Casper Author Charlotte Babcock: Oh, My Goodness, the Memories!
Casper College communications student Nichole Simoneaux interviewed Charlotte Babcock on March 7, 2012, in the Gateway Building at Casper College. Babcock is an author and longtime Casper resident who is fascinated by area history. She graduated from the college in 1949. Topics include early life, education, career and many personal extras.
Editor's transcription notes: In most cases I have deleted redundant ands, ers, uhs, buts, false starts, etc. If I deleted an entire phrase, I have inserted ellipses . . . Where you find brackets [ ] I have added words for explanation or to complete an awkward sentence. Parentheses ( ) are used for incidental non-verbal sounds, like laughter. Words emphasized by the speaker are italicized.
—Lori Van Pelt, Assistant Editor, WyoHistory.org, Nov. 14, 2014
Nichole Simoneaux: I am Nichole Simoneaux, and I am interviewing Mrs. Charlotte Babcock. We are in the Gateway Building. It is March 7, 2012. We are doing an oral history interview as well as a project for my communication class. Charlotte, do I have your permission to record this interview?
Charlotte Babcock: Yes.
Simoneaux: Let’s start. I would like to talk about family, growing up in Wyoming, education, career, how work has changed over the years, memorable moments living and working in Natrona County.
Babcock: Wow! (laughing) There’s a lot of those.
Simoneaux: Can we start with your name and have you spell it for me?
Babcock: C-H-A-R-L-O-T-T-E. Do you want my middle name?
Simoneaux: Yes, ma’am.
Babcock: Mary, M-A-R-Y. Last name B-A-B-as in boy-C-O-C-K. Do you want my maiden name?
Simoneaux: Yes, that would be great.
Babcock: Well my maiden name was Bennett. B-E-N-N-E-T-T.
Simoneaux: It looks like we would like to have members of your family, your parents, siblings.
Babcock: This is something that only my family and I have ever talked about. That’s the fact I was adopted as an infant from a couple named James and Darlene Cantlin C-A-N-T-L-I-N, here in Casper, Wyoming, and that was in 1929. The Cantlins, I have done some research on them. James Cantlin, who would have been my biological father, his father, grandfather—whatever—were pretty prominent in early Natrona County history, and I think they probably, the grandfather … I really haven’t gotten this yet, the grandfather was, I think, a chute man here and at one point either his father or his grandfather was mayor of Casper.
There is some history of them. There was an Eva Cantlin who was a Miss Casper, Wyoming, or something like that, and I just never have gone into it a whole lot because as a writer, I do so many other things. Then I was adopted by my adoptive parents who have always been my parents. These other people are just illusory, you know.
My father was Leon Mather Bennett, and my mother was Blanche Charlotte Woliver Bennett, and they both were from New York State. My father came here in 1919 to become master mechanic at the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. My mother was a musician, and she was a very, very talented pianist, and she used to play for the silent movies in New York. Of course, I became a musician because my mother insisted on it. Starting about age four and having your music teacher right in your own household is not always (laughing) the most fun thing in the world because you never, ever got to skip practicing or anything like that.
My father built our family home here in Casper way over on the west side. He was very good at what he did. My mother played for churches and art programs and that sort of thing. She briefly gave music lessons, but she was so talented she couldn’t stand any pupil who didn’t show an aptitude, so that didn’t last a long time.
I grew up and I went all through McKinley School, where your children are going now, which is Cottonwood School, and the principal [at the time] was Eleanor McLaughlin, who was a real fireball. She was really into athletics and especially into the track meets. McKinley School won the city track meets, which were held at NCHS [Natrona County High School] stadium more times than not, and there were children there that we went all through school together. We went through seventh grade at McKinley School in those days and then we went one year to junior high school, which was the cement building right behind NCHS and all of we eighth graders were scared to death of high school and everybody in it.
And then, of course, as freshmen, we went to NCHS, and we graduated in 1947. I attended Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois. I attended and graduated from Casper College in Casper here in 1949, and I graduated from high school, NC, in 1947. While I was still going to Casper College, my future husband and I eloped and flew to Billings, Montana, and got married, so I was married before I graduated from Casper College. My husband worked for Standard Oil of Indiana. He was from Iowa and was a transplant from Iowa to Casper.
And then, let me see, after we had two daughters, and after they were, let’s see, Linda, the youngest was in the third grade, and Vicky, the oldest, was in the fifth grade, when I went to work for the school system. I taught twenty-six years in the Natrona County school system and a lot of it was substituting … I had a kindergarten, a Monday kindergarten, and I worked in special ed. I had a second grade class, I had a sixth grade class, and mostly substituted at Pineview School, whose principal, Virginia Rose, was a dear, dear friend. And her brother, Robert Rose, was chief justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court. We were golfing partners. My husband and I played a lot of golf. Virginia was, if I’m not mistaken, if I remember correctly, the state champion. She and I would play golf all summer long. We had a wonderful time.
I belonged to all sorts of organizations. I belong to the American Legion Auxiliary, and I am now a life member, although there is not much American Legion left anymore. I did much committee work there. I was a past president there. I was very active in the Willard [Elementary School], where my children went, Willard PTA, [Parent Teacher Association] and I helped establish the library there, which was the first library, as I recall, in the school system. The actual originators were Roy and Elizabeth Jensen, both of them are dead now. But anyway, we had a great library, and I think Willard library was the first school library in Casper. I was very active there. Leslie Hearn was the principal, and when he retired, they asked me to be the honored speaker at his retirement. I was the past president of the PTA there.
And the children went on [to] the East Junior High, and I was president of the PTA there for two years. In the meantime, I was a Friend of the Library and very active with Friends of the Library and past president there (laughs). Let me see … then I became very active with the Alumni Association here at Casper College, and I am a past president of the Alumni Association. I was president of the Alumni Association when Casper College did the fiftieth anniversary, and that was a big, big affair, and that’s when we put the Spirit of the Thunderbird, that year, on the college campus. Chris Navarro was the sculptor. I’ve always, always, and to this day, [been] very active in the Alumni Association and let me think … Oh, the Nicolaysen Art Museum (laughs). I have worked there as a volunteer for many years in the gift shop, and just offhand, that kind of covers my local participation. Except that I don’t know if you have seen them yet, but the huge, big plaques that hang in the Townsend Justice Center are the history of the Townsend Hotel that I did. I did that in conjunction with Kevin Anderson, who is now retired from the Western History Center here at Casper College.
Oh, when my husband died—he has been dead, it will be ten years this September—established a Babcock Memorial Scholarship here at Casper College for the nontraditional student. So every year I have been lucky enough to give a thousand dollar scholarship. I have the picture here of the first scholarship given. It’s a nontraditional scholarship in honor of my husband and my youngest daughter, who was also a graduate of Casper College and was a nontraditional student. She is now just finishing her master’s degree at the University of Wyoming. My other daughter also went here at Casper College and my granddaughter graduated from Casper College. We are like a three-generation Casper College alumni family, you know.
So that’s kind of nice and here is the first recipient of Babcock Scholarship. Here you see the picture of Paul Hallock, who’s now retired. He was the head of the [Casper College] Foundation, and Jennifer and me, and then here it tells a little bit about it (shows a newspaper article).
Simoneaux: Amazing, that’s a lot over …
Babcock: Oh! And I forgot (laughs) I was also, I’m a charter member, our family is charter members of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. I directed the choir there for about thirteen years. That was in the days when we sang really classic, beautiful Latin music from the choir loft, which doesn’t happen anymore. I have been very active in St. Patrick’s Church. I am the present historian for St. Patrick’s Church. I wrote the twenty-fifth anniversary book that they contracted me for when St. Patrick’s Church was twenty-five years old. It was established in 1963 on St. Patrick’s Day, in fact, and next year will be the, let’s see …’63, the fiftieth anniversary. They have already asked me if I can do something for that and I said, “I don’t know.”
And I also was a founding member of the Bishop’s Guild when Bishop Joseph Hart was the Bishop of Wyoming. He came here from Kansas, and he was assigned as auxiliary bishop at St. Patrick’s, so we became very well acquainted and good friends. And I am a founding member of the Bishop’s Guild that he originated here in Casper. There’s one in Cheyenne, but there was never one in Casper, and he always liked Casper really well … I am a past president of the Bishop’s Guild.
And then during the ’70s from about 1970 to ’75, ’75 or maybe ’76, but maybe ’75, I owned Charlotte’s Flowers at Hilltop and so I had to quit teaching school while we had that shop. And I gotta tell ya, I did not care for the flower business (laughs), but it was very profitable, and my husband thought we needed an investment of some sort and that came along, so he bought it. Of course he was still working, so it was up to me to run that flower shop.
Well, our youngest daughter, Linda, was just graduating from high school, so we sent her to school, to florist school, in Denver. I can’t remember the name of the school, but anyway, it was well known at the time. She came back a graduate florist, and believe me, she was talented where I wasn’t nearly so talented and so that made all the difference in the world. And then I became a regional member of Teleflora Incorporated. Which, of course, was kind of based in Denver, and I used to have to go to those meetings and all. I would have to go the national conferences, like places in San Francisco, in Hawaii, in Honolulu, and you know, it was kind of a fascinating job.
And I had a small write-up in a business magazine down in Colorado that wrote about me a little bit. Then Eastridge Mall started … That was before, while I still had the flower shop. After I had the flower shop, Eastridge Mall had a national slick magazine called Mall Marketing Incorporated. I think that was the name of it. An editor in Chicago got ahold of me and wanted to know if I would do copy for that national magazine, so I did. It was a color slick magazine, very nice. I did that until the editor in Chicago quit, and then I did, too. She and I got along very, very well but that magazine, unfortunately, did not last too long. … I did advertising, copy, you know, from the Eastridge Mall, from all the different stores in the mall, and so that was kind of fun. … It’s been a very, very busy, interesting life.
And then of course, I was writing all this time. I don’t know if you want some of my material that I wrote for the Casper Star-Tribune. I did quite a lot for them. And feature articles, and not actually reporting, just feature articles. Then a publisher came to me and wanted to know if I would write some history about Casper because nobody had ever done that, really, since A.J. Mockler did his tribute to Natrona County, which was way old, you know.
So I didn’t really think I wanted to do that because I hadn’t done any, much nonfiction or just plain history or anything like that. I did fictions, creative nonfiction, poetry, children’s stories and all that sort of thing. So I thought about it and thought about it. Finally, she cornered me, and she said “What’s it gonna take to get you to do this? What’s it gonna take? A contract and an advance?” and I said, “Well, yeah, probably would.” I thought she was kidding. Next thing you know, I had it, so I’m stuck.
So I started, I really started doing a lot of historic research, and I found it absolutely fascinating. I had already written the twenty-fifth anniversary book that St. Patrick’s contracted me to do for the twenty-fifth anniversary. But this turned out to be very, very fascinating, and it ended up being Shot Down! [Shot Down! Capital Crimes of Casper, Glendo, Wyo.: High Plains Press, 2000] which has had a very good run over the years and gotten several really nice awards. When it came out that year, the Wyoming Historical Association [Wyoming State Historical Society] gave it their history book of the year award, and then, Wyoming Writers [Wyoming Writers, Inc.] gave it the Milestone Award, which was very nice.
Oh, by the way, I’ve been a member of Wyoming Writers, Incorporated, for many, many, many years. Probably twenty-five or more and so I was very active in that, too. I ended up being president of that, so I’m a past president of Wyoming Writers, Incorporated. My husband—I was treasurer for a long time, and I took Wyoming Writers from having no money—none at all—into a very good fiscal area. When I decided I couldn’t do that anymore, the board of directors took my husband … they knew he helped me … so they took my husband out for dinner and persuaded him to take over (laughs). Robert then ended up treasurer of Wyoming Writers. We are the only two people ever in Wyoming Writers to both get the Emmie [Mygatt] Award, which is their prestigious award for valuable contributions to the organization. We both have that, and so that’s pretty nice.
I’m a longtime member of WyoPoets, Incorporated, too. My daughter is very active in WyoPoets, Incorporated too. Linda [Babcock Coatney], she works for the Wyoming Arts Council, and she’s their ... she’s their editor of Wyoming Artscapes, [publication of the Wyoming Arts Council] … so she’s kind of followed in my footsteps as a writer. There’s an article in the paper this morning from Poetry Out Loud. She does the Poetry Out Loud. She’s done it now for two years, because Poetry Out Loud for the state of Wyoming just about disintegrated into nothing. They got Linda to take it over and it has really, really rejuvenated itself.
And my other daughter, my oldest daughter Vickie [Babcock Quisenberry], is with the Wyoming Community Foundation. I don’t know whether you know, what you know about the Wyoming Community Foundation but it’s a very, very rich philanthropical organization that gives away much, much, wonderful money to lots and lots of things in Wyoming and has a huge financial base and you know, many, many contributors. They both work in Wyoming, you know, official Wyoming things.
My granddaughter, who is Linda’s oldest, she is the Wyoming state pharmacist. She is very into state government. When she went to Casper College, she was [Biology Instructor] Dr. [Tom] Clifford’s T.A. She really, really liked Dr. Clifford. She has a very responsible position. Linda’s other child, who is a boy, he’s a border patrol officer in Arizona. Vickie’s my oldest daughter, her son is a police officer in Laramie [Wyoming]. He’s married and has two little girls. Oh, and [Charlotte’s daughter] Roxanne … has twins, twin boys. Vickie’s other younger boy is a diesel mechanic and works for a big firm in Cheyenne, so that takes care of the grandchildren. (laughs) So, what else can I tell you?
Simoneaux: You guys are really talented. (laughs)
Babcock: Well, yeah.
Simoneaux: Your whole family is very talented.
Babcock: Well, they are, kind of.
Simoneaux: I was curious after the last time we spoke, what made you decide to write? Was it just something …?
Babcock: Oh! I don’t know. I don’t know. I can remember writing really awful things in high school. I mean, it was really terrible writing, but I just thought it was wonderful. But I don’t know. I don’t know what started me writing. It just kind of appeared out of nowhere, I guess. I’ve won lots and lots of writing awards for fiction, for nonfiction, for creative nonfiction, for poetry. A poetry volume just came out a month or so ago that has three--I have three poems in that. I think on my bio, if you have that, it tells about the … publications, and the two books and I’m trying my hardest to complete the next book, but I’ve been so busy. ... It just hasn’t got done yet. (laughs) Well, because I write regular articles for the [Casper College alumni magazine] Footprints here at Casper College and just some other things, you know.
Simoneaux: And you wrote for the [Casper College student newspaper] Chinook when you were in college.
Babcock: Oh yeah, I was society editor of the Chinook. Oh, and talking about graduating from Casper College, in those days, they gave lifetime passes. I told you that, didn’t I? Lifetime passes in every department, at the awards banquet when you graduated. I got the lifetime award for, let’s see, [former Casper College English Instructor] Bill Curry gave it to me for journalism. I had been so proud of that over the years, and I told you they were beautiful, gold sort of cards with your name engraved, very nice, and it disappeared just in the last year or so. Paul [Hallock] felt so bad for me that he got it replaced. He didn’t need to replace it but he did. These cards are very nice, but they are not like the original. I just don’t know what happened to it. I am just still trying to figure this out. It just disappeared.
Simoneaux: That’s horrible.
Babcock: It has my maiden name on it, and if by any chance, were found … it wouldn’t have my married name on it. …I really, really, am really sad about that.
Simoneaux: I bet. I would be, too. That would be horrible. I am so sorry.
Babcock: I was also a speaker at the Women’s History Day here at Casper College. I spoke about the ladies of Casper College. That is in the Casper College fiftieth anniversary book … that’s available if you want to find it. It’s in the History Center. No problem.
Simoneaux: Did you have any favorite subjects in school?
Babcock: Oh, yes. I loved English, and for a while, I thought I loved math, but then I found out I was stupid at it (laughing). I can’t even balance my checkbook. My daughter, who is the financial genius, Vickie she’s the one who balances my checkbook. She lives in Laramie. She will come up here for a few days here and there, and if it’s two or three months, she takes all my bank statements, and she balances my checkbook in a half an hour. I have never been able to balance one month after spending. Oh, my goodness.
But anyway, I loved English. In college, I really liked, I really liked in high school too, Spanish and French, and I loved music. The funniest thing happened. Russell Schwejda was the director of music here at Casper College, the director of the music department, I guess. I was in his theory class, and I was also in the choir. It was the blizzard of [early January] 1949. At Christmastime, and my mother and I had gone to New York to visit the relatives, and we went on the train. In those days, you could get on the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad in Casper, Wyoming, and end up at New York. It took three days, but it was wonderful.
So anyway, we were in New York, and in those days, at least in my family, you did not make a telephone call unless it was urgent. My father called while we were in New York. We were staying with my aunt Grace, who was my mother’s sister, and he talked to my mother and said, “I don’t want you to come home. We are having a terrible storm here, and I do not want you to come home until I call you and let you know.” Well, immediately my mother went into a panic, and said my dad was freezing to death and the dog was starving to death, and we must get on a train and we must get home. Well, we got on a train, and we got as far as Omaha, Nebraska. And that was the end of our train journey, so we had to check in to a hotel.
Every day my mother sent me down to the train station to see if there was a train coming through. Well, after maybe three or four days, there was a train going from Omaha to Chadron[, Neb.]. So we get on that train. That was quite a ride. They had to keep the lights on day and night because we went through drifts that were higher than the train and right up against the train windows so if they didn’t have the lights on we couldn’t see anything.
We finally, finally got to—and it was go and stop, go and stop. We finally got to Chadron. My dad is in charge of the Chicago [and] Northwestern Railroad line all the way to Chadron, from Casper to Chadron. We got off the train and guess what? There was dad! He did not know that we were coming home. My dad was a very low-key, soft-spoken man. That’s the first time I ever really saw him mad at my mother, I mean really mad (laughs) at my mother. Well, what had happened was, the snow would begin to melt and then it would get cold and it would ice over, and it was just like brick. My dad was blasting the line all the way from Casper to Chadron with dynamite to try to keep the railroad line open to Casper. Oh, my goodness, he was mad (laughs). Anyway, we finally got home.
So school had started up here probably about three days before I got home. The weather was terrible. I walked into class, into theory class with Russell Schwjeda. I walked in there, and he looked at me and he said, “Well, Miss Bennett, it’s awfully nice of you to join us.” I just wanted to smack him. I didn’t get a chance to explain, I didn’t get anything. But I really loved all the teachers I had here at Casper College.
There was Fred Hanslemann, who was my French teacher, and Mrs. [Edna] O’Brien who was my Spanish teacher, and Russ Schweda who was my music teacher, and Bill Curry, who was my English/ Journalism teacher. They were all just great…
Oh, and when I went here, Casper College operated out of the third floor, west wing of Natrona County High School. … Morris Griffith was the first dean of the college, and Walt Bailey was on the faculty. He became a very famous, I guess you would say, mountain climber, and he was killed. I think he was climbing somewhere in the Andes. This is a matter of history and you can find it out, I think in that 50th anniversary book. He was climbing, I think it was in the Andes, and developed pneumonia and died. And Bailey Hall was named after him. There were just some great people. Florence Porter, I think that was her name, she was registrar. But you can find all these people, and of course, I wrote about all the ladies of Casper College when I spoke at the Women’s History Day. So that was kind of what went on.
Simoneaux: Were the classes, were they mandatory classes? Did they only have a handful of classes at the time?
Babcock: Well, … we had a drama department. Ken Urey, oh, he was fabulous in the drama department. The plays would take place in one of the big study halls on the third floor of Casper College or I mean NC [Natrona County High School] and it was, there weren’t, there were many basic classes that you would think now if you were a freshman in college you would have to take like English and math, you know, just the really basic [ones]. There wasn’t anything like they offer now, but they were good basic classes.
Simoneaux: And you got a teaching degree? Is that the degree you got?
Babcock: Yeah. It was issued to me by Dean Morgan , who was then—. Well, no, I didn’t get a teaching degree from here. I got a liberal arts associates, an AA Liberal Associate of Arts from here. But my teaching license came from Natrona County School District. I had to renew it every three years. You had to take classes every three years from the university. I took classes from the University of Wyoming. I took classes from Chadron State [College, Chadron, Neb.], but you had to renew your certificate every three years. Your teaching certificate.
Simoneaux: Now with the teachers, a lot of them go for an early childhood development education or a teaching early, secondary school education. Is that a lot different from when you were in college?
Babcock: Oh yeah. They didn’t have those classes then.
Simoneaux: So how did you get a teaching certificate?
Babcock: I applied for it. Of course, I had to show them my degree at the school system at the Natrona County School District. Then they issued you your certificate. In those days, with just an associate certificate, you could teach school. Of course, that’s changed since then.
Simoneaux: A lot has changed in the school system.
Babcock: Oh, you’re not kidding. Don’t get me started.
Simoneaux: Even from when I was a student just in elementary school, and being a mom to my kids in elementary school, and the changing of the way that they teach, and it’s very difficult to help them.
Babcock: And you know, when my children went to school they were taught phonics, and they learned to read. They really learned. They’ve discontinued the phonics program as far as I can tell, and phonics is the greatest basis for reading that you can imagine. They also do not teach penmanship anymore, and these kids can’t write worth a darn.
Babcock: It’s just sickening really, and now the digital age has taken over. These things like being able to write a simple thank-you letter, being able to just write a letter and address it by hand and send it through the mail, just doesn’t happen anymore. And it’s a real, real shame. A real shame. When I was growing up, if I got a gift from anybody, I had to sit down and write a thank-you letter and my children the same way. That doesn’t happen anymore, and I’m sorry, but email just doesn’t get the job done.
Simoneaux: Yes, I agree, I make my children write thank-you letters or cards. I emphasize communication, especially with my oldest son, because text messaging, he’ll sit on the phone and text message, so I make him call people to chat instead of texting.
Babcock: It’s just a letter is so personal, and to this day, all you really get now is junk mail. If I see something in the mail that is handwritten to me, I am so happy, even if it is not a letter. But oh, if everybody, every single person would write a letter a week, I think the post office would be all right. It’s such a shame.
Simoneaux: You were just a small child during the Depression, is that right?
Babcock: No, I missed the Depression.
Simoneaux: You missed it completely?
Babcock: Yeah, I did. I used to ask my dad. I would say, “Well Dad, my dad lost some money.” My dad had a very good job, and in our neighborhood, we were considered rather well- to-do because the railroad pays very well. He was never without a job, but he did lose some money in the Depression.
See, I was born in 1929, so I just missed the worst of the Depression. And so I said to Dad one time, “What happened, what happened to your money? Were you ever able to find out?” He said, “No.” He said, “One day the banks closed, and I never saw it again.”
Then of course Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, was elected, [U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who served March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945] and he really brought this country out of the Depression. I can remember one time when I was just a little kid, and it seems to me it was in the winter, but anyway, Franklin Roosevelt came to town…They took his motorcade down to Fort Caspar, and it went down West 13th Street, and we lived close to West 13th Street. I was sick, I could not go up to the corner. But my mother left me sick at home because she was not going to miss, on the corner, seeing President Roosevelt go by, and so that was a big thrill.
Then after the second World War, my husband was in the Coast Guard for five years. He was on a destroyer escort, and his ship was torpedoed. It was … there is a very famous photograph that traveled around the world when that ship was torpedoed because it happened that the Coast Guard official photographer happened to be on his ship. And let’s see, what did I want to tell you about that? Anyway, as I said, he was in the service for five years.
Oh, and after he moved to Wyoming and everything, and we were married a number of years, President Truman [U.S. President Harry S. Truman, who served April 12, 1945, to Jan. 20, 1953] was in office. He came to Casper for a big reception at the American Legion Club, which at that time was the big building that had been a furniture store. I think it was Chamberlain Furniture, which stood right behind the library, where the library is now. We were invited to the reception. So that was a pretty big thrill, too. So, although I didn’t get to see President Roosevelt, at least my mother did, and then we got to go to President Truman’s reception.
Simoneaux: That’s neat. Hard to believe that a U.S. president would come to Casper.
Babcock: President Ford [U.S. President Gerald R. Ford, who served from Aug. 9, 1974, to Jan. 20, 1977] has a presence in Casper. This is a matter of record, and I wish I could remember it better, but he had a relative who was here in Casper for at least a short time. There’s a connection here with President Ford, too.
Simoneaux: Wow, that’s a lot of stuff I didn’t know. What about Pearl Harbor, how did that affect Wyoming? That was in 1941?
Babcock: Uh-huh, December 7th. The effects that it had here in Wyoming, of course, were when the president had all of the Japanese-Americans put into Heart Mountain, into the—well, he wouldn’t call it a concentration camp—into the facility at Heart Mountain. And what I remember most about that was that we had to get ration books. You were rationed for things like shoes, gasoline and sugar. My mother found a recipe for prune cake, which did not take sugar, and we had a lot of prune cake (laughs).
And my father had an unlimited gas card. You had an A, B or C ration card for gas, and he had, because he was in a vital position and he was on duty twenty-four hours a day all through the war, but he would not take—I think he had a B card. My father was a very active man and walked a mile or so to work every day and home every day. If he had to go in at night, he would take the car but otherwise, we were rationed in many, many ways.
At school, they had savings stamps, war bond savings stamps, and every say, Tuesday, you took your money to school and you bought savings stamps. There was always a contest in all the different rooms of who all got, bought the most savings stamps. When they added up the totals, your room might get a quarter holiday, so maybe after recess in the afternoon, you got to go home or something like that. And every week I got two dollars and fifty cents to take to school and buy twenty-five cent war bond stamps and when you got eighteen dollars and fifty cents, then you could trade the stamps in for a twenty-five dollar war bond. I got lots of those.
Well, one time we had a cocker spaniel when I was in grade school. He was a holy terror, and one time I came home and took off my wristwatch and I put it on the desk. I put my savings stamps there. Pretty soon everything had disappeared. That dog ate the stamps and probably the watch, too, because we never [saw] either one. It didn’t seem to affect him at all. My mother was so upset about that. We always had a cocker spaniel. They were always my mother’s dogs. And boy, she was not happy with him at that time. It all just disappeared, and we never did know what happened. I think we found a little piece of the wristwatch on the carpeting or something like that, you know, but that was not a fun time. And of course, it was my fault, too, for leaving them on the desk (laughs).
…It was a terrible hardship, but you had to save all kinds of things. You saved rubber bands, you saved all kinds of things. My mother was very religious about it, and of course, the sugar rationing. I think you got five pounds of sugar, maybe, every three months. I’m not really sure. But so many things were rationed and there were no more silk hose as I remember. Pretty soon they came out with a nylon or something, it was pretty homely. Lots and lots of things were rationed. I can’t remember feeling terribly deprived or anything. Of course, I was still just a kid. My folks were very, very religious about doing everything they could for the war effort. And buying savings bonds, you know, all kinds of stuff like that.
Simoneaux: And how about the boom and bust cycles here in Casper?
Babcock: Oh, we’ve had a lot of those. Oh, my goodness, yes. Oh, my goodness, it seems like every number of years there’s a boom or a bust and when there’s a boom, this town is just booming and when there’s a bust, it’s just, everybody, there is no money for anything. No money for anything.
I have always attributed the boom and bust cycle to the fact—well, I’ve attributed the inability of Casper to preserve its heritage to the boom and bust cycles. Because with the boom cycles all the transient oil, coal, whatever, workers come in and make a lot of money and when it’s over, they leave and they don’t really know the history or the heritage of Casper and they could care less. And so this I think has really… Casper has lost so much of its historical heritage, and it’s just because nobody really cared and the transient population really was part of that.
Simoneaux: I’m going to flip this over… [cassette tape changed to side two.]
Babcock: Did we use it all up?
Simoneaux: I guess probably the’70s was a boom cycle, wasn’t it? Did it start to decline around the ’80s or through the ’80s?
Babcock: I think so, I couldn’t tell you specifically. But it just seems like it’s an unending cycle…[Interruption]…
Simoneaux: We were talking about the boom and bust. There wasn’t much to it. It just constantly goes up and down?
Babcock: It’s a recurring cycle. You could say every ten years, but sometimes it’s not every ten years, sometimes it’s more than ten years. I couldn’t pinpoint it for you without really going back and researching it. The bust cycles are not a whole lot of fun, but Wyoming is structured so that really Wyoming is financially pretty well off.
Simoneaux: Yeah, I noticed just growing up with my parents that I never thought that we were struggling, and I don’t know if that is because of the industries that my parents worked in. I don’t ever feel like it hit our family that hard.
Babcock: The people that it does hit hard, you feel so sorry for because there’s really nothing they can do about it. Another thing--a longtime acquaintance--well, she and her family came here. He became an editor, his name was Naylor, he was an editor at the Casper Star-Tribune and Harriet became a teacher in the school system. Anyway, after they came here, they came like from West Virginia, and she was here quite a while and we got acquainted and everything.
She thought Casper was terribly, terribly snotty, that the people who lived here or had lived here, say like me or something, were clique-y and didn’t want anything to do with her. I couldn’t imagine that. I was just so stupefied by that. I kept thinking about it, and I thought, there are a lot of people who are longtime Casperites who are a little bit gun-shy about meeting new friends, especially of the transient population. Because you get to know somebody and like them so well, first thing you know, they are gone. So maybe that plays into it, I don’t know.
Simoneaux: We’ve gone over so much of this already (looking at questions).
Simoneaux: Let’s see if we have some fun stuff. Did you live around a lot of kids when you were a child?
Babcock: Oh yes, we had quite a neighborhood (laughs), and we were little holy terrors. My mother used to say to me, when I would call her and say, “Oh, these children are driving me crazy, these little girls are so naughty,” and she would say to me, “Charlotte, don’t talk to me about those girls, you were a holy terror.” We had a big basement in our house, and I used to deck it out. You know, get stuff from my folks and make a playhouse in it and get some of my mom’s old sheets or something--there was a clothesline down in the basement because you couldn’t always hang out your clothes—and divide it up into rooms.
We had a whole neighborhood full of kids. One family had ten children! I was an only child and across the street, there were, well, eventually there were three, but when I was growing up, there were two and that boy over there, I don’t know if I should say his name or not but he was…we were always in a fight or something. His mother took up his fight every time, and my mother would not participate. She said, “You know kids get over their fights, but parents never do.” Oh, she was just…
And then around the corner was my longtime boyfriend and his family. Then across the street was a girl who had two older brothers, who used to just drive us crazy. It would take my father to go out and send them home because they were afraid of my father. He was an imposing figure. There were just kids all around, and we used to play all kinds of kick the can, hide and seek, All of our houses, most of them, had front porches. In the evening the parents would be out on the front porch, and you’d be out in the street playing with all the kids under the street light and playing kick the can or hide and go seek, or riding your bikes all around or all kinds of things like that.
And we used to chase … the ice truck down the street because in the early days the iceboxes had to have ice. The Indian Ice Company delivered ice all over town, and the ice man would take big blocks of ice in the house and put it in the top of the icebox. And all of us kids in the summertime would chase that truck down the street so we could jump in the back and get chunks of ice to suck on. We just used to tear around the neighborhood, and we would play cops and robbers.
Oh! And we had a big yard, big, big yard. My dad … was a wonderful gardener, and had a great big vegetable garden, and my mother had lots of flowers, and we had a picket fence around our house. There was a place where there was nothing, it was all grass and flowers, but there was a place and we used to make mud pies over there in that place. And there was a--my dad says that when he was working in the yard, when I was just like maybe two or three—now, maybe I remember this or maybe I don’t, that I found this root and I wanted a hole to put it in, so he dug a hole in the backyard. He said that turned out to be the cottonwood tree that grew … Oh, my gosh, that was huge, and it was beautiful. And oh! All of us kids used to climb in that cottonwood tree. Oh, my goodness! And sometimes you would just go up there to hide. That was really great.
But we just played all around the neighborhood. My longtime boyfriend who was around the corner, his name was Dale, Dale Demmon when it was time for him to go home, his dad would come out and whistle. That man could whistle! You could hear him for a country mile and boy, Dale would be off home. He had this little sister, Arlene, who was always tagging along, and we were always getting in trouble because we’d ditch her. One time they moved away, and they moved to Oregon, and he became a logger in Oregon, and I don’t know what’s happened to him. But one time–it’s been about twenty years–was in the summertime, someone knocked on the door, and it was Dale. And he came--I just about fainted--and he came to see us, see me, but of course, he got introduced to Robert, too. But he had, was or had been married and had a family, so that was really something, that he would come to see me after all those years.
Simoneaux: That is neat. That’s really neat.
Babcock: And there were boys all over, there were more actually, almost more boys than girls. But oh boy, we just used to have--we used to roller-skate, oh my goodness we used to
roller-skate (laughs) up and down the sidewalks, you know, just all kinds of things like that. We were outdoors in the summertime all the time, but in the evenings when it was dark, the parents would be out on the front porch until the mosquitoes got them, and when that happened, they called you and you went home.
Simoneaux: I remember one of your articles [in Footprints] said something about the demise of society was the loss of the front porch.
Babcock: Yes, indeed, indeed. And we had a big glider out on the front porch. A lot of times I used to spend the afternoon out there with the comic books, in the glider, lying in the glider, reading the comic books. Before that we had a swing, a big porch swing that hung from big hooks in the ceiling of the porch, but the glider was the really nice one, you know. And if there was nothing much going on, … I’d be out there with my comic books (laughs) or my Nancy Drew books. Oh, my goodness. I devoured Nancy Drew….
I got an allowance and a lot of the kids in the neighborhood didn’t get allowances, but Naylor’s bookstore [the former Naylor’s Gift and Stationery, 166 S. Center] was down on the corner on Second and Center where the Messy Moose is now and that was a wonderful stationery store. They had a whole thing of Nancy Drew books, and believe you me, every time a new one came out, I was down there with my allowance and got the newest Nancy Drew. So that was really nice. In those days when I was growing up, Casper had a bus system, a city bus system, which was wonderful. There were three lines, and they’d canvass the whole town, and they stopped on practically every street corner. There was a little brick-front grocery one block from where I lived and that was the bus stop. Of course, my mother didn’t drive. Many of the ladies then did not drive. She’d get me, and we’d go down and we’d ride on the bus.
Well, when we got to be teenagers, when we got to be in high school and everything, you got a bus pass you know. You got a teenager, what did they call them, bus pass and you just handed it to the bus driver and he, you know, he punched it; yes that’s what I’m trying to say. So that was nice, and you could ride all over.
Well, when we were in high school, we were, at least I was, a movie buff, a real movie buff. There were three theaters: the Rex, which was on Center Street pretty much, not quite across from the America Theater, just a little south of it, but that was there; then there was the America Theater where it is now; and the Rialto. So at the theaters, the Rex Theater had all the serials and stuff that you went to on the weekend with the cowboys and all that kind of stuff. And you know, I only remember going there for the weekend serials but the America Theater changed movies twice a week. You went Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. There was a movie on Thursday, Friday and [on] Saturday, there was another movie. At the Rialto, they changed movies three times a week. You went Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, (pause) Wednesday, Thursday, (pause) Friday, Saturday. And whenever I could, we got to the movies, and we always took the bus because the bus stopped right there. All the busses stopped right on the corner of Second and Center, and then you caught the bus down there, and you caught the bus home. My allowance never quite stretched as much as I wanted it to, but every movie that we could get to. We could only go to the movies on the weeknights if we had our homework done, and if we didn’t have our homework done, you didn’t go in [to] the movie.
But on the weekend, boy, we really went to the movies. Those were in the days when I don’t think the movies were, even as when we were kids, were even like more than a quarter, and the bus tokens—the bus, I think, was ten cents if you went on the bus so you could … pretty much afford it. And so that was always fun.
And then in high school, we’d go to the Casper Canteen. There was a canteen in the old City Hall building which stood across from the city park, you know where the city park is downtown across from the Elks Club. Directly across Center Street, there was the old City Hall there, and it had a dome and everything, and the floors were wood and creaky and everything, but upstairs there was kind of a little canteen, and we’d go there to dance after the ball games and stuff like that. Then the Casper Canteen moved down on Center Street, in what used to be where the VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars building] was, there’s just some offices there now, but it’s just, it’s just next, south of the courthouse, the old courthouse. Those were always fun, and there would be sock hops after the basketball games or football … It was just great, and most of the football games were on Friday night, so it was Friday night lights (laughs, sighs).
Simoneaux: Something I was curious about was [Casper’s longtime red-light district] the Sandbar and I know that during the ’20s you weren’t there, and you have done a lot of research on that, but what was it like from then on?
Babcock: Okay, this is how I remember the Sandbar: It was some place you didn’t go to. You stayed away from it. But when we were old enough to be able to drive and we got our, one of us got our parent’s car, say on Friday or Saturday night, the best thing we did was drive down Center Street, turn left on First Street, go down the hill and zip through the Sandbar (laughs) and that’s when the little cribs of the prostitutes were way down at the end of the Sandbar, close to the river.
We would go down there and there would be, some of the girls would be out, or they would be looking out their windows or something, and we’d honk and they’d wave and holler at us and everything, and we never dared stop or anything. And oh, my goodness, driving that was very exciting! Driving through the Sandbar.
There was a restaurant down there called Fanny Bell’s. There were two or three really great restaurants down there, and there was a theater down there, too, but I don’t remember that … It must not have been in commission while I was growing up. But Fanny Bell’s--after you got old enough--Fanny Bell’s was the place to go for fried chicken. Oh, she was a black lady and she did--oh, could she cook--and that was very popular with anybody.
Then there was the Van Rooms down there, too, and that was owned by Leo Weiss, who was, ran a whole prostitution service out of there, his main prostitute or manager was named Fifi, as I remember it. Well, he worked for my dad and he worked up at the railroad depot, and every once in a while he wouldn’t show up for work, so my dad would have to go find him. And of course my mother would really tease my dad about that, you know but yeah he worked for my dad, and that finally got closed … and when they decided to, when they finally decided to close down the Sandbar.
And of course, it had been tried on and on and on and on and I could go into a lot of history of the Sandbar, but we don’t have time for that. But anyway he opened another place on North Park [Street] and that is where, oh God, what is the name of that place where they take in people who are homeless?
Simoneaux: The Rescue Mission?
Babcock: Yeah, yeah. I think, yeah, that’s it. That was his place, and Fifi came up there with him and somebody who lived right across the street that I know. In fact she was just kind of a teenager then, but she’s my beauty operator now. She used to describe Fifi as being black- haired, with long black hair, and she always wore a muumuu. And I said, “Well was she good looking?” and she said, “Well, I never really got that close to her, but she had long black hair and she wore a muumuu all the time.” She moved over there with him, and he opened up that place on North Park after they closed him down over there.
But during the second World War, when the [Casper Army] Air Base was here, out where the airport is now, there were hundreds of service men stationed here to learn how to fly B-17s… Anyway, they used to really, really inhabit the Sandbar … I haven’t checked this out yet, but in my research I’m going to have to. The officers, the commanding officers, came to the city and said--you know, for years the city kind of ignored things down there. They make a half-hearted effort to close things up and then they’d arrest everybody and fine them and the next day they were back in business and that sort of thing.
They said to the city, “If you don’t close that place up, we are going to do something about it.” That was really when the Sandbar began to close down, as far as I know, and that’s what’s been told to me. The servicemen were just too happy to go down there. So that was kind of the beginning probably of the end of the Sandbar …
Oh! I could tell you so many really fascinating things about [the Sandbar]. For instance, there was a stolen car ring down there, and the woman who ran it, her name, they called her the Queen of the something, but anyway, her name was Rush, I believe. Patricia? Phyllis? No, I’m not sure, don’t quote me. But anyway, they would bring in these cars from places like Colorado and Kansas and everything. And most of them were Cadillacs. And they would strip them down, down there [at the Sandbar] and put them all back together again, then they [the cars] would disappear … There is a personal account of a fellow who lived here then, and he said, “One out of every nine cars was a black Cadillac parked on the streets of Casper, that was all you saw.” And one of the big black Cadillacs ran a man over on the corner of A [Street] and Wolcott, close to where the post office is now. He stepped into the intersection. Lots of witnesses were around, and this car just barreled around the corner and ran him over and killed him instantly and went straight down the street to the Burlington Depot and then turned right and that street, Yellowstone—well, it becomes Yellowstone--and disappeared out of town and they never, ever found it. So that was one of the things that happened, but anyway, they finally put her out of business and sent her to jail or something. The stolen car ring, I thought was one of the more exotic things besides the prostitution that went on down there.
Simoneaux: It’s hard to believe that Casper was so eventful (laughs).
Babcock: It was, it was. Well, I don’t know whether you’ve read Shot Down!
Babcock: The new book, the book that I’m working on, if I ever get it finished that is, is the sequel to Shot Down! and that is really going to go into the happenings on the Sandbar.
Simoneaux: I can’t wait.
Babcock: All the time that all this was going on—the Sandbar and that was the no-no, that was the no-no area--uptown plenty was going on, too. Especially, well, you heard my lecture the other night about the bootlegging and how the sheriff, one of the sheriffs was way, way into bootlegging and a lot of the very prominent citizens. A lot of things went on uptown too. Casper was really a wide-open town for a long, long time.
Simoneaux: That’s interesting. When I was a little girl I remember going to Grant Street Grocery. That was one of my favorite places to go to buy candy, because we lived just a couple of blocks away when I was little, and I would ride my bike over there. So was that around when you were a kid?
Babcock: Oh yeah, yeah. There were little neighborhood grocery stores all over Casper. All over Casper, I can’t tell you [how many]. There was this, this was written up in the Trib [Casper Star-Tribune] here oh, maybe a year or so ago, this little grocery store right on the corner of East First and oh, my goodness, let’s see, we’re going Conwell, is on the east side of the hospital and one, two, it would be the third block down on First Street, and there was a little neighborhood grocery there that was run by a German couple who had come over from Germany. Really nice people. There were just little neighborhood grocery stores everywhere. You know? It would just be great to have those little neighborhood stores, but progress has ruined so many wonderful little things.
Simoneaux: I still like to go to Grant Street Grocery for their gourmet cheeses.
Babcock: Oh, yes indeed. And they have, the people who have owned Grant Street Grocery over the years, at one time it almost closed, but the people have managed to rejuvenate it, and really great, really great. Of the little neighborhood [stores], oh, the Blue Bird Grocery, oh, that was a big one. That was on the corner of Center and Sixth Street, which is just one block north of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, and it’s the Cheese Barrel now …
The Williamsons owned that for years, and that was open even late at night. I can remember when Robert and I use to go to the movies, and we would get out of the movies, and Robert would say, “Do we need any milk? Do we need a loaf of bread?” Whatever, you could stop at Blue Bird Grocery on your way home and just pick up anything. They were very popular, and they were open for years. And they were open, like at night you know, for oh, maybe ’til ten o’clock or something like that. Be open all day. They had a meat counter. They just had everything, and that was a very popular neighborhood grocery, and of course, it was close to downtown, too. But it was all neighborhood [stores] all around there. Across the street from it now, from the Cheese Barrel, those were all private homes and very nice private homes, you know?
Simoneaux: Yeah, I would really like to live in the big-tree area downtown. I think it would be a nice area.
Babcock: … For a long time that has irritated me, when the real estate ads say, “Big Tree Area.” Well, where I live up here in the east part now, just right above Hilltop Shopping Center, we have big trees all over the place. (laughs) Big, beautiful trees that are fifty years old. It just irritates me (laughing) that they think that’s the only big [tree] area in town—the central area.
Simoneaux: That’s funny. Okay, do you want to talk about some of your firsts?
Babcock: Some of my what?
Simoneaux: Your firsts?
Babcock: First what?
Simoneaux: Your first day of school?
Babcock: Well, all I know is that I wasn’t going to be allowed to attend McKinley School in kindergarten--I think my kindergarten teacher’s name was Mrs. Running--because I would not be five until the ninth of September, and in those days you had to be five by the first of September. There was one other girl who lived on CY Avenue who went to McKinley School, and she was just about as young as--she was just about too young like me. The two of us somehow got into kindergarten before we were five years old, and I really don’t know how that happened, but it had something to do with my parents. And I’m sure hers, too. But I didn’t like kindergarten at all, not to begin with at all (laughs). But I adapted to it, you know.
And I remember that at McKinley School some of my teachers that I really, really, really liked. There was Mrs. Tilley, she was a fifth grade teacher and although I didn’t have her, I thought she was the most glamorous woman. Oh, she had blonde hair, I think it was tinted, but it was blonde, and she wore beautiful, very fashionable clothes. My third grade teacher was Mrs. Brennan and I loved her. And her niece was in my class. Peggy Houston was her name, and they put her in her aunt’s class and then the principal or the administration or somebody said, “No, she can’t be in here, she’s a relative,” so she had to move—and that was a traumatic thing—across the hall or something.
Mrs. Bradley was my third grade teacher, and she told my mother, who was a perfectionist, that I was a very bright student if only I tried a little harder. I heard about that for a long time. My fourth grade teacher was Maude Long, and Maude Long became, years later, the principal of Garfield School. She and Virginia Rose lived together. My husband and I and Virginia and Maude use to play bridge together. I could never call her Maude. I always had to call her Mrs. Long. She continually said to me “Charlotte, you’ve got to call me Maude.” I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t have any trouble with Virginia, calling her Virginia, but she [Maude] was a great teacher, and as I said she became the principal of Garfield School.
And my seventh grade teacher was no bigger than a minute and she was just so cute. Her name was Miss Comus, and she was quite a bit older. She always wore heels, and you could just hear her clicking down the hall and everything. She was my seventh grade teacher. And here all of we seventh graders towered over her, but she was a very good teacher.
And in those days, you used to get points for attendance. Every day that your class had a perfect attendance, there was a star that went up on the chalkboard and I think it was twenty or twenty-five stars. If you got twenty stars, you got a quarter holiday. If you got twenty-five or however many, the ultimate, you got a half-holiday from school. And so that was very, very important that you be in school to see that star go up on the chalkboard, you know. On the blackboard.
And that’s what mostly I remember, except for Mrs. McLaughlin. She was principal, had a very deep man’s voice, and she scared the liver out of all of us. Going to her office was not fun. Not that she ever did anything bad, but it was just scary. She was the athlete, and she wanted to win the track meet.
One of my playmates who lived in the neighborhood—his name was Jack Ringer—he was a really good runner. One day, we were out practicing at recess on the west side of the school. The lines were always drawn in the street, and we were practicing, and he did something, I can’t tell ya, that really made her angry. After recess, we got in and all the sudden, we were up on the second floor, and that door flew open. Mrs. McLaughlin came in, and she grabbed him out of his seat. He had on a nice long sleeve shirt. She just ripped the arm right off, oh, my goodness, and away he went. I never will forget that. I can’t remember what happened to him, but anyway she was mad at him for something he didn’t accomplish out there practicing for the track meet.
Simoneaux: How about your very first job?
Babcock: My very first job? (laughs) I never really had a job because my folks had money. But I remember one summer. I think it was the summer I came home from Rockford College. Sprecher’s Drugstore [the former Sprecher’s Pharmacy, 133 S. Center] was down on Center Street. Harry Yesness clothing store was right next to it. On the other side of it was a little shop and then the America Theater. Somehow I got a job in there for three weeks … a couple or three weeks … replacing somebody who was on vacation. The woman who [was] the manager of the store didn’t like me at all. That just was not a happy time, but it was very brief. I don’t think I had another job, to tell you the truth, until I started teaching school. I don’t remember another job because I went right from school to being married, and of course, my folks helped us. Robert and I didn’t have any money, really, when we got married. My folks helped us out a lot, and I don’t think I had another job.
Simoneaux: Yeah, I’ve only ever one job, one real job.
Babcock: One real job.
Simoneaux: Yeah. I worked for a long time as an insurance underwriter for an insurance company in Casper. For about seven years I worked there. I started on the bottom. I wasn’t the underwriter the whole time. I did a lot of filing first, and then a lot of typing of tax affidavits, and eventually I worked my way up into a personal lines underwriter, and I was quoting for a lot of the agents in town. For high-risk people who have lost insurance because of numerous claims. So I did that for a long time, and then, when my youngest was born I quit working. I did get another job briefly after my divorce, and then when I met my now husband, he let me quit that job to go back to school, so I haven’t worked in the last six years.
Babcock: I think it’s [best] not to have to work and stay home with the kids. The only reason, one of the big reasons I went into the school system, was that I was off when the children were off and I could come home pretty much when the children came home. I mean, you had to stay for half an hour or whatever and everything, and I didn’t have to be in school mostly ’til the kids left for school, so it was ideal. But I don’t think I had another job except that two week one or whatever it was at the drugstore.
Simoneaux: That’s good. Do you remember your first trip away from home?
Babcock: Oh, my goodness. My parents and I traveled, you mean, when I was little?
Babcock: My parents and I traveled all the time, all the time. We were either on the train going to New York--we went to the 1939 World’s Fair in New York when I was ten years old. We would go back to New York all the time. My grandmother, I had a grandmother. I didn’t know any of my grandparents because all my mother’s parents died way before she ever even got married.
My dad’s mother, who was a grandmother that I barely, barely knew, and she was blind, she lived up in Sandpoint, Idaho, with my aunt, my dad’s sister and her husband. They had a dairy farm out of Sandpoint. Beautiful, beautiful place. We would go up there maybe, oh, every maybe, three or four years, and I just vaguely remember my [grandmother] but I do remember my aunt and uncle very well … But I can remember my father. Every week, he would sit down and write a letter to his mother and put in a five-dollar bill, and of course, the dairy farm wasn’t terribly profitable. That helped a lot in those days. And I loved to go to that farm because my aunt would let me feed the calves and gather the eggs and get the cows in from the pasture and all that kind of stuff.
And then we would travel to Yellowstone Park, we would travel to Glacier National Park. Oh, my goodness, I just can’t even remember all the places that we would go, because my family, we would go every year. My family would travel, and I do remember that we use to take rides on Sunday afternoon and during the war, [WWII] Dad drove down to Douglas, Wyoming. They had a prisoner of war camp down there, and they would have the prisoners come out and work in the fields. And we would drive down there, and the prisoners would wave to you as they were working in the fields and you would drive by. I remember that. But the folks used to take lots of rides, and I’m trying to think of the other places we would go and I know there were [more] but every year it was somewhere.
Simoneaux: Was your family big into agriculture?
Simoneaux: Yeah. Mine either. (laughs)
Babcock: Yeah. My mother was the musician. My dad’s the railroad worker, you know. No agriculture in our family.
Simoneaux: Did you do any of the camping and the hunting at all?
Babcock: Never, never. The camping and the hunting came along after I got married. My husband was quite a hunter, and he also loved to camp, and when the kids were little we had all the camping equipment you can ever imagine. We would be camping up at Colter Bay [in Grand Teton National Park] or in the Bighorns or whatever but never, never. Oh, my mother would have been much too dignified for that. (laughs)
Simoneaux: My dad has always been an avid fisherman and camper and boater.
Babcock: Oh, I couldn’t stand fishing. Robert would make me go fishing with him and if there was a boat, I sat in the boat and read.
Simoneaux: I loved camping when I was little.
Babcock: So did our kids. Loved it, loved it.
Simoneaux: Now my idea of camping is in a camper, which we don’t have but …
Babcock: My idea of camping, Robert used to say, is the Holiday Inn. (laughs) He always would tell everybody that.
Simoneaux: It’s amazing to me how things can change from the time that you are a child, and even a teenager, enjoying those things to the point where you think, “Well I have to have a bathroom. I’m not happy unless I have a bathroom.”
Babcock: And good electric lights and stuff like that.
Simoneaux: And I need my blow dryer. (laughs)
Babcock: Yes! (laughs)
Babcock: Electricity is a must.
Simoneaux: I have everything that I need.
Babcock: Good. Well, look, I wanted to show you. Now look here (pointing to pictures) I don’t know if you ever remember where the Chicago and Northwestern depot was?
Simoneaux: I don’t.
Babcock: Anyway, you know where the Goodstein building is?
Babcock: Okay, you know where the Rails to Trails, the pathway [through Casper along the former Chicago and Northwestern right-of-way] is, that goes across Center Street right along there?
Simoneaux: Okay, yes.
Babcock: That’s where the Chicago Northwestern depot was and that should never have been torn down. It was just the funkiest little depot you ever saw in your life. The train that you took from Casper east—my dad always called [it] the puddle jumper—which was really neat. But here is just before they tore it down and the Rails and Trails go right past it now. But this is kind of what it looked like, and that’s where Leo Weiss worked, was in the depot, but I just love those pictures, I don’t want anything to happen to those at all.
Simoneaux: I love the older building architecture.
Babcock: There they are, and here is my family (shows picture). OK. Now, this is Vickie, the oldest daughter who works for the Wyoming Community Foundation. Here is Roxanne, who is now the Wyoming State Pharmacist. Here is Linda with her youngest son, Mikey, who is the border patrol officer in Arizona. There is my father. He was the Chicago Northwestern master mechanic, and this little fella, Russ, he’s the police officer in Laramie now, he belongs to … and Miles, Vickie’s youngest, was not even born yet. There was one of our poodles. Clancy was his name. So there’s that.
Now these two (shows picture and article). She’s the first recipient of the Babcock Scholarship at Casper College and Paul [Hallock] and me and what was her name? That’s the picture of it, but this tells a little bit about it. There and this, I don’t know what this is, I was speaking for something, you may not even want to copy that. Here’s a picture of myself and my husband at one of the alumni banquets.
Simoneaux: That’s beautiful.
Babcock: Casper College alumni banquets. Oh, and of course, in the family picture, that’s Robert (points to Robert). So, if you want to copy any of those, you are welcome to copy them.
Simoneaux: I will take these with me then.
Babcock: Do you want to take all of them?
Babcock: Oh well, just so I get them back.
Simoneaux: Yes. I will definitely make sure you get them back. I have a color copier at my house.
Babcock: Oh you do?
Simoneaux: I do.
Babcock: Oh my goodness, I was wondering if they had a color copier over here at the foundation office too but I’m not sure if they do but you could copy them right there and be done.
Simoneaux: Yeah, we can do that.
Babcock: Do you know where the foundation office is, honey? [Speaking to Nichole’s son who offered to go check, Nichole’s son said no.] Oh well you better go with us when we go down. And I’ve got a bunch of publicity to give to the … so you’ve got everything you need?
Simoneaux: Yes. Let me just make sure I sign off properly (laughs). Thank you for your time today, and your oral history adds so much to the history of our town. It will be a valuable asset to the researchers in the future. Do you have anything you wanted to add?
Babcock: Oh, probably, I have a lot. (laughs) I don’t know.
Simoneaux: I will be transcribing this record and both the record of your oral history and the transcription will be housed in the Western History Society [Center]. Thank you so much.
Babcock: You are very welcome. I really kind of enjoyed it. I know I’ve skipped over a lot of things but as old as I am (laughs), you can’t hit every point.
Simoneaux: Well, I appreciate it. This gives me so much for my project that I’m doing for my communication class, and it’s also helping out the Western History Society [Center].
Babcock: Well sure, but you know what I think. I think you should do very well with this because I can talk a lot (laughs) where some other people might not be able to.
Simoneaux: I was really happy to have you. [Former CC Western History Center Archivist] Teri [Hedgpeth] paired us up because when she asked me what I was interested in, I told her I like to write, and I like cooking and household things so she said you would be perfect for me.
Babcock: Who said that?
Simoneaux: Teri Hedgpeth.
Babcock: Oh, yeah. And you’ve got the brochure from the humanities council?
Babcock: And, let’s see, you can go to the 50th anniversary book that Kevin [Anderson, former archivist for Casper College’s Western History Center] wrote and if you want any, I have a lot, of course I save all my writing and everything. If you might want some of the stuff I’ve done for the Trib [Casper Star-Tribune], you can let me know and I can get it. I have a bulging file cabinet.