By Molly Lemmons, Mustang resident and former Mustang News columnist
“This seems like a perfect, gentle place to live and raise children, doesn’t it?” I was speaking to my husband as we drove through the little town of Mustang, Oklahoma in the fall of 1963. Indeed, my expression of that thought panned out to be exactly true.
We came to Mustang with a group to help start a congregation of the church of Christ. We wanted to eventually find a plot of ground on which to build our home so that we could be a part of this community with such growth potential.
Mustang claimed a population of almost 1,000 in those early days, and the schools were off to an excellent start toward reaching their goal of being the finest in the state.
Early Superintendent, Don Anderson, was also the Principal, the Vice Principal, the Cafeteria manager, The Custodian, AND the bus driver! He left a brilliant legacy for others to follow. One early-on Superintendent who was here when our daughter started Kindergarten, was Charles Holleyman.
Charles Holleyman was extremely proud of his Native-American heritage, and rightly so, and every speech I ever heard him give—and there were many— started out “I was born in a teepee…”
In one such speech when the community met in the old gym (very OLD) on the campus of the high school, he came to offer advice on whether Mustang would organize a PTA or a PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization). In his speech, he admonished the patrons gathered there to vote to have a PTO; that way, he said it would be governed by the parents, not by Washington, DC as a PTA would be. He said there were good things about the PTA, but if we voted to have a PTO, we would not be required to meet their demands to attain the government funds. That year, Mustang residents voted on a PTO, and the involvement of parents grew.
Charles was adamant about education’s importance in the lives of “his” kids. And he put into place the finest programs known at that time.
One seemingly small kind thing he did was be sure ALL classrooms had left handed desks. He said a left handed student “shouldn’t have to reach clear across to the side of the one-armed desk on the right side, just to be able to write.”
In 1969, when our daughter began Kindergarten at Mustang Elementary, her teacher was Clemont McKane. Mrs. McKane was the dearest, kindest, best teacher our daughter could have had. Sadly, she passed away in April of 1970, just before the end of our daughter’s Kindergarten year. Found in her desk was “The Teacher’s Prayer,” by which she conducted her daily classes. She often called me to come “visit” her class and I would just sit quietly by in amazement at the way she so openly loved the children, and they, her. Her hugs and reassurances to first-school-day-children, gave them confidence and a secure feeling of belonging. How one could NOT hug those precious little ones, alone and frightened in a school building that must seem like a mountain, is beyond my comprehension.
Back in those days, through the elementary years with our children, I often went to eat lunch with them. I was always impressed with the meals. Walking into the cafeteria in any given morning, no matter which school it was, the bakers were baking. And I don’t mean pre-baked or frozen, I mean BAKING. I especially remember Donna Ogle. The aroma of her baking hamburger buns, (yes, and REAL hamburger buns) hot dog buns, dinner rolls, and those wonderful cinnamon rolls. We sometimes got to purchase them for $1.50 a dozen!!!
All of the food was begun and finished in the schools’ cafeterias, and starting before daylight, they prepared 1/3 of the daily requirement of fruits, vegetables, and protein for our children, along with the milk to meet daily standards. Unsung heroes, they were Mustang’s best cooks—and it made eating lunch with our children at school, pure joy.
One day I had a piece of their Butterfinger Cake. It tasted like they had literally ground up a Butterfinger Candy Bar, but I did not see how that would meet the daily nutritional requirements. Nobody would consider a Butterfinger to be “nutritious.” I decided to get the recipe and duplicate it if I could. After trying to break down the recipe of 500 cups of flour, etc to family size measurements, I gave up. But what I did learn was that they had not ignored the nutrition rule. Why? Because what gave the cake its crunchy Butterfinger taste and orange color was, are you ready for this? SWEET POTATO CRYSTALS!! I never was able to make this delicious cake.
They also made what they called, Beatnik Cake, the name appealing to the teeny boppers. Secret ingredient that they would never have eaten if they knew: Beets! They also hid peanut butter in the meat loaf for protein requirements. Ingenious? You bet!
Out at Mustang Valley Elementary, cafeteria manager Opal McNeil made a ham loaf, the likes of which I had never eaten, and never since.
At Mustang Elementary, from the parking lot, I could park by the outside entrance to Charlene Anderson’s (Yes, she is Don’s wife) first grade classroom. Whether I was sitting and waiting for our daughter to go IN, or waiting on her to come OUT, Mrs. Anderson stood at the door, never going inside until she had greeted, with a hug and a sweet word, EVERY child. This was repeated at the END of school also. There were other teachers who did this, too, but Mrs. Anderson’s room was in view of the parking lot where I often sat and so I got a full view. My-0-My how blessed our children were.
Our son started Kindergarten at Mustang Elementary, also, and enjoyed Mrs. Mitchell for a dedicated teacher. Through the elementary years, I was homeroom mother to both of our children at the same time, having to always divide my time from classroom to classroom. Not once did I ever see a teacher who wasn’t of the highest caliber, loving and devoted to the career they had chosen.
I have resided in Mustang now for 50 years. After our first view of this town in 1963, we were transferred to Duncan, Oklahoma, but returned to Mustang in 1967 to rent a house while searching for land to build our home. We settled in Lakehoma Acres and were the fourth house in this addition just east of the upper lake. We purchased two lots and at that time all Lakehoma lots were ½ acre and this would give us a whole acre to allow for a wonderful garden, fruit trees, and a playground for our two children, Lucinda and Roger. The streets were still unpaved, the windows were opened in the evenings to allow the sweet breezes to float the curtains lazily around the windows as we had no air conditioning. All across the pasture behind us, there were horses, sheep, and cows grazing, lulling us to sleep with their soothing neighing, mooing and baaa sounds.
Lakehoma Acres became a peaceful neighborhood that would grow to house the dearest neighbors in the world. Most everyone in Lakehoma Acres at that time were employees of Mustang Schools. The Superintendent, several Principals, and many teachers built their homes in Lakehoma Acres and continued here until retirement. A few still remain. I also retired from Mustang Schools in 2004 after 22 years.
I do not know how the years manage to fade into oblivion so soon, but I do know that Mustang has always been a family-friendly-God-loving-community that makes its residents feel like “kin.” Anyone moving here will “absorb” its magic.
In a few months, we will have lived in this house for 50 years, but those years are coming to a close. With the loss of my husband of almost 60 years last spring, it has become necessary for me to move on. I will be residing in Spanish Cove Retirement Village in Yukon, Oklahoma as soon as I sell my home. A new chapter will be written as I embark on a new life, new friends, new adventures, and hopefully a life as full and rewarding as my years as a resident of Mustang, Oklahoma have been. I have heard nothing but rave reviews from the residents of Spanish Cove. I hope to “get in on” all that joy.
And by the way, I truly believe Charles Holleyman’s dream of the “finest educational system in Oklahoma” came true.