By Dave Kinnamon
Barbara Finley was 15 years old and was looking forward to her sophomore year at Booker T. Washington High School — Enid’s segregated high school for black students — when she was abruptly called into the principal’s office one day in 1958.
“Mr. Elliott, the principal, told me he was expelling me from the school because high school students being married set a bad example for the other students,” Finley recalled.
Finley and the love of her life, Robert, 16 years old at the time, were legally wed in Garfield County on May 26, 1958. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a marriage celebration cruise to the Caribbean earlier this summer.
“Since we were minors, we actually had to go to court and ask the judge’s permission to get married,” Finley recalls with some amusement.
Though the Garfield County judge gave his blessing to the Finleys’ happy nuptials, Mr. Elliott, the principal at Booker T. Washington High School, did not give the young couple his approval.
“Mr. Elliott thought being in school and married at the same time would be setting a bad example for the other young people, so he put us both out of school,” Finley said.
The school system did give young Robert and young Barbara the chance to petition the board of education for the opportunity to attend night school in order to finish their high school diplomas.
But at a cost of $300 per student, the young couple could not afford night school.
Barbara Finley had had all of her children — five children — by the age of 21, so, she says, her 1968 was seen entirely through the prism of a young mother who was focused on keeping stable family values.
“In 1968, I was 25 years old, married with five children from the ages of five years old to 11. I was living in Compton, Calif. My concerns at the time in 1968 was the family unit. My family truly believed in the family unit,” Finley said.
“I say that to say that when Dr. (Martin Luther) King was killed, our thought was focused first on the destruction of his family unit. His wife and children, having small children, relating to our personal feelings of having small children and how I would have felt had I been in the same situation (as Coretta Scott King),” Finley said.
Robert and Barbara Finley moved to Compton, Calif., with their five children in 1966. Barbara worked as nurse at a nearby hospital.
“It got very rough in Compton. It got very rough for our kids at school. We would not allow the children to be out after 10 p.m. Though it was a family environment when we first moved there, we moved away from Compton in order to save our children’s lives,” Barbara said.
Barbara recalled a time at the emergency room where she worked when a young man that had been shot was brought in.
“One of his brother gang members approached me and warned, “If he dies, so will you,’” she said.
By Dave Kinnamon
- Summer of '68
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- Enid woman focused on her family in ’68 Barbara Finley was 15 years old and was looking forward to her sophomore year at Booker T. Washington High School — Enid’s segregated high school for black students — when she was abruptly called into the principal’s office one day in 1958.
- Enid man wore many different hats in 1968 Nay was an Oklahoma Army National guardsman. He was a full-time worker: a professional photographer. And he was a musician with a popular traveling rhythm and blues group called The Preachers, “Enid’s premier rhythm and blues show band,” Nay remembers.
- Native son, former Enid mayor volunteered to serve as Marine Doug Frantz experienced ‘68 in Vietnam War
- Enid man learned from conflict with his father To Frank Baker, a 17-year-old senior to be at Enid High School during the summer of 1968, the tension which developed between he and his father over the protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, were a microcosm of the tensions developing within the U.S. as a whole — mostly between the older and younger generations, but also between hawks and doves, peaceniks and patriots.
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- Enid couple married in 1968 John and I were married in Enid in January of 1968. I was 18 years old and he was 20. We, like many others of our generation, were caught up in the
- Enid area residents, former residents wax reminiscent about their 1968 experiences
- Woman recalls wounded veterans, rioting in D.C. during her 1968 We lived in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., area in 1968. The city had horrible rioting and looting and blocks and blocks of D.C. engulfed in flames form the rioting in Washington, D.C., and some areas of Maryland in Prince George’s County.
- Young Enid woman lived in nation’s capital, experienced rioting firsthand I remember the year 1968 pretty well. I was 20 years old, and a lot was going on in my life.
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