Old-timers carry on family traditions

By Don McAlavy: Local Columnist

On Dec. 28, 1999, I gathered together some old-timers, calling them the “Sons and Daughters of the Pioneers,” and took them to dinner at a nice restaurant. It was about remembering the old days.

The guests were Lynell Skarda, T. E. Willmon Jr., Jim Burns, Dale Campbell and his wife, Annabel (Luikart), Marguerite Sellers, James Ridgley Whiteman, and Paul Dee Barnes and his wife, Nancy. Chick Taylor Sr. and Lee Ross Hammond had planned to be there too, but Chick was down with the flu and Lee Ross was out at his ranch on the Frio Draw with electrical power failure.

What was unique was some of these old-timers were still running businesses their fathers started.

“I invited you all here because you have fathers and mothers who were pioneers in this area,” I explained, “and you are all still active in the community following in your parents’ footsteps.”

After dinner, we began the discussion by explaining that Chick Taylor revealed he was 94 years old and could remember coming to Clovis with his parents in 1909 at age 4.

One by one the guests at the table verified pieces of historical information, or to tell a story about people or events in Clovis history.

My father-in-law, Ridge Whiteman, talked about his father, Levi J. Whiteman, coming to this area in 1905, and becoming a printer. It was Levi J. Whiteman and Chick Taylor Sr. who taught me the printing trade.

Another son of a Clovis pioneer, Lynell G. Skarda, talked about the banking industry in Clovis’ early days. His father, A. W. Skarda (some called him the Great White Father), homesteaded in Quay County in 1906 and began his banking career in 1907 in Clovis.

“Together with Sid Boykin,” said Lynell, “my father formed the Farmer’s Bank, which later merged with Citizens Bank and eventually became Citizens Bank of Clovis. My father became president of the bank in 1940.”

Longtime real estate and abstract businessman James F. Burns explained that his father, Frank S. Burns, came to the Clovis area from Kansas in 1906. “My father, with four other men, built Sacred Heart Catholic Church in 1912.”

Recognizing the close ties within the then-small Clovis community, I pointed out that Jim Burns’ sister, Kathryn, is the wife of Lynell Skarda.

Many stories came up about Dale Campbell’s father, G. A. Campbell, as I circulated an 18-by-20-inch photograph of G. A. among the guests.

“My father,” said Dale, “established a five-and-dime store in Texico in 1906.

Eventually he owned an ice cream business and a soda pop bottling company on Fifth Street, off Main, in Clovis, and later the Coca-Cola bottling, Campbell Dairy and Ice Cream and distribution business at 14th and Main.”

Annabel Campbell talked of her father and mother, John and Alice Luikart, telling the story of her father fighting Pancho Villa at Columbus, N.M., in 1916 and her mother dressing up as an ugly poor wench and going door to door begging for sustenance.

“She fooled a lot of people, but had a ball doing it,” said Annabel.

T. E. Willmon Jr. told several good stories, about his experience and the banking business, too. His pioneer father was Thomas Ezell Willmon, farmer and merchant.
Marguerite Sellers made a few date corrections to some of the stories by some of the guests. Her father was Joseph F. Sellers, a merchant, and was credited for the first phone line north of Clovis.

Later I received calls from other old-timers, and we had another gathering in September 2000.