Black Oak is a tiny town in the northwest corner of Arkansas. It is the subject of John Grisham’s book “A Painted House” and the town my dad grew up in. Dad was born in 1925 in Black Oak and stayed there until World War II when he, his mom and brothers and sister all moved to St. Louis. Growing up, dad nor Grandma never really talked about their life in Black Oak, but I know it was not easy. My grandfather died when my dad was only twelve years old leaving grandma to raise not only her three biological children, but also her step-daughter and grandpa’s nephew. To my knowledge, dad only returned to Black Oak one time.
In 1992 I made my first pilgrimage to Black Oak, taking my fourteen year old son with me. I had been researching my dad’s family genealogy and wanted to see this town than had grown to be such a part of my life as I dug through census records, old newspapers and chat rooms. Several years later, I returned to Black Oak, this time with two of my elderly aunts. The small woman in this photograph is my dad’s sister, Mabel and of course, the other one is me. Black Oak is really nothing but a blink of the eye now and the Black Oak Grocery shown in this photograph had long been shuttered.
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