Oral History of Doris Lane
Interviewed by: Catherine Blanco on February 23, 2008
Mrs. Doris Lane was born in February of 1929 in Texas where she lived for a few years then moved to Gilbert, Arizona. There she spent the important years of her life, and it is where she continues to live today. Mrs. Lane is a very amazing woman who really defines what most women of the 20th century lived through while growing up in Arizona. Her stories and memories of growing up in Gilbert helps us to better understand how Gilbert has evolved and changed into the city that it is now. She too is sometimes amazed at how much our state has improved and developed before her eyes.
Mrs. Lane was fortunate enough to be raised by both her parents: her father, Burl Lee Gregory and her mother Bula Mae Gregory. She also grew up knowing her grandmother from her mother's side whose name was Rhoda Ross; she never met her grandfather due to his passing very early in life. After losing her husband and raising her kids, Mrs. Ross would stay with each of her children for up to 3 months to spend quality time with them and their families and also because "she didn't have the means to live by herself".
Mrs. Lane's grandfather from her dad's side was W.E. Gregory; her grandmother died when Mrs. Lane's dad was only two years old which then left him in the custody of his aunt. They were all born and raised in Texas. During the time her grandparents lived, the state of Arizona did not exist.
Mrs. Lane's parents fell in love at a very young age and were married for a very long time. They met in 8th grade in a Texas middle school, and stayed together until the very end. "They were married until they died", says Doris. What Doris remembers most about her parents is her dad's teasing and her mother's cooking. Doris's mother did not work outside the home; she raised her 8 children. Her mother made delicious fried chicken, cobblers, and banana cream pies. She would also make taffy, which Doris loved to pull along with her siblings. During WWII there was no sugar so her mother used honey when baking rather than sugar. Doris's mother made her sew once when growing up, and from then on she started sewing as a hobby. Doris sewed for everyone in her family.
Doris's dad worked as a farmer; he share-cropped cotton, and traveled in a wagon with horses. He was advised to move to Arizona through a family member. From Texas they traveled in a wagon to move to Arizona. Doris remembers they carried a jar with them as a portable bathroom. Once they arrived in Chandler, Arizona they lived in tents with no floors for a while. "It was hot" says Doris. Then Mr. Gregory found a job with a Mr. Anderson. They then moved to the city of Higley, then to Queen Creek where they stayed for a while. Mr. Gregory helped build a new school in Higley. Then they again moved to Higley Rd. and Warner Rd., where they lived for a short time, later moving to the town of Gilbert where her dad was going to run the 76 service station; they lived in a little house in the back. The service station sold "everyday things that you would need", says Doris. The reason Doris moved so much was because of her father's job. With each move, he tried to find a better job to sustain his family.
Mrs. Lane has 5 sisters and two brothers. Dora was the oldest, Doris is the second oldest, then Melba, Wanda, May Ella, the two brothers Burl and Ellis, and Diana was the baby. Doris remembers that she and her sisters would wax cars and would get paid 12 dollars. Doris skipped sixth grade because she took a test where she exceeded, but then she struggled in school. "I stumbled for a long time; it was hard to catch up". When Doris graduated there were only 14 students in her class. In the classrooms there was no air conditioning or water.
Doris talks about growing up during the Mexican segregation in Arizona. The Mexicans had their own school from grade school to junior high, and then in high school everyone was integrated. It was a normal way of living for everyone growing up in this time. She had close friends who were Mexican. She enjoyed going over to their houses and eating their "Spanish food".
She remembers climbing trees to spy on a cute little boy who she had a crush on when she was about 10 or so. Doris talks about falling in love with her first and only "man teacher" because she had never had one growing up; all the girls were very surprised and excited to have a man teacher for the first time. Doris was on the volleyball, basketball and baseball team. She was a very athletic woman.
Doris married in her senior year when she was only 16 years old. Doris stopped attending school after she married and didn't have any plans or dreams. She lived one day at a time, enjoying each day to the fullest. "I wanted to absolutely do nothing", she says. She just wanted to live a simple life. She volunteered taking care of babies at a clinic and volunteered at the school in the nurse's office, and in her son's classes. Doris would also take care of her sisters when they had their children and when they were sick. Doris did not have an official
job; she just volunteered in various places where they needed her help.
Photos courtesy of the family.
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When Doris married into a Mormon Family, she tried to convert from Methodist to Mormonism but never did, and her husband chose to follow her instead. She went to lessons for several months. Leo's family did not approve of him marrying a non Mormon. A friend of Leo's built the home where Mrs. Lane lives in now. Many people petitioned to get the home but Doris and Leo were picked to get it.
Doris loved the early years of her marriage because her family would go over and visit with their kids, but at the end of the day they'd all leave and it would just be her and Leo with their dog at the house. She never had to cook Sunday dinner because they were always invited somewhere. Doris and her husband would play basketball for fun. Doris remembers a time that she and her husband were picking cotton and her husband got tired so much more quickly than Doris did. He told her he was going to pay her for every hundred she picked, thinking that she wasn't going to pick much, but she proved him wrong. With the money he gave her, she bought her husband a gun. Leo owned two guns but their son never knew about it because they thought it was important for Kevin to grow up in a safe household.
Women didn't work much then. Doris worked at Motorola until she and her husband moved to their house. Her husband didn't believe in women working; he said that if she was going to work then he wouldn't. She didn't really think anything bad about her husband's ways because it was normal. She explained, "Kentucky men did not want their wives working".
Doris and Leo were married 18 years until she became pregnant with her only child Kevin in 1963. She was surprised to have become pregnant; she and the doctor thought she had ulcers, until the "ulcers started growing", says Doris. Then the doctor realized she was pregnant.
Doris remembers a funny story about her son when he was little. Doris had some gingham material, and she was going to make herself a skirt and her son a shirt but her son said "Mother, boys don't wear those, not like that, not with their mothers. I'll wear the red and you wear the green but we are not dressing alike". Her eyes lit up when talking about her son and how proud she is of the man he's become.
Doris says "Life is what you make of it; you can be one thing and somebody else can be another. I think it's actually doing your own thing and enjoying it but doing the right thing, not the other". She was very involved in church. She says that in those days no one tried to out dress the other. Everyone was rather simple and lived their lives wanting the best for their kids, trying to raise them with morals and values. She thinks it is something that has changed a lot in our society today. Some parents do not find it important to discipline their children and to teach them what's right and what's wrong.
If If Doris could change something about her life, she says that she would have liked to have worked. She says it was lonely being at home especially because she was married for 18 years before she had her son. Their plan was not to wait that long, she just never got pregnant until she had Kevin. Today , she enjoys living alone and being outside taking care and watching over her plants.
Mrs. Lane is a wonderful and strong woman who is not afraid to speak her mind and say what she thinks and feels. She is a very optimistic woman who sees only the positive rather than the negative in life. She is a joy to be around, and it was an amazing experience to have met a woman who has seen some of the most important events in our nation's and state's history.