Shirley Cleveland – An Autobiography
I was born July 14, 1935, at the family residence to Eva Garrett Matney and Benjamin Franklin Matney in Cleburne, Texas. I lived there briefly until we moved to Fort Worth with the family. From then until I was 5 years old, I lived in various apartments, but remember little about them. When I was 5 years old my Mother and Father bought their first house at 1801 St. Louis Street in the southern part of Fort Worth.
My father was crippled and had great difficulty finding a job due to his disability. This was before the Disability Act was passed in later years. But he was a very good small appliance repairman and managed to work on small appliances. He made a modest amount from this work. My mother worked at the poultry house in Fort Worth for a meager fifty cents a day. It was an unpleasant job due to getting and staying wet most of the day. They both rode the bus to and from work since we could not afford a car.
He finally was hired in downtown Fort Worth where President Franklin Roosevelt had created a work force called the WPA. This was government subsidized jobs so people could feed their families. They hired both women and men to work there according to their skills. My father was a sewing machine repairman. My friend’s mother, who lived across the street, sewed garments at the same location.
Then, in 1941, WWII broke out and all able-bodied men enlisted into the military. At this time, my father was able to get a decent paying job working in positions that were vacated by those leaving for the military. He was sent to California by the government as an instructor, teaching sailors mechanics while in port, waiting to be shipped out to the war. Our family made several trips to California with my father, who was trying to make a decent living for us. Apparently, there were few good paying jobs in Fort Worth. But each time I would start having severe asthma spells and no amount of medicine would stop the attacks. My parents were told if they did not get me out of California, I would not make it. Back to Cowtown we had to go.
We returned to 1801 St. Louis Street and most of my fond childhood memories are still of this house, the many kids that lived around the area, and the good times we all had playing games of yesteryear. I attended Alexander Hogg Elementary School, then located on St. Louis Street. I went from there to just across the street to Jennings Junior High. These years are really what I have fond memories of with the kids I knew and ran around with. Some of them were only from school, but most lived nearby. I went to the movies, especially the Tivioli and White Theater. Later I learned to roller skate at Daggett Roller Rink off Hemphill Street.
At the age of 15 my family move to Worth Street, which today is in the hospital district of Fort Worth. Why my family moved I still do not know but it broke both my sister, Mary, and my heart. I felt like I would never get over this move and it took many, many years to do so. I enrolled at Paschal High School where I never felt comfortable with the teachers or students. I knew no one and could not get interested in my studies and spent little time on them.
It was at this time, while I was still in the tenth grade, that I went on a blind date with David Cleveland. We were introduced by a friend on July 14, 1951, my birthday. We went to a drive-in movie and saw “Girl On Jones Beach”. I was not too impressed by this boy and really did not intend to see him again but as things turned out he asked to see me the next night and I accepted. From the first night until we married on September 8, 1951, we dated every night.
On July 4, 1952, we had a son named Leslie Joe Cleveland at St Joseph Hospital in Fort Worth. He was in the first graduating class from Trinity High School and has pursued his passion for law enforcement until the present time.
David worked at surveying and mechanics jobs. We purchased our first house in the Riverside area of Fort Worth. When Joe was around 9 years old, we moved into a newly built house in Arlington. David was working as a helicopter mechanic, traveling around with a crop-dusting company in Oklahoma.
It was during this time I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a medical person. I had wanted to become a doctor since I had lived on Worth Street but knew my family could never afford the cost of such a dream. So, I decided that maybe I could become a nurse. I am not sure how long these dreams and thoughts went on before I began doing some research. I guess seeing my father go through so much illness in my growing up years probably played a large part in this fantasy. How could this be possible since I had quit school near the end of the tenth grade? My thoughts and days were filled with how I could get started fulfilling this quest. Checking into various things and places, I settled on maybe I could be an LVN (licensed vocational nurse).
After finding out that even to get into LVN school at All Saints Hospital I had to have a high school diploma or a GED, the only option was a GED. So, I started out trying to find out how and where I could get this important piece of paper. After finding out where I could go and take this test (at the TCU campus) I questioned if I had the “smarts” to pass it. I decided after much time dwelling on it, I would never know until I physically went and tried – so I did. Some weeks later, through the mail, I found to my amazement I had passed the GED test. I then moved forward to things I needed to do to get into the next part of my dream. I was still thinking in my mind that I probably did not have what it took to succeed. I had to wait nearly a year before another class would begin so the waiting and anticipation began again. I did take the necessary tests, oral exams, etc., along with about 100 other applicants. When I found this out my spirits were not high, but I kept on praying and praying that I would get in. We were told they could not take but a fraction of the number who had applied.
I did get into the class starting in 1963, where I watched daily as students dropped out of the program for one reason or another. Ultimately in the end, we graduated with less than half of the beginning class. Several months before graduating from LVN school, the hospital offered to train nurses for a Surgical Technological Course. They had decided to accept three soon-to-be graduate nurses from my class. We were told how to apply and told if we were accepted and did not pass our LVN exams (state licensing tests given in Austin in a few months) we would automatically be dismissed from surgery school.
Still dreaming, I went ahead and applied for this additional schooling. Again, many applied. The last day of LVN school found me planning to be in more schooling. I did pass and began immediately along with only 5 other nurses with everyday classes to obtain a surgical technology license. The hospital had selected three recent LVN graduate nurses and three long time nurses who had been working for the hospital for a long time. While going to surgical classes, I was also working in surgery on my LVN promise of a license. I pulled my share of “call backs”, plus my studies, and worked an eight hour surgery shift. I passed my licensing tests and my surgical training.
I made a lot of new friends in surgery which became my love for the medical field. Several of my friends knew I had a longing for another child through adoption. One day Helen came to me to offer a possible solution. Her husband ran a restaurant and there was a young TCU student who worked for him. She was pregnant and wanted to give the baby up. Maybe through him and a lawyer of our choice we could help this individual and we could have another baby. This plan was set up and on October 11, 1965, our daughter Kathy Shirlene was born and adopted. Even though I stayed home with Kathy until she was three years old, I longed for the nursing work again. I went back to the same hospital in approximately 1968 and took up the same duties as before.
In 1971 our family moved to Belgium for two years where David had been sent on a job for a Fort Worth company. We returned to our house in Euless. After our return home, our son Joe and his wife had our first grandchild, Matthew Wayne while just returning from a two year stint in California.
Again, my mind began to think and dream of maybe I could become a RN (registered nurse) with a lot of hard work. When investigating this possibility, I found that to be an RN I would need to graduate from college. As before, the long quest started again for me, and college here I come. I started, by going to college courses at night while working all day at the hospital. This was taking a long, so I left my job again and went to school full time until I graduated from college and RN school. I was 40 years old when graduating from RN school, but I went right back to the same hospital and in surgery.
In 1978 we purchased property on Eagle Mountain Lake where David built this “dream house”. After David’s mother passed away in 1980, his father moved into our basement apartment where he lived with use for 16 years.
Our daughter graduated from high school, into college, right into law school. She married upon graduating and six years later gave us a second grandson, Phillip Michael; then a lovely granddaughter, Linda Marie.
I retired from nursing in 1989. Since then I have had many surgeries and healthcare issues.
Shirley wrote the above herself during a long illness – these are the things she wanted you to know about her life.
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