I was born Oct. 19, 1935 in my maternal grandmother’s house in Prague, Oklahoma, a community founded in 1902 by Czech immigrants, to Frank Ernest and Lottie Mae Ladra. I was the first born of four boys. My other siblings died in early childhood or infancy.
Dad was born in the same town and Mom was born in Arkansas. My grandfather (paternal) emigrated from Czechoslovakia. My dad was a carpenter and warehouseman at Tinker Air Base near Oklahoma City.
For the first 10 years of my life, I grew up on a farm and attended a one-room country schoolhouse for grades 1 – 5, and then we moved to town, where I finished through high school. When on the farm I spent most of the time living with my grandparents while Dad was in the military during WWII. This was a blissful time in my life. We had a shepherd dog named Rover, who was great at bringing in the cattle from the pasture at day’s end. Grandpa lost his left arm in a cotton gin accident at age 22. Despite this handicap, he was a successful farmer. He would carry buckets of milk from the barn, and Grandma would separate the cream from the milk in the separator. They sold the cream to the creamery in town. The remaining milk was processed to cottage cheese.
I remember when Grandpa butchered a hog. No part of the pig was wasted. Grandpa had a smokehouse where ham, bacon and sausage were cured. Grandma cooked the pork and placed it in 10-gallon stone crocks, covered it with lard, put it in the cellar and we had meat all winter. Fried pork skins made great cracklin cornbread. Some of the fat was used to make homemade lye soap, which was used for laundry. Laundry was done in a Maytag wringer washer and hung on a clothesline to dry. Oh, yes it was wartime, so we grew our own victory garden.
In junior high school, I played basketball. I was a skinny 110-pounder who was dubbed with the nickname “bone crusher.” In high school I served several positions and received many honors. When I was 12 years old, my grandmother bought me a trumpet, which I still play today. Further activities included marching and concert band, student band conductor, student council, student manager of my high school football team, and vice-president of my senior class. My dad’s American Legion post selected me to attend Oklahoma Boys State.
After graduation from high school, I enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, where I received a B.S. in education. I was a public school teacher before changing careers. I am credentialed in the states of Oklahoma, Missouri and California. In 1966 I received my master of natural science in biology at OU with a National Science Foundation grant that paid for my education.
After retiring from teaching, I changed careers and received my B.S. in pharmacy. All three degrees were received from the University of Oklahoma.
As an undergraduate at OU, I was in the marching band, which made several trips to other sites where the football team played (OU vs Texas in Dallas, Notre Dame, and two Orange Bowl games in Miami, Florida). I was a member of Kappa Kappa Psi (National Honorary Band Fraternity), and Alpha Phi Omega (National Honorary Boy Scout Fraternity).
I have traveled extensively to 46 states, Canada and Mexico. I have lived in four states. In 1992, when my kids were still in junior and senior high school, I took them on a 21-day trip to historical sites on the east coast, covering 11 states.
My hobbies include fishing, gardening, cooking, social and political activism, church activities, spoiling my grandkids, activities at the Clovis Senior Activity Center, sportaholic (favorite teams and Oklahoma Sooners, Fresno State Bulldogs, LA Dodgers and Oklahoma City Thunder), my pet dog, Bella, and riding my electric scooter. Additional activities have included, playing trumpet in musicals, piano and organ, and I am learning to play guitar.
As a veteran I served in the United States Army. My favorite color is blue.
In 1974, I married Susan Pierce of Fresno. We divorced after 10 ½ years of marriage and I never remarried. I am a proud father of three children; Frank, Clara and Elizabeth. All were born in Fresno. After my divorce I raised them as a single parent. I have also been blessed with six grandchildren.
I am currently a California registered pharmacist. I am now retired and vested in both STRS and PERS.
When I die my remains will be interred in my family plot in the Czech National Cemetery in Prague, Oklahoma.