This is a story told to me by my mother Jean Bonham Vandenburg
HOW THE MUSIC STARTED IN THE BONHAM FAMILY
O. C. Bonham played the fiddle. He met another musician, Clarence Rodgers, who also played the fiddle or violin. In fact he was a music teacher for Atoka schools and private students too. Mr. Clarence Rodgers was an accomplished Classically trained musician and was well known as a brilliant music teacher. Mr Bonham was a widower, who had four children by his first wife. Ida New. Two of them survived,Minnie Lee and Zed.
Minnie was very good on the organ and piano. She was a good vocalist too. Mr Rodgers taught her the piano and she played in church. Minnie eventually married and became the mother of five children, who grew to be talented a singers in church as well. Mr Bonham married again to Lydia New Trimmer and had two children, Oran Carl and Collie. Although Carl, as Oran Carl came to be known, survived, Collie died when a very young child. Clarence Rodgers taught Carl to play the guitar and other instruments. Mr Bonham, Mr. Gene Warren, the principal of Harmony School, Clarence Rodgers, Carl, and his friend Hardy Wilkins would gather at the Bonham house and play music during the winter when crops were harvested and laid by.
O C Bonham married later in life to Novella Burlison and they had had five children. Clearance Rodgers taught the oldest son, Orville, to play the fiddle too. His children are part of the Bonham Bluegrass family. Sara Ann, Glen, and Virgil all were talented. Their big brother, Carl, taught Ollie and Glen to play the guitar.
Carl liked ballads and the music of early Country and Western singers such as Jimmie Rodgers. His friend, Hardy, was a good musician who played for dances at the outside dance floor in Stringtown, Oklahoma that was made famous when the infamous criminals, Bonnie and Clyde had a shoot out where they killed a deputy and wounded the sheriff. Carl and Hardy were will known in the area and played for dances held in homes throughout Atoka County. His daughter can remember going to someone‘s house and they would move all the furniture out of one room so that could have room to dance. When the little kids and babies got sleepy the parents would lay them on the beds to sleep. When the movie, Gone With The Wind, came out, Carl and Hardy played during the intermission every night. Carl was a good singer and, thanks to Clarence Rodgers, a good musician, When Carl was first learning to play, if he missed a cord or made a mistake, Clarence would smack Carl with his fiddle bow.
The daughters of Carl and his wife, Thelma Bolling Bonham, also learned to sing at an early age. Jeannie Bonham Vandenburg and Jackie Bonham Hand, sang on a radio show that was recorded live from the Mamie Johnson school in Atoka every Sunday. They, and the teachers from Harmony decided to have a show at Harmony School to help buy new basketball uniforms, Jean and Jackie and the other students organized the show and it was a big hit in the community. It helped to get the much needed uniforms.
Jean married Eddie Vandenburg when he came back from the Korean War, He was an outstanding natural musician. Later, when he went back into the Army, Eddie and Jean were stationed many places where they always became involved with country music. They entertained at the military clubs and civilian clubs near by. They were asked to record and go on tour, but being a soldier came first so they had to let the opportunity pass. Both Jean and Eddie were song writers, and Jean continues to write today. They were both raised to sing traditional Country Music. Eddie passed away a few years ago, but Jean is still invited to sing at various venues where she performs now and then. If you get a chance to hear Miss Jean you are in for a real treat. She has had many years experience and has performed with many talented bands and fronted for many rising stars. She has some great stories to tell about the places and people she and Eddie have met.
They were parents of five children and who are also musicians and vocalists. The girls enjoy singing in church. Karron is a writer and was a choir director and, the youngest, Rebecca and her husband, David Barrington, often sing and direct musical events in their church, Eddie Vandenburg Jr. is good musician and a collector of music instruments. Some of Eddie and Jean’s grandchildren and great grandchildren also have interests in music.
With each generation, the music goes on in the Bonham family.