Oral Histories

Billie Provonsha


Billie Provonsha

Wilma “Billie” Garlett Provonsha

Interview by Detta Dahl


Q: What is your full name?

A: Wilma Lorene Garlett Provonsha but I’ve been “Billie” all my life.

Q: When and where were you born?

A: I was born January 3, 1929, at home, on a farm in southern Missouri, in the Ozarks not far from the Arkansas line.

Q: When you were born, what were your parents doing? 

A: My father was a farmer; my mother was taking care of kids. I was the fifth child in a family of nine. When I was two years old I had spinal meningitis. I had to learn how to talk and walk all over again; I lost all my hair.

Q: You were two years old, do you remember this?

A: No, I don’t; I’ve been told. My mother used to dress me in my brother’s clothes. He was two years older than I and made me into a boy until I got enough hair so she could put a dress back on me. My father had made a tomboy out of me since I was born because he wanted a boy. I was supposed to have been “William” after his brother, Will and my mother had a brother, Will. Since I wasn’t a boy, I became Wilma and was Billie all my life. When I was born, my father only had one son and three other daughters, so I became a tomboy. He taught me to hunt.

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