Story Corps

Roberta Keys Torn and Susan T. Young

Roberta Keys Torn is the sole surviving sister of the Keys quadruplets, born in Hollis Oklahoma on June 4, 1915. The “Keys Quads”, as they were called, were the first known quadruplets of the same sex to live into adulthood. She recounts her unique story with her daughter, Susan Young.

TheOn June 4, 1915 an historic event occurred in Hollis, Oklahoma. Alma Keys gave birth to four daughters. The multiple births were somewhat of a surprise. Everyone knew Mrs. Keys was large but no one anticipated four babies. There were no sonograms or any other way to determine specific details of Mrs. Keys’ condition. The births occurred in the Keys home which was filled with many family members who had come to assist in what was anticipated to be a complicated birth. The only complication turned out to be the multiple births. Each of the quadruplets was healthy and weighed about 4 pounds at birth. TheEach girl was named after women in the room who helped with the deliveries. Flake and Alma Keys already had four children so with the births of four new sisters, the family size doubled overnight. The word of the multiple births spread quickly in southwestern Oklahoma and people came from far and wide to see first-hand of what they’d heard.

DrAmong the witnesses to this blessed event was the attending physician, William Carrol Pendergraft, M.D., my great-grandfather. Dr. Pendergraft had the largest practice of any physician in southwestern Oklahoma and he cared for most of the families in that region during the early part of the 20th century. During his career, Dr. Pendergraft helped deliver thousands of babies, but none garnered as much attention as the births of the Keys quadruplets. The stories were shared with succeeding generations and I heard them while growing up in Amarillo, Texas. I never knew the Keys family. I had only heard about them. Roberta’s involvement with StoryCorps was purely coincidental and unknown to me until I began producing this interview. To hear Roberta, a women whom I had never met, identify my great-grandfather by name as the doctor who delivered her and her sisters was a bit surreal. It was also affirming that our world can, at times, be quite small.

TheIn her interview, Roberta recounts the unique life she and her sisters lived in the early 20th century. The girls became a cause celebre during their young lives, being showcased at state fairs and early television shows. The four sisters were given scholarships to Baylor University and received their degrees from the Governor of Texas. They lived together until after college at which time they began to assert their own identities. Roberta is the only surviving sister and in her StoryCorps interview, she describes how her unique birth set a path for her unique life.

Paul Pendergraft
Senior Producer, News and Public Affairs
88.7FM, KUHF-Houston Public Radio

For more information or if you would like to tell your story to KUHF, contact Paul Pendergraft at PPendergraft@KUHF.org.

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Fujio Watanabe

Media Productions Manager

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