The Swaim Family of Indiana and Oklahoma

Robert Jack Swaim (my father)

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Robert Jack Swaim (my father)

Robert (Bob) Jack Swaim, my father, was born on July 14, 1926 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was the third son of John Emory Swaim and Alice Belle Hawkins Champion. He was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His boyhood home at 2219 E. 10th Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma is still there as of this writing. Bob’s best friend while growing up was Wilson Roach who lived across the street from him.3

Bob Swaim grew up during the depression years. He slept in the dining room of their three bedroom house. His parents slept in one bedroom and his grandparents (the Champions) used the other two bedrooms. Later my grandfather Jack added a small room to the house that my mom referred to as a “lean-to” room and this became my Dad’s bedroom4. She may have been referring to a “screened in” porch that Grandfather Jack added on to the garage that my cousins used to sleep in when they visited him.

When this story about Dad sleeping in the dining room came out in a conversation with him near the end of his life, I mentioned that I was surprised that he had never mentioned that before. He replied, “Well, you never asked”. Although I felt sad at the time for having never asked enough to find this out, I believe this remark this was typical of my father. He was a no-nonsense factual sort of guy, said very little, and did not offer much more in the way of conversation than was needed. I once asked him if he had ever thought about the possibility of other civilizations on other planets in the universe. My Dad thought for a second and replied, “No.” He was agnostic about religion which was not surprising since he had absolutely no interest or curiosity in anything he could not touch or see. While exceptionally smart, he was also fairly shallow when it came to certain complex and deep subjects.

Bob graduated from Central High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1944. There are several graduation cards Bob saved in his High School yearbook. I have transcribed letters that accompanied cards in the sections where the authors are described. Those sections of this document should be referred to see the letter contents.

  • A. C. Swaim, Bob’s Uncle (Letter) on father’s side (card with letter)

  • C. E Adams (Aunt Anna and Burt), Bob’s Aunt and Uncle on mother’s side (card with letter)

  • Ivan and Edna Swaim, Bob’s brother. (card)

  • Orville Clifton Swaim (Uncle Clifton and Aunt Hazel), Bob’s Uncle and Aunt on father’s side (card).

Bob Swaim served in World War II in the Navy and was assigned in the Pacific Theater. He volunteered to join the Navy when he was 17. It is interesting that Bob decided to join the Navy since he never learned how to swim. He later recounted his fear in being made to jump off a very high diving board during boot camp.

Bob was a Motor Machinist Mate5 and worked in the engine room of an LCIG-752 (Landing Craft Infantry)6. Years later, he would suffer from ear ringing that was apparently due to many months of duty served in the LCIG engine room. Bob’s ship was one of the many ships poised for the planned impending invasion of Japan that would have taken place if not for the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Bob’s ship was reportedly near the front of the armada and would have seen serious action. As it was, Bob’s ship arrived in Tokyo Bay a few days before the official Japanese surrender.

After entering Tokyo Bay, Bob and the others heard reports of a Japanese sniper aboard one of the Japanese ships in Tokyo Bay. Bob and his buddies attempted to get official permission to obtain a small boat to board the ship. They were refused. They secured a dinghy, disobeying orders, and boarded the enemy vessel. In this ship called the Abruru9, Bob found some Japanese memorabilia which his son Randall Lee Swaim now has possession of. Bob also found two Japanese rifles on shore equipped with bayonets and brought them back with him. My brother Randy and I each have one of these two rifles (currently in my mother’s possession). My father also obtained a Japanese sword and buried it in the sand with hopes of retrieving it later. However, when he returned he couldn’t find it.7.

Bob was a 1950 graduate of Tulsa University with a degree in petroleum engineering. He was employed by Mobil Oil as an engineer and moved frequently with assignments of increasing responsibility in Alice, Texas; Lake Charles, Louisiana; Victoria, Texas; Corpus Christi, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana, Houston, Texas; London, UK and New York City, New York.

It is interesting that with each move we moved to a larger city. The last city I lived in as part of the family was New Orleans. While I was attending College the family moved to Houston. And in January, 1975 Bob, Olly and Randy moved to London. They returned to the United States in 1979 and moved to Westport, Connecticut. Bob took the train into New York City where he worked in the Mobil building several blocks from Grand Central Station. He retired in 1982 at the age of 55 after 32 years of service. After retirement Bob and Olly moved to Tyler, Texas where they lived for a number of years until Bob’s health began deteriorating with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. They moved to Lafayette, Louisiana and Bob died there in 1997 at the age of 71 of pneumonia and complications of Alzheimer’s.8

My father’s brother, Marion, was somewhat of a mentor figure to my father. Marion was the inspiration for several hobbies of my father’s including collecting trunks, clocks and caning chairs and refinishing furniture. Bob added these hobbies to his other interests that included woodworking and auto mechanics. Bob was somewhat of a loner. His brothers had moved out of the house while he was growing up and Bob was essentially raised as an only child. Bob, like his brother Marion, was a self-made man who started out from a poor background and worked his way up to become reasonably successful. Bob and Marion represented the first generation of Swaim’s in their direct paternal Swaim ancestry that acquired any significant wealth that I am aware of.

Robert Swaim married Olly Marie Robinson on May 30, 19489 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Olly was the daughter of Dan Robinson and Mildred Mundy.

Daniel Stuart10 Robinson (b 27 Dec 189211, d 25 Sep 196612) was married ~ 192013 to Mildred10 Mundy (b 24 Feb 189714, d Apr 198415). Dan and Mildred Robinson had two children:

  1. Juanita Jane Robinson (b 21 Jul 192516)

  2. Olly Marie Robinson (b 19 Oct 1926)

More detailed information on the Robinson family genealogy is included in the “Robinson” chapter.

Olly and Jane were raised in a small, two bedroom house in Tulsa, Oklahoma at 2721 E. 11th Street between Columbia and Delaware Street. They lived there from 1927 to 194817. For much of her childhood she shared a cot with her sister Jane. Their grandmother “Ganga” Elizabeth Mundy slept in a twin bed in the same room with them. The room was so small that it was difficult to walk around in the room. Later, her father added two bedrooms to the house and a garage apartment. My Mom and Dad would later live in this garage apartment for about two years after they were first married while Dad was attending college. Bama Pie Company later bought property within this city block and tore down homes to expand their facility. The house is no longer there.

Olly had a severe injury when she was about five years old. The injury was a compound fracture of her arm and required therapy. Her mother Mildred had to go to work at the hospital to pay for her care18. She still has the scars from this injury.

Olly and Bob’s parents knew each other when they were growing up and only lived a few miles away from each other. Their parents even occasionally attended the same functions. In fact, at one late function at someone’s home, Olly and Bob slept in the same bed when they were about five years old19.

After Bob returned home from World War II, Jack and Belle Swaim visited the Robinson’s and brought Bob with them. According to my Mom this was a ‘set up’. Although the two families knew one another, it was unusual for them to visit one another in their homes like that. In that visit, Bob and Olly went into the back room and played records. Then a day or so later, Bob called and they began dating. Dad had just broken up with a girl who lived down the street from him named Mary Walker who also had a sister named Betty Walker. Betty Walker would later serve as the flower girl in their wedding. Betty would also marry a man named Frank who also served in their wedding. Over the years, they kept in touch. Later, Frank and Betty moved to Dallas, and Bob’s family would occasionally visit them and go to the State Fair together. We have family pictures of one such visit.

Robert Jack Swaim (b 14 Jul 192620, d 18 Jul 199721) and Olly Marie Robinson Swaim (b 19 Oct 192622) were married on May 30, 1948 and had the following children:

  1. Jack Stuart Swaim (b 26 Jun 195223) was married on August 30, 1980 to Vivian Marie Davies (b 16 Oct 195424,). Jack was born in Alice, Texas. My earliest memories of Alice include riding my tricycle at the age of four on the driveway singing “Davy Crockett” and cutting my knee on broken glass in the driveway from a coke bottle. I still have the scar from that injury. Another memory is playing football with black kids that came across the railroad tracks to play in the large open field next to our house. (I only refer to their color because in my early years I was not exposed much to people that were not either white or Mexican-American). Years later I would reflect on this and ponder why these older kids would let me play with them. They were either quite nice or perhaps they thought the field was actually our property. In reality that field belonged to Mobil Oil. The house we rented was a “Company house”.

In Alice, Texas, we lived at 967 Freer Place. When I was a little over two years old, in July, 1954, we moved to Lake Charles11 and lived there for ten months. In April, 1955 we then moved back to Alice, Texas and lived near my Dad’s office in the “Mobil Camp”1225. We moved to Victoria, Texas when I was seven years old. We lived for two years in Victoria in a small rental house13 for about two years before moving into a house my father had built. I recall riding out Hurricane Carla in the hallway of the rental house and remember my father desperately nailing boards across the garage door to keep it from being blown in. My curiosity led me to open up the front door during the worst of the storm. I recall my father struggling to close the front door against the howling winds. I still have vivid memories of that storm.

We then moved several miles away into a new home in Victoria that my father had built on Royal Street14. While living in the Royal Street house I recall memories of back yard football, baseball at the nearby school and extensive hiking in the woods.

In June, 1966, we moved to Corpus Christi, Texas15. In June, 1968 we moved to New Orleans, Louisiana16 where I would spend my junior and senior years of high school. We lived in the Aurora section of Algiers on the West Bank across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter. I graduated in 1970 from the last graduation class of Martin Behrman High School. Martin Behrman would later become relegated to a Junior High school once the new Perry Walker High School was built.

I was always interested in music and basically taught myself to play guitar and piano although I did manage to take some piano and guitar lessons in the beginning. I started taking piano lessons in the 6th grade and took them for about three years. When the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show I knew that I wanted to play electric guitar. I saved for almost a year to buy my first guitar, a Montgomery Ward acoustic guitar that cost $12.95. Years later I would save money washing cars, mowing yards, shining shoes and starving at lunch and saving the lunch money to buy my first Kent electric guitar and amplifier from a local music store in Corpus Christi, Texas for $120 ($70 for the guitar and $50 for the amp I believe). Later at the age of 21 I regained an interest in the piano but, by then, I had forgotten everything I had learned from piano lessons. As a result, I had to teach myself to play the piano all over again from scratch. Playing guitar and piano would become a major pastime for the rest of my life.

Upon graduating from high school, I immediately started college at Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, Louisiana, in June, 1970. For two summers (1971 and 1972) I worked offshore for Walker-Huthnance as a roustabout.

On many occasions we were required to work extended hours during replacement of the production pipe in the well hole with heavy drill pipe. During the first summer we had one operation which required me to work 28 hours in a row. The worst part of this event was unloading drill pipe from a small work boat in twelve foot seas from which I became seasick. During the second summer we performed another major operation which required me to work 36 hours straight. I was then allowed to sleep for about 10 hours before being awoken to start working again. We then worked another 36 hour stretch.

During the 2nd summer working offshore I injured my ring finger while replacing a motor and had to be airlifted to a hospital17. The injury required 23 stitches. I was fortunate that I had decided to not wear my high school ring while working offshore or I would have likely lost the finger. The company wanted to avoid a “lost-time accident” and asked me to immediately return to the rig and promised that I would not have to work. The crane operator was upset I got hurt as it likely reflected on his poor judgment in deciding to use an outdoor crane to raise a motor rather than block and tackle. When the motor was raised up it quickly moved sidewards, causing my injury. The crane operator enacted his revenge by lowering me by crane into a supply boat without any help to pick up and place heavy drill bits into the basket.

By the 3rd summer I was able to get a better job with International Paper Company in a paper mill located in Bastrop, Louisiana. At International Paper I normally worked in a well-ventilated computer room but occasionally walked in the factory where I obtained an in-depth knowledge of the source of the smell that paper mills produce.

In 1972 my parents moved to Houston, Texas18. They would later move to London, England in 1975 and then return to Weston, Connecticut in January, 1979.

I graduated from Louisiana Tech in 1974 with a degree in Electrical Engineering in the area of Communications. I accepted a job in New Orleans, Louisiana with the South Central Bell Switching Engineering department. I had various engineering and long range planning positions with South Central Bell (and later BellSouth) in New Orleans before being promoted in 1989 to a Headquarters Long Range Planning group in Birmingham, Alabama. I then moved into the research and development arm of BellSouth in the Science and Technology organization in 1997 working in various operations systems planning groups. In 2007 BellSouth was bought by AT&T and I was assigned to the Enterprise Architecture organization.

Vivian Davies was born in Mineola, New York. In 1955-1956 their family moved to San Antonio, Texas. In 1960 they moved to Dallas, Texas where she began grade school. In 1965 in the middle of her fourth grade they moved to Houston, Texas. In 1973 Vivian began college at the College of Santa Fe in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1975 Vivian moved to New Orleans and attended Loyola for two years then moved back to Houston for a year and a half. Vivian returned to Loyola in January, 1979 and received a BBA degree in Marketing in 1980. She married Jack Swaim in 1980 and then went to work for Chevron as an analyst in the early 1980’s until their first child was born.

Jack Stuart Swaim and Vivian Marie Davies had the following children:

    • Jonathan Davies Swaim (b 1 Mar 1984). Jon was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Jonathan was not named after any particular family member but a name Vivian and I had always liked. From my perspective, Jonathan was named after Jonathan Winters, one of my favorite comedians. Vivian wanted all of our children’s middle names to be her maiden surname, Davies.

    • Kathryn Davies Swaim (b 27 Dec 1985). Kathryn was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Kathryn was not named after a family member either but based on a name that we had both always liked. Long before we were married I had always wanted to name a daughter Kathy. Of course I did not realize that she would become known as Katie, not Kathy.

Vivian Marie Davies was born in Mineola, New York. Vivian’s father was Charles Reginald Davies, Jr. from Norfolk, Virginia. Vivian’s mother was Vivian Louise Kilbourne from El Paso, Texas.

Charles Davies is a descendant of William Bradford, first governor of Massachusetts and a passenger on the Mayflower. Charles Davies became a member of the Mayflower Society on June 22, 1982. He also became a member of the Sons of the American Revolution based on being a descendant of Asa Tapley.

Further information on the Davies ancestry is included in a later chapter.

  1. Carol Jane Swaim (b 12 Jun 1954) was married on September 15, 1979 to Frederick Daniel Peirce (b 10 Dec 195526). Carol was born in Alice, Texas. Dan was born in Tucson, Arizona. During Carol’s childhood she lived in the locations previously described for Jack Swaim: Alice, Texas; Lake Charles, Louisiana; Alice, Texas; Victoria, Texas; Corpus Christi, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana. Carol graduated from O. Perry Walker High School in Algiers19, Louisiana.

Carol went to college in LSU (as did Dan), lived in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, LA and currently lives in Lafayette, Louisiana. Carol received a B.A. degree in Sociology in 1976 from LSU. She received a M.A. in Professional Counseling in 2004 from Liberty University and is currently serving as a counselor at Bienvenu Counseling Services.

Dan received a B.S. Degree in Geology in 1979 from LSU. He has worked for Exxon, Arco and Petroleum Securities of Australia. Dan is currently working for Aurora Exploration20. He is an elder in his church and avid hunter, fisherman and cyclist.

More information on the Pierce ancestry is included in a later chapter.

The Peirce’s lived across the street from the Bob Swaim family when they lived in New Orleans, Louisiana. Carol literally married the boy across the street.

Carol and Dan Peirce had the following children:

    • Holly Beth Peirce (b 8 Jun 1984). Holly Beth born in Lafayette, Louisiana.

    • Christine Leigh Peirce (b 19 Mar 1987). Christine born in Lafayette, Louisiana.

  1. Randall Lee Swaim (b 1 Apr 1959). Randall went by the name Randy when he was young and later chose to be referred to by his middle name, Lee. Randy’s middle name appears to have originated from great-grandfather Lee Andrew Robinson’s first name but I am not certain of this. Randy lived in the houses described earlier in the section on Jack Swaim, however, he moved with my parents from the Houston, Texas home to London, UK.

In London the Swaim family lived at 9 William Street in Knightsbridge. Randy attended the American School in London and the American Community School in Knightsbridge. After graduating from high school, Randy worked offshore on oil rigs in the North Sea out of Aberdeen, Scotland. He returned to the U.S. in 1978 and moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and attended LSU.

In 1979 Randy moved to New Orleans. He then moved back to Baton Rouge in August, 1980 and attended two additional semesters at LSU. He then began work at Dixie Bearings. In June, 1984 he went to work for Motion Industries. He left Motion Industries in June, 1994 and attended LSU again and obtained a dual degree in Psychology and Anthropology in December, 1995.

Randall Lee Swaim was married on September 11, 1993 to Rebecca Triche. Rebecca was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Archie R. Hunt of Gonzales, Louisiana. Randy and Rebecca later divorced. There were no children from this marriage.

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