Choctaws are a matriarchal society. At 98, Alma Louise Laney certainly shines as the matriarch of her family.
She keeps her new iPhone close, as family and friends call daily to check in.
They want to know how she is doing, as well as seek her advice. And Alma has lots of friends.
Since she retired four years ago, she now has time to go to luncheons, shopping trips, join friends for visits at the golf club and go ballroom dancing more often. Her life is very active, and she enjoys every minute.
She renewed her driver’s license the week before her 98th birthday. Friends love to pick her up for church and the various activities, but she enjoys her independence and is perfectly capable of driving herself.
“When I was a little girl, our family didn’t have a car so when I was sent to Wheelock (Academy) at the age of nine, my daddy took me from our home in Grant to Millerton and put me on a bus.”
Alma said she began to cry and as the tears rolled down her face, her dad asked her, “Baby, do you want to go home?”
She sobbed and told him no, she didn’t want to go home. “So he left me to get on the bus and go to school at Wheelock. I am so glad I said no and went to school. I have wonderful memories of Wheelock and all the friends I had there.”
Alma said the girls all had ballet and tap dancing. She feels they had a better education and had more opportunities that the young ladies in public schools.
They also learned Home Economics. They were taught to cook and sew. She won competitions, including a memorable state-wide competition against girls at Stillwater.
“I was in the newspaper and everything, quite a celebrity!” Laughing, Alma said she had given all that “cooking and sewing” up nowadays!
“I was always proud of my Indian blood. We called our father Papa. His name was Ike Moses and my mother was Lula Belle Hall Moses. There were seven of us children, Ike Newton, Lucille, me, Sally (she died at age seven from malaria) Robert Louis, Stell Thomas, Albert Moses. Those of us who grew up all graduated from Chilocco.
“Papa wanted us to grow up speaking English instead of Choctaw. He thought we would have more advantages speaking English. He made sure we always went to church together. I could hear Papa singing and praying loudly from anywhere in the house–and he prayed and sang in Choctaw, so I couldn’t exactly understand what he was saying.
“We had a good family, a fun family. We had a big table, and we all had to eat together. That was important for my mother and father. Sometimes my family would go to Roebuck Lake and spend the night and fish.
“Our father talked a lot about moving from Mississippi to Oklahoma and how hard it was.
(He came to Indian Territory after the Trail of Tears). He got permission from Mississippi Tribe to come to Indian Territory. He rode on a train. He talked about how he missed his homeland.”
“I think the greatest change I ever experienced is when I left Grant, Oklahoma and went to New York City. Living there made a change in me–I became a city girl! There were shows, subways! My office was just across from Central Park at 5 Columbus Circle. People were very different at New York City.”
Alma was head of Personnel for a company called Union Circulation Company. After working in New York for a number of years, she moved to Seattle.
She only worked there four years. “That was enough rain for me! In Seattle I would pull the blinds and pretend it was sunny!” said Alma.
She continued to work in the publishing company, moving to California where her mother was living so she could be close to family and where she could be in the sunshine.
She was happy there with her work, traveling often, not retiring until her mid 90’s.
“The world is worse now than it used to be, but I see good things everywhere I have been. I always have had good friends. Life is what you make of it. You can make it good!”
“I am very fortunate to be at this stage in my life. If there is a message I could leave to my grandchildren, great-grandchildren and all future generations, it would be to know how much I love them, for them to be good and to always worship God!”
by Judy Allen
Alma Louise Laney is living life to the fullest. The 98-year-old socialite retired four years ago, and has since allowed herself more time to attend luncheons, shopping trips, join friends for visits at the golf club and even go ballroom dancing.