[Transcript of interview with Otis Wiles, recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read. For more information contact the Library at 417-883-5366 or visit us on the web.]

My name is John Rutherford I am the host of the Recollections and Connections Project and today I am talking on March 2nd with Otis Wiles.  This is Mr. Wiles. What would you like to tell us about today?

Otis Wiles:  Well, I am going to relate to you two or three little incidents in my life so you can see what kind of a fellow I am. I graduated from high school in 1935.  A class of 16; 9 girls and 7 boys.  Those boys banded themselves together in a tightly knit unit whose episodes became known statewide. (chuckle) There was a large basement under the high school building and it was equipped with saws and other tools and used by the agriculture teacher for his classroom.  It also had other uses.  Occasionally, when there was a death in the community, the handyman about town, Mr. Miller, who did odd jobs for the town folks would come in after school and put together a pine box.  Back in those days there were no funeral homes. We didn’t know what a vault was.  A pine box was built to hold the casket and then it was put in a hole in the ground.  I remember one time a prominent member of the community had died and Mr. Miller came in after school to build his box.  He brought in the casket to make sure that it would fit in the box and for some reason he left it overnight.  This group of boys and I discovered it the next day at noon and one of the boys crawled in the casket and I was preaching his funeral service when the superintendent came in and caught us. While (he was) while the superintendent was deliberating what kind of disciplinary action he would take we asked him if he would be a member of this funeral service and he let us go.

Mr. Rutherford:  Where did you grow up?

Otis Wiles:  I grew up in Ashflat, Arkansas.  It’s about 60 miles South of West Plains. I’ve lived there practically all of my life. I spent 3 years in service in World War II.  My wife had; she was the oldest child of 4. She had 3 younger brothers and that middle brother and I became buddy buddy friends before I married his sister. (chuckle) I remember after we had grown out of our foolish boyhood days he became superintendent of the school, the high school, where I was a member of the faculty in the English department. We, this brother-in-law and I, always delighted in playing pranks on each other. The school had a big office near the entrance to the building and the superintendent had an office off to an adjoining room.  Of course, he had an extension phone on his desk.  One time the secretary of the school called me over the intercom and said Mr. Wiles you have a very urgent telephone call.  Well, I went down to the office and she handed me the receiver. Back in those days the telephone was a very crude devise compared to today’s modern instruments.  You could spread a handkerchief over the receiver rattle a sheet of paper and easily disguise your voice.  Well, I picked up the receiver and I said hello.  A voice said “Otis, this is Bernice”.  Bernice, was my wife’s name.  She said, “the baby has been stung by a wasp and I need you to come home quickly”. (chuckle)  Well, I rushed out jumped in my car.  It was 4 miles to my home and I broke every speed limit getting there.  I turned into the yard slammed on the brakes and tore up a big slab of the driveway and rushed in the house and shouted “how is the baby”?  She looked kind of startled and said “why he’s okay he’s asleep now”.  I said, “did he cry himself to sleep”?  (She said) “No, of course not, I gave him his bottle as usual.  I then told her about this phone call and we both grinned at each other and knew what had happened.  (chuckle)  Well, a few years later my brother-in-law retired after 35 years serving the school district; several of those years as superintendent, and a, the school board gave a big banquet in his honor.  I was asked to say a few words so I said “Al has always been accused of being a Jew; nevertheless he kept a bucket up in the attic and every paycheck he would drop a few coins in that bucket. He said that when he turned up his toes he wanted to have a little nest egg to take along with him”.  Well, actually it wasn’t too many years 'til he turned up his toes and the family planted him.  Soon after that his widow was cleaning house and storing some things in the attic and she found this bucket.  She called the children together and told them what she had found and she said “kids, I always told your father he should keep that bucket in the basement”.

Mr. Rutherford:  That’s terrific.  (Laughter)  Thank you, Thank you.

Otis Wiles:  Thank you, sir.

Mr. Rutherford: You’re welcome.

[Transcript of interview with Otis Wiles, recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read. For more information contact the Library at 417-883-5366 or visit us on the web.]