Part of a series of interviews done by the Imnaha School Kids in 1987.
Interviewer: Arthur Martinez
Q. What is your name?
A. Ferman Warnock
Q. How long have you lived in this area?
A. Well, I was born here. I’d say I lived here about 75 years.
Q. Did you come here with your family?
A. I was born here.
Q. How long has your family lived in this area?
A. The Warnock family I suppose came here about 1880.
Q. What do you like about living here?
A. Everything. The people, the climate, and everything.
Q. How many people lived here when you first came?
A. I counted up this morning, and what I knew, there was about 150, in the whole canyon, that’s counting kids and everyone.
Q. What was life like then?
A. Pretty good. We didn’t know anything different.
Q. Was life much the same as it is now?
A. No, it has changed alot. It was pretty primitive. We didn’t have any power,refrigerators, indoor toilets and we drank water out of the river. The river water was pretty pure then.
Q. Was most things run by horse?
A. All of it by horse.
Q. What changes have taken place since then?
A. At that time we didn’t have any motorized equipment. We have power now and we have had telephone for quite awhile now. My mother had the motel in around 1904 or 1905 and it was along about that time because when the guys were here building the telephone line. We stole some of Mothers forks and used them for spurs to be like the telephone man. Lou was my older brother. There were two hotels then. One was where Keith Wortman lives now and the other about where John Bales barn is. That was the Hamilton Hotel and several different people had it, we had it at one time. But it was in the Hamilton family for a long time. Boswells had it in the early thirties. My Dad had the Hotel across the street from the store, I don’t think he owned it, I think somebody else had it. We put up the mail coach and the stage drivers. There were no cars in here until 1912. The stage was just a wagon, open wagon and a sled like they used to run around here. They were pulled by two horses and they changed horses at halfway of Midway. Duckett could tell you all about that, he drove it there one winter.
Q. Where were you born?
A. I was born across the river from where Gladys and Wayne Marks live now in a log cabin. I don’t even think we had a floor in that cabin.
Q. How many brothers and sisters did you have?
A. Just one brother and sister. Lou was my brother and my sister was Maude.
Q. How did the changes affect you and why?
A. Actually they didn’t as they came pretty slow and we just worked into them. The main change was when we got the automobiles. Billy Warnock and Albert Morgan had the first two automobiles. In about 1918 they began to get more automobiles. I was still a child then, I learned to drive when I was about 17.
Q. What changes affected you the most?
A. The most was when the Depression came and had to work for one dollar a day. I worked for a sheep outfit for three years, with only 9 days off for one dollar a day. You had to work then too, if something happened to the stock or something, you might work 20 hours a day, now it is from 8 to 5 most jobs, when 5 o’clock comes everything closes down.
Q. What changes do you think will come in this community in the near future?
A. I had an old guy tell me awhile back that hte way things have changed in the last few years with big ranches buying out the little places, it might become a retirement layout. You see what has happened down below here and at the Imnaha River Woods. It could be all big ranches and little retirement places for the Social Security people, like me. It used to be all small farms with a lot of people living on them, I wish it was back that way now.
Q. What was school like when you went to school?
A. Pretty rough in a way. We had a one room school house and we drank out of the river or maybe get water out of College Creek up there where I went to school. All the kids drank out of one water bucket and the same dipper and everything. I went to the freezeout School there at College Creek. we walked to school. from clear up at Freezeout down to about Grant Warnocks the kids all walked together to school. It was pretty rough there because that building was built out of green lumber and a single box house and a lot of times when it would get real cold, the teacher and the kids would huddle up next to the stove to keep warm then move back. I remember we didn’t have any paper tablets like they have now, if they get something the district would buy it and divide it among the kids. They had these slates, you could hear the screeching all over the place. All the desks in school were the same, for first graders through eighth grade, the little kids feet were way off the floor. They had hand made double desks. When the new school was built all those desks went out. I had one for a long time but I don’t know what happened to it. It looked more like a chicken coop than anything else.
Q. Was the teacher allowed to whip you?
A. Yes, but the worst of it was that the big kids wouldn’t let her whip the little kids. The teachers had a time cause the big kids protected the little ones.
Q. Did you ever play any pranks on them?
A. That was going on all the time. I went to school there for four years. Joe Marks was going to school there then and Lloyd Thompson and all those kids. There were about 24 kids going there at that time, I know with one teacher. They had one girl, her name was Reams. She went to the school at the Park one year and graduated. Then she went to Normal School out to LaGrande that summer, came back that fall and taught at the Freezeout School.
Q. What did you study?
A. The three R’s. How to read, add and subtract and writing. When I took the eighth grade examination, I didn’t pass grammar. I had to go back, Bessie Lloyd was the teacher, I sat there most of the day right there in the schoolhouse. I thought maybe she would break down and help me but she didn’t.
Q. Where did your family get their food from? A. Well, they raised most of it. they a had a store up here and they would get supplies and stuff there. In those days what most people did was buy a years supply of groceries cause they couldn’t go over the top in the snow. The guys from Snake River would come over and stay at Marks’ and Bailey would order the supplies but never take them off the wagon. They would take them right on up there to that little shed built up there at Kid and Mary’s place, sets on the left side of the road as you go up. They build that for Hibbs and the Marks boys that lived on Snake River then. They would go there to stay and pack their stuff back, a years supply at a time. Baileys ran the store at Imnaha then.
Q. What did you do for fun when you were little?
A. Just like any kids, I guess. My Dad always used to say that as long as the kids were hollering and yelling around you didn’t need to worry, but if you couldn’t hear them hollering you better worry because they would be into something.
Q. Are there any other interesting facts you would like to share?
A. There are alot of things I could tell. I’ll tell you a story about my brother. He and Duckett used to job (trick) one another so Duckett told Lou, who was running the Robinson outfit, that when he went to Horse Creek to bring him out some fish. Lou said alright, so he got over there. In the meantime Lou broke all that country over there out in a car, while he was working for Robinson. He pioneered out the whole thing. In the meantime, Duckett went and cut a tree across the road. When Lou came out in his pickup or his little Ford he couldn’t get out. Lou thought he would job Duckett, so he caught a big rattlesnake. He told Duckett he had a tire to fix and pulled up in front of the old garage, told him there was a tire to fix and he had brought him some fish in a sack. He had put the live rattlesnake in a gunnysack and put on the spare tire on the back of the rig. So Duckett went out there and started taking the sack off and the snake rattled. He didn’t get any fish, he got a rattlesnake.