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American History
Chilocco - Today and Yesterday

Chilocco, Today and Yesterday

These notes from Eugene Venne are classic. He was the son of the music teacher at Chilocco. Eugene is younger than my mother who was born in 1913. However, Mother remembers him as a boy. Here is a picture of Eugene Venne's father with the orchestra. Mother is almost directly in the middle on the front row with the light coat.

Eugene's memory of the burning of Home Four agrees with another woman's account who lived on campus in 1933 when it burned.

Mother tells of how Eugene's mother made cookies for the kids who were in the orchestra. G.I. food could get very boring and a chance to have home made cookies, believe me, was a real treat.

These are Eugene's notes and I feel fortunate to have them:

  Can I recollect some thoughts I have of Chilocco?  I only remember bits and pieces about the buildings and roads.  Possibly not the same as when you were there.  I was born there in Sept 1928. and we left probably in the late summer of 1934, (I think) when I was just turning six.

    We moved to Eufaula, OK in the southern part, about half-way between Muskogee and McAlester. Went to school there for two years, literally by force.  This just gives you a time frame.

  Volume 1__
     What I remember of the layout of Chilocco was the large two story building running east and west. It was the one the band/orchestra picture was taken in front of in 1932. Possibly was a gymnasium back then. Did you get hard crackers with peanut butter to eat?  Remember (equals =  "I remember") of going up on that same stairway to the second floor, with Dad, and some man that worked there gave me some crackers (hardtack) and put peanut butter on them for me to eat. The "Pb" was in a big wooden barrel, maybe 5 gallons or larger.

     Just west of that building was a large steel water-tower. (There were two water-towers when Jean & I visited there in 1993???)  And just west of the tower was our house, faced east, and on the corner. If you drove west in front of the gym? and past the water-tower the road turned left (south) and our house would be on your right after you turned. On south were a couple or 3 more houses, and one of them was Claudia Lee Hayman (sp?) place.  There was a big lot just south of our house. (I was only pre-school age and it looked big to me!!!).  Could not find the houses or recollect the area in 1993 as it seemed to be all grown over with brush. And couldn't get very far. The gym was gone too and the security boss-man said there was a foundation out in the clearing and he thought that might have been where the gym building had been.

      Then east of the gym was a large dormitory building, believe it was the girls dorm. It was just on the west bank of the lake, so there was plenty of water to put the fire out, when it caught fire once.  It was after dark and Dad wouldn't let me go, but I remember  they thought the girls might have been smoking.   Can you imagine that???  That dorm had one of those fire escapes that was an enclosed cylindrical tube, from the second floor that was on the north side of the building, and "emptied" toward the lake.

To this day Mother, Velma Pensoneau Jones,  loves music and orchestration. She has a granddaughter who plays the violin beautifully. It was a great pleasure to see her take center stage to play Handel's Messiah one year at Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa.

I don't think we performed Handel's Messiah in the Chilocco choir. I remember singing the solo collateral obbligato part at Arkansas City, Kansas College. How strange to say that. I'm sure I couldn't get to the middle of the scale now, let alone the high notes then. Anyway the experience did give me a forever wondrous appreciation for this great work. I'm sure mother feels the same about the orchestra.

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