Welcome back to The Hogue Connection! Here in Part 4 of the series, we return to the lives of our newlywed couple, Marion and Bertie Mae Larner, things seem to be going well for them. Their first child Pauline Fay was born on New Year’s Day, 1924. Verna Mae came along on 24 Jul 1925, followed by Joyce Gwendolyn on 7 Jul 1930. Marion had started his own business representing local produce vendors to local grocery stores. They soon built a home on Fourth Street in Dill. I’m sure Marion enjoyed playing the role of traveling salesman all around the county.
He was elected to the Board of Stewards at his Methodist Church and was the secretary/treasurer of the Sunday School. He also was elected to the Dill City Council sometime in the mid 30’s. Marion seemed to have everything going his way; a growing family, a successful business, and his own home, in spite of being in the middle of the Great Depression. However, by 1935, things started to slow down a bit.
Money Problems and an Attractive Widow.
In one of the many newspaper articles related to Marion, his mother, Ida, mentioned that he had been through some money problems, but had recently conquered them. He apparently obtained a federal loan to help me make improvements on his home and pay some of the mortgage down. The Housing Act of 1934 created the FHA and helped many homeowners survive the 1930’s. Most home mortgages in those days had terms of three to five years. Although I couldn’t dig up any more specifics about his money issues, I’m sure times were tough for the Larners.
Sometime in 1937, Marion became better acquainted with a widow in Dill, likely through church, or through his produce business. Newspaper articles never did name her; the press was much nicer to non-celebrities back then. She was about Marion’s age, had three children, ran her own farm, and belonged to the Women’s Missionary Society. One article claimed, “the comely widow lived in one of the finest homes you could see in Dill”. I went through the 1930 census of Washita County and only found one woman who would have best fit that description.
While I’ve discovered who the woman was, I will follow the protocols of the newspapers of the day and keep her identity secret. She lived on Main Street with two daughters and son. She owned her home, valued at $200, and worked as a laborer on a farm. The Larner home was valued at only $15 on the same census. After further research, I found that this lady was not really a widow. She split with her husband, and he went back to his hometown of Lone Wolf. I couldn’t find a divorce record, but people weren’t excited about admitting that kind of thing. I guess she decided it was better to tell the census enumerator that her husband was dead.
Arguments and “Praying It Out”.
How often Marion visited the widow in unclear. He later claimed that their relationship was “purely business”, but other statements he made indicated it was more than that. I think they were seeing each other throughout most of the Summer and Fall months. Bertie caught on to the situation and began get on Marion’s case about it. The children were later quoted in the newspaper about their parent’s constant bickering over the woman. On August 12th, Marion purchased a $1000 life insurance policy on his wife. An interesting purchase for someone fighting money problems.
The arguing was too much for Marion to take. In January of 1938, he set up another meeting with the widow, but this time he took Bertie along with him. The three had a long discussion at the woman’s home on Main Street one evening. They even got down on their knees and held hands in a prayer circle. Marion swore that it was over between them and the trio agreed that Marion should stay with his wife and three daughters. Bertie, however, was not so sure, and continued to berate Marion endlessly over the issue.
The planning for the Larner’s anniversary night out on 31 March 1938 probably didn’t happen right after this meeting, but Marion’s idea for a “celebration” was likely in the works soon after. We’ll look at that in Part 5.
Thanks for reading Part 4…Criminal in the Family on my blog! See you back at The Hogue Connection soon! You can return to the Home Page here.