Skip to main content

Ms. Kate Oliver Thomas and Mr. William Oliver III tell about their grandfather, Dr. W. H. Oliver, and his bear-skin gloves

Ms. Kate Oliver Thomas: So we're going to talk ... I was going to talk a bit about the gloves.

Interviewer: Oh yes.

Ms. Kate Oliver Thomas: That is the bear skin glove.

Interviewer: Wow. Looks like an actual bear skin.

Ms. Kate Oliver Thomas: Right.

Interviewer: Wow.

Ms. Kate Oliver Thomas: We played with those when we were kids. They were in a big matting chest.

Mr. William Oliver III: Well, it was cedar with matting over it.

Ms. Kate Oliver Thomas: Over it. Yes. Upstairs at what had been his house and where our aunt and great uncle lived. So, I mean, I-

Mr. William Oliver III: You can still smell the,

Ms. Kate Oliver Thomas: I can't smell. What can you smell?

Mr. William Oliver III: Oh, you can still smell a little like moth ball type stuff.

Interviewer: Oh, okay.

Ms. Kate Oliver Thomas: Oh, okay. So this is what I remember, that whenever we went to see a Tarzan movie-

Mr. William Oliver III: Yeah. We would...

Ms. Kate Oliver Thomas: Then we'd go home and whoever got the gloves was the great ape.

Mr. William Oliver III: And you had to go around and someone, whoever had the gloves would be waiting around a corner.

Ms. Kate Oliver Thomas: Jump up at you. Right. So it is some miracle, absolute miracle.

Mr. William Oliver III: That they survived. We've torn up almost everything else.

Ms. Kate Oliver Thomas: Right. Which shows you just how tough these gloves were. In fact, I think at one time we had his medical bag, his medical bag.

Mr. William Oliver III: Yeah. It was pretty ... it got real brittle, you know?

Ms. Kate Oliver Thomas: RYeah. But in this letter that he wrote home to his children and to the woman who was rearing them basically, he talks about that he was in New York at a conference, a medical conference, studying meningitis at the Rockefeller Institute. And so he says, "I bought a big bear overcoat today and had it shipped by express. Did not prepay express. Tell Kurt," that was his brother, "to pay and look at the bottoms of the coat and see if they have lead pencil marks on them. If they have, the man shipped the coat I bought. If they have not, he did not ship the coat I bought. Do not forget this. Look after it and write to me."

Mr. William Oliver III: I mean, that was ... he had to make rounds in a buggy, you know? And so it was pretty blooming cold, you know?

Ms. Kate Oliver Thomas: Right. This was written in 1913, so ...