Lewis Hine caption: 6-year old Warren Frakes. Mother said he picked 41 pounds yesterday “An I don’t make him pick; he picked some last year.” Has about 20 pounds in his bag. Location: Comanche County, Oklahoma / Lewis W. Hine, October 11, 1916.
Lewis Hine caption: Family of W.T. Frakes, Route 5, Lawton, Okla. Mother said 6-year old Warren picked 41 pounds of cotton yesterday “An I don’t make him pick; he picked last year.” Had about 20 pounds in his bag. She said Clara, 11 years old, averages 75 pounds a day. Picked 101 pounds yesterday, earning $1.25 (they are picking now for another farmer). She carries 40 pounds in the bag. Velma, 14 years, picks 125 pounds. Has picked over 200 pounds in a day. Children go to Flower Mound School, District 48 while living here, but they are itinerant, renting a small farm of 10 acres now. “We move about a good deal” mother said. Location: Comanche County, Oklahoma / Lewis W. Hine, October 11, 1916.
“He attended a one-room country schoolhouse until 1922, when he and his family moved to California in search of a better climate and better schools. He always managed to find jobs, such as carrying papers and picking fruits and vegetables.” -Lorene Wray, sister of Warren Frakes
The Flower Mound School that the Frakes children attended still exists, although it has been rebuilt. According to their website: “The need for a school in the Flower Mound community was recognized early. Less than one year after the lottery opened the area to white settlement, community members pushed for organization of a school.” It was built and began in the fall of 1902. But a year later, it burned down, possibly due to arson. It was rebuilt, and reopened in 1905.
In September of 2006, author Elizabeth Winthrop, who had led me to the search for child laborer Addie Card, contributed an article in Smithsonian Magazine about the search. It resulted in a letter to the editor written by a woman named Sally Kapp. She explained that she had recently found her great uncle, Warren Frakes, and his family in the Lewis Hine collection posted on the Library of Congress website. Elizabeth told me about it, so I contacted Ms. Kapp, and she sent me some information about Warren and his family.
Warren Debbs Frakes was born on August 10, 1910. He was one of nine children born to William Tecumseh Sherman Frakes and Mary Lula (called Lula) Crawley Frakes, who were married in 1891. William was a native of Indiana, and Lula was born in Texas. All of the children were born in Oklahoma, with the exception of Warren, and older sister, Ila (1908), who were born in New Mexico. Altogether the family had nine children, apparently losing their first two before the third was born.
The family might have been one of more than 29,000 families that descended upon Comanche County in the early 1900s, when the federal government took over a huge amount of Indian land and held a lottery for the purposes giving away parcels to “homesteaders.” But in the 1900 census, the Frakes are listed as living in Township 7, Chickasaw Nation, Oklahoma, where they owned their house. It was not in Comanche County. Mr. Frakes was a blacksmith. But when they were photographed in 1916, they were in Comanche County. According to the 1920 census, they were in the Lawton area of Oklahoma, and apparently rented their home and farm. Mr. Frakes was still a blacksmith.
In 1922, the family moved to California. Warren married Bernece Faye Vaughn (date not determined). They had one child, Sheryl Arline, who was born in 1948. Bernece died in 1985. Warren died in Norwalk, California, on June 29, 1997, at the age of 86.
The following was written by Lorene Wray, sister of Warren Frakes:
Warren Frakes, from the age of six, had many chores on his family farm: milking the cows, feeding the horses and chickens, and slopping the pigs. He had his hours of fun, such as swimming in the ponds on the farm, rabbit hunting with his slingshot and his faithful dog, gathering pecans that grew wild by the creek, and riding horses.
He attended a one-room country schoolhouse until 1922, when he and his family moved to California in search of a better climate and better schools. He always managed to find jobs, such as carrying papers and picking fruits and vegetables. Due to the big 1929 Depression, Warren quit his junior year in high school to work and help his family.
In the early 1930s, the country was gung-ho for boxing, and if one was good at it, the pay was good. Warren started boxing in a makeshift ring at an old ballfield. A past manager of Jack Dempsey, called Windy Winsor, saw Warren box and started managing him. He had a few bouts as a welterweight, but had trouble maintaining that weight and went back to lightweight and won many fights. His ring name was “Cyclone” Frakes. For some reason, he started drinking. As his sister, I knew him quite well, and I attribute that downfall in his life as a breakup in a love affair, and possibly trying to live up to the expectations that fame had brought him.
After his days of boxing were over, he became a worker on big dams, working on the Boulder Dam, Hoover Dam, Grand Coulee Dam, and many others. During World War II, Warren served in combat and was injured by an exploding shell. Ten men in his outfit with him were killed. Warren was thrown some 20 feet into the air, but survived. While in the Army hospital, doctors discovered he had been shook up inside. When he was able, he was sent to the Panama Canal, where he guarded the canal. He was given an honorable discharge, and received a pension for several years until his body tested free of any injuries caused by the bomb.
He finally found his true love and married. They had one daughter that Warren adored. For years, he doted on his nieces and nephews, for Warren loved kids and pets. He went to work at Chrysler in the Los Angeles area. He was foreman of the car painters and an expert at car painting. One day, while on the line of cars, a huge bucket of heavy material was about to crush a worker. Warren grabbed the bucket and held it until the man could escape. In doing this deed, Warren’s back was injured badly and Chrysler called in top specialists. They discovered his muscles in his back had held up so well, that the nerves were not separated and they bridged back. They said that if Warren had not had the physical training he had had, the muscles would not have held, the nerves would have been severed, and he would have been paralyzed.
Warren worked for Chrysler until his retirement, and as a hobby, grew beautiful flowers and choice vegetables and fruits. He passed away of natural, old age causes at the age of 89.
(Note: Official records indicate that Warren died at the age of 86.)
Warren Frakes: 1910 – 1997
Velma Frakes: 1902 – 1972
Clara Frakes: 1905 – 1995
Lula Frakes: 1876 – 1968
Alma Frakes: 1912 – 1992
*Story published in 2010.