beaver on her third birthday, March 29, 1957.
We transferred back to Borger in 1964, and in 1967, we bought 58½ acres of land with an old house on it, and we spent the next thirteen years working on the house and land, trying to improve it. We did a lot, but finally decided that we wanted no more of the constant work. We sold the country place and bought a house in Stinnett, where we remain now.
I spent 42 years and 6 months with Phillips Petroleum Company, retiring May 1, 1984. Jerry taught school for 33 years, with a Masters Degree, and retired June 1, 1982, We now spend our time doing what we want to do when we want to do it – but we never get through.
Our children are both close to us now. Janice married Robert Hunt, and they are living in Stinnett with their little girl, Ginny, who is six years old. Mike married in 1975 and had one little boy who was named Mikiel Clay, also. However, that marr iage did not last, and he later married Teri McCord Dawson, who had four little boys. In November of 1981, Mike and Teri had a little girl, Candace Jane. They have a pretty big responsibility with their family of five children.
We have been blessed, and are grateful for the many good things that have come our way. We are hoping, now that we are retired, to be able to do some traveling in our trailer, and to see some of this country. However, I expect that we will spend most of our time right here helping out with the grandchildren until they get somewhat older.
In looking back over my life, both as a very young child and as a teenager, I am extremely grateful to my dad, my grandparents, and to Bernice for the love, security, and the moral and spiritual values which tney gave me. I would not say that I have done anything in my life that is particularly spectacular, but I have had a happy, satisfying life in gener al, and I think that this was made possible because of the car ing and loving way in which they dealt with me. I am very glad to wear the name BEAVER. And I am especially grateful for the spiritual heritage which I received.