Memories of Bygone Days
For B.R. Barfield a visit to Llano Cemetery conjured up memories of Sunday afternoon when he was a child. “We went to the cemetery every Sunday,” he recalled. “Everybody did. It was the custom.”
Just thinking about those childhood visits elicited a stream of stories filled with details dating back to the late 1920s and 1930s that Barfield enjoyed recalling. “You’d go to church, then you’d go home and have a big lunch and then you’d go to the cemetery.
“Everybody was there. Gentlemen would tip their hat as they passed,” he remembered, nodding and touching the tips of his fingers to his forehead as the memory swept over him.
“In that day the church and the cemetery were the focal point of everyday life,” Barfield explained. “They were the gathering points.”
Barfield recalled a different pace of life during the days of his childhood. “The emphasis now is on participation and activities,” he said. “People don’t sit at home and crochet or read the Bible, the way they did then.
“I remember when people used calling cards. You didn’t go anywhere without your calling cards. Ladies never went out without a hat. If a woman drove, she always drove wearing white gloves,” he remembered.
For Barfield a visit to the cemetery always included going to the mausoleum. Just inside the main door on the left-hand side is the family room purchased by his grandmother, Mrs. M.D. Oliver-Eakle. An early-day supporter of Llano Cemetery, Mrs. Oliver-Eakle purchased the family room as a sign of support when the mausoleum was proposed in 1927.
For Barfield’s grandmother, “family was everything.” It was very important to her to have all of her family together in one place. Bronze letters on the white marble mark each family member. For each name Barfield had a memory.
M A Calloway
“My great grandfather and great grandmother came here from Georgia. My great grandmother’s name was Melissa Ann. My grandparents had 13 children. My grandparents came to Amarillo with my grandmother’s two brothers.”
Mrs. M.D. Oliver-Eakle
Nov. 16, 1931
“My grandmother was born in 1860, but only her date of death is noted because she believed ladies never discussed their age.”
“In 1889 my great grandmother was persuaded by her family to move to Amarillo from Mississippi following the death of her husband, Captain William Oliver. In 1901 she married a widower by the name of Oscar Macintosh Eakle. He died in 1914.”
Barfield confirmed a word-of-mouth story concerning the death of Oscar MacIntosh Eakle. Prior to his death Eakle had informed his wife he did not wish to be buried in the ground. To fulfill his wish, she kept his body on ice until a private mausoleum could be built for his burial. Upon completion of the Pantheon Mausoleum in 1929, Eakle was moved from his private mausoleum, which was torn down, and placed in the family room in the new building.
Though she is remembered in Amarillo history as a shrewd business woman and a wise investor, Barfield remembers his grandmother for her demeanor and the role she played in his life as a child. “She was imperial. She was the ultimate authority.”
A woman of great strength and character, in today’s world she appears to be a woman who was far ahead of her time. She traveled widely, supported the arts and made sure her only child, Barfield’s mother, had a superior education.
Yet she relished her role as a grandmother, taking up for her grandson when a spanking appeared imminent and interjecting fun moments into his life. One fond memory of Barfield’s is of his grandmother driving her own car and letting her grandson stand on the running board with his arm hooked through the window. “Hold on,” he remembers his grandmother saying. “Your mother’s not going to like this.”
Another strong childhood memory from Barfield’s visits to the mausoleum involves Mrs. Avery Turner. “Her husband was head of the Santa Fe Railroad in Amarillo. Mrs. Turner was a powerhouse. She would pick up my mother and me in her car and take us to DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) meetings. I always thought she looked like Queen Mary. She’d sit erect wither her arms straight out in front of her while she drove. She always looked so regal.”
Mr. and Mrs. Turner did not have any children and after her husband died she would come to the mausoleum and sit in her family room in the mausoleum and read her Bible.
“You could always tell if she was in the mausoleum because you would see the gate to the family room was ajar. Out of respect you whispered.”
One on top of the other, the memories rolled on, all of them marked by the word “respect.” “I guess when you hold someone in high regard,” Barfield said, “when you love and respect them, it causes quite an imprint on you.”