Old Cistern Memories...
"I have a vivid memory of my first experience with cisterns. After WWII ended my Dad lost his job with Douglas Aircraft in Oklahoma City when they closed the plant and sent everybody on their way. We had barely survived the dustbowl depression days in northwest oklahoma and now we had to start over again.
My mother had a teaching certificate from Northwestern State Teachers College but she didn't have her degree. My Dad had been a butcher, farmer, cook and a cowboy so he was ready for anykind of job.
Mom found a teaching job at a small town southwest of Cherokee called Lambert. They were also looking for a school janitor so this fit our situation to a tee. Dad was janitor and Mom was the 3rd and 4th grade teacher.
The town was on the verge of becoming a ghost town (which it eventually did) and had an elevator, postoffice, and maybe a small store. There were some old abandoned business buildings on the very end of a small main street. The school was the biggest activity there and most of the students were all bused in from the country
Here is the cistern story... We found an old house to rent that hadn't been lived in for a couple of years. The town only had about 8 or 10 houses and 1 church.
The water system for the house was an old cistern outside by the side of the house. Its only source of water was rainwater. The house had guttering around the roof and the drainage was routed to a filtering system which was basically a big sand vat and the water filtered through that and drained into the big underground storage hole with a bucket chain crank system on top.
The first thing we had to do was get the County to come and check the purity of the water which was found to be dreadful after looking down in the well. There were dead rats, mice, waterdogs, etc. all in the water.
The county agent came out and he and my Dad devised a cleaning and retrieval system for getting all the dead animals and other residue from the well. That system consisted of putting me in a rope harness they fixed up and lowering me down into the well. They would then lower a bucket with another rope and I would scoop everything up and they would raise the buscket, empty it, and send it back down to me. I can remember those ropes cutting into my legs and I worried that the rope holding me would break or come loose.
I was only 11-years-old at the time, but I was the oldest child so I always had to pull my share. I was always small for my age so that made it easier to fit through the top of the cistern.
We got all the varmints cleaned and then they poured something in the water to disinfect it but I have no idea what it was. I know we couldn't use the water until it rained and we got some fresh water in the cistern.
Until our water supply was ready we used water from the old town windmill and horse tank but we had to carry it 2 blocks.
Would you believe that we moved on to Burlington 2 years later and I'll be darned if that place had a cistern also---but it was clean." -- Gilvin Walker, Harper,Kansas
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