Written by Kay Frady Turner
Moving from Midland to Boulder, Colorado in the summer of 1958 I missed the “Senior Experience” with all of you. However, through the years, Midland has remained my “hometown”, flooding me with memories of growing up. Boulder was a fabulous “vacation” but it was the time spent in Midland that shaped my life. You know, the “good ol’ days” when children were free to explore their homeland. (Oh my, did I just say that? It makes me sound so old. I’m NOT because it wasn’t THAT long ago! Contrary to what my children and grandchildren may say or think, I am still 16 and at the Youth Center!)
The summer of ‘ 59, following graduation, Prissy Walcher and I traveled with a group of girls ( chaperoned) to Hawaii. I am not sure we ever saw the chaperones once we landed but I did see them on the plane.
Upon landing, a local Hawaiian newspaper came out to meet our plane and take our photographs for our hometown newspapers. Mine hangs on a wall in our home today to my children and grandchildren’s amazement. Wearing a dress, crinoline petticoats, heels, AND white gloves, I failed to blend in with the locals! Midland trained us to be proper ladies. Correct? While Prissy, I and the invisible chaperones were there, Hawaii became the 49th state. My grandchildren think I am a pilgrim
Our purpose was to attend summer school at the University of Hawaii. The idea was to get a few courses out of the way prior to starting college. While flying over the Pacific Ocean, I decided that English and History may not be the best choice for my summer curriculum. Learning the Hawaiian culture was my preference. I filled the summer with local academics, hula and swimming at the University.
From that point on, my life has been somewhat akin to that summer. Not always making the most practical or best decisions, the journey has been interesting, challenging and sometimes no more successful than I was at doing the hula but God’s graciousness has opened and closed doors accordingly.
My college experience began at Abilene Christian and lasted one semester. The beaches and surf were beckoning. The idyllic senior year and summer did not make for an easy transition back to the land of sandstorms and tumbleweeds. I transferred to Pepperdine in L.A. It was another “vacation” and after completing my sophomore year, I married Gary Lashley from Oklahoma. He finished college in Oklahoma and we eventually returned to Texas, settling in Irving and then in Fort Worth.
Gary and I had three children. Sadly one of our children died from a sudden illness. Shelly was three years old. Life forever changed from that point on. Life as I had known it was gone and in its place came something even greater. It was then that I learned life wasn’t about where I was living or the beautiful scenery or reading self-help books, searching for what I was really meant to do with my life. Instead, a very simple concept took hold. A simple but deep appreciation for each moment began which resonates to this day. I was 26 years old, not far from the Youth Center days but far from sitting in a rocker on the porch which was where I thought people discovered such profound pearls of wisdom Thankfully, Shane who is now 46 and Shannon, age 37 are bright shining stars in my life. Sadly, their dad and I divorced after l 8 years.
I was two years into my plan, the same plan that some of you may have had. You know what I am talking about. It is the ‘1 Am Staying Single For The Rest Of My Life” plan. Then I was introduced to a wonderful man, Ray Turner. He was a widower, many years my senior, who magically dismissed all my profound ideas, replacing them with 26 ½ years of marriage and who continues to bless my life each day! I thank God for loving Divine Intervention in swinging that door open.
Ray and I have lived in Fort Worth for most of our marriage. We combined families, his two girls and one son and my son and daughter. All of our children were grown by that time and living in different parts of the U.S. except for Shannon who was only 12 but we were “home base” for all. Then tragically we lost another child in 2000. Ray’s son was killed in an airplane accident at the age of 45.
Like many of you, we have known the taste of tears many times. However, the joys have far surpassed the sadness. The fabric of our lives is woven by all these experiences and it is the happy, colorful threads that predominate. We have been blessed with 17 grandchildren! (Anyone want to see Christmas at our house? They made a movie about it starring Chevy Chase. )
In 1992, another life changing event occurred when Ray accepted an overseas assignment with Lockheed. We moved to Korea for a few years. Leaving our family was so, so difficult but once there, God opened up doors to show me how I would spend the rest of my life. He lovingly put a camera in my hand. A burning passion that would eventually lead me to starting my first career at the age of 64 was ignited.
While in Asia, my husband and I vacationed in Thailand. Traveling into the mountains of northern Thailand, near Burma, I photographed the Hill Tribe people. Riding elephants into the jungles, I felt like I was back at the Yucca theatre watching Tarzan movies. (By the way, did we ever have an aptitude test which would show if our calling was to be a National Geographic photographer’? If so, I was absent that day.)
While the elephant cleared the jungle, stepping over fallen trees, forging his way through rivers, one could hear a child’s voice ripple through the massive trees. Forewarning the village of approaching visitors, “Caw, Caw” came the child’s distinct cry. By that time, I was having an identity crises. From then on, I was “Jane”. Ray was “Tarzan”. “Boy” was alerting the tribe that we were coming.
One thing led to another from those years in Asia and today, I am a photographer with an incurable addiction for capturing life, people and relationships. It is my therapy for life’s curve balls. There is something to be said about searching for the good “Kodak moments”. It beats being on a couch with an analyst writing a book about your life. (I have done that already.) Now it is on to new horizons.
At this writing, Ray is under the care of Hospice. I do not know if I will see you at the reunion but please know, that I still see your faces, your smiles, feel your warmth and that I continue to cherish the memories we shared together. While Midland shaped my life and gave me so many values, teaching me to feel comfortable in any situation, individually you were a part of that. Many of our parents came to Midland as “pioneers” and with that was a pioneer spirit. What a silent influence all of that was as we grew into adulthood. From Club 15 and learning to dance with a private instructor at Prissy Walcher’s in the seventh grade, to now running businesses of our own, traveling the globe, Midland roots took hold so deeply that they are experienced every day in some way.
Today, in my heart, we are at the Youth Center and the bell just rang. On the juke box Elvis is crooning and we are all dancing, waiting for our own Roy Orbison to come on stage. School just let out for the Christmas holidays. It is winter. Spring will soon follow. When it does I am going to learn how to whistle and carry a fishin’ rod. That will be very helpful, especially ifI am back in my hometown of “Mayberry” better known as Midland, Texas. Maybe someone will make a television show about it. Oh, that would be such fun! The last time I was on television was when Jean Pipkin invited a few of us to do a live commercial. We drank milk for her dad’s Piggly Wiggly. We were in the 7th grade. Now those were the days. Remember? Yessireee, the good ol’ days.