Frank William Abner Conard
Billie Faye Waller Conard
Written By Erick James Conard
You probably already know that Frank Conard and his lovely wife, Billie Faye, have been married a very long time. You may not know, however, that on August 27, 1992, they will be married for 50 years! In observance of this wonderful fact, their four children (all of whom graduated from Colorado High School), and Billie Faye's mother, Mrs. Beulah Faye Beavers Waller Daniel (a well known local bridge player), have planned a celebration on Sunday, August 30, 1992, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the Thompson Conference Center. Those who wish to share in this joyous commemoration are cordially invited to attend.
You may not know their story, but together Frank and Billie Faye have lived a wonderful adventure full of romance and excitement! In 1940, after Frank graduated from Granada High School in Granada, Colorado, he and some friends traveled to Wichita, Kansas to work at Beechcraft, Inc., an airplane manufacturing company that was building airplanes for the war going on in Europe.
Frank worked for Beechcraft for a year, but being a young man he got "itchy feet" and decided to "move on." With eight other guys, he went to Grand Prairie to work at Chance-Vought Inc. (more recently known as LTV Inc or Vought Corporation). Only Frank and a friend, Tony Peak, were hired.
Confident and full of youthful enthusiasm, Frank and Tony rented a room for a couple of weeks and began searching for a more permanent place to stay. When they stopped by a local Grand Prairie drug store called Hancock's for a "coke," Frank, who was smoking a big cigar at the time, stepped up to the counter and asked the woman working there (Mrs. Hancock) if she knew where he and Tony could find a couple of rooms to rent.
"That girl over there's mother (who was Beulah Faye Beavers Waller, eventually Daniel) rents rooms," Mrs. Hancock answered helpfully. "You might ask her." Mrs. Hancock pointed to a strikingly beautiful, poised young woman (Billie Faye Waller) who was sitting at a table with her girlfriend, sipping sodas. Interestingly enough, only Billie Faye recalls she was with her girlfriend; the only girl Frank remembers seeing that day was Billie Faye!
Back then, Grand Prairie was just a small town and didn't have enough rooms for all the young men flooding the city to build planes for Chance-Vought and the war. The Grand Prairie Chamber of Commerce requested that all vacant rooms be rented to those young men; airplanes were essential for the European war effort. In response to this request, Beulah Faye, whose own mother had rented out rooms before her, converted her home into enough boarding rooms for six men.
Frank turned around, cigar in hand, and in the genial, self-assured manner for which he is well know, asked Billie Faye, "Does your mother rent rooms?" Billie Faye, who had noticed Frank when he entered the store, politely and evasively answered, "I don't know." In 1940 it wasn't considered proper for young women to talk freely with men they didn't know. "I wasn't going to be friendly with Frank," Billie Faye explained; "We hadn't been introduced." From this seemingly insignificant beginning, the love, affection, devotion, and commitment they now share has grown strong between them and spans the past fifty years!
Several days passed before Frank saw Billie Faye again. "She was sitting in her car in town," recalled Frank with a smile, "So I waved and walked up to her car." Enthusiastically, Billie Faye added, "As he walked up I got of the car to talk to him." She felt less restrained and they talked pleasantly for a few minutes. But before Billie Faye left, Frank made certain her mother had a room available. That next week Frank was renting a double occupancy room from Faye for $6.00 a week!
Frank, a twenty-two year old at the time, contends, "I thought Billie Faye, who was only 16 back then, was too young for me, so I didn't ask her out." But Billie Faye, who knew Frank wasn't too old for her, quickly took care of that little problem. "I began dating Frank's friend, Tony! Then I arranged for my girlfriend, Mary Sue Hancock, to date Frank and for Tony and I to double with them. Not much later, March of 1942, I believe, Frank and I began dating."
They were a perfect story book couple. Frank, handsome, aggressive, self-confident, and masculine, was "older," an impetuous, daring young man with black wavy hair who recounted exciting stories of a far away, "uncivilized" place that he loved dearly. And Billie Faye, beautiful, graceful, cultured, and feminine, was an innocent, willowy sixteen year old young woman with long dark-blond hair and an impeccable family background. And although somewhat shy, she possessed a strong will and a mind of her own.
Even though Frank and Billie Faye had only dated about five months, they had already talked about marriage. On August 27, 1942, Billie Faye was grounded; she doesn't remember why. What she does remember is that her mother (Beulah Faye), who had just finished sewing Billie Faye a white dress, decided to visit Mrs. Francis, one of Beulah Faye's friends, and left the house.
While Faye was gone, Billie Faye and Frank talked. To be alone and still avoid the stinging bites of the summer mosquitoes that plagued Grand Prairie then, they moved outside to Faye's screened in side porch. It was Billie Faye who introduced the idea that she and Frank should run away to be married, and that they should be married that very day! Frank, already deeply in love with Billie Faye, eagerly agreed. Impulsive marriages were common in that anxious time of world war and unwanted separation. And so, filled with love and romance, Frank and Billie Faye planned their elopement.
Billie Faye's father, Bill, who was chronically ill, was in bed that day. "I fixed my father supper and then kissed him goodbye," Billie Faye recalls nostalgically. Bill was an exceptional man; he was incredibly intelligent as well as one of the kindest, gentlest, caring human beings you could ever have the luck to meet. "When I was leaving he asked if Mother knew where I was going and what time I'd be back. I told him she did. That was the only time in my life I didn't tell my father the truth. As I left home with Frank, I remember feeling ashamed I hadn't been truthful."
James Pollard and Lois Couch, a couple with whom they double dated, picked up Frank and Billie Faye in James' car. They were filled with the scary, exciting anticipation of beginning a wonderful new life together as they drove to Rockwall, Texas to be married. That evening, with Billie Faye wearing the new, white dress Beulah Faye had so providentially completed, they were married in Rockwall!
Later that evening, James paid for the long distance call to Faye and Bill to let them know Frank and Billie Faye had married. It was a long phone call, but James paid without complaint! Frank and Billie Faye spent their wedding night in a modest motel in Rockwall. The next morning Frank bought Billie Faye a wedding band at Shaw's jewelry store in Dallas. After three wonderful days together, they took the bus back to Grand Prairie. When Billie Faye walked in the house she said in her clear, sweet voice, "Mother, I'm home."
They stayed with Beulah Faye and Bill for a few days, and then put a down payment on a little house. A week later, Frank checked his deferment as an airplane construction worker and discovered he no longer had it. Rather than wait to be drafted, Frank drove to San Angelo to join so he and Billie Faye could still live in Texas.
For a long, lonely month Frank waited in San Antonio to be inducted in the Army Air Corp. He then spent another agonizingly slow six weeks of basic training in San Angelo. During this lonely time Billie Faye lived with her parents.
In 1942 young women who married were ordinarily not allowed to continue attending high school. But because of the high regard in which Beulah Faye, Bill, and Billie Faye were held in their community, the school board made an exception for Billie Faye. So in September of 1942, while Frank was waiting to join in San Antonio, Billie Faye began her senior year in Grand Prairie.
In January of 1943, Billie Faye joined Frank in San Angelo. She only needed one English course to graduate and walked 13 blocks to school to attend class. The credit she earned was sent to Grand Prairie where she graduated with the rest of her class, a fact in which she justifiably takes a great deal of pride.
In San Angelo they lived in a one room apartment. A locked door separated their apartment from the landlady's and they shared a bath with a cadet's wife. With amusement at her naivete, Billie Faye, whose parents had "modern" conveniences, recalls her first experience with the old ice box there. "Shortly after Frank and I moved in, the landlady stopped by to show me how to empty her ice tray. Our apartment had an 'old fashioned' ice box, the kind with no electricity; it required a large block of ice to keep the box cool." As Billie Faye told the story, laughter crept into her voice, and enjoyment in the pleasure of reliving the incident. "Ice from our ice box melted and dripped into the bottom tray, as it was supposed to do. But since I was unaware the bottom tray required my attention, I never emptied it. It spilled over the edge of the tray, flowed under the connecting door, and ran into our landlady's apartment. Water was everywhere! But when she came over, she was so nice!" And so, Billie Faye's sweet nature transformed her water soaked landlady into a friend.
At San Angelo, Frank was a link trainer instructor; he taught pilots to fly using only the airplane's instrument panel. He and Billie Faye stayed in San Angelo until April, 1945, when Frank was shipped to Fresno, California. His sister, Fern Conard Burns, and his brother-in-law, Forrest Burns, lived in Fresno; Forrest was stationed there.
Frank and Billie Faye became "fast friends" with Fern and Forrest during their time in Fresno. They were lucky and found side by side second floor apartments, which they rented. The walls of these apartments were only about six feet apart, which allowed them to talk back and forth through their open windows. Billie Faye spoke of their time in Fresno with special enthusiasm. "Both of our apartments were upstairs," Billie Faye explained happily. "Every morning Fern and Forrest read their newspaper; when they finished reading it, Fern placed it on a broom and passed it through the window to our apartment!" For Frank and Billie Faye California was a time of fun and adventure. The love they shared allowed them to create an island of happiness and excitement in the midst of the anxieties and tensions of war.
And finally Japan surrendered and at last the war was over! They were sent to Sacramento, California, where, on January 9, 1946, Frank was discharged. Of course, they couldn't know then that their first son, Frank II, would be born exactly two years from the date of Frank's discharge from the army!
After Frank was discharged, they moved to Buckeye, Colorado and began ranching/farming; Frank's dreams had always involved ranching. Buckeye wasn't actually a town; it was only a tiny General Store that sat at the lonely intersection of two dirt roads 35 miles south of Holly, Colorado, a town with a population of about two thousand. They lived at Buckeye General Store with Frank's mom, his sister Till, and Till's husband Roy. Whenever Billie Faye recalls these times, the adjustments she must have made from the easy life she had lead in Grand Prairie are never mentioned. Instead, Billie Faye reflects upon the wonderful changes that transformed her life; she talks about the exciting new adventures she shared with Frank, the delight she felt loving a dynamic and energetic man, and the joy she found in her new life in rural Colorado.
After they lived at the General Store for about six months, Frank moved a brooder house (used to raise baby chicks) and some other small buildings to land owned by his mom. The property was located about a half mile north of Buckeye store. In the summer of 1946 Frank began building a two room house on that land and, while he was building the house, he an Billie Faye moved into the cozy little brooder house.
About a mile north, Frank's sister Fern and her husband Forrest lived in a comfortable home. Frank and Billie Faye usually drove to Fern's for both breakfast and supper; they took their baths there, as well. Then, in November of 1946, a severe winter snow storm raged unchecked across the flat Colorado plains for three straight days. Snow piled high against the tiny brooder house walls; inside, Frank and Billie Faye were warm and happy under a pile of blankets.
On the forth day, the sky was crystal clear and a beautiful, bright blue. Frank started up the tractor. He and Billie Faye drove to Fern and Forrest's for a day of pheasant hunting and merriment in the enchanted snow fields! Frank always desired to please and surprise his beautiful wife. And Billie Faye, who always looked for the love behind Frank's actions, found it easy to enjoy the life they shared. That night, when they were snugly tucked away in bed, it began to snow again and snowed for another two days! Because they loved each other so deeply, they recall these six days with delight. They not only bagged a pheasant and had a feast; they also created a beautiful, shared memory of a magical time.
The heavy winter snows lay across the land like a warm blanket, protecting the tender wheat with its thick cover. In the spring, as the abundant snowfall melted, the wheat grew strong and healthy. That first bountiful wheat crop, with its generous gift of golden grain, held out the promise of sure reward for those who were willing to work hard and to sacrifice. And for that year, and for several years to follow, that promise of rich reward was fulfilled in ample measure and Frank and Billie Faye prospered greatly.
The harvest given to Frank and Billie Faye, fantastic as it was, included more than mere monetary reward. The Lord also gave them a fertile, nurturing time; a time in which their growing love strengthened. He gave them a place where "WE" became more important than "I;" a place in which they learned their lives were beautifully, inextricably intertwined. And He gave them the most precious gift of all; He gave them children.
In January of 1948, Frank William II was born, and in that following December of 1948 Erick James came into this world. Then in February of 1953, Brenda Faye arrived to the excited and happy voices of her grandparents, parents, brothers. aunts, and uncles. And with each new birth, the happiness and good fortune of the Conards grew. Each winter birth was followed by healthy spring crops and an abundant summer harvest.
Frank expanded and remodeled their little house into a cozy and attractive five room cottage, surrounded by an oasis of green grass, shrubbery, and trees. And Billie Faye's parents, Faye and Bill, visited Frank and Billie Faye often to help out wherever they could. "Mother helped make curtains and decorate the house. She always made it sparkle," recalls Billie Faye lovingly. "Mother has an excellent eye for decorating." Faye's welcome visits always made Billie Faye feel terrific.
Those years were wonderful! They were a time filled with laughter and happiness, a time of 8mm home movies taken of relatives waving while energetic children gleefully hopped in and out of the picture, and a time of fantastic, fun-filled holidays in exciting "faraway" places.
It's easy to be happy when every day is wonderful and the material things you value in life are easily acquired. Life's challange, however, is to find happiness when days become difficult and things don't seem to work out the way you had hoped. And for a farmer, nothing can make life more difficult than a drought. So for the Conards, as the Colorado rains slowed, and then virtually stopped falling, the green, easy years slipped quietly into the past. The land became dry and barren. The drought that plagued Colorado was terrible and intense, creating fearsome and awe inspiring dust storms that blew plumes of fine dust through many previously unknown cracks in the cozy Conard home.
But those of you who know Billie Faye personally know her capacity to discover something beautiful and wonderful in even the very worst situation; and those of you who know Frank know the strengthening power of his unshakeable optimism. These qualities, and many others, are rooted firmly within the hearts and minds of Frank and Billie Faye. And in the midst of hardship, they kept their love alive and fresh.
Since their shared love surrounded the lives of their children, the quality of their children's lives remained unchanged; their lives continued to be as exciting, beautiful, and fulfilling as before. Their children were unaware they lived in "hard times;" the comforting blanket of love and happiness their parents had woven with tenderness and devotion now protected them from the economic realities of the drought.
While the drought controlled the land, crops withered and died. But Frank and Billie Faye adapted; they sold eggs, hogs, and cream. From eight milk cows, Frank obtained milk. And Billie Faye's hens provided them with eggs to sell. Since there wasn't extra money for building materials, they built a hen house with bales of hay. "It was the warmest hen house you've ever been in!" Frank declared enthusiastically. Frank had a way of finding the positives in every situation!
"I milked the cows by hand, then separated the cream from the milk. The cream we sold, of course. And we mixed the skim with maize to feed to the hogs," Frank said with a sparkle in his eyes and laughter in his voice. The enjoyment he felt during this time in his life was clearly evident as he spoke. "And of course, we had a big garden," he added cheerfully.
Frank and Billie Faye were wheat farmers and involved in ranching until 1957 when, because of the drought, they decided upon a new venture; they decided to open a Spudnut Shop. Some of you may know that spudnuts are just like donuts, except they're made with potato flour instead of wheat flour. And they taste a whole lot better than donuts! (If you don't believe they taste better, just ask Frank!) In 1957, donuts only cost 5 cents each, but Frank and Billie Faye opened the little bakery with the enthusiastic optimism for which they are so well known. Before long, their spudnut shop had become such a success that they opened another shop in Lamar, Colorado and then a third in Syracuse, Kansas. Frank even recruited kids to sell spudnuts door to door in other nearby towns that weren't lucky enough to have their own spudnut shop!
Because the spudnut shops were an unqualified success, the Conards were able to buy a 160 acre irrigated farm in Hartman, Colorado. For a time they operated the farm and the spudnut shops, too. But Billie Faye was a Texan, after all, and as much as she loved her life in Colorado, she had always dreamed of returning home to her beautiful Texas. Because Frank loved Billie Faye so deeply, he searched for a way for each of them to follow their separate dreams together.
So they looked for a new home in Texas. They had traveled through Vernon, Texas, many times on their way to Fort Worth to visit Beulah Faye and Bill, and had always liked that part of the country. Once they decided to move to Texas, they knew immediately they would move to Vernon.
Beulah Faye and Bill, who had no idea this decision had been made, were a step beyond surprised when they heard the news. They arrived in Hartman after a leisurely drive from Fort Worth. When they turned into the lane leading to the house, they saw the fields full of cars, the house swarming with people, and "Farm Sale" signs posted everywhere! Frank and Billie Faye's lives still flowed with excitement and enthusiasm; once they had made a decision, they were committed and took action immediately!
On October 31, 1959, with the pickup packed beyond belief and pulling a heavily loaded trailer, the Conard clan drove out of Colorado and toward Texas with mixed feelings of sadness for those left behind and excited anticipation of their unknown future. When they stopped for gas in a Texas service station, a kindly Texan gave each Conard child a Halloween treat, a candy bar from the station's store. It was a wonderful introduction to their life in Texas. Frank and Billie Faye had a magical way of turning every move into a wonderful adventure for the kids. As they drove through the cold moonless night, the stars shone brightly through the pickup windows and Frank and Billie Faye entertained their children with happy songs and daring stories from bygone days. Frank fascinated his children by introducing them to the concept of stars that night. He showed them how to find the North star and the big dipper; and he showed them that stars hidden in the big dipper pointed to the little dipper. As they drove through that clear night, the long miles passed quickly behind them.
The Conards bought a modest home sitting on a beautiful twenty acre home site just south of Vernon. It was surrounded by huge, sheltering trees that protected two hundred seventy peach and eighty pear trees growing on the property. In Vernon they opened a restaurant with a large bakery featuring spudnuts. Soon, their bakery and restaurant became quite popular and business was excellent. So they remodeled, enlarged, and bricked their home among the trees; they did most of the work themselves!
Frank again arranged for door to door spudnut sales in Vernon, and this time his sons, Frank II and Erick, were old enough to be included in the sales force. When Frank had saturated the market for spudnuts in Vernon, he began selling door to door in Quanah, Texas and Altas, Oklahoma, two nearby towns.
In addition to making extra money by selling spudnuts, Frank II and Erick also were paid during the summer as harvest hands. Frank ran a crew of combines and followed the wheat harvest every summer. When his sons traveled with the crew, he paid them by the hour at the same rate he paid the men in his crew. Billie Faye and the kids usually accompanied Frank, but at times she remained at home base to oversee the operation of their main businesses. These times apart were equally hard on both Frank and Billie Faye; Frank called almost daily, they missed each other so intensely.
After a few comfortable years in Vernon, the Conard's restaurant/bakery business was well established. When they were offered a tempting price for the business, they sold it and bought a picturesque little Texaco service station North of Vernon near the Red River. The station had been poorly managed and had a low sales volume when they bought it. But in only a few months, Frank tripled the station's sales volume. Frank has always had a talent for promoting sales.
The Conard kids loved to ride their horses near that station on weekends. When they were riding there, the whole family was together; the Conard children learned the importance of family from the example set by their parents. Late one Sunday evening, after Billie Faye and the kids returned home, Frank loaded the horses in the trailer and begin the 30 mile drive back home. As he drove around a curve, he slammed on his brakes to avoid a car. The trailer began fishtailing and over turned, throwing the three horses out of the trailer and across the highway. Frank ran back to the trailer and, amazingly, picked it up by himself. Frank had amazing strength. He found one horse lying in the middle of the road with its head between its legs, another getting up by the roadside, and the third trotting back up the hill. Although one man stopped to help slow traffic at the top of the hill, most cars sped by dangerously fast. Frank was able to catch and load all three horses and eventually got them home. Those were some tough horses!
Frank and Billie Faye soon found other promising business opportunities in which to invest. They established a new spudnut shop and purchased a second Texaco service station, located on Vernon's West side. With endless hours of hard work and planning, they achieved the same wonderful marketing success as before! Their successes where others had failed attracted the attention of a Texaco "bean counter" and resulted in Texaco offering the Conards a real gem; Texaco wanted Frank and Billie Faye to buy the Texaco Bulk Products consigneeship in Colorado City, Texas!
Frank and Billie Faye visited Colorado City; when they returned to Vernon, they were excited by the potential opportunity they had seen. They were also pleased and impressed by the people they met, people who felt that Colorado City was a great place to raise a family. After all, Colorado City has a lot to offer; it's a close knit rural community adjacent to a major interstate highway and near two large lakes. The decision was easy to make; they would move to Colorado City!
Some of you may recall that hot, windy day in May the Conard family moved to Colorado City; it was May 27, 1963, the day Frank turned 43. Frank, Billie Faye, and their (then) three children Frank II, Erick, and Brenda Faye (Wilson), drove into Colorado City on IH 20 with Billie Faye's parents, Beulah Faye and Bill, who were there to help with the move.
The Conards moved into both sides of a duplex on Chestnut street while Frank completed remodeling their first C-City home, the former "Cadell" house, located at 1436 Austin Street. On July 2, 1963, after living in Colorado City for only about five weeks, the Conards were blessed with the birth of Anne Elizabeth Conard (Vanderslice) at Root Memorial Hospital. And so, the Conard family had all arrived in Colorado City at last!
But that first summer was full of stress. Frank was building up his new business, remodeling the "Cadell house," paying moving expenses, and supporting the family. Billie Faye had broken her leg some weeks earlier and arrived eight months pregnant with her leg in a cast. Then in June, 1963, before Anne was born, Erick's appendix ruptured and he was hospitalized in very serious condition. In August, Erick was rehospitalized to repair a hernia he developed from the appendix operation. Sometime that summer a radiator blew up in Frank II's face, scalding it badly. And Anne's system didn't tolerate the milk formulas she was given that summer. Thank goodness Brenda had her horses! She and the horses managed beautifully!
In addition to the Texaco Dealership, Frank owned and operated the service station east of town and the truck stop and restaurant west of town. As time passed he opened other businesses, including a downtown restaurant, two downtown service stations, a bakery and another restaurant.
For many years the Conards owned a lake cabin on Lake Colorado City. They owned two different boats through the years, but only Frank II used either of them with any regularity. As Frank stated succinctly, "We'd just go out there and mow the grass and go home." So they eventually sold the cabin. "It was nice to sit out there in the evening," added Erick nostalgically, "But that was probably because we were so tired from mowing and weeding all day!"
As the years passed, Frank and Billie Faye remained in Colorado City. Their children grew up and left home, establishing homes of their own. At last, Frank retired. But he decided he had to do more than just sit around, so he began tooling leather, a hobby he learned in San Angelo during the war. After he made his first saddle, he opened a saddle shop and became a saddle maker.
Reflecting on "the most important thing in their life," Frank responded, "The most important thing that happened to me in my life was in 1976. While watching the 700 Club and making fun of Pat Robertson, God healed my back and changed my life from that moment on. I've studied the bible ever since." Both Frank and Billie Faye are devout Christians and on December 30, 1988, Frank was ordained.
Billie Faye added, "The most important thing to me has been people, ... all of the people who have touched our lives in a special way. We have been blessed and touched by them and will remember their kindnesses and treasure their love and friendship forever!"
Frank and Billie Faye seem to have always known an incredible secret! Each of us is responsible for creating the happiness we find in our lives. Those who allow adverse circumstances to control their emotions lose much valuable time, time that could have been filled with joy and happiness. Every day of our lives must be a search for what is right and good with that day rather than what is unpleasant or bad. Because of this marvelous trait, their children never had to be burdened with the belief that life was unpleasant or unfair. Instead, they were nurtured in the belief that even the darkest clouds had silver linings and that tomorrow would surely be a better day! Frank and Billie Faye found a kind of happiness that can't be taken away; they found happiness inside themselves! And Frank and Billie Faye have been blessed in that they have shared that happiness with each other for the past fifty years!
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