Clarence H. Kerns

Clarence H. Kerns
Born: May 1, 1917 Died: January 2, 2014
Classmate of Stanley Dunham

Clarence H. Kerns Interview

Interview ID: 01
Recorded: March 3, 2009
Location: Media Resource Center, Butler Community College
Videographer: Steve Cless
Interviewer: Sonja Milbourn

Interview Summary

Clarence Kerns, class historian of 1936, shares his memories from El Dorado High School, President Obama’s grandparents, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham, and other fascinating local history about life in El Dorado and Butler County.

Run Time: 58:15

Transcript/Finding Aid:

Finding Aid Notes

00.00-00.35: Camera, sound adjustments
00.35-00.50 Personal information: Clarence explains how he got his name, Clarence H. Kerns.
00.51-09.30. Family coming to El Dorado, first oil well: Clarence shares memories of El Dorado in the twenties and thirties: His father moved to El Dorado in 1915, when the first oil well came in.
09.31-13.30 Some unusual characters, El Dorado growth: Clarence describes some interesting characters in El Dorado that he remembers from the 20s and 30s, the vote to open a new junior college in 1927 and building the stadium in the 1930s.
13.31-19.30 Entertainment, housing, transportation: Clarence describes movie theaters, 1929 (banks closing and hard times), the town of Oil Hill, housing projects and box car houses, his 1914 truck (donated to Butler County History Center and Oil Museum) and 1921 Model T.
19.31-28.13 Local gatherings and events, the KKK, interracial friendship: Clarence reminisces about the Kaffir Corn Carnival, an annual event he thinks may have ended around the Depression, about KKK activity in the area (float in a parade, a rally south of town, discovery of a robe in a friend’s home), and about an interracial friendship with a classmate.
28.14-31.48 Race: Clarence discusses his growing awareness of segregation and unequal treatment.
31.49-35.32 School days: Clarence shares memories about school, friendship with the family of a prominent local citizen, L.W. Nixon, and his favorite subjects in school.
35.33-40.47 High school memories and classmates, David Shirk: Clarence tells the “rags to riches” story of classmate, David Shirk, and talks about high school. (See Margaret Shirk interview.)
40.48-43.28 Class reunion, Stanley Dunham, Madelyn and Stanley Ann: Clarence talks about the class’s 20th high school reunion in 1955 and reads the last letter he received from Stanley in 1990 about the 55 year reunion, in which were mentioned grandchildren, Barack and Maya.
43.29-46.57 Influences on grandson because of heritage: Clarence discusses his grandparents’ influence, Kansas influences, sacrifices made by Madelyn, influences on Stanley and brother Ralph from losing their mother and being raised by their maternal grandparents.
46.58-50.05 Major historical events: Clarence remembers hearing a speech by President Hoover (after he left office), hearing Billy Sunday at the Methodist Church, seeing FDR when he was in Wichita. He discusses his conversation with candidate, Barack Obama, in 2008 and shares ending thoughts.
50.06-58.15 More ending thoughts: After the interview, Clarence shares photos and memorabilia (not visible on camera) and notes people from elsewhere who have contacted him about Obama’s grandparents.