John Vannatta is 2008 SFTD
The 2008 Santa Fe Trail Days Parade Marshal is John Vannatta, of Keyes.
“I think this is quite an honor. I really didn’t expect it,” Vannatta said.
John was born July 30, 1920, in a four-room house on his mother’s homestead, just west of Keyes, to Oscar Willis and Sylvia Hazel Vannatta.
Vannnatta is living proof that lightning will strike twice in the same place.
“I’ve been struck by lightning twice and shot twice, (a home invasion), and I’m still here,” Vannatta grinned.
“I was a senior in high school the first time I was struck. I was with Dutch Behrendt down at the Willowbar Cemetery. We were digging blow sand out of the cemetery, and the lightning struck somewhere nearby, went down our shovels and into the ground through our legs and feet.”
“Dutch looked at me, and said, ‘Did you feel that?’ I said yessir I did.”
“The second time I was struck was in an old stucco house out west here a couple of miles. I was watching a thunder storm and had turned to turn off the light. The lightning struck the transformer and went right through me, knocked me out for a while.”
John attended several different schools.
“I started school being taught by my mother in a little one-room schools at Willowbar and another called Excelsior, just northwest of our farm. She taught me for three years and I rode to and from school with her in a buggy.”
“The fourth through sixth grades I attended school in Albuquerque, N.M., because I’d gone out there to live with my dad, since he’d moved there for his health.”
John’s dad died when he was 12 so John returned to Cimarron County long enough to move to Goodwell to attend the seventh and eighth grades.
“We moved to Goodwell because my sister Fay wanted to attend Panhandle State, then I came back to Keyes for high school.”
John’s mother still had a farm to run, and she never remarried. Her brother, Burr Key, moved to the farm and helped her run it.
“He moved into the house and he raised me,” John explained.
John graduated from Keyes High in 1939 and attended Panhandle State, with the intention of becoming an electrical engineer.
“I got a job in the college cafeteria, serving ice cream,” John smiled.
But by then Europe was at war.
“I was out in the field shocking feed with my uncle Burr, a Navy veteran of WWI, and I asked him, do you think we’ll get into another war?”
“He said, ‘Yeah, but I wouldn’t worry about the Germans as much as the Russians.’ “
When John enrolled in classes, at Panhandle State, one block of study was for civilian pilot training.
“I completed airline basic training, and I missed a job with Pan American Airlines because of a miscommunication,” John explained.
With the two years completed at Goodwell, John had to transfer to O.S.U. to become an engineer.
“I was sitting in the lounge in the girl’s dorm, on December 7, 1941, when I heard about Pearl Harbor. We were at war, just like I knew we would be.”
When he joined the civilian pilot’s program, John had joined the Army Air Corps.
He was already a certified powered pilot, but volunteered for gliders, because they offered him all the tech schools he wanted.
He trained at South Plains Airfield in Lubbock, Texas, before going overseas.
Before leaving for Europe, on July 18, 1942, John married Margaret Smith, of Dalhart, Texas, a young woman he’d met in college.
“I flew gliders in Europe, but never made a combat landing in a glider,” John remembered.
“But I did fly, (in a powered aircraft, a C-47), gasoline to Patton up in Germany. We hauled gas in five-gallon Jerry cans all lined up in rows. Once we landed in a cow pasture, the other time on a German air strip. By that time we had air superiority so we saw no German fighters.”
When the war was over, John, gave no thought to pursuing his
flying and engineering career ambitions, choosing instead to return home and farm. As for more flying as a civilian, it was an expensive hobby, and Margaret didn’t share his love for it.
“I took her up once. I had to tell her each time I was turning the plane, taking it up, taking it down, and besides, I didn’t want to have to clean up the inside of the plane,” John laughed.
John worked 40 years as a farmer near Keyes, and of those forty, had a carpentry business on the side for 30 years, working and building the Keyes Methodist and Church of Christ, the Methodist parsonage, and in 1957, the Keyes High School.
“I also built a couple of houses and did several remodels out in the country.”
John and Margaret had three children, Judy, Jerry and Connie, seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren
Lois Garner Reigns Over
The 2008 Santa Fe Trail Daze Queen, Lois Garner was born in Stratford, Texas, in 1925. She and her twinLouis, were the ninth and tenth children of Walter P. and Mettie Taylor James, and the only ones of the children not born in Oklahoma.
Her first connection to Oklahoma was starting school at the Husdson School in Cimarron County, after moving from Stratford to their home five miles west of Kerrick, Texas.
She attended the rest of her school in either Kerrick or Stratford.
During WWII, and after two years of college she taught grades four through six for one year.
She married Carl Garner of Dalhart in 1947.
He was a district electrical engineer for Westinghouse, but he wanted to own his own business. In 1951, he and Lois’s brother Andy A. James bought the John Deere Dealership in Boise City.
Carl later served on several boards and was mayor of Boise City in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Carl died in 2003.
They were both active in the First Baptist Church, and activities in the Boise City School system.
Lois served on the Yucca Girl Scout Council, and was a leader until their daughters, Patricia and LeAnn, graduated from high school. Patricia and Joe Fowler live in Orange Park, Fla., and grandsons Caleb, Shane and Jenny and Chris and Rachel, all live in Florida.
LeAnn and Terry Judah, live in Yukon, as do their daughters Tacey and Rodney Zimmerman, and grandchildren Gavin and Maleah, and Lesley and Joshua Ogle, Ben and Jan.
Lois continues to live in Boise City.
Sr. Citizens’ BBQ & Dance to
Kick Off 2008 SFTD
This fundraiser is a favorite that kicks off Cimarron County’s annual festival. The Senior Center must sponsors various fundraisers and rents their building in order to make the funds necessary to pay for the maintenance and operation of their building, thus keeping the “doors open”. Very little, if any, federal money pays for the maintenance and operation of any Senior Center.
Community support is vital for the future of this important facility. Please support our senior citizens by attending and supporting each fundraiser. So, come out and have a good meal, dance, and support our senior citizens!
RESERVATIONS FOR THE BCHS
ALUMNI AND FORMER STUDENTS
ARE COMING IN FOR JUNE 7, 2008
The Boise City High School 2008 Alumni and Former Students Reunion set for June 7, 2008 will be here soon. Letters and reservation forms have been sent and need to be returned as soon as possible. Several classes are planning special get-togethers, The meal has been ordered, the tour of the Kenton area is on tap and there will be lots of activities with Santa Fe Trail Daze. So it is all shaping up to be a great reunion.