Percy B. Zerby was a loving and gentle person with a gift for words. He did not go to college but he loved to read and always had a collection of books.
The family had very little money when he was growing up. They moved to Oklahoma City about 1890 in a covered wagon and lived there for a short time before returning to Wakenda, Missouri. While in Wakenda they lived in a sod house, half underground with dried mud walls and a sod roof. His parents moved to Supply sometime after 1900; the 1900 census shows all of the family in Wakenda. Percy was the first one to leave home; he became a manager of a Harvey House restaurant. This was a chain of restaurants at train stops. At that time it was not common to have dining cars on trains. In his writings later in life he mentions that in 1907 he worked in Arizona and the desert areas of California and tells of seeing the Pacific Ocean. Supposedly he traveled all over the western United States.
It is not known if he or his parents first moved to Supply. The 1910 census records for Supply show Percy married to a Lillie May. A note from Maxyne indicates his first marriage was in Carrollton, Missouri. It is believed that this marriage ended in divorce. The census records also show that he was assistant cashier at the bank. Maxyne tells a story that when the family moved to Supply Percy's father did not have enough money for all of the family to go by train. Percy's three younger brothers were placed in a box and shipped on the same train as freight.
Percy was working at the bank in Supply when his future father-in-law, Burrell Million, Sr., bought it in 1911. He was the treasurer of Supply in 1912. In 1917 he married Ora Million. From letters that he wrote to Ora several years before they were married, it appears they were concerned about Percy being accepted by Ora's parents.
Their only child, Maxyne Cecilia Zerby Dorr, was born in 1919. Percy eventually became vice president and then cashier of the bank and was also treasurer of the town of Supply. The family lived in the largest home in Supply and was very much involved in society life. They held dances in the ballroom on the second floor of their home.
The 1920 census shows that most of Percy's brothers and sisters had moved to Geary, KS. In 1927 Ora and the children moved to Norman to enable Don to attend the University of Oklahoma. Sam attended Norman High School where he was on the football team. During this year they rented their large home to the Mandeen family and Percy lived with Bonnie. The bank moved to Woodward in 1929 in an attempt to survive the Depression. In 1931 the bank failed and merged with the Bank of Woodward. This had a devastating effect on Percy from which he never recovered. After the bank failed, the family moved to Lone Wolf. He was with the government for several years as a liquidating agent, working with banks that had failed in the Depression. Around 1938 the job as a liquidating agent ended and he obtained employment as a clerk at the Oklahoma Highway Department in Perry, OK. Ora and Maxyne moved to Stillwater so Maxyne could attend Oklahoma A&M. She had attended one year at Southwestern State College. Percy would sleep on a cot in a closet at the Highway Department during the week and go to Stillwater on the weekends. He remained a clerk until he retired 25 years later. He walked to and from the Highway Department every day.
His grandchildren called him "Nennie" and Ora, "Memmie." When Ed, Dana, and Pat were young boys they would ride the Santa Fe train from Oklahoma City to Perry to see their Memmie and Nennie. Percy loved to work in his vegetable garden while Memmie worked with her flowers. The last few years of his life he and Ora moved to Oklahoma City to be close to Maxyne and Sam
(See Tales of the Al Dorr Family)
The following is a document that Percy wrote when he was 65. Only two pages were found; it is not known if the remaining was lost or if this is all he wrote:
Started July 27, 1951
This is a History of my life written by me in the 65th year of my existence. Written for the information of my sons, their wives, my daughter and husband and my grandkids.
It is written without any intention at literary excellence but as a simple recording of one who I hope has had the affection of those who I love and respect so dearly.
I am the eldest of a family of eight 5 boys and 3 girls. Listed as their births came Percy Brandom (myself), Martin Leander, Harry Lewis, Ross Morris, Sarah Elizabeth, Thomas Edward (died in infancy; the only one that is deceased at this date), Ella Allen, Emily Adeline.
My first remembrances of the stern realities of life and as I look back now from the experience of years is the poverty of the homes I lived in and the privation of Father and Mother. I am told that I was 3 months old when with my mother we joined my father in Comanche County, Kansas, where he had staked a claim. My very first recollection is the box trap which my father made to catch what we called snow birds. He sprinkled some small grain on the ground and then propped up the box on a stick to which he had attached a string long enough to reach the door of our sod shanty. When the little birds gathered in large numbers under the box and busily eating the grain, he jerked the string and usually one drop was enough to catch a sufficient number to make an ample Snow Bird Pie which served as our meat for the meals breakfast, dinner and supper. Even there our poverty, as I look back on it, was delightfully forgotten by me in the ample satisfaction of a filled stomach. I recall that father would be gone for several days at a time and I would, with my mother, go out over the prairie and gather buffalo chips the name they gave from the dropping of the cattle dung, and this we used for fuel. At last father would return and he would ( have ) a great load of logs which he had gathered in the Oklahoma Strip. And by the way, this was on the Indian Reservation and near the town of Supply, Oklahoma, to which we many years after moved and lived in; the history of which will come later.
While in Kansas Martin and Lewis were born.
Finally the rigors and the poverty entailed in this frontier were too stringent for a young wife and 3 small children so we packed our scanty belongings into a covered wagon and made the trip overland to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Even then its vigor and location gave promise for the great City that now is the capital of the State of Oklahoma. Here was born Ross Morris. I remember but very little of our stay there.
( He inserted a note to himself :) Here get the date we left Oklahoma City? And the reason for leaving?
However, we again ( were ) taken to the covered wagon and overland again we traveled back to Wakenda, Missouri. My father worked for an uncle of mine Uncle Ed Brandom. He was the owner of considerable land and had a large two story house, large farms, a grist mill where he ground corn for his cattle and hogs, mules and horses aplenty. He was a large stockman and kept a large number of steers on full feed all the time we lived there.
He was a very resourceful man. He owned a hardware store and flour mill in Wakenda, Missouri which was just a mile north of his ranch. I go into detail here for the reason that here in this location I received the deep impression of the vicissitude of life. The generosity and the cruel injustices of human conception in relation to one another ever among your relations. Here was an uncle, the brother of my mother, in these days a man of wealth, a religious man. A Deacon in the Baptist Church, Superintendent of the Wakenda Baptist Church. A man of influence and as I recall him, a gentle man. But with a mental complex about money that I never understood as evidenced from a period years after. I had made a trip back to Missouri and bought our house in Supply from the party ( who ) owned it and who lived in Missouri. On my ( way ) back home I came through Carrollton, Missouri and Uncle Ed was living there with his only daughter and he drove me down to the old house which he still owned and on which his youngest son was now operating. As we passed the old Cary grave and named after his first wife's people and in which she was buried, and also his oldest daughter Sadie, a son and the weeds covered the cemetery ground. I remarked at the wretched condition and then he answered with these words. Tut-tut. It is shameful, you know. I give them 50 cents a year to keep it in condition. I almost fell out of the car. But I conceived in my mind then that the man had a mental complex about money. Evidently sacred to him. No conception of the value in relation to relief of suffering humanity. No conception of his disgusting miserly hoarding. This diversion in my life story is made to give you a possible reason for the scenes and events that I now will make.