Early Days
Early Days | Abilene High School Band | Drum Major

On June 12, 1921, Guy Harmon Kemper was born to Maude and W.O. Kemper in Cisco, Texas. He was named after his mother's oldest brother who had died at a very early age. Guy or "Brother", as he was known to family, was the middle child of three boys by about 19 months between both. Howard was the oldest and Roy the youngest. The family would move to Waco in 1924 and then to Abilene in 1927.
Guy, Grandpapa Judia, Roy, and Howard   Guy and Prince
Guy, Grandpapa Judia, Roy, and Howard in Waco during 1925-26. Guy and Prince
Dad, Oliver, or "W.O."(dubyah-Oh) was the oldest son and second oldest child of five sisters of William Octavius and Hope Elliott Kemper and was born in Elsberry, Missouri. He had served in the U.S. Army in World War I, and was a hard-working, honest, generous, and personable man.

Regarded as a fine, ambitious salesman, his business travel covered a large area in West Texas where he was widely known and well liked. While he undertook a number of business enterprises, i.e., grocery and the city bus company in Abilene, his heart was in the country; ranching, buying and selling livestock. He would also build the first livestock auction in Abilene. All his pursuits, however, often left him little time at home. Though often a quiet soul, he harbored a great affection for his boys.
Mother Mother, Maude, was the oldest of five children of G. H. and Eva Cantrell Judia of Cisco. Her mother had died when she was only 8 1/2 and her grandmother, "Fannie" Ann Beller Cantrell moved in to help raise the children. Her father was a musician, inventor, artist, and owner of the Judia Theater. Young Maude played piano accompaniment for the silent movies and also gave piano lessons.

She was a country flower in Spring. Her child-like enthusiasm, sense of wonder, and energy for life was infectious to all. Her baking of pies and bread was legendary and only exceeded by her talent on the piano and her passion for music. If a child in her presence could breathe, they would learn a song or hear a story. Her nurturing of these boys must have been exceptional to say the least.
Howard, the eldest, often the leader and the most vocal, shared a room with Guy and, therefore, had a tendancy to do more with his middle brother. Roy was sometimes perceived to be whiny since he was the youngest. The three boys got along well most of the time and, of course, had their occasional scuffles which Mother would manage by separating them or taking some other appropriate action.

Chores and Milking the Cow -

Chores were a large part of the boys' routine and sometimes Mother might have them dig-up an area for a garden. She would say, "Now, I need that flower bed dug up to plant some zinnias and if you boys will dig that all up and bust the clods and get the grass and stuff out of there, I'll make a picnic supper and we'll all go over to Cobb Park and have nice picnic." Baited with that kind of offer, the three boys would jump enthusiastically into the task grabbing shovels and, often, Jerry Culwell, a neighbor friend regarded as the "fourth son", joined in the activities, too.

Guy, Mother, Dad, and Howard in 1932
Guy, Roy, Mother, Dad, and Howard. September, 1932
The occasion was Grandmother Kemper's birthday.
Photo taken at her house by Aunt Capitola Kemper Gonzalez.
Like many families then, the Kempers owned a milk cow, which meant there was the daily chore of milking the cow. Howard recalls how that duty was handled:
"First of all, milking cows has to be done daily, and you'll really develop strong hands doing it. I'd put some feed in a wash tub in the garage and the cow knew to just go on in. I'd get my stool and start milking. The cats would come around and I trained them all to sit up on a bench in the garage. If they came up too close, they'd get soaked with a stream of milk. They didn't like that a bit and so they learned to stay up on the bench until I was done because they knew they'd get a dish of milk when I was done!
I always liked to have somebody to talk to and often I'd say to my Grandmother Kemper, 'Mother (that's what we called her), would you come out and talk to me while I milk the cow?' She'd get a blanket or a wrap and come out and visit with me while I milked.

Guy had more 'get-up and go' about tackling something. He'd just get up and go do it! That's the reason why he milked the cow in the morning and I milked the cow at night. I couldn't get out there in the morning and get the milking done and still get to school on time. He was a natural mover and he'd get with the program."

Often among the chores was wringing chickens' necks. Since this was a rather unpleasant task, it was common for housewives in the neighborhood to call on Howard to do this for which he might receive 10 or 15 cents. Money was scarce and this was an easy way to get some pocket change.

The Brothers All Get Instruments and Music Lessons -

Howard remembers:
"We (brothers) started with music when we were 7 or 8 years old. Mother taught every kid that ever got near that piano stool to sit down and play the piano!
Dad had an old cornet that he'd had for years and they dug that out for me to start playing when the grammar school started a little band. And then Guy came along and they got him an alto saxophone. They bought a used one from some friends of theirs.
Roy learned to play one of Grandpapa's violins. Dr. Leonard Burford, music professor at Abilene Christian College lived across the alley gave Roy lessons. Many Burford family members coped with blindness and the lessons were given in exchange for rides around town."
Roy Playing Violin - 1940
Roy playing violin - about 1940

Possessing exceptional musical talent, Guy was a fine singer, played the piano, clarinet, and, later on, displayed a mastery of the tenor saxophone with a "Tex Beneke" style of playing. He also performed as drum major in the Abilene High School Band. All three of the boys were blessed with intelligence, good looks, personality, and talent, but it seemed Guy was graced with an extra measure.

Early interest in Kites, Aviation, and Learning to Fly -

As a young boy, Guy was always fascinated with flying. He crafted an array of kites and model airplanes all for flying. This was not the buy-in-the-box-and-put-together variety but rather crafted from raw materials such as bulk balsa wood, tissue paper, etc., including often hand-carving his own propellers and wheels. Howard remembers:

"When he was not over 10 years old, Guy had been building kites and model airplanes for quite a while. Once, sometime later on, when we lived over on Highland, he took a box kite, put it up, and flew it. I said, 'That's got a pretty good load it would carry.' So we took a box camera and taped it onto that box kite and flew it up in the air. I had a silk thread string coming down, pulled that thread, and made an aerial picture from the box kite. Later, you could see the little white line from the thread running down in the picture.

As I recall, the old Abilene Municipal Airport was out in the middle of where they built the fairground now. That's where South 11th Street comes up and, when you get to Lytle, it makes a bend around south and turns back there. That used to go right by the airport and it was there until at least 1956.

Anyway, old L. E. Derryberry was manager out there when Amelia Earhart came through and cracked her helicopter up, and when Lindbergh came back. Derryberry even built his own planes and was a good friend of Dad's.

In 1927 when Lindbergh came into the Abilene airport, Dad went out there and met Lindbergh and they all came down and did the parade around town. I was only 8 and was standing on the curb down there only a block and a half from where Grandmother Kemper lived over on Cypress. I had walked over there to watch him come by. Lindbergh was in one of those open cars sitting up on the back seat waving at everybody. I'm not sure but that wasn't Dad and L. E. Derryberry in the back seat with him!

Sometime in the mid-thirties, Guy started hanging around the airport. He'd go in there and help clean up. And you know how a kid that's that interested in things how they touch the heart of the guy that's running the show, so Derryberry started taking him up in the airplane some. Of course, being a good friend of Dad's, he knew that this was Dad's son.

Guy and I worked a lot of odd jobs to make a few bucks here and there. Nobody had much money. We'd deliver circulars for companies that wanted them delivered. Mr. Gambel who was always putting on these sales of canned goods where he'd rent a building and have a whole truckload shipped in there for people to come and buy. We'd put his circulars out within 50 miles of there. Guy would take his money and buy some time for flying lessons. I went out there when he soloed for the first time which was around '37 or '38.

He always wanted to fly. It was just part of him. I told him, 'You should have been a bird!'"
Guy at 14     Guy at 15
Sophomore, 1936 - age 14 Junior, 1937 - age 15

High School Dances and the Late Night Snack -

At school dances, Howard and Guy took it upon themselves to see that all the girls got to dance.

Howard remembers:
  "That's something that we both worked out together. We thought it was kind of a shame that there were some girls or wallflowers that people don't want to dance with and don't know if they're good or not. But Guy and I had the reputation of being good dancers. So we made a little deal to get some these wallflowers involved in the game because there were plenty of guys out there, they just weren't asking them. Everybody knew that Guy was a better dancer than I was, so I would get one of the wallflowers and waltz her around a little while so where other people would see me dancing with her and then Guy would cut in and then those old boys would pay attention. And then, I would go get another one and here we'd go! We did that and it worked beautifully 'cause they all knew Guy Kemper's not dancing with anybody that's not a good dancer. We made some great lady friends that way, it didn't cost us anything, and we had fun, too!

The thing was all the time we were in high school while growing up, we had a cow and he milked the cow in the morning and I milked the cow at night. And so, we always had these half-gallon fruit jars full of milk in the refrigerator.
So we would go out, many times on a double date together, and we'd come home from a dance or something and we'd get in the refrigerator - each one of us take out a half-gallon of sweet milk and put it on the table and get a glass and then dig out anything to eat that wasn't nailed down. And we would both sit there and drink a half-gallon of milk before we'd go to bed. Sometimes Roy wouldn't eat his pie and he wouldn't let anyone else have it. He'd put it in the refrigerator and, maybe, if you were lucky before it got too old, he'd sell it to you for a nickel or a dime. One time he wasn't up, his pie was in the icebox and I took the piece out, put it on the table, ate it, and I put the plate back with a dime on it."
Guy at about age 17 or 18
Guy at about age 17 or 18

Gifted with a high aptitude in mathematics and drafting, Guy went on to major in mathematics in college with a potential future vocation in aircraft engineering. While in high school, he drafted the plans for his band director, Prof. Bynum's home. Today, the Bynum House is listed among Abilene's Register of Historic Properties.
Guy was a member of the National Honor Society and graduated from Abilene High School in 1938.

During this same time, the Kemper family would see some additions. On October 24, 1938, Howard, now working in radio broadcasting, married Jean Dublin of Big Spring, Texas. They lived in Big Spring while Howard worked for KBST radio. Their daughter, also the first grandchild for Mother and Dad, Dorothy Jean was born on September 2, 1939.
Then, on July 3, 1941, Roy married Verla Joyce Perkins of Abilene and their daughter, Judia Faye, was born on July 27, 1942.
Overall, an increase of almost one new family member per year!

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