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Ernest Hooser:  

Elder, Educator, Influence

Choctaw history


Ernest Hooser   Ernest Hooser was born on Oct. 8, 1917, along with his twin sister Ernestine on his big brother Hickman's birthday, just two days before his mother's birthday. Ernest's mother didn't know she was going to have twins so she didn't have names picked out. Down the road from their home was a man who had a team of mules named Ernest and Ernestine, which is where they got their names.

   Following the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, Indians were being sent to Oklahoma. There were about 17,000 to 20,000 Choctaws in Mississippi. It was decided that one-third of the Choctaws will be sent in 1831, the next third in 1832 and the final third in 1833. Ernest Hooser's great-grandfather was a member of the first one-third Choctaws sent to Oklahoma.

   Ernest's great-grandfather and his wife traveled from Bywya, close to where Philadelphia, Miss., is today, to Memphis leaving about Oct. 15. They had children with them, the oldest being four years old.

   When they arrived at Memphis, they were put on a boat that was sent down the Mississippi River to where the Arkansas River empties into the Mississippi.

   As they came up the Arkansas, their boat ran aground, but they weren't at their desired location. The weather was severely cold and most of the Indians were barefoot and without coats. It's said there were about 250 people and only 100 blankets. Ernest's great-grandfather's wife died here and they had just enough time to bury her on the bank.

   Along this boat ride, the food supply ran out and some starved to death. It was so cold that some froze to death. Eventually, they made it to Fort Smith.

   They walked from Fort Smith, having very few wagons. Ernest's great-grandfather, along with the children, walked to DeQueen, then Arkansas, then onto Oklahoma near Eagletown.

   After making it to Oklahoma, he met up with his wife's sisters, named Ahobotema and Pisatema. Ahobotema later became his wife and helped him take care of the children. They had three children, one of them being Ernest's grandfather Peter J. Hudson.

   Peter was born at Stockbridge, a missionary site near Eagletown. He was fortunate enough to attend school at Stockbridge, later at Bohanan then at a boarding school northwest of Fort Towson. He then went on to attend Drury Academy in Springfield, Mo., in 1869 and stayed there for 18 years.

   Peter became a preacher after he received his degree at Drury, spending three years at Hartford, Conn. He later became a missionary for Choctaws, visiting two churches: Mt. Zion and Big Lick.

   In 1892, a school was being built in Tuskahoma. Peter was elected to be first superintendent, where he stayed a number of years, until around 1898.

   Peter was married to Amanda Bohanan, Ernest's grandmother, for 66 years. She passed away at the age of 89. While at Tuskahoma, Peter and Amanda had a baby girl named Helen Hudson, Ernest's mother. Their other children, Preston, Irene and Nathan came soon after.

   After leaving Tuskahoma, Peter and Amanda moved to a little community called Buffalo where Amanda's father (Ernest's great-grandfather) was a preacher of a small church called Cupco. Peter began teaching school here.

   Peter and Amanda had a fifth child in about 1899, but she only lived about two days. They buried her just outside the Cupco churchyard, which today is a cemetery. This is also where Ernest's great-grandparents are buried. 

   Peter later became an officer in the Choctaw government, the auditor of the tribe. Around 1907 through 1911, he was appointed by the chief to delegate to the President of the United States and he was interested in legislation.

   Peter and Amanda came to Oklahoma in 1911. In 1916, Peter went to Washington. In the 1920s, he worked for the Oklahoma Historical Society, assigned to write the history of the Choctaws. He also worked for a United States judge.

   Ernest's mother Helen attended Tuskahoma Female Academy until she was in eighth grade. She married Ernest's father in 1911. Along with Ernest, they ended up having six children.

   Ernest and Ernestine were born in their home located just a half a mile over the hill from the Clayton Cemetery. In 1919, they moved into a box house where Ernest's brother John still lives today.

   There were six children in the Hooser family. From the time Ernest was young, he knew he would go to college. Five out of six Hooser children went to college, three received degrees and two worked beyond a master's degree. Ernest was working on his doctorate degree when he stopped to focus on his career. He lived 240 miles from the university and had to take Tuesday night and Saturday classes, so he couldn't afford to take that time off work.

   Ernest was supposed to go to school at Prairie View, but several schools consolidated including Tuskahoma, Dry Creek and Buffalo. He walked a mile to catch the bus to go to school at the new school. Ernest's school bus was a Model T Ford truck that had a body put on the back. There were no individual windows, just heavy screen wire. When the weather was bad, they rolled a tarp and tied it down. The bus just had three long benches, and it was used for about six years until the school purchased a bus made by a manufacturer.

   Ernest and his sister enrolled in the first grade at Tuskahoma. It wasn't very large and the first grade shared a room with the second grade.

Ernerst in HS

   In high school, Ernest took basic algebra, geometry and English. He was also taught penmanship nearly every year so he would be able to write legibly. 

   During high school, only the superintendent and the coach had cars. Some students would come to school on horseback, feeding and watering their horses at lunchtime.

   The children took their lunches to school with them. Ernest's lunches consisted of two biscuits, usually having sausage, ham or bacon. He carried them to school in his hip pocket. The school didn't have a lunchroom. During the depression, the school would serve soup and crackers when it could afford it.

   The Hooser children didn't always know they didn't have a lot of money because they had always been raised that way. They ate well, especially at breakfast. They had biscuits, gravy, sausage, bacon, oatmeal, sorghum molasses, butter and milk.

   When the kids came home from school in the evenings, their mother would serve them supper then they'd work in the field gathering crops. They had a wood-cook stove and two fireplaces. Someone had to get wood and kindling and someone had to build the fires in the morning. Ernest's mother cooked in this stove all his life. Only until after he was out of college did she get a gas range stove.

   Ernest graduated from Tuskahoma in May of 1936. He went on to study at Murray State College in Tishomingo. From Murray he went to Oklahoma A&M College in Stillwater, which will later be called Oklahoma State, and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees. Ernest studied education and majored in math and science.

Ernest Helen   While attending Oklahoma A&M, Ernest met his wife Helen, a home economics major from Tishomingo. After Ernest graduated in 1940, he and Helen got married. They had their first child, Patricia Ann, in 1941 and a boy in 1942 named Carl Ernest.

   Upon graduation, Ernest began teaching science and a little math at Stigler High School, where he stayed for three years. From Stigler he went to become principal at Tuskahoma High School, where he also taught math and science.

   In 1944 Ernest and his family moved to Antlers where he became principal of the senior high school. He kept this position until 1955. Ernest enjoyed his years at Antlers and was able to teach some classes while he was principal there.

   The children at Antlers enjoyed Ernest as their principal as well. They had a nickname for him, calling him "Possum." They didn't realize Ernest knew this was the nickname he was given by them; much less he thought it was a fun thing.

   Ernest encountered some troublemakers during his days as an educator, but he had a lot of fun with his students. One time, he had a couple of boys try to flush a firecracker down a commode in the bathroom on the third floor of the school, and no one ever confessed. Years later, at a class reunion, the boy asked Ernest if he remembered the incident and said, "I'm the one," and he thought about it all the time.

   Ernest was a great influence on his students as well. One day, a student was sent to Ernest's principal's office for calling a teacher a bad name. The student ended up quitting school, but the basketball coach was able to bring him back after talking to him. After returning, he received his punishment from Ernest with a paddling. Years later, he visited Ernest at his home and handed him a piece of paper saying, "That's your copy." This was the student's doctor's dissertation. He told Ernest, "I needed an attitude adjustment and you gave it to me."

   From Antlers, the Hooser family moved to Eagletown and Ernest became superintendent. Eagletown was a small school and consisted of a white school and a black school, the campuses located about a mile apart. When Ernest experienced heart problems that came with the stress of being the superintendent, he went back to teaching in the classroom.

Enest and children Pat and Carl   Ernest's last year in Eagletown was 1959, and Patricia and Carl graduated. Ernest received a job at Durant junior high school, which he preferred to high school.

   His first year at Durant Jr. High Ernest taught two seventh-grade math classes, two eighth-grade math classes and two ninth-grade math classes, teaching six periods a day. Eventually, Ernest began teaching first and second year algebra.

   In 1966, Durant Public Schools installed a television station. Ernest knew that if Durant hired a teacher to direct this station, he would want to be the one to do so. So he began working with no pay for KXII Channel 12 in Denison to gain experience.

   Ernest worked for KXII from Monday to Wednesday with no pay when they offered him a part-time job on Wednesday with pay, and he accepted. Ernest decided he needed formal education on television, so he enrolled at East Texas in Commerce, which had two full television stations, for Saturday classes and began training.

   Ernest competed his formal training at East Texas so he was able to begin directing the educational television station at Durant Schools. The station began by recording art, music and science for first through third grades. They soon organized the station to allow the high school to participate at noon each day and had four televisions in the lunchroom for the students to watch. The students worked on the microphones, operated cameras, the soundboard and videos.

   Ernest's instruction in the station influenced many students. One girl went on to make her career in television. One boy would always bring his Bible to the station with him. He once wrote a script called "How to Witness for the Lord Jesus Christ," which was broadcasted. A few years later, Ernest found the student working as a pastor in south Oklahoma City. He informed Ernest that his television class prepared him more for his work more than anything he's ever done, besides his Bible studying, and what helped him most was being on the microphone. He didn't like being on the microphone, but Ernest knew it was good for him, and it paid off.

   One day, while Ernest was unloading rolls of tape, he hurt his back and was in bed for a month. During this time, the administration assigned a high school student to take over the station. He now runs a church television studio. Ernest expresses great pride in his successful students.

   After the television station in Durant Schools was closed, Ernest began teaching photography classes. He taught in public schools as well as Southeastern Oklahoma State University. At SOSU, he instructed a photography class that took place at night and all the students were adults.

   Ernest retired from teaching in 1980. He was an educator for 40 years.

   In 2004 Ernest's beloved wife Helen passed away. They were married 64 years.

   Today, Ernest enjoys telling his grandchildren and great-grandchildren stories of his past and Choctaw culture. He occasionally goes to Durant Public Schools and speaks with the students about Choctaw heritage. He even teaches them to sing in the Choctaw language.

   Ernest tells students he visits that they each have their own story yet to be told. His great-grandchildren will often sit on the floor and listen to his stories that he wants them to hear, because they have a heritage to be proud of.

This article and others came from the Choctaw Nation Biskinik. To see more history please refer to the following sites.
Sounds of Choctaw - Social Greeting
Sounds of Choctaw - Weather
Lesson of the Day