I have many pleasant memories of our time of living in my great-grandparents
former house. One of my pleasant memories was that of my Great-Grandmother
Wooten, Roxie Byrd, living with us for a while. (She had no home of her own.)
She loved to go down to the stock tank to fish. She actually baited the hook for
me to catch my first fish.
There were no rod and reels in those days. We would dig for worms to use as bait
down at the barn or behind our outhouses. We used a long cane pole with a long
line with a hook on the end of it.
One of my saddest moments while living in my great-grandparents former home was
the death of my baby brother, John Olen (about 3 years old). He had a very bad
rupture from the time of birth. I don’t know for sure if the rupture was the
cause of his death. He was sick for several days.
Our neighbors, Tommy and Aubrey Cox, who lived on the adjoining farm, would stay
with my parents late every night. My little brother was kept in “my” rocking
cradle. After he died, I remember sitting on the rail of the cradle, with a
broken heart, looking down at my baby brother. Mrs. Cox came and kindly led me
away, "For he was dead.
* * *
Now, in 1921, my oldest sister, Cloie, started to school. The school was the
north room of the present Masonic Hall in Eureka, Texas. I did not start to
school until Cloie was old enough to go with me. We walked about 2 miles to and
from school each day.
During my first day in school, my teacher wanted to teach us how to write our
figures. She wrote the figures one through ten on the blackboard and told us to
copy them on the blackboard.
A few minutes later she noticed I had written them up to 100. She did not know
that Granny Wooten had taught me how to write my ABC’s in the front yard with
a big nail. Of course I got a promotion my first day of school. Whoppie!
Then in January of 1922, we rented and moved to a farm about 5 miles southeast
of Navarro, Texas. We still think of it as the “Capehart Farm.” My father
farmed until he had to retire. Then my brother Orvil farmed it for many years.
It was there that I got my first experience of plowing with a riding cultivator
drawn by two horses. I had quit my yelling “Oh Me.”
We started attending the Hopewell School, which was about two miles southeast of
the Hopewell Cemetery, or about five miles from Navarro, Texas.
We had several years of Great Fellowship among many pupils. Our main games were
“Darebase” or “Wolf-Over the River.”
After a few years, our lady teacher bought a basketball for us. One of the men
in our community made a basketball hoop and nailed it to the side of the
schoolhouse. We had great fun competing with the other pupils to see who could
get the ball and make the most points. I could usually get the ball more times
than anyone else.
Then I noticed that two of the girls about my age were pretty, but could not get
the ball often. Then I began to struggle to get the ball more often and pass it
to first one and then the other so they would have a chance to make a goal. But
guess what - One day after recess, our teacher made the announcement that she
did not want any boyfriend-girlfriend attitudes in the ball games. I have often
wondered who she was talking to.
We made many lifetime friends while attending the Hopewell School. It was closed
a few years later and we were transferred to the Navarro High School.
Now let me give you a copy of a letter written to Ann Landers in our local
newspaper February 5, 1994.
Subject: Reader takes a look back to year 1930.
Dear Ann Landers:
I thought your readers might be interested in something different. Here is
what life was like in 1930.
Five gallons of gasoline 85 cents
One gallon of kerosene 18 cents
One quart of oil 15 cents
One haircut 25 cents
One roll of toilet paper 25 cents
My telephone 5.25 a month
Three pounds of rice 18 cents
A gallon of milk 12 cents
One dozen eggs 22 cents
A bakery-type apple pie 10 cents
Two loaves of bread 10 cents
Two pounds of butter 25 cents
Three pounds of brown sugar 21 cents
I used kerosene lamps, and the stove was kerosene-run as well. We had no
My average income from 1930 through 1933 was $3.00 a week. Our first child was
born at home. We called the doctor at 7 p.m. and he stayed until the birth,
which was 9 a.m. the next morning. His bill was $10.00
It’s hard to believe how much things have changed.
Z. W. Smoker, Munice, Ind.
Now let me give you a copy of an article I wrote about -
The Great Depression of the 1930's
I vividly remember the years of the Great Depression. I was about seventeen
years old when it began. The economic conditions were much different than now.
Instead of going to the supermarket, we went to the smokehouse for cured meat,
to the cow-pen for milk, to the hen-nest for eggs, to the garden for fresh
We had one payday each year, after we picked and sold the cotton crop. There
were no factories near.
For fun we contested each other to see
• who could pick the most cotton in a day
• who could get to the tank first to take a bath
• who could jump the farthest or the highest
• who could win in a corn-cob fight
• who could pin the other’s shoulders to the ground
We went to the picture show Saturday afternoon, to parties Saturday night, and
played baseball Sunday afternoon.
School was a place of great fellowship as we studied together, played
together, and worked together. It was also a place we could go to keep from
working on the farm all day.
The Great Depression of the 1930's had a great impact on my life. It taught me
to be willing to work for the good things of life. It taught me to be content
in whatsoever state I am.
January 31, 1988.
Speaking of Sunday afternoon baseball games, I always wanted to hit a homerun
like Babe Ruth. After church one Sunday, our family went home with my mother’s
sister and her family for lunch and visit Sunday afternoon.
There was going to be a baseball game a short way down the road. My cousin
Jessie Yates and I went down to watch it. Since they were short on players,
Jessie and I were playing. One inning while my team was at bat, the first three
batters got on base. Then I came to bat. I swung at the first pitch, and almost
missed it. I hit it with the end of my bat and bunted it to right field. It was
too far for the first baseman to catch and too close for the right fielder to
catch. The right fielder got the ball and tried to throw the runner out at home
plate. The throw was too late, so the catcher threw the ball to try to put out
another base runner, but his throw was too late or offside. Every time one of
them threw the ball we base runners would move up a base. As I was running for
home plate, the catcher got the ball. So I headed back for 3rd base, but the
catcher made a bad throw to 3rd base so I ran home.
I had finally gotten my “Babe Ruth” homerun with three runners on base.
Now, as a teenager, I had some great ideas. Not only did I want to be a great
ball player like Babe Ruth, I also wanted to be a cowboy like Roy Rogers.
One evening, down at the cowpen, after I had milked a cow, I jumped on her calf
as I was untying it to go to its mother. Instead of going straight to its
mother, it started running straight toward the wire fence at the other end of
the pen. Just before hitting the fence, it made a sharp left turn. I continued
straight toward that fence - head first. My right arm went through that wire
fence. I still have a scar about five inches long on my right arm because of me
trying to be a cowboy like Roy Rogers.
Speaking of taking a bath in the tank, there was one occasion that became real
serious. My brother Orvil, my cousin Jessie Yates and I were taking a bath in
I had not learned to swim very good. While we were sitting on the tank dam, I
decided to swim across the real deep water to a certain place where the horses
drank. Before I got there, I got real tired and decided to walk the rest of the way
out. But the water was still too deep for me to touch ground. I would go down
and touch bottom and come back up enough to get my breath. I couldn’t walk out
or swim out to the bank. I called for help and Orvil and Jesse ran around and
came to my rescue. I didn’t try that anymore.
Now, concerning the few parties I attended, they are hardly worth mentioning.
When I was attending Navarro High School, I attended two or three parties at
Navarro. One game we played was for the girls to get together in a room and give
each one a number. Then the boys would knock on the door so many times to get
one of the girls to take a short walk with him.
Now I am sure that was exciting if you were not a timid country
boy. Later I attended some country parties that one of the games was to choose a
partner and then hold hands with another couple as we would go through a certain
routine together. I also later attended some of the country dances in our
I remember walking about a mile to a dance down at our neighbor’s, Mr. Dalton
Farmer. I had been standing around down there about two hours when I glanced up
and saw my father standing there looking at me. He had become concerned about my
safety down there among that group. So he and I walked back home real soon.
I also attended some play parties at my Aunt Lovie’s house and also some of
her neighbors’ houses.
After the parties were over, I walked one of the neighbor girls home a few
times. My cousin, Jerome Yates, also walked her sister home.
One Wednesday night, as I was going home from church, I stopped at one of our
neighbor’s home where they were having a 42 party. Now, as they were playing,
Geat Minitra’s pocketbook dropped out of his pocket to the floor. One of the
neighbor boys saw it and picket it up without telling him. Later, Geat
discovered his pocketbook was gone and asked if anyone had found it. No one told
him what had happened.
Geat kept quiet for a while, then he jumped out of his chair and demanded
someone give him his pocketbook. He was ready to fight. So the boy who had found
the pocketbook gave it to him real soon. That was probably my most exciting
Winnie and I never attended any parties. For a long time, I just carried her
home after church while my brothers and sisters waited at the church until I got
back. We went to Corsicana to a revival several times. The last year or so
before we married, I would go up to her home on Saturday nights for a while. One
night I stayed a little late and Mr. Scruggs called Winnie and told her it was
bed time. I didn’t dare ask him where my bed was. (Ha-Ha)
* * *
Another item that was much different while I was growing up was our lighting
system. For many years, our lighting system was two or three kerosene lamps for
our whole house. If we needed to go into another room that was dark, we just
picked up the lamp and carried it into the other room for light.
About the year 1924, the man who sold the “Watkin’s products” had a
special product for sale one month when he came by. It was an Aladdin Lamp.
Mother bought one. For the next several years we had one room that was much
brighter than the others. It was much easier to study my school lessons at night
or to read my western magazines.
The next lighting advancement came a few years later when our landlord, who had
installed a “one house” electrical system, moved back to town (Corsicana),
and we moved into his house. We were then the only family in the community with
an electrical lighting system for several years. Of course, all country homes
now are lighted by Texas Power and Light Co.
Another inconvenience during my early years was the lack of a communication
system in our
community. Most families did not have a telephone in their homes for several
years. I think I was about twelve years old when my parents got a phone in their
It was much different than now. We did not have a private line. There was
usually about five or six families on the same line. Our line ran about five or
six miles over to Eureka Texas. Several homes were attached. There could be two
or three people quietly listening to our conversation. Usually there were no