Ed “Elmo” Kenneaster (1902-1998) was born in McAlester, Okla. The town was founded in 1838 and is the largest city of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The city was featured in the 1969 John Wayne movie “True Grit.”
Ed’s family moved to Wilcox, Ariz. and he attended grammar and high school there. Wilcox was founded in 1880 and is located in Cochise County.
Ed and his brother, Joe Strauss Kenneaster, moved to Clovis in 1919.
Joe, who was born in 1897, purchased the small Clovis El Rey Theater that was located at 623 Fifth Street. Ed ran the projector that was located in a small upstairs room. A small stage complimented the theatre that sported creaky wooden seats. Smoking was allowed, and its presence could be seen through the light from the projector. The floor was slanted, and often loose articles could be heard rolling down toward the stage. The building was torn down during the 1981-1984 redevelopment of Old Town.
Ed augmented his income by working part-time in a local packing house. He would meet his future wife, Mildred Naden, there. Mildred was born in Clovis in 1906. Her family were early day settlers. She graduated from Clovis High School in 1923. The statement under her attractive senior picture: “And form’d for all the witching arts of love.”
Soon after their 1927 marriage, Ed purchased the Clovis Steam Laundry, located 690 Front Street, now Clovis Avenue. The population of Clovis by 1930 was 1,310. The couple had two daughters: Marlene and Gail.
Ed’s business prospered since he offered a personalized home pickup and delivery. He sold the laundry in the mid-1940s and became a salesman for the Clovis Furniture store at the northwest corner of 4th & Clovis Avenue.
The popular 28-year-old Ed was elected to the Clovis City Council on April 14, 1930. F.A. Hill, who was elected to the Council on April 9, 1929, became mayor on February 4, 1931. Hill resigned on December 2, 1931. Ed served as mayor from December 2, 1931 to April 18, 1932.
The March 31, 1931, Clovis City Ordinance 125 fixed the salary for certain officials of the City of Clovis: the Chief of Police $90, which included water meter reader and license collector; night watchman $85, which included all duties assigned by the Chief of Police; and Superintendent of Streets $120 for services connected with water works and sewer system.
In the mid 1940s, Ed left Clovis Furniture and founded the Kenneaster Exchange, which sold used furniture at 1170 Clovis Ave. Their home was just north of his business.
Mildred and Ed sold their business in the early 1970s. They moved to the Woods Mobile Home Park.
Ed served as clerk for the Clovis Elementary Union from 1942-1948. He was captain of civil defense during World War II (1941-1946). It was a non-military effort to prepare Americans for military attack. It was replaced by emergency management and homeland security agencies.
Handsome Ed was also a “natural” musician. He couldn’t read a note but played by ear. He could play any instrument, his favorites being saxophone, accordion, piano and organ. He belonged to numerous local bands.
In 1995, Ed was inducted into the Clovis Hall of Fame. The event was sponsored by the Clovis Independent and the Clovis District Chamber of Commerce.
Prior to his death in 1998, Ed would often remark to his daughter Gail Kenneaster Howard that even though the city had grown and changed enormously, he still felt the friendship, love, and closeness of a small town. He firmly believed that Clovis really is a way of life.
The Kenneaster family is an important part of our rich heritage.