Counting the miles in Cleveland County Mary Joyce Hurst: From home on the farm to home economist

Story by Anna McDougal, OSU Library intern

The Cowboys in Every County team made a trip south to Sooner Town to chat with Mary Joyce Hurst. (We also interviewed her best friend, Betty Bellis, while in town. The two graduated from Oklahoma A&M College and later met in Norman.) Mary Joyce earned her degree in home economics in 1955 and still has very fond memories of her time in Stillwater.

About Cleveland County and Norman

Cleveland County, named for former president Grover Cleveland, is located right in the middle of Oklahoma and is the third-largest county in the state in terms of population. Norman serves as the county seat and is home to our rival-friends, the Sooners. With the presence of a major university, the county has numerous museums and cultural must-sees. For instance, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and the Same Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History are just two examples of what the area has to offer. While you’re in the neighborhood, the University of Oklahoma campus is a lovely place to take a stroll and view its beautiful landscape and historic buildings. The county also boasts several lakes such as Stanley Draper Lake and Lake Thunderbird, perfect spots to spend a summer afternoon.

The National Weather Center is located in Norman, which is fortunate since this part of the country is Tornado Alley. The Center is home to collections of research and information regarding storm history and can be toured if you make a reservation. Other meteorological organizations find their home in Norman, as well, as it is a hub for weather research.

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About Mary Joyce

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Mary Joyce Hurst

Mary Joyce was born on her family’s farm in Cotton County in 1934. She believes that you learn more from living in the country than living in the city. Her family grew cotton and later wheat. Everyone helped with farming responsibilities and chores, even Mary Joyce. Her mother grew her own vegetables and taught Mary Joyce how to can. They also butchered their own chickens and cattle for meat. Mary Joyce claims that the family ate enough chicken fried steak to satisfy her for an entire lifetime!

When Mary Joyce was a young teen, the family got electricity on the farm and were then able to freeze their food. A few years later, the family moved to a different plot of land where they built a house with running water, a real luxury! For her senior year, she transferred to Walters High School where she was involved with 4-H. She got a glimpse of the Oklahoma A&M College campus during 4-H Roundup, and when it was time to choose a college, she decided in the blink of an eye. In the fall of 1951, she packed her suitcase, headed to Stillwater, and moved into Willard Hall where she made a great number of new friends.

Much to her surprise, Mary Joyce took an art class under one of the instructors who had also taught her mother when she’d been at OAMC in the late 1920s! For her degree, she chose home economics, and as part of the curriculum, she and some of the other girls lived for several weeks in the practice house where they planned and cooked all the meals, did the budgeting, and earned a grade for their “home” work.

In her spare time she attended OSU basketball games, and she still believes that Henry Iba was the best coach the school has ever had, and will ever have. She claims to have never missed a game during her years as a student. She graduated in 1955 and began working for an oil and gas company temporarily while she waited for her husband to finish his engineering degree. The two then lived in Ohio briefly before coming back to Oklahoma so her husband could attend law school at “that other university” in Norman. Mary Joyce still lives in Norman today, and she stays plenty busy these days doing alterations, taking care of rental properties, and cheering on her Cowboys when they step onto the basketball court.

Here are a few more images from our trip to Cleveland County:

We’ve wrapped up interviewing for Cowboys in Every County, but we’ll continue to highlight our adventures on this blog. Check back often for more stories from the road.

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