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Crosby County Biographies

Arvel Bonine

Rose Spray



On January 11, 1912, a son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Earl McNeil Bonine, nee Miss Mary Lena Martin. He was named Otis Arvel after Dr. Arvel Pochnton of the Lubbock Sanitarium, who was a very good friend of the Bonines. Lubbock Sanitarium later became the Lubbock Memorial Hospital and Dr. Kruger replaced Dr. Pochnton. The child was called "Otis Arvel" for a while, then in summer of 1925, he began to permanently use his deceased father´s name of "Earl". Since all legal papers need two given names, he retained the "Arvel".

A. E. (as his doctor for the past 20 years calls him) led a very colorful childhood. He served as president of the Ralls Epsworth League; studied first clarinet B flat; rode a horse to school, accompanied by his dog - although they only lived a few blocks from the school building. He would tie his horse to a fence post and after school, he, the dog and the horse made long trips into the country which he loved. He recited poetry for his mother´s friends. Although he insists that he hated doing this, he was really very good at it. He went on practicing it, thus strengthening his memory, until it developed into public speaking. He and his debating team frequently won their high school tournaments.

These qualities of memory and thinking on his feet stood him in good stead when he won top national honors in salesmanship contests for Moorman´s Manufacturing Company in the early 1940´s. He sold to the big ranchers who spent from ten to $40,000 a year for cattle feed. A. E. pioneered in feed lot tactics long before "feedlots" became a prosperous business in Crosby County holding both hogs and cattle on his farm for the "big boys." He traveled much, covering not only Texas but the surrounding states as well. However, he also met many of the important cattlemen in the lobby of the Lubbock Hotel. They bought feed by the ton and by train carload lots. While still living on his farm about five miles south of Ralls, Bonine shared an office in Lubbock Hotel with Mr. W. W. Brunson, who owned thousands of cattle in several states and Old Mexico.

J.W. Bonine deeded 160 acres of land to his son, Earl McNeil Bonine, on August 11, 1909. Arvel Earl graduated from Ralls High School in the spring of 1930. The following year, A. E. began farming this land that had belonged to his father and his grandfather. This was during the heart of the Great Depression and A. E. borrowed tools, mules, and money for seed. . . but he kept on farming for 20 crops. Losing a couple of irrigation wells which caved in, he found himself in financial difficulties and sold the farm. Later he bought a restaurant in Littlefield, which he used as a front for boot-legging whiskey. He owned the restaurant, working in it as manager and cook for four years until he moved to California in the middle 1950´s.

Bonine´s first wife, Fleta, was deceased and he had been divorced for several years from his second wife, Frances, when he married Vivian Way Small January 1, 1959. No children were ever born to either of these three marriages.

Vivian knew that a few years previously Bonine had suffered a stroke, which had led him completely paralyzed below the hips. He was walking at the wedding, but she did not realize that he could not move his feet more than 10 or 12 inches apart. . . until one day they were crossing the street when a car came whizzing around a corner and straight at them. They held madly to each other and prayed that the car would miss them. . . it did. Then she remembered the story of how he had persuaded his good buddies to take him to the beach and leave him there all day so he could drag himself across the warm sands exercising. He forced himself to walk again! He spaded a vegetable garden in Vivian´s yard, tended the lawn and flowers, planted a magnolia tree. . . and practiced kicking, until he could touch his hand held high above his head. Once, when he was a young boy, he could run down the streets of Ralls kicking the sign boards that hung above the sidewalks in front of stores. . . where he later clerked, selling everything from shoes to ladies corsets. Some of these stores were Head-Hargraves; M. G. Hargraves; and Harrison-Watson. Eventually, A. E. regained much of this prowess, but it was over a year after he married Vivian before he could go back to work again.

Work! What kind of work? Since Vivian disapproved of him working with anything of alcoholic content, even a 5.2 beer. . . that eliminated the package liquor store that he wanted so desperately to own. It has now been over 18 years since Arvel Earl Bonine has taken a drink of whiskey. . . and he began drinking it before he was eight years old.

In 1928-29 he had been a "call boy" notifying train crews of their daily assignments. At one time this constituted 58 crews of five men each. Later he advanced to grain inspector. . . both jobs for Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe Railroad Company. One day he opened a grain car to get his "hot, low and cool" readings at top, medium and bottom depths. . . and found a dead man! Earl felt for the man´s pulse, flagged the switch engine operator, asking him to notify the depot agent and he remained with the body until someone else arrived. He took a leave of absence (so to speak) from this job to finish high school, but when it came time to return to work, the depression was so bad that A. T. and S. F. was laying off personnel. He held many jobs. . . some listed here, but not in order chronologically.

He once conducted a cooking school for Civilian Conservation Corps in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, then was transferred to Palo Duro Canyon south of Amarillo. Enroled in C.C.C. May 4, discharged November 13, 1933.

He was a "form fitter" handling a string line, later promoted to riding a "high line" for Coke-Braden Construction Company when the beautiful, new highway was built from Crosbyton through Lubbock to Brownfield, then again on the highway from Amarillo east toward Wichita Falls.

He took military training and was accepted in the Marines at New Orleans, Louisiana , but his mother appealed this decision on the grounds that he was her sole means of financial support and she needed him at home to help care for her. He was honorably discharged for this reason.

At various times he had been a member of a Lumberman´s Labor Union. . . so he finally decided to see if he could again handle the big, power saws and sanding machines. He had once worked for Kroehler Furniture Company, doing magnificent wood carvings for their lovely pieces (1957).

After several minor jobs, A. E. went to work for a wholesale lumber company in Los Angeles. Among his proudest accomplishments were the huge exposed ceiling beams that went to cathedrals, churches, night clubs of Las Vegas, restaurants in Palm Springs, stores, fine homes and filling stations all over southern California. He had done all cutting, gluing, removed all knots from the lumber and replaced them invisibly, sanded and polished the lovely wood for all the world to see. He attended Los Angeles Technical Trade College, finishing a course in operating a sticker machine. He had acquired about 19 years of seniority in the wood-working industry when he suffered another heart attack. . . which caused a mild paralysis of his left side.

Once again this brave, courageous man fought his way back to health. He entered Crown Barber College, training himself to be ambidextrous in the use of barber tools, since he had always been left-handed.

On July 18, 1966 he received a Clairol Certificate of Barber Training which he had acquired attending night school. On September 6, 1966 he received a merit and honor award for completing the hair styling, straightening, and coloring course, offered by Crown Barber College. . . and upon graduation, he applied for and received a California State Barber´s License. He has worked almost ten years in the barbering trade, and is now semi-retired. (by A. E. Bonine). Arvel Earl Bonine died October 4, 1977 at age 65 and was buried in Emma Cemetery.

Crosby County History Book, 1876-1977

Transcribed by Cheryl McDonald

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Headstone Photograph, Inscription & Sentiments

tombstone photo
(Click photo for larger view at Find A Grave)

Dear Earl
My dream shines through the cloud banked skies, Today
I search green fields for new mown hay;
for yellow daffodils, for good in people, but it´s true,
mostly I climb green hills, looking for you.
Love, Vivian

Additional Photos & Documentation

Crosby County History Book


Arvel Earl Bonine, age 65, passed away at one o´clock, Tuesday afternoon, October 4th at the Garfield Hospital in Monterey Park, California. He had been a patient there for the previous week, in intensive care for coronary treatment, but had been in poor health for several months.

Funeral services will be held for him in Ralls on Thursday, October 13, at the Ralls First United Methodist Church at two o´clock in the afternoon. He will be buried in the Old Emma Cemetery beside his mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Earl McNeil Bonine. A short graveside service will also be held.

Bonine is survived by his wife, Vivian, the daughter of Mrs. Jennie Way who was a resident of the Ralls area for about forty years and his two step-daughters and their husbands, Mr. and Mrs. F. Jack Webster of Mishawka, Indiana; Mr. and Mrs. Jerry P. Jones of Dallas; and four step-grandchildren. Mrs. Webster and Mrs. Jones will be remembered in Ralls as Patricia Ruth and Billie Faye Small. They visited many summers with their Grandmother Way.

Ralls Banner, October 8, 1977
Record provided by Crosby County Pioneer Memorial Museum
transcribed by Linda Fox Hughes

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