R.C. McCourt was a member of the WCHS Board of Directors when he published the following in 2001 for distribution to his family, friends and local libraries. He did not attempt to sell his work.
This book is affectionately dedicated to Iuka,
my lovely wife for 57 years who taught me much;
to Diane and Myra, our wonderful daughters;
to Eugene and Bertha, loving parents
who cared and worked so hard for me;
and to three splendid grandchildren, Steven, Sara and Jacob, who will make things happen in this 21st century.
Also, I wish to thank the editor of the Little Red River Journal who kept these articles,
to my faithful typist Ruth Browning
and to Eddie Best, my good friend and capable advisor.
Introduction ................................................................................................................ 5
About the Author ....................................................................................................... 5
Good Ole Summer Time ............................................................................................. 7
The Roaring Twenties ................................................................................................ 9
Fourth of July in Pangburn ......................................................................................... 8
Come Saturday Afternoon ....................................................................................... 10
Bring Your Chair for the Medicine Show ................................................................ 11
Summer Revivals ..................................................................................................... 12
Ole Swimmin’ Hole ................................................................................................... 13
My Rural School District ......................................................................................... 15
Victrolas and Records .............................................................................................. 15
September Days ....................................................................................................... 15
Cotton Gins and Giggle Water ................................................................................ 16
School Days ............................................................................................................. 17
For Whom the Bell Tolled ........................................................................................ 18
First Tornado ............................................................................................................ 19
My First “Talkie” Movie ........................................................................................ 20
Christmas Time in Yester Years .............................................................................. 20
Terms of Endearment ............................................................................................... 22
Wise Sayings ............................................................................................................ 22
Work of Lads in Yester Year ................................................................................... 23
Party Line ................................................................................................................. 22
Graduation Day ........................................................................................................ 24
Small-town Doctors .................................................................................................. 25
Bitter Tears .............................................................................................................. 26
Civilian Conservation Corps .................................................................................... 28
Ford’s Model-T ........................................................................................................ 29
Encouragement Will Help ........................................................................................ 30
The Thrifty Thirties ................................................................................................. 31
Country Music .......................................................................................................... 33
The Last Square Dance ........................................................................................... 35
Pangburn Track Stars of Former Days .................................................................. 36
My First Trial ........................................................................................................... 37
Just Plain Bill ........................................................................................................... 38
Remembering Sunday School and Church ............................................................. 39
Smoking in the Outhouse ........................................................................................ 41
Spring Comes to the Hills ....................................................................................... 42
The Cafe .................................................................................................................. 42
The Raleigh Man ..................................................................................................... 44
White Shoes and Red Mud ...................................................................................... 44
What’s in a Name? ................................................................................................... 45
The Fearless Boyhood Friend ................................................................................. 45
Down Memory Lane ............................................................................................... 46
Remembering Teachers ........................................................................................... 48
The Big Sleet of 1932 .............................................................................................. 49
Reflections on Life .................................................................................................. 49
Farmers’ Mercantile Across the Years .................................................................. 50
Radio Heyday .......................................................................................................... 51
Busy Little Bea ......................................................................................................... 52
Winter Nights as a Kid ............................................................................................ 53
Winter in the Foothills ............................................................................................. 54
Justice Versus Injustice .......................................................................................... 55
World Series Memories .......................................................................................... 56
Free Haircuts ........................................................................................................... 57
Tonsil Clinic ............................................................................................................. 57
Sports Skits .............................................................................................................. 58
Pauline and Everett: People Who Make a Difference .......................................... 60
First Trip Out West ................................................................................................. 61
Home Remedies ...................................................................................................... 62
Wagons ..................................................................................................................... 63
Meeting the Train at Pangburn ............................................................................... 64
Two Pioneers: the Captain and the Doctor ............................................................ 66
Recalling the Big Band Era .................................................................................... 67
Some Great Moments in Sports ............................................................................. 69
Cruelty ..................................................................................................................... 70
Good Manners Make a Difference ........................................................................ 71
Breaking Home Ties ............................................................................................... 72
A Short Trip .............................................................................................................. 72
Reunions: The Front Side of the Rainbow ............................................................. 73
Some Other School Memories ................................................................................ 74
The Changing Forties .............................................................................................. 75
Of Movies and Actors ............................................................................................. 76
Funny Paper Characters ......................................................................................... 78
Famous People and Events of the State ................................................................. 78
Epilogue: Some of America’s Past Is Slipping ...................................................... 80
This book is a series of little stories about folks that I knew and events remembered from about 1925 through 1950. Mainly this period took in the Depression years and the World War II years. These stories are about people and events in White and Cleburne Counties, Arkansas, but mostly in the Pangburn area. Most of these folks have passed from this life. I refrained from using actual names in some cases for fear of embarrassing someone. These articles were written for the Little Red River Journal from 1980 to 1989.
The farmers on their small hill farms had a hard and difficult time during the Depression. But they worked hard and kept the faith that things would be better for their children and grandchildren. And they were right. The war years brought sadness and loneliness and hardships to some families.
If folks who have an interest in this era or can relate to some of these events enjoy reading about them one-tenth as much as the writer did in remembering them and getting them into print, then all of us can smile.
I was born September 4, 1920, three and a half miles east of Pangburn. My mother Bertha Doss McCourt (8-17-1892 to 1-4-1972) was born between Sidon and Rose Bud. My dad Eugene McCourt (7-20-1891 to 11-27-1961) was born in Pangburn two hundred yards north of the city limits and about a hundred yards west of the Hiram Road. They are buried in the Henderson Cemetery at Pangburn. They had eight children. Four died young and the rest are my brothers Cecil and Carl Ray, sister Bonnie Jean, and myself.
I was called “R. C.” growing up but later the government wanted a full name so we sent in Robert Clinton. Also I was called “Arkie,” “Slim,” and “Mac,” and a couple of other names I won’t mention. I went 12 years to Pangburn schools. I attended Grubtown rural school two months.
I loved baseball and played it from age 10 on, playing three years on the American Legion Junior Team. In 1937 we won district and played in the state tournament in Fort Smith. After finishing high school in 1938, I played that summer with the Beebe NYA team. I played with the CCC Camp Willard team in 1939; and, after winning the Box Elder League, we played in the state semi-pro tournament in Brigham City, Utah. At this time there were 1,520 camps with some 300,000 boys across the country. I was one of 20 boys voted “All American” in CCC baseball that year, a good honor that was appreciated.
Next, I worked in war defense work in California until going into the military. I married Iuka Taylor of Heber Springs on December 27, 1941, in Las Vegas. I took basic training at Camp Hood, Texas. I was separated at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
I received a B.A. from Harding University in 1950. I taught a while and then worked some in sales for a Chevrolet dealer in Gladewater, Texas. I entered the Postal Service in 1956 and retired with 29 years service in 1983.
We lived in Gladewater 37 years and my wife was head city librarian for 17 years. I served as a deacon and as an elder in the church there for 10 years. We retired and moved to Searcy in October 1988. My wife died December 21, 1998.
We have Diane (Mrs. Ed Fortner), born in 1945, who is a librarian at the University of California. Myra Jane (Mrs. Jay Shock), born in 1950, is a librarian at Central Arkansas Christian Schools in North Little Rock. I have two grandsons, Steven and Jacob, and one granddaughter Sara.
R. C. McCourt
What did we do in the summers of the ‘20s and ‘30s?
Well, as I recall, there was never a dull moment. We worked very hard the first part of summer cultivating crops. Many long hours were given to cotton chopping and corn thinning. A little fellow not big enough to swing a “goose neck” would sometimes serve as water jack. Did you ever know of anyone who would lean on his hoe, look up and wish for that little thunderhead to bring on a shower and muddy the patch so he could take off the rest of the day?
Farmers hoped to have cotton all chopped over and “dirtied up” by the last week in June. Everyone hoped to be through cultivating by the middle of July. It did a farmer a lot of good to stick his thumbs into his galluses and grin and say, “I got it all laid by.”
Just about everyone looked forward to the Fourth of July picnic in Pangburn. Back in the ‘20s and early ‘30s many families would bring a picnic lunch and spread with one or two other families. There were trinkets for sale for the kids, and there was always entertainment such as rodeos, string bands, baseball games and dancing.
In 1936 the Oklahoma Playboys came and played both afternoon and night in the Legion Hall to a full house, a full front porch, and many looking in the windows. They played “Is It True What They Say about Dixie?” so loud that people in Letona could have heard it.
After crops were laid by, hay hauling became the order of the day. This could turn into hard, hot work. Then, the women folk became caught up in fruit canning, fruit drying and kraut making. Did you ever crawl up on a flat tin-top building to place a sheet full of fruit for drying and touch a bare foot to that hot tin? What was said was not always printable.
Another summer activity was church meetings or church revivals, as they were called. They began about the 10th of July and went on into September. Church buildings and school buildings were used some, but the big crowds went to the brush arbors.
As a youngster, I attended one many times in Grubtown below the Stahle Hill and also one in Little Red. Then about this period and earlier the tabernacle building across from the high school had some big crowds. The elevated floor and the open-out walls fascinated most kids.
Also, in early summer many rural churches would host an all-day singing with dinner on the grounds. Everyone who claimed to be a song leader would get his chance. Big old teenage boys could fill up on fine food and also do a little “sparkin” with the pretty girls.
Throughout the summer months we played or watched a lot of baseball. Many enjoyable and comical incidents would happen at these games. Also, we youngsters went swimming in Little Red a few hundred times. We went some little ways along the bridge but mostly we went to Slaten Shoals. If we went in a car, we entered from the north side, the shallow side. But when we walked, we jumped in from the south side.
Another annual summer event in the lives of many of us was the Heber Reunion which was around the first part of August. They had a nice park and huge crowds in my growing up. Many out-of-town youngsters would spend a night or two sleeping out on park benches or the grass. My good friend Paul Strong and I stayed all night in the park in 1936. We tried the benches but hoodlums kept dumping us so we tried the grass. Then they rolled trashcans over us and threw watermelon rinds our way. We slept very little.
Was the era really “roaring” as it has been dubbed? Was it really the age of roadster cars, raccoon coats, bobbed hair, low-waisted dresses, the Charleston and free spending? Many of us can remember this era and perhaps this sounds about right. There was a little recession early in the decade but from about ‘23 on, prosperity leaped up and hit folks in the face. Do you remember most young men combing their hair straight back and slicking it down tight against the scalp?
What did we read in those days? A lot of folks read “Jiggs & Maggie,” “Little Orphan Annie,” or “Mutt & Jeff” in the funny paper. Some magazines were Southern Ruralist, Cappers Farmer, Women’s Home Companion and Liberty. In these early times women got their “soap opera” stories from True Story and True Romance. Also, many farm homes took the twice-a-week Kansas City Star. Zane Grey and Jack London were popular book authors.
Ladies hem lines peaked around ‘28 and probably dropped with the crash. Knickers were worn some by young women in the cities. But in the small towns it was mostly boys who wore them. Short hair came in like a bang in the ‘20s for the women--bobbed, wind-blown, sidesaddle and other ways. Some young men were getting away from Bull Durham and Prince Albert, and were discovering “ready rolls.” People walked a lot or rode in Model T Fords, which was the main car at this time. On long trips, nearly always they went by train. Harding, Coolidge and Hoover were in office during this era. Prohibition was in effect but there was still much booze flowing across the country. Bootleggers were galore, not only in New York and Chicago, but even in the small towns over the land.
Victrolas and records had made it big in these times. You old-timers can remember the railroad singer and yodeler, Jimmy Rogers, doing “All Around the Water Tank” and “In the Jailhouse Now.” And how about the Carter family doing “The Rosewood Casket?” And some of the more jumpy tunes were “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Shine On, Harvest Moon,” “Sweet Adeline,” “After the Ball,” “Bill Bailey,” “My Wild Irish Rose,” “Melancholy Baby,” “I Get the Blues When It Rains,” “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby,” “Tea for Two,” “Exactly Like You,” and “Who’s Sorry Now?”
The ‘20s were known as the golden age of sports. In boxing Jack Dempsey, one of the all-time greats, had taken the title from Jess Willard in 1919 and would hold it till 1928, when Gene Tunney beat him.
In football, schools like Stanford, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Army, Harvard and Yale were the powerhouses in those days. Red Grange of Illinois University and Ernie Nevers of Stanford were the two greatest players of this era. Alonzo Stagg, Pop Warner, and Knute Rockne were outstanding coaches of this period.
Baseball made great strides during the ‘20s. Babe Ruth not only built Yankee Stadium, as the saying goes, but, perhaps, saved the game because fans started coming to watch the Babe and a few others put the ball over the fence. In 1927 he sent 60 of them sailing out of the park. Also, this was the age of Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Rogers Hornsby, Honus Wagner, Foxx, Ott, Root and Grove. John McGraw of the Giants, Connie Mack of the Athletics and Miller Huggins of the Yankees were highly respected managers in those days.
Some have called the ‘20s the golden age of motion pictures although I would have thought the next decade was. There were hundreds of silent films made during this era and many of them were westerns.
In 1927 the first Academy Awards were presented. Janet Gaynor won best actress for her role in “Seventh Heaven,” a very fine and tender love story. “Wings” was best picture of that year and starred Clara Bow, Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen. This was the only year that the Academy would vote on silent films, for the very next year talkie films came out. Mary Pickford, sweetheart of America, won best actress in 1928 for her part in “Coquette.” Warner Baxter won best actor for “In Old Arizona.” The best picture that year, however, was “The Broadway Melody.” In 1929 the best picture was “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Norma Shearer won best actress and George Arliss best actor in other pictures. You may remember other actors in the ‘20s like Rudolph Valentino, Chester Morris, Harold Lloyd, Fatty Arbuckle, Slim Summerville, Marie Dressler, Irene Dunne, Fairbanks, Barrymore and Beery. Ten years later in 1937, Janet Gaynor was again nominated for her role in “A Star Is Born” but did not win.
For many, many years July 4th was a grand celebration for the people of Pangburn and surrounding communities. Coming almost at midsummer, it was our main hot weather holiday. To the ones 60 or over, they can well remember the chant “lemonade, made in the shade.” Bright-colored soda pop, ice cream, sno-cones, and the trinkets made the eyes of small children gleam. Do you remember when the picnic ground used to be over between Dean B’s place and Uncle Bart Sims’ place? Seems to me the new park began in 1929.
Do you recall all the political speeches each even year? Seems like the speakers always wore white suits, white straw hats and black ties. I know you can remember Riley and his mule merry-go-round. And then there were the boat swings.
In 1927 two small airplanes landed over in Judon’s pasture (Van Patten place then). A throng of us kids ran through rock piles, briar patches and mud holes because these were the first planes we had ever seen on the ground.
Other special events at the park were dances, rodeos and I remember one year they displayed a man buried alive. And, of course, there was always baseball, usually two games.
Can’t you just taste that lemonade and ice cream under those tall shade trees? And see your friends and relatives swapping tales? Ah, my friend, those were the days!
As a boy on a farm the only time we had to work Saturday afternoons was when it rained too much during the week, and we were up to our knees in crabgrass. A few farmers made their kids work six full days, but I sure felt sorry for them and believed that was being too strict.
I was grateful that our folks felt that, after we had worked five and one-half long days, we deserved Saturday afternoon for relaxation with friends. Looking forward to it helped ease the drudgery through the week. We farm kids cherished our Saturday afternoons in town and these were happy times for us.
We would come in at noon, take care of the teams, then each would reach for one of the tin tubs of bath water that had been placed out in the sun. One would go to the end of the well house, another to the back porch, another to the kitchen and, sometimes, one would stay right in the back yard bathing and shampooing the sweat and field dirt away. After many years with these ole round tin tubs, we got some oblong ones; and I thought, man, this is just too good to be true.
Next, jump into some clean overalls or khaki pants and, by 1:30, head for town. One summer my older brother bought himself a sailor straw hat. If we were working in a field near the house, about midmorning he would come in for a drink of water and try on the hat and look in the mirror. At noon he tried it on again. At 3 p.m. he came in again for a drink and once more put it on. Then just before going to bed, he tried it on once more. Somehow I got the idea he was proud of that hat.
Well, what did we do when we arrived in town for the weekend? We would wander from the barbershop to the drug store to the cafe, then to the pool hall and on to the gas station. Part of the time there would be a ball game to take in. Sometimes boys that had come from Hiram, McJester, Dewey, Clay, Drake Spur, West Pangburn and other places would just stand along Main Street and shoot the breeze. Some of the years there was a picture show on Saturday nights. Sometimes a group would dance at the Legion Hut. Sometimes a girl who lived in town, or one in the country, would invite her age group for a play party.
Saturday afternoons and nights like we remember in the ‘30s when rural kids came into to town are not a big deal anymore. But once they were very colorful. It’s nice to think about them once in a while.
In the early and mid-1930s the traveling Medicine Show was a big attraction in small towns across the country. A small, one- or two-man show might set up on a street corner for an hour on Saturday. After entertaining for a few minutes, he would pass among his listeners “hawking” his liniment, tonic, and corn remover.
But the bigger and better Medicine Show came to the park and played nightly all week. One such group was out of Batesville and they lived in house trailers and had their own out-in-the-open stage. They had fine vaudeville acts, and large crowds in the Pangburn area would gather on those warm spring or summer nights to forget their troubles for a while by splitting their sides with laughter. People who did not bring their own stools or chairs either stood or sat on the ground.
A character known as “Willie” was the star and did several blackface skits. Willie had a pretty wife who always sang a few popular and torch songs. Also, his wife and her dad (who was the owner and manager of the show) would play “straight” roles in the skits. Another very funny couple was “Boob” and “Frosty.” He was a big ole dumb, awkward, red-haired guy. She was a silly, giggling, bleached blonde. The piano player was always the handsome man with the wavy hair and pearly teeth. I think he doubled as Boob.
Our town liked this show group so well, and they liked us, too, so not only did they play four or five summers, but also they came two or three times in the winter. They played a couple of times in the school auditorium and at least once in the old American Legion Theater. That year in the old theater the show sponsored a young ladies' popularity contest.
Unlike the shows held in the open-air, summertime in the park, which were free, these inside ones charged a small fee for admission. Your ticket allowed you to vote for a contestant and also a top from a candy box was good for a vote. There were four or five girls in this contest, but I can only remember one, Ruth Edwards, who was the winner. Before the closing night got under way, I was standing on the walk out front. Two or three older guys were saying, “Ole Jule will see that she wins even if he had to plunk down 10, maybe 20, maybe 30 dollars more in votes.” They were referring to Ruth’s Uncle Julius Albert. Whether they knew what they were talking about, I never knew; but, anyway, she took first place and got a ring (or was it a watch?) as a prize.
Remember the old-time revivals back in the ‘20s and ‘30s in the rural countryside where folks flipped those hand fans with the snuff company advertisement on the back? Yes, the weather was hot but the preaching usually warned of a place much hotter.
Some of these summer meetings were held in frame church houses or schoolhouses, and some were held in brush arbors. They would begin about 8 and go for two to three hours, seems like always longer on Friday and Saturday nights. The women, young ladies, children and some of the men went in and took a seat. Most teenage boys milled about the grounds making trips to and from a nearby well. Sometimes two or three of the young ladies who were brave enough, made a trip to the well. But they tried to be back in five or 10 minutes lest their reputations suffer.
Many “sparkin” arrangements were worked out through the window screens or from the end of the bench row. If the girl you were interested in wasn’t sitting near the end, you simply pushed a note through or relayed an oral message down the line, asking to walk her home. Sometimes a head nodded “Yes” and sometimes “No.” Sometimes the note came back, “I’ll have to ask Mama.” And some just tore up the note and looked the other way. But, it was exciting.
There were pallets all over the floor for young babies. Those a little older would fall asleep and be carried to the wagon beds and placed on the straw and quilts. In some communities certain rowdy boys would swap the kids from wagon to wagon. It might take the rest of the night for people to get their kids traded back. Then, after T-models came along, some boys would lift the rear wheels off the ground and set them down in a couple of watermelon rinds. Of course, the driver would think his gears were stripped.
Now these sound like real funny pranks but really they were sort of mean. I don’t remember my age group doing any of these. But I do remember that a few rowdies would drink brew and get into scraps at some of these meeting grounds. They seemed to get by with it as long as they didn’t “disturb the peace.”
These old revival-meeting sites served the people, not only for religious purposes, but also as a big social outlet. Had it not been for these, there might have been a lot more old bachelors and old maids, because there are plenty of guys who would have been too bashful to have gone to the home and ask a girl’s Pa if he could “keep company” with his daughter. So, these ole meetings were a good thing--just as much a part of the American scene as blackberry cobbler, homemade ice cream or leapfrog.
Back in earlier times just about every community had a favorite swimming hole, be it Bluff Hole, Blue Hole, Case Ford or whatever. Ours was Slaten Shoals, located about a half mile above Hiram Bridge on the Little Red River. It was a real nice swimming place. On the north side there was a rather large sand and gravel bar and one could enter the shallow water here and go out to as deep as desired. This side was for the girls and small fry. The other side was for the “big boys” and the ones trying to be big boys, who were not afraid of going off the diving stand or the high swing.
The stream took about a 45-degree turn to the left here. Also its flow narrowed to about one-fourth the normal width. The result was that the water moved swift about a foot deep over the narrow part of the shoals. But you had a nice, deep eddy of water on the south side extending from midway of the river to the bank.
A group of boys older than my gang get the credit for making this a good swim place. They had carefully removed all snags, logs, rocks, etc. They built a fine platform that one could dive, jump or swing from. There was a strong swing made from wire cable, I think, tied to a huge limb some 30 feet overhead. So, a boy could swing from the platform and drop six or eight feet to the water, and this was not too scary. But, as a kid got older and braver, there were two more levels of fear to challenge him. Next was to take the swing above the platform and move up the bank to where it leveled off. This would carry the swinger considerably higher and further across the stream. And, then, directly behind this point was a homemade ladder secured to a tree. As a kid of 12 or 14, when I looked at that thing with its 10 steps, it gave me nervous rigors. And, listen, my friend, if you had the nerve to swing from step 10 of that thing, it took you high as the treetops and dropped you in midstream.
It was a great sense of pride to swing from a higher point this week than last. Our feats were common knowledge--you were a platform swinger, a bank swinger, or a ladder swinger. If word got around that Doc went from the second ladder step, Tom and Houston would vow to swing from the third the next day.
Guys who were a couple of notches older and bigger than my group took great delight in daring us smaller ones to outdo each other. As I recall, some of them were Vernice Nowell, Lawrence Fowler, Johnny Bartlett, Ercil Craig, Sam Goodwin, Doyne Capps, Arlin Hughes, Richard Johnson, Mell Epperson and a few more. Not polished enough for the Olympics, still Vernice was the best diver I saw go from the swing. I’m positive he was the most fearless, followed closely by Fowler and Bartlett.
A little later group to use Staten were Mitch Morrow, Lawrence Ghent, Tom Moss, John L. Doyle, Houston Butler, DeVoe Rains, C. E. Doyle, Leon Van Patten, Hugh King, Bosy Johnston, Shelby Ferguson, Paul Strong, myself and perhaps a few others.
When you see one of these guys from the old days, just ask him if he remembers that ole, high, 10-step ladder. Man, oh, man, what a frightening thing!
At one time about every four or five miles along a public road, a public school district was to be found. Places like Dewey, Little Red, Davenport, McJester, Hiram, Drake Spur, Clay, Pine Snag, West Pangburn and others were so designated.
This little white schoolhouse meant a great deal to the local public. Besides its use for school and school programs, it also served as a center for pie suppers, singings and preaching.
Of course, the district I remember best was Grubtown, located four miles east of Pangburn, because my brother attended there seven years and I attended part of a year. My folks lived directly across from the school ground from 1910 to 1924 and the school got water from our well. Also, there was a cluster of mailboxes in front of our place because this was a sort of crossroads point. Our good-natured mail carrier, Clifton Coffey, bounced along in a light hack over those deep wagon ruts.
Also, my mom could play our old organ to some degree and the young people like the Reeves girls, the Norman girls, the Reddick girls and Alta Garrison and others would gather around for a singsong. I remember hearing them do “Little Mohee,” “Red Wing,” “Red River Valley” and others.
In 1927 I attended part of a year at Grubtown and Guy Stewart had been hired by the directors to make the bigger boys “shape up.” On the second day of school the kids were lined up in rows out front, little ones to march first and then bigger ones. Well, ole Woodley Steward, who was about in the fourth or fifth grade, wanted to put on a little show for fun, so, instead of marching in, he hopped in like a frog. Of course, this brought giggles from the kids, but it also brought fury to Mr. Stewart. He secured the belt he already had hanging on a nail; and, as ole Woodley made his last hop to the top of the steps, suddenly he was jerked over by the collar. I’ve seen very few mules that ever got any harder whipping. Well, needless to say, ole Guy was in control from then on. Of course, today he would be fined $500 and six months in jail.
The year I went to Grubtown, I bought a corncob pipe for a nickel or dime to smoke rabbit tobacco, corn silks, etc. I kept trading it for bean-flips, a knife, a comb, and, by the fourth time I owned it, black tar and soot covered it. Also, we had quite a few schoolboy fights. Delton McCollum was quite a scrapper and whipped everyone his size and some bigger. When he could not find anyone else to scrap with, he would reach over and give old Elwood a whacking.
Another thing in 1927 was the big flood. You could view the Little Red from the top of Bruce and see it out of its banks from the Vaughn bottom clean on to Dewey.
The Stahle Hill was another landmark of that community. People who owned a car (usually T-Model) would test it on this hill. If it pulled it in high gear, they knew they had a good car and would boast about it. If it pulled it in low, your motor was average. If it would not pull it at all, it was time to trade it or repair it.
Some of the families living in the Grubtown District in the early days were Pollard, Doyle, Williams, Reeves, Murphy, McCollum, McCourt, Howell, Steward, Barber, Finney, Graham, Adams, Reddick, Ramsey, Mitchell, Yingling, Albert, Anders, Norman, Staggs and Griffin.
Remember the old hand-wind victrolas sometimes called graphanolias back in the ‘20s and ‘30s? You could order one from Sears or Wards or buy one at Pope Music Store in Searcy or at the Humbard Music Store in Pangburn.
Some records of that day were “Fate of Kenny Wagoner,” “Fate of Floyd Collins,” “Little Marion Parker,” “Letter Edged in Black,” “Rosewood Casket,” “Birmingham Jail,” “Ninety-Nine Years,” “Bully of the Town,” “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby,” “Then I’ll Be Happy,” “Black Bottom Blues,” “Down Yonder,” “Darkness on the Delta” and “Shanty Town.” And, of course, this was the era of the ole yodeler Jimmy Rogers who did “Waiting for the Train,” “Way Out on the Mountain” and “In the Jailhouse Now.”
Yesterday I daydreamed for a little while how it was as a kid starting back in the fall term of school in September. We usually began about the 10th and most of the years, due to the heat, they let us out around noon the fist couple of weeks. No matter how glad I was to close down in the spring, it was a great feeling to come together in the fall.
Remember how it was as kids when we wore our leftover summer clothes the early weeks of the term? Boys wore lightweight shirts and overalls that had been washed many times. You just could not have stood new, stiff overalls with all that dye. Girls wore their summer dresses and finished up their white sandals. Of course, all this was done for comfort, but I would say the main reason was for economy. Many small children went barefoot the early weeks. All girls wore dresses. Jeans, slacks, overalls, etc., for girls came along after my time.
What a scene, what a thrill, to be assembled that September morn on that ridge with a few hundred students and teachers! Little folk with tender minds, eager and filled with hope and expectations. They believed their teachers were absolutely sinless. Kids in the middle grades thinking about growing into junior high. Kids in junior high, changing their dress and hairstyles and using a little makeup on the sly to try to appear older. High school kids enjoying themselves and, perhaps, giving a little thought for on down the road. All in all, there was a big buzz of excitement; the air was charged with electricity.
Kids in school, from the little folk clear on through high school and college, usually make and keep one close, special friend. And this is good, provided they don’t exclude other kids. A wise teacher can usually handle this. My school days go back into the ‘20s, and I can still recall hi-top shoes for both boys and girls, black stockings and bloomers. Some girls wore longer dresses and did their hair up in a bun. Some of us thought this a little “old fashioned” but we never made fun. Today a bun is rather fashionable.
My generation had some tough times in an economic sense going through school, but we never let it bother us and seemed to enjoy life. We were not spoiled by free spending, gadgets and comforts. I don’t wish to sound haughty, but I believe that was to our advantage over today’s generation. We grew up knowing what a day’s work was and what a dollar was. Much of our training goes back to our parents who were hardworking hill people and to that little school that sat on the gravel ridge.
Hey, there’s the bell; it’s time for books.
Back in the 1920s and ‘30s it‘s quite possible that Pangburn ginned as much cotton as any place its size in the state or, maybe, the whole South. Three gins ran full time night and day in the heart of the picking season. Pangburn also had a reputation of a good grade of cotton, which made for a good market. Seems like Kaylor and Rowden 40 were a couple of long staple varieties. Cotton buyers would come in (some by train) and would stay at the Castleberry Hotel, which was very modern for that day. (It was the first in White County to have electric lights and indoor plumbing.)
Cotton wagons with high sideboards making their way to and from town was such a familiar scene in the fall of the year. Even until late at night we could hear some of these wagons bouncing along the road. I recall one farmer who came out my way that seemed to enjoy himself. After going to the gin, he spent the remainder of the day on the sidewalks and in the wagon yard tanking up on “giggle water.” Just before sundown some other farmer would help him into his wagon, wrap up the lines and point the horses toward home. Right down the middle of the road came the team as this guy crawled around in the wagon bed, singing and nipping his booze.
Some of the men who operated gins were Harve Short, Jim Ghent, Brad Henderson, Dan Shepp and, later, Bob Butler. Some of the weighers were Festus Lewis, Neely Lewis, Sam Ray and Austin Yingling.
Going to gin was a great experience for an 8 or 9-year-old boy, what with watching them weigh the cotton, then yell through a little window to ask, “Save the seed or sell?” Then, pull under the stand and, after sucking the cotton from the wagon, go back on the scales and weigh empty. Then watch your bale come out on the platform, weighed, tagged and pushed to the yard. Ray Price bought a great deal of cotton, and he always gave me a dime to impress my dad.
Sometimes Dad and I would eat some lunch when we got the cotton handled. Eppersons had a cafe on the west side and Goldens ran a restaurant in the block of stores up on Main Street. Do you remember Helen Golden and her brother Druie who helped in the cafe? Helen was a good basketball player. Also, back down near the gins, the Anderson Brothers, Mark and Luke, operated a lunch car, made, I think, from an old bus body. Their chili (10 cents a bowl) was just out of this world, even though the grease and suet were an inch deep on top of the meat.
Next, we would move on up, park the team in a wagon yard, and drop off a sack of corn at the gristmill for the miller to turn into meal. Then we would visit with friends on the sidewalks for a while and do a little shopping. (I think they called it “trading” back then.) I would check the Red Goose shoes at Brown, Crook & Lewis, Tuf-Nut overalls at W. C. Williams, and Big Smith and Lee’s at Farmer’s Mercantile. I got to drive the team home and a smaller brother and sister would meet us. Soon as we helped them into the wagon, they checked Dad’s pockets for some goodies. Occasionally, he would make like he forgot to bring some. But, after looking at the rolled-up lips and sad eyes for a moment, he would come forth with a sack of chocolate drops or peppermint sticks. Kids tend to think of their mamas and papas as just ordinary, but, when they become older and wiser, they know they were extraordinary!
Remember when we were kids in grade school, for opening exercises the teacher read a chapter from the Bible. Three or four kids recited a verse of scripture, then pledged allegiance to the flag. Then we would sing one or two folk songs, followed by a couple of patriotic songs.
We would do songs like “Row Your Boat,” “Nellie Gray,” “Juanita,” “Clementine,” “Maggie,” “Dixie,” “Ole Virginny,” “Star-Spangled Banner,” “Columbia the Gem,” “America,” “America the Beautiful” and, of course, our state song “Arkansas.”
About once a month the whole school would assemble in the auditorium for a special activity period. Sometimes some class or club would present a short program. Part of the time a local preacher would present some Biblical principles on good deportment, citizenship and right living.
In my earliest days we did not have water fountains so each student brought his tin cup. The school would furnish a water bucket; however, many of us brought our own water bottle or jar with our name taped on it.
Kids who lived out a ways brought a lunch. If they were out of paper bags, the Mamas wrapped it in any kind of paper at hand. A standard lunch consisted of a biscuit sandwich, a couple of big cookies or a fried pie, and an apple. Some brought a boiled egg or a baked sweet potato. We had a few hot lunches in the early ‘30s when kids brought some things and the Home Ec girls prepared it. They made delicious vegetable soup.
In those days long ago, all of us recall how special certain events were - like Halloween, Thanksgiving and the Christmas season. Thanksgiving was very special, and I can still see all those Pilgrims, Indians and turkeys we drew, colored, cut out and tacked all around the black board.
Schools the size of Pangburn usually opened their basketball season Thanksgiving afternoon. If the weather was good, a huge crowd of fans stood and lined the court on both sides and both ends and a good time was had by all.
As a young chap, I remember watching our school play on this outdoor court such places as Wilburn, Letona, Heber, Russell and Bradford. In the early ‘20s the ball court used to lie east to west in front of the present old gym. But by the mid ‘20s they bought land to the north and had room for basketball courts and a baseball field.
Some of the small country basketball teams had junior players 17 or 18 years of age and some senior teams had big ole hairy-chested guys 21 or 22. Pangburn teams were known as the Zebras in the ‘20s but by about 1929 or ‘30, they changed the mascot to the Tigers.
But, friends, across the years things have changed. Some things have been added and some have been taken away. We not only now have water fountains, plumbing, cafeteria, and gym, but they have removed the scripture reading, the preachers and the prayers.
This reminds me of a bit of humor where the school principal sees three boys on their knees shooting dice. He rushes up and says, “Oh, go ahead, I thought for a minute you were praying.”
Also, some of our old songs like “Dixie,” “Ole Virginny,” “Old Folks at Home” or “Ole Black Joe” are frowned on and objected to in many quarters today.
But, anyway, it’s fun to recall our school days once in awhile.
Bells have always served a useful and interesting purpose for people the world over down through the ages. Bells have been used to signal joy and gladness, like New Year’s Eve, or the signing of an armistice. Likewise, they have been used in a time of sadness like during a funeral of a well-known citizen or dignitary. Also, they have been rung as a distress signal for fires, floods, etc. And, of course, there was the old-time farm dinner bell. In times past the bell was widely used to call people to the town meetings and also to church services. But the bell that I’m thinking about just now and the one that touched my life the most was that ole school bell. Remember that thing? Sure you do. At one time that ole black bell was perched atop four posts that stood right next to the well house. Can’t you just see that ole sea-grass rope hanging from the wheel, dangling in the breeze with the end about five feet from the ground? For a good many years that thing rang at 8:30, at 12 noon, at 1:00 and at 3:30 for all the kids. And, of course, it rang at recess time for the little folk.
At noon time or at the end of the day, it seemed to be quite an honor to see which one of the bigger boys could fly down those stairs and hit the ground first. Boys like Doyne Capps, Vernice Nowell, Lawrence Fowler, John Bartlett or Mell Epperson would peek out the window; and, when the custodian, with watch in one hand, reached for the rope with the other, they would jump the bell and run a foot race down the stairs. But, on occasion, the custodian would fake it for three or four seconds, and, of course, these boys would wind up in the bottom hall in the arms of a waiting and angry principal. Uncle Mike Doyle got a big kick from pulling this prank.
Some other custodians who rang this ole black bell were Jimmy Martin, Clarence Edwards, Commie Doyle, Clay Williams, Frank Pierce and Arnold Houston.
That ole bell went bong-bong, bong-bong, about four or five double bongs. I can’t explain just exactly how it sounded, but, one thing for sure, should that thing ring right this moment I would recognize it. And so would you.
We are such creatures of habit that we usually remember the first time witnessing or partaking in some event.
Many of you remember Thanksgiving evening, 1926, at almost 6, when a big section of Heber Springs was leveled by a severe tornado. This was the first time for me to see the damage of a big twister. My parents took me and another couple in our Model-T up there the next morning. Thursday had been warm, humid and overcast all day, but, after the storm, Friday dawned clear and cold and later the sunshine sparkled. Many trees had been uprooted but in the ones still standing could be seen all kinds of clothing, towels and bed sheets flapping in the brisk wind. Even though I was a child, still it was vivid and sobering to me. Besides the many dead and injured, I recall seeing dozens of houses flattened and all the toys, furniture and canned fruit in a junk heap. Our natural laws are good for us on the one hand and we could not live without them, but sometimes there is a terror side, like blizzards, floods and tornadoes. Man learns at an early age to appreciate and enjoy the former but to respect and fear the latter.
It was in 1934, I believe, and, strangely enough, it was not in a theater at either Searcy or Heber but rather in the high school auditorium that I saw my first talking movie.
Some of the boys helped the “traveling man” bring his big projector cases and a couple of speakers up the stairs. Also, we helped him cover the windows with some rolls of building paper. Kids from the seventh grade up got to see it at a cost of 10 cents. The picture--some of you will recall--was “A Girl of the Limberlost” taken from Gene Stratton Porter’s fine novel of the same name. At the end there was scarcely a dry-eyed girl in the room and even the boys gave close attention.
The Christmas season is such a fine time of the year, all filled with emotions and great expectations. We are either sad, mad or glad. If we don’t get to be around close members of our family, it causes one to be sad. If we have to be around some person who is a stinker, it may make us sulky. But by far and away, we are around folks we really care for, close family and sometimes real close friends, and, of course, this makes any normal person happy. To share in some needy situation and to relax with kids and grandkids is what it’s all about, to my way of thinking.
Trying to compare the holiday season back when some of us were kids to the ones today would bring various answers. Some would say there is a great difference, some, a little difference, while a great many would say, “The real, true spirit of it has always been--and still is.”
As kids in grade school, with the approach of the Christmas season, the first thing we did was search for and bring a tree to our room.
This was a job for the boys and it was a great honor and much fun. The teacher would send twice as many boys as were needed because she was smart and knew it meant so much to each kid. The girls were much better at decorating the room. Sometimes a boy that had a crush on a girl would search hard to find out who had her name so he could trade for it.
On the last Friday before Christmas each room would have a program and exchange gifts. The teacher would get some high school boy or someone from the community to play Santa.
We sang the old standard carols like “Joy to the World,” “The Midnight Clear,” “Hark, the Herald Angels,” “Jingle Bells” and, of course, that all-time favorite, “Silent Night.”
Many songs have come along since I was a kid, like “Frosty,” “Santa Is Coming to Town,” “Rudolph,” and “White Christmas.” Some years when I was a kid there was a community tree and program in the school auditorium and sometimes at the Methodist Church.
What was it like in our little town in the ‘20s and ‘30s during the holiday season?
The general store did light decorating, had some toys, wearing apparel and, of course, fruit, nuts and striped candy. Those crates of apples and oranges would be individually wrapped in bright tissue paper and, boy, did they smell good!
Our local drug store had more gifts than other stores in town. Some folks still ordered from mail order houses and a few would slip down to the county seat and shop some at Sterlings and Pennys. But our local merchants did a fine job in those days.
On Saturday before Christmas and on the 23rd and 24th, the holiday spirit was really in the air. Sometimes some guys would become too loud and rowdy on the streets from drinking and once a fight broke out. Mr. Hilger, the mayor, asked someone to take the meanest ones home and appealed to the others to act decent because this was not the season of the year to act such a way.
What did we do at home back in those days? We had our own family tree, of course. Some years we used mostly homemade decorations. We kids would get a few simple but useful gifts, but we really enjoyed them. One year, I think it was ‘33, my
folks had run clean out of cash and could not buy the normal Christmas goodies like fruit, nuts, and candy. I overheard them talking, bless their souls, and they were very worried and concerned about this. Mom suggested selling about four or five of her laying hens but my dad said, “I got another idea.” He loaded two hams, five buckets of sorghum, and 50 pounds of dried fruit onto his wagon and went into town to try and sell it. No one had any money. A storekeeper named Mr. Gillihand took a look at the load and said, “Gene, I ain’t got any money to buy the stuff but I have a big family and we could use it at home. Come on in and let’s talk trade.” So Dad traded him that load of stuff for some apples, oranges, nuts, candy and several pairs of George Washington socks.
Usually farm families would have enough Christmas pies and cakes cooked up to last a week or more. Some of the years we would have as guests relatives like cousins, uncles and aunts. I hope all my old schoolmates and fellow ball players and good friends of my family across the years have a safe, quiet and happy holiday season. Be of good cheer, always.
In earlier times when a lot of people lived in small towns and communities, there was a popular custom; and a fitting one, I think, that when a person reached his or her 80s, many times this one was given a title of honor or respect. Of course, what we are talking about an “Aunt” and “Uncle” So and So. Many of these old-timers come to mind but, of course, I can’t remember all of them.
There was Aunt Jenny Hughes, Aunt Angie Van Patten, Aunt Molly Reeves, Aunt Lucy Lightner, Aunt Lizzie Stoltz, Aunt Sarah Jane Stahle, Aunt Dink Allen, Aunt Fannie Steward, Aunt Mattie Staggs, Aunt Mandy King, Aunt Minnie Henderson, Aunt Fannie Davenport, Aunt Callie Reddick and Aunt Bart Sims.
There were at least four Uncle Sams: Baker, Billingsly, Southerland and Sterling. Three Uncle Bills were Marsh, Cunningham, and Tarkington. Also you will recall Uncle Jim Hilger, Uncle Bob French, Uncle Jim Stoltz, Uncle Bob Allen, Uncle George Reddick and Uncle Bud Campbell. Others were Uncle Green Glenn, Uncle Joe Porter, Uncle Joe Howell, Uncle Jack Vaughan, Uncle Harris Marsh, Uncle John Coffey, Uncle Ed Bailey, Uncle Frank King, Uncle John King, Uncle Ed Yingling, Uncle Iverson Bowen, Uncle Bart Sims, Uncle Jeff Moss, Uncle Henry Adams, Uncle Dal Crow and Uncle Mon Wish.
Sometimes if a person reached into his or her 90s, friends of such a one might honor still further with the old patriarchal title “Grandpa” or “Grandma.” I remember old Grandpa Edwards who was the grandfather of Everett, Clarence, and Ruth. Then Aunt Fannie was also widely known as Grandma Steward. With all her great and great-great grandchildren, very likely she had more descendants than any living person has ever had in the Pangburn community.
The parents and grandparents of most of us never had a course in psychology, sociology or ethics. I doubt if my folks knew what these words meant, yet they had stored up in their minds two or three dozen wise sayings that taught me much. These quotations came from various sources: “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” “Old Testament Proverbs,” learned literary men of old, and, of course, were handed down to each generation. Many of these one-liners taught me as much on a subject as did an entire chapter in a book or a couple of sermons.
“Birds of a feather flock together,” is just chucked full of powerful thought. My mom used to tell us to always choose for our friends kids with reputations as good or even better than ours. She also told us not to date anyone that would not make a decent mate. Whether I heeded her advice on this last part, we’ll not go into right now.
Here are a few more: “A stitch in time saves nine.” “Haste makes waste.” “A burnt child is afraid of fire.” “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” “Honesty is the best policy.” “Experience is an effective teacher.” “A good name is better than riches.” “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.” “Strike while the iron is hot.” “Evil companions corrupt good morals.” “Don’t jump to conclusions.” “Where there is smoke, there is usually fire.” Many times this last statement was made when there was suspicion of a real-life soap opera incident and was said with tongue-in-cheek and raised eyebrows.
“Idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” “Don’t count the chickens before the eggs hatch.” “A soft answer turns away wrath.” “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” “Don’t burn your bridges behind you.” “Don’t be a stuffed shirt.” “Faint heart never won fair lady.” “Blood is thicker than water.” “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”
Back on the farm in the old days the entire family worked. Do you remember some of the jobs that were usually done by small boys? How about corn gathering? If there was a boy about six to eight, he would drive the team across the patch. If not, they would wrap the check lines around the sideboards and go without a driver. You took five rows at a trip with a couple of older guys pulling two rows each and a boy around nine to twelve pulling the down row.
Then another job that seemed to belong to a young boy was feeding cane through the juice press at the sorghum mill. Once I remember feeding that thing several hours and that night, while working on my lessons, every few seconds I would duck my head. After drinking your fill of raw cane juice, a little later one could take a piece of cane and sop some cooked syrup from the big pan. Yellow jackets got stuck up around those skimming holes and, when those things got between the toes of kids, it really hurt.
Some farmers rigged up a cut-off saw and pulled it with an old car. It was a young boy’s job to “tail” the poles. Another job for real small boys was to be “water jack” to the field hands. In hauling loose hay the smaller boy was put on the wagon to spread and pack down what the bigger ones pitched up. Then he was put in the hayloft to do the same thing.
Remember the telephone in the old days when from six to twelve families would be on the same line? Each family had a “ring” that was identified by a combination of shorts and longs. When folks were not too busy, like mostly in the wintertime, they listened in on all calls. As one was answering his ring, he could hear, click, click, click, as others took down the receiver. No one really thought it was very ill mannered because this was the way people heard news. Without radios and newspapers, this was their best source.
Once my mom was talking to a lady about both their lines being full of sheets and clothing and the snow was coming down hard. This ole fellow listening in blurted out, “It’ll bleach ‘em.” They came back to him, “What was that, Uncle Dal?” It embarrassed him for a moment but then he said it again.
Sometimes we had a little fun with our phone. There was this girl, we’ll call her Hazel, who would come and spend a Friday and Saturday night at our house. She had boyfriend #1 and boyfriend #2. Soon as my dad found out which fellow was coming over, he would go to a neighbor’s phone and call Hazel and make like he was the other guy and insist he was coming over. After keeping her in a dither for a few moments, he would start laughing and give himself away.
Sometimes the lines would get connected up wrong and you could hear a conversation several miles away in another community. Old-timers called this “cross talk.”
This is the season that high school graduates are making some plans. Some will go on the college, some the military, and others will go into employment. Seniors will be hearing speeches saying that this is not the end but merely the beginning. Don’t let them kid you--take it from an old sage. It is the end--the end of the best and happiest 12-year period that you will ever have. These memories will stay with you throughout life. There will be many helpful and influential friends down the way, but none will quite mean what some of your special schoolmates will through the years. I was closer to some mates than others, but like them all because they were the only ones I ever had or ever will have.
There are so many to be grateful to: our parents, teachers, coaches and fellow classmates. Back in my time, most parents put forth the following items for a boy in 12 years: 64 text books, 400 tablets, 24 note books, 500 packs of paper, 240 pencils, 40 ink pens, 1,920 sack lunches, 168 pair socks, 60 pair underwear, 12 jackets or sweaters, 6 heavy coats, 60 pair overalls or denims, 36 pair shoes, 3 dress suits, a lot of hopes, prayers, patience and a few boxes of aspirin.
Our parents many times had skinned knuckles, tired backs, and bought few things for themselves, but this worried them very little. Their satisfaction came as they sat there in the roped-off section beaming a big smile as they watched their Johnny or Susie on that commencement platform. What a delightful American tradition--I hope it never passes.
My teachers were a fine group of people. I put a lot of faith and hope in them. I knew they were older and wiser and had advanced training from Conway, Batesville, Jonesboro, etc. They whetted my interest and imagination in places away from the hills like California, Texas and around the world. I knew these folks were my ticket to strike back at hard times.
I recall the night my class marched. For a while before time to go over to the gym stage, we were trying on our caps and gowns in a classroom over in the Ole Main building. We were laughing and talking, having a good time. Suddenly we all got serious for a moment, formed a circle, and joined hands, and one of our mates, Avanell Ghent, (who normally was a real live wire) said the following, “We have been looking at each other for many years--but this is the last time we will all ever be together in the same room.”
Boy, what a prophetess. Sixty-three years have passed. Nellie was right as rain!
Many of you old-timers remember the medical doctors in our little town during the ‘20s and ‘30s. We are talking, of course, about Dr. R. N. Buckmaster, Dr. J. C. McAdams and Dr. C. M. Peeler.
There used to be an old wooden small building that stood across from the present post office. At various times it served as a cream station, shoe repair shop, barber shop and, for a time, the office of Dr. Buckmaster. I think Dr. Buck came to Pangburn from over near Pleasant Plains and he had a good-sized family. Of the boys there were Clarence, Alvin, Clyde, Ardell and Glen, and there were some girls. I recall they owned a Hupmobile touring car for a while. We used Dr. Buck in 1925 when a horse kicked me in the head. He stopped the bleeding and taped the gash up.
Dr. Mack came from Clay. His wife Mrs. Ollie was a Castleberry. Their children were Gladys, Golden, Truman and J. C., who was my age. They lived on Highway 16 at the top of Holland Hill for many years. They owned a big old stallion that Doc rode to make calls when the roads were muddy. I was afraid of that thing in the horse lot or even meeting him in the road. I can well remember meeting Doc upon him, clad in a raincoat, pill bag in one hand, reins in the other, coming at a fast saddle gait down that muddy road. It sounded like a tornado and I moved into the ditch.
Dr. Mack had an office for a while down near the present City Hall next to the Ollie Bryant Cafe. We had no dentists in Pangburn, so Julian Sutherland was having Dr. Mack pull a bad tooth. Doc spit a couple of quick times and said, “Yow, Yow, there it is; there it is.” And he yanked down with those pliers. Julian let out a groan, spit some blood, and, after running his tongue across, said, “Blank, blank, Doc, you pulled the wrong blank one.” Dr. Mack delivered me and all my brothers and sisters. He liked to chew tobacco and took short steps and walked at a fast gait.
Dr. Peeler, like so many others, grew up the hard way. I’ve heard it said that, while getting his schooling, he slept in the loft of an old house where the snow blew through the cracks onto his bed. His wife was the sister of the Crook boys. Malcolm and Loleta were their children. They lived for several years up on Main Street in the big white house that later both Brad Henderson and then Billy Wilkerson lived in. Doc had a small clinic and office right next to Aunt Jenny Hughes.
In about 1925 a hobo had fallen under a freight car, crushing his legs and had been brought into the clinic. Leon Steward and I lived just south of town and our mothers had sent us to the store. We were about six, barefooted, and had on our older brothers’ big old long-bill caps like they wore back then. Well, when we got the news of this accident, we were curious and figured Doc would finish cutting the man’s leg off so we just had to find out more. We slipped in the rear door of the clinic. By this time, 10 or 12 adults had walked in. The chloroform was strong and the doctor was perspiring and working fast. All at once he noticed Leon and me with those big caps over our ears and spoke out rather sharply, “You kids get out of here and that goes for the rest of you too.”
Doc later bought the Castleberry Hotel and renamed it the Loleta Hotel. He had his office and clinic there for many years. My family used him for medical aid many times.
I have written a good bit in past months about some things that were better when I was a youngster, like our music, our literature, motion pictures and the manners and morals of people in general. Of course, today we have better roads, faster transportation and communication, better housing, better medical facilities, etc.
Some foster children and some stepchildren had good parents and some did not. Less fortunate ones just toughed it out until old enough to go on their own. We still have too much of this today but our social agencies and the courts are trying to deal with it.
Yes, in all fairness, we have done better and acted more intelligently in some areas than in the old days. When I was growing up, an unwed girl about to become a mother was worse than the plague. She had disgraced herself and her family beyond amends. I remember once this fine-looking young girl facing such a situation. If a girl’s family had means, the matter could be dealt with somewhat easier, it seemed. But in this case the family did not have means. She had no way of making a living so she had to remain with her folks who gave her food, shelter and medical help. But her family just seemed to let her become a social recluse. She stayed in her room most of the time when she wasn’t doing household chores. She seldom came out to talk with visitors in the home, and she stopped going to church or out anyplace. Perhaps her family should not be censored too much. They believed they had been blighted by a social blow from which they could never recover, so they were only acting and reacting in the custom of the time. Most other families would have reacted similarly.
A few years ago a very intelligent friend reminded me that there was no such thing as illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents. He said only someone very ignorant, rude and crude would ever call a child some unkind name, and even the mother needed a lot of support and love from the family and friends to become a useful member of society.
This girl’s baby was such a beautiful little girl, dark hair in ringlets and eyes the color of the sky. Of course, she immediately stole the hearts of grandparents, uncles and aunts. And the young mother seemed to gain new hope and it was obvious she would dedicate her energies for her little girl.
But sadness struck again, when this little girl, upon whom so much love and hope had been placed, died of pneumonia at age one and a half. The blow was too much for this young mother. She stated that she wanted to follow the child and a few days later was buried beside her.
A fellow and I were talking about this some time ago, and he said, “Today she would have had more support. She thought she had nothing left to live for so just grieved herself to death. What a shame.” I agree with his remarks.
Many folks shed a lot of tears at these funerals but I do not believe sadness was the only reason; somehow I think there was a sense of guilt for not coping better with the situation. Many times through the years I wished that I had gone and told this girl that I was her friend and she was my friend and I wanted to help her. But I didn’t. Oh, we poor bungling, stumbling mortals.
What the girl did was wrong, of course; she knew it and society knew it. But she was no vile person by any means. But she suffered like the girl in The Scarlet Letter. I suspect she spent many lonely and crying hours and asked for forgiveness a thousand times over. I cannot believe the heavenly courts will deal harshly with her.
How many of you can remember the CCC? This nine-year period from 1933 to 1942 touched the lives of all Americans in one way or another. On March 27, 1933, Senate Bill #598 was passed. On March 31 Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Civilian Conservation Corps. The first camp opened in Virginia on April 17 and, by July 1, 275,000 enrollees were in 1,300 camps.
Four departments from the Executive Branch were called on to implement the corps. First, the recruitment was done by the Department of Labor. Next, transportation, camp construction, and management were carried on by the Army. The departments of Interior and Agriculture selected campsites, planned, designed and supervised the work projects. Robert Fechner was appointed National Director.
At the peak years of 1935 and ‘36, over 600,000 enrollees were working out of 2,650 camps. By the time I was enrolled, 1939-40, the size of the program was reduced to some 1,500 camps with some 300,000 boys. These men built fire towers, truck roads, firebreakers, planted millions of trees, reclaimed thousands of acres from erosion, built countless federal and state parks and campgrounds, and improved fish and wildlife habitats.
In our local area, Camp Heber was an SCS project. They built miles and miles of fences, sodded acres and acres of land, cleared and drained swamps, and built dozens of dams, ponds, and bridges for farmers in the area.
Of course, there were some snide remarks and griping by a few unfair and uninformed individuals about the program. In derision, they poked fun, calling the corps “Roosevelt’s Tree Army.”
Some said its members, for the most part, were shiftless and too-lazy-to-look-for- a-job type of people. This was very untrue. Of course, like any other organization, school, club, church, government, or whatever, the CCC had a few sorry ones. But the CCC took millions of unemployed young men wanting to work off the streets, gave them hope, helped them to be self-supporting, built self respect, confidence and taught them how to be good citizens.
The CCC was such a beneficial and good program for this country, directly and indirectly. America put a little thought, money, time, and effort into the protection of its resources. First, it improved the health of the youth with proper food, medical and dental attention. Over 40,000 boys who could not read or write were taught to do so. Another 150,000 went on to complete their high school diplomas. And nearly 3,000,000 boys received job skills in mechanics, truck driving, cooking and baking, construction work, forestry work, terracing, typing, record keeping and leadership. My friend, with World War II just around the corner, don’t think this wasn’t a great asset to this country.
Another benefit of the program is that it gave a little money aid to the families of the enrollees. This in turn put a little more prime in the economic pump of the depression-plagued nation. Another thing, many of the technical service personnel were men out of college as were many of the reserve Army men who could not find employment and the CCC was good for them. Another way America protected its resources through the CCC was what they did in the care of our soil, forests, streams, and wildlife.
In the early ‘40s, as the reserve Army officers began to be called to active service, some of the permanent cadre leaders in the camps rose to become camp commanders to finish the program. Today, as one drives over the country, the hands of the CCC can still be seen in work they did in many state and national parks. One of the most beautiful memorials to the work of the CCC is the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway drive built by the boys.
Those a little past 60 on up can well remember the last days of the Model-T or the “Tin Lizzie,” as it was often called. Henry Ford was a crusty old independent individual who did not like Wall Street, bankers, unions, or anyone or anything telling him what to do. He believed he had been put on this earth to bring cheap transportation to the average man. And that he did! He ruled the roost in production and sales in the 1920s.
Twelve million Lizzies had been made by 1925. In 1924 the car had sold for an all-time low of $290. The Model-T’s high-rumped undercarriage rattled about the countryside, neatly clearing the mud and stumps of the rural road. She ruled the highways until 1928 when Ford switched to the Model-A. In 1931 Ford drove the 20 millionth Model-A down the street.
It took Mr. Ford about the first 10 years of the century to get his patent all squared away. But then he went like mad. During the last 10 years of Lizzie’s life, more than half the cars in America were the Model-T. In doing this, Ford introduced the first assembly line, the $5-a-day wage, and a car in the price range of almost all. Lizzie may not have looked like much but she was cheap and you could take her anywhere. Thanks to the Depression, Lizzie was still around in the mid-‘30s. The Model-T appealed to the low man on the status pole, the man who patched his own tires and kept everything all wired up.
Thousands of dealers in accessories made good supplying her with needed equipment like tire-patching kits, stop leak compound, a fan belt guide, clamp-on dashboard light and side curtains. The rearview mirror was an extra for suspicious drivers who wanted to know who was trying to sneak up from behind. To fill Lizzie with gas involved moving you and your passengers and the front cushion from atop the gas tank. A stick stuck into the gas tank gave a clue to how much gas you had.
But by the early ‘30s the ownership of a Model-T began to be looked on with embarrassment. It had become old fashioned and out of date. Later cars were coming along with many more improvements and new gadgets. Car radios and foot-controlled dimmer switches had come along in 1929. “Free wheeling” and the use of the accelerator pedal as a self-starter had come along. Competing makers began to make Ford have to change body styles yearly.
Three-speed transmissions, gearshift sticks, heavier cars, better brakes, all helped to spell doom for old Lizzie. But we will always owe homage and respect to the faithful old Model-T. It did a job for us in an era of changing transportation. Many of us older ones first touched a steering wheel sitting between the legs of our dad, putt-putting down a dirt road in a Model-T.
No one likes a guy with a superiority complex. You know one of those that can dive higher, hit the water softer and come up drier than anyone else. If he is not a show-off, at any rate he is a bore.
On the other hand I don’t like to see a fellow at the other extreme with inferiority feelings. This is so sad because it’s unfair to the person and to others that he could better serve. I think I felt inferior at one stage of life but my wife and kids can’t believe it. It bothered me some that my parents were a bit plain and unlettered. But I suppose this was the case of many kids.
I had a complex about our school for it seemed like we were the poorest in the county when it came to athletic equipment. Also when I first left the state, there was quite a bit of fun poked at how poor its roads, schools and economy were, and, for a while, this gave me a complex.
But not only may individuals have an inferiority complex, but it can happen to an entire unit, organization, or team. May I illustrate?
Back in 1936 the Batesville Junior Legion team came over to play our group, the Pangburn Legion baseball team. They rolled from their bus with all kinds of fine playing equipment. They wore well tailored, nice looking white uniforms. They had a manager who had previously played some pro ball, a couple of coaches and a batboy. They took a quick, well-ordered batting practice and infield workout. They were a sharp-looking group but, in fact, a little cocky and seemed to have an air of “what are we doing in this hick village?”
Well, to be truthful, they seemed awesome to us. There we were in our faint and faded homemade striped uniforms. Our manager Jack was detained for a while so he called on Sloke and Clarence to start us off. Well, while Batesville was warming up, these guys sensed that we were down in confidence, had the wind knocked from our sails, and, in fact, about ready to roll over and play dead. So Sloke, Clarence and Paul Wood pulled us into a huddle and started talking.
“Those boys are not any better than you guys--they put their pants on one leg at a time, same as you. You boys have a good team, good hitters and runners, and we have a lot of confidence in you and we are behind you. Some of their players are country boys--came out of them White River swamps. You boys are not outclassed. We think you can beat ‘em.”
Well, can’t quite remember who pitched for us that day but it was either Luke Davis or Troy Barnett. Anyway, his old roundhouse out drop was “dropping off the table” and he had those white suits reaching for it. We played well in the field too, made some great defensive plays. We got a few hits and ran the bases well. So, when the dust had settled, they won 6 to 5, but they knew they had been in a ball game.
But we won also. We won the respect of the Batesville team, the respect of our fans, and, yes, even self respect and self confidence. They had a better team than ours but we played harder. Therein lies a lesson, I think. Most of those fellows that coached us that day are not around any longer, but I know they were happy with our playing in that game. I have often thought about that day--to me there never was a finer example of the adage, “It’s not so much whether you won or lost but how well you played the game.” We set ‘em down the next year, won district and went to the state tournament.
Remember chain letters, dance marathons, Little Audry and knock knock jokes, Believe It or Not Ripley, Dorothy Dix, Dizzy Dean, DiMaggio, Joe Louis, the NRA, Almee McPherson, Dillinger, Huey Long, and “Your Hit Parade”? By now you know we are talking about the era of the 1930s.
The crash of late 1929 brought down the curtain on the Roaring ‘20s. So many bank failures in ‘32 led to a bank holiday in ‘33. Droughts and low farm prices almost finished us off. Early in the ‘30s was the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. Also in 1933 repeal of prohibition passed and 3.2 beer became available. This was the end of the victrola era and folks were thinking about and longing for radio sets.
Do you recall what small town and rural people did for pastime? Well, not anything very expensive, you can be sure. In my group there were the swimming hole, play parties, country baseball and an occasional movie at the county seat. For some there were checkers, dominoes, jigsaw puzzles and Monopoly, which had become a national game. We read Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Liberty and Readers Digest. In November 1936 a new publication came to the market called Life Magazine, which was destined to become very popular. In the funnies we read “Bringing Up Father,” “Little Orphan Annie,” “Dick Tracy,” “Tillie the Toiler,” “Katzenjamer Kids” and others.
We were in the midst of a bunch of new government programs. There was the NRA, AAA, CCC, PWA, WPA, TVA, NYA, among others. In 1935 the Social Security Act was passed. In this decade we read about the fortunes and misfortunes of famous people. Edward VIII abdicated his throne in 1936; Wiley Post, the one-eyed pilot, was killed in ‘36; Amelia Earhart disappeared in 1937; there was “Wrong Way” Corigan, who took off for Los Angeles and ended up in Dublin. We also listened to news over the airwaves with the likes of Boake Carter, Lowell Thomas, H. V. Keltenborn, Edwin C. Hill, Bob Trout, William L. Shirer, Edward R. Murrow, Elmer Davis, and Walter Winchell. We almost forgot Gabriel Heater. Dorothy Dix wrote about “heart trouble” --not the kind that kills you but the kind that causes one to do silly things.
Radio sets came in big in the ‘30s. Atwater Kent, Philco, Emerson led the way but owning a Stromberg-Carlson console was reason to be a little stuck up. Already we mentioned that radios were great for news; also, they were great for entertainment. There were the soap operas or “washboard weepers,” as some called them, like “Ma Perkins,” “The Guiding Light,” “Portia Faces Life,” “Just Plain Bill,” “Pepper Young” and many others. “The Goldbergs” and “One Man’s Family” were popular family-type serials. Then, of course, there were the comedy programs like “Amos & Andy,” “Fibber McGehee,” “Lum & Abner,” “Ben Bernie,” “Fred Allen” and “Jack Benny.” And don’t forget “Kraft Music Hall,” “Major Bowles,” “Lux Radio” or “Lady Ester Serenade.”
Crime was big in the ‘30s in the big cities. Hoover and the FBI were always after the likes of Capone, Dillinger, Nelson, Kelly, Shultz and Floyd.
The sporting world of the ‘30s was a very colorful era. The Yankees, the Giants, the Cardinals, Cubs and Tigers dominated this period. Ruth and Cobb had faded some but there were the likes of the Deans, Gehrig, Hubbell, Grove, Ott, Greenberg, DiMaggio, Reese and many more fine ball players to come on the scene. Michigan, Minnesota, Texas Christian, Texas A&M, Notre Dame and USC were the dominant college football teams during this era. Grantland Rice was the top sports announcer and he was joined by Graham McNamee, Ted Husing, Bill Corum, Clem McCarthy and Bill Stern. Mel Allen and Linzy Nelson were waiting in the wings. Baer, Braddock and Louis ruled the boxing world in this period. Man O’ War, Whirlaway and Sea Biscuit ruled the thoroughbreds.
The ‘30s was a great time for music and songs. It was the age of Whiteman, the Dorseys, Goodman, Lombardo, Rudy Vallee, Miller, Russ Columbo and Bing Crosby. Do you remember Wee Bonnie Baker singing “Oh, Johnny, Oh”? Songwriters of this period really put forth a great effort. There was Hoagy Carmichael coming up with “Georgia on my Mind,” “Rockin’ Chair,” “Lazybones” and the immortal “Star Dust.” “Shoe Shine Boy” came out in 1936. Irvin Berlin had great hits like “This Year’s Kisses” and “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.” The Gershwin boys came out with “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.” And my favorite, Jerome Kern, wrote great songs all along. You can’t beat songs like “All the Things You Are” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” But we had a few silly ones, also, like “That Flat Foot Floogie” and “Three Little Fishes.”
We had great movies and actors in this period. This was the age of Garbo, Harlow and Lombard. Deanna Durbin, Judy Garland, Jeanette McDonald, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Dick Powell are all easy to remember. “Gone with the Wind,” “A Star Is Born,” “Rebecca,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “Philadelphia Story” were fine pictures.
Yes, the ‘30s had quite a parade of heroes, of crackpots, of punks and of the super wealthy. We had the Morgans, Vanderbilts, Belmonts, Roosevelts, Huttons, Dukes, and the DuPonts. There was Huey Long, John B. Anthony, Gerald L. K. Smith, Dr. Francis Townsend, Father Coughlin, Father Divine and Dr. Brinkley. There were the Dionne quints and there were the goldfish swallowers and the flagpole sitters. What an era! But I think it was good for us in many ways. The ones of us born in the Teens and early Twenties grew up during the ‘30s and the thrift and discipline of the times was good for us.
Country music has been much more than a business. It is a manner of viewing or reflecting life. Regardless of how it may appear today or of the gaudiness and commercialism of many of its performers, county music developed out of a folk tradition. Hillbilly music, which it was first called, developed from folk songs and ballads brought over to the new country by the Anglo-Celtic immigrants.
This British culture came to all the colonies, of course, but it was the South that took it and did the most with it. The socially ingrown rural South, from the tidewater of Virginia to the piney woods of East Texas, produced and preserved their own cultural values. The music of these people, lying outside the mainstream of American cultural development, provided the origin and nucleus of what we now call country music.
The trend of the last 100 years has been to move from the farm to the city. About half the people want to hold on to their old rural culture so they boost country music while about half are strongly against it and, of course, there are some in between. Many people who aspire to live in the suburbs as middle class or upper middle class would like to forget and have others forget that they or their fathers ever walked behind a plow or pulled a cotton sack.
I like some country music and some I don’t care for. In my opinion country music has had two big problems in recent years. One is to try and keep their music respectable and get it recognized as a cultural art form like other kinds of music. Some folks think they are musical illiterates and are always associated with the tavern. But there are many people who do not go to taverns or drink whiskey who are very fond of country music.
Then another problem is trying to keep country music as pure as possible. It will never go back to like it was in the early times in Virginia, Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee, when it was called “hillbilly music.” But neither should it stray too far away with “pop,” and should stay away from rock altogether.
Country music went along with the people pushing west and picked up influences from the Blacks along the delta, the French in Louisiana, and on into the plains of western Oklahoma and Texas, where cowboy ballads, western swing and some Spanish music all left their influences with what is today country music.
Gid Tanner, Riley Puckett, Charley Poole, the Carter family, the McGee brothers, the Monroe brothers and Dave Macon were some of the pioneers in the ‘20s in the hillbilly era. Also, Jimmy Rogers was the top country singer from 1927 to 1932. Bradley Kinkaid, Vernon Dalhart and Carson Robinson also belong to this era. Kinkaid and Delhart were college graduates and Kinkaid did not want to be called a “hillbilly musician.” He wanted to be called a singer of mountain songs.
Early-day radio stations that helped country music were WSB Atlanta, WBAP Ft. Worth, WLS Chicago and WSM Nashville. WLS, which stood for World’s Largest Store and belonged to Sears & Roebuck, was the first station to put on the air “The National Barn Dance” program in about 1924. Nashville followed a couple of years later with the “Grand Old Opry.”
In the ‘30s and ‘40s, “Ozark Jubilee” in Springfield and “Louisiana Hayride” in Shreveport started weekly programs. Can you recall some of the old-time fiddling tunes like “Ragtime Annie,” “Red Wing,” “Turkey in the Straw,” “Sally Goodin,” “Soldier’s Joy” and “Arkansas Traveler”?
Jimmy Davis, a college professor in Louisiana who wrote country music and later became governor of the state, had some big hits. In the ‘30s, he wrote “Nobody’s Darling” and “Sweethearts Are Strangers.” But in 1941 he wrote perhaps the biggest all-time country hit, “You Are My Sunshine.” A couple of years earlier Bob Wills had written almost as big a hit, “San Antonio Rose.” Hank Williams’ song “Your Cheatin Heart” was a great favorite.
But here is a real oddity. The song “Tennessee Waltz” came out as a country music number in 1948 and did fairly well for a couple of years. Then in 1950 Peggy Lee, Doris Day and some other pop singers began singing it and it became an all-time popular hit.
Some other early performers were Acuff, Foley and Ernest Tubb. A little later were Bob Wills, Gene Autry, Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold, Marty Robbins, Ray Price and Jim Reeves.
Of the females, Kitty Wells was queen of country music until Patsy Cline came along. Since her death, different ones have tried to claim the title: Jeanie Seely, Norma Jean, Dottie West, Connie Smith, Loretta Lynn and Ann Murray. To me, Patsy Cline and Ann Murray are the two best singers even though Murray is not pure country.
For the men, I think Eddy Arnold and Jim Reeves have been the best singers; and, of course, Arnold changed his style, to the better I think, in later years.
Country music lives because it tells us about tragedy, about sadness, about disappointment that we can identify with. It reminds us of home, family and church, and of the people we know.
Square dancing was popular on the American frontier through the 19th century and on into the 20th. Although it declined some in the 1920s, still it was going big in the rural South, the rural Midwest, and the far West.
This pioneer social event was a going thing in the days of my parents, grandparents and great grandparents. It was born in the backcountry of the colonists some 200 years ago, then pushed westward.
I actually saw this great social pastime come to an end.
As a small boy in the ‘20s I had peeked in the door or window and watched them a few times, but the last one I ever watched was in December 1933, when I was about 13. To my knowledge this was the last farmhouse square dance in our community. Of course, they square danced some in later years in school plays and in the gym.
Grab your hat, Old-Timer, and let’s go back in time a few years and look in on one of these toe-tapping, heel-rocking ho-downs. These things were always held out in the rural countryside where there was plenty of room to “whoop and holler.” People would come by foot, horseback, buggy, wagon and, toward the last years, in Model T or Model A Fords. A farmhouse with a long front porch or a long hallway was ideal so the men folk could mill around, smoke, chew and wet their nose in a whiskey jar. The women folk lined up around the walls of the party room. All the furniture was moved from the room, the bed, rockers, tables, so on. The room was left with a fireplace at one end and two cane-bottom chairs for the fiddle and guitar players. A couple of lanterns hung on opposite walls furnished light. The affair, which was on a Friday or Saturday night, got underway about 8 and went 'til around 11. I think a set would last about 15 or 20 minutes and then the dancers and fiddlers would “take five” and get their wind back.
Now ole Zeke is a good-natured big ole double-fisted red-faced hill man. He has had his eye on Fayrene, that wiry little thing inside, all night. Man, oh, man, how he longs to dance a set with her but has not the courage to ask her. After four or five trips to the yard for another “nip,” his courage gets stronger. All at once he spits out his tobacco, wipes his chin, and this big ole guy in overalls and red plaid shirt, corduroy cap and size 12 brogan shoes rushes in and stands in front of Fayrene and invites her to be his partner in the next set. It matters not to Zeke that he has not shaved, his breath is a combination of snuff, onion and corn licker, and he smells under the armpits. The girl has mixed feeling, of course, but out of some pity and some fear, agrees to dance with him.
It does me a lot of good to be able to tell my kids and grandkids that I actually saw these things and they don’t have to read about them in a book. Also this night in 1933 that I saw my last country square dance, also was the last time I saw men drinking whiskey from a half-gallon fruit jar. This reminds one of the old corny joke back in those days when the sheriff was trying to get this drunk to tell where he got the fruit jar of licker. He replied, “I found it. Mason lost it--his name was on it.”
The World Olympics were staged the summer I wrote this, and it got me to thinking about some of our former students that were good in track events.
In the early ‘30s I recall that Max Casey was our fastest dash man. He could do the 100 in about 10 or 10 1/2. Ercil Craig was a good runner and ran with his eyes closed. One day on the corner of the school campus he got off the track and hit a clothes line right across his forehead and snapped the line. Lawrence Fowler was good on the 440, Paul Anders on the 220, and Babe Dumas did well on the high jump and broad jump. The Mitchell boys, Forest and Freeman, were good runners and jumpers. But, no doubt about it, the most outstanding boys’ track star to come out of Pangburn School has to be Johnny Bartlett. He could do the 440 and 880 runs well but his coach, Mr. Mullins, got him to concentrate on the 880. They practiced and practiced day after day after day with a stopwatch and knew where they stood. I know Johnny won the County Meet and the District Meet that year but I don’t recall how well he did in the State. I saw him win the County at Bald Knob. After staying at the back of the pack for about 700 yards, he turned on the heat and won that thing by a good 30 yards. Some others I recall were Arwood Marsh, Sam Goodwin and Oran Shearer, our strong men on the javelin, discus, shot-put and hammer. Then a little later I believe Flatus Crook won a medal in high jump. In 1938 I ran the 100, 220 and did the broad jump but did not get a first place. I almost cried.
Helen Baker and Odell Cathey were our best girl track athletes in my day. Very likely Helen’s high jump record she set in 1937 and 1938 in the County Meet was never broken. Odell ran the dashes like a red rocket and also anchored the relay team. If my memory is right, the Pangburn girl’s track team won the White County Sweepstakes in 1938 at West Point.
The time was 1933. Again, the place was in the auditorium of the Old Main Building. So you have the scene and setting for the incident that brought about the trial.
This room served as our library and study hall for both junior and senior high students. Well, we had some cutups who did things like throwing and shooting paper wads, sometimes called spitballs, at other students. Do you remember that this old study hall had some kind of metal ceiling? Well, some boys on occasion would place a pin or a piece of wire in a rubber band and give that old ceiling a ringing. It sounded terrible. Some got caught and some didn’t.
Now old Shelby Ferguson was a likeable kid, good smart mind, and made purty fair marks. But, he took a pop at the ceiling once in a while and this day he got caught. Our study hall keeper was at the rear of the room, but Mr. Dilliha, our superintendent, was over at the library doing some work. Mr. Dilliha had an artificial eye but, just as he raised up from behind the library counter, his good eye was looking right at Shelby just as he rang the ceiling, probably for the last time. Well, the superintendent did exactly what he was supposed to do and expected to do, he marched him to his office and warmed up his “sitting down” place good and proper. Well, Shelby’s family felt he was whipped too hard and brought suit. Each got a lawyer and the date was set.
The trial was held in the rear part of the bank building. When I got to the door, the room was already full and overflowed to the street. But I was determined to see and hear myself a trial, and, in order to do so, had to crawl under chairs and men’s legs to get inside a ways. Superintendent Dilliha was acquitted.
Bill had a physique very similar to the ole yodeler Jimmy Rogers – very frail and slender. He had little schooling and probably was never further than 20 miles from his birthplace. He never saw a streetcar, a tall building or a big city. Most of his tracks were made between the town of Pangburn, Bruce Mountain, Brier Creek and Little Red River. He made his living doing farm work and hunting, fishing and trapping. He worked a lot for my folks.
Bill was not afraid of anything. By that I mean that, if his natural freedom or safety were jeopardized, he would shoot and not blink an eye. He was very attached to his good wife Edith and his prize hound ole Major and would have given his life for them without hesitating. I kind of think he would have for any of my family.
I was around him from about age 3 to 10 when he was from about 17 to 24 years old. He liked me real well and I was fascinated by him to no end. Bill never really grew up so we were just a couple of kids, a big one and a little one. I went hunting with him and roamed the woods, watched him run his traps and stretch the hides over the boards. He was always cutting off the tail or some other part of an animal and slipping it into my rear overall pocket. On washdays Mom just loved that!
Much of the time we lived near each other on the same farm. I ate with them quite often and praised Edith’s biscuits. Bill told me she put possum grease on top of them. At one time Bill had a stripped-down T-model, no fenders, just a cushion on top of the gas tank and a 3x3 box behind it. We were working in the vicinity of the Barnes bottom and the Vaughn bottom where there were some freshly clipped hay meadows. Bill told me to hop up beside him for an airing out. He would not drive in the road but got in the hay patch and pulled both levers to the bottom. Of course, my dad almost fainted when he caught us.
A few years later Bill traded for an old Buick touring car. Three or four grown boys hailed Bill for a ride out to the country-dance. Some wanted to go fast but Jack Pierce was sitting next to me in the front seat and was scared to death and was begging Bill to hold it down. I was an eight-year-old and told him to go wide open. To which Jack leaned over and told me if I didn’t shut up, he would twist my ear off and he meant it too. After unloading the guys, Bill and I went up Bruce Mountain and the old car was really smoking and stinking. He had pulled the mountain with the hand brake on. Bill declared in his high-pitched voice that he knew he had a good car.
Once Bill and I were on our way to town with a bale of cotton. Mr. Read, the mail carrier, came by in his old Star in a cloud of dust and grazed ole Major, who let out a yelp. Bill let out a whistle and yell and, to my surprise, Mr. Read stopped. After Bill examined and found no injury to his dog, he told the mailman not to ever hurt his dog or he would fill his backside full of lead.
One winter night with a cold rain falling, Bill was possum hunting and about 10 o’clock, tapped on the folks’ bedroom window and yelled, “Hey, Gene, done got three.” My dad begged him to go home and get out of the wet clothing, but he said, “Not as long as my luck is good.” Dad warned Bill time and time again that, unless he guarded his health, the TB wouldn’t let him reach 30. He would not listen and died at 29.
In the spring of ‘29 Bill sensed that he was going to die shortly so he left some instructions to his wife. He wanted to be put in a homemade box, clad in overalls and a jumper and buried in Coffey Cemetery. He wanted to go in a wagon pulled by Doc and Rhody, a team he had helped to raise from colts, with Dad and me in the spring seat. Dad and Edith granted all his wishes but one; they just could not go with the overalls so went to Brown, Crook and Lewis and bought a burial shroud. This was likely the only time he ever had a tie on. Mr. Oliver Williams made his coffin. My dad and a couple of other farmers shaved and prepared the body for burial.
Since that April day in 1929, I have been to many funerals and helped with several, and I have even seen some state funerals on TV, but none has been more impressive to me. As we bounced along in the cortege with ole Major trotting under the wagon, it was as if he were an honor guard. We were sad but were trying to honor this dear friend and his wishes. Thinking back, as a 10-year-old, this was a great honor to me to have a part in helping with this loyal, simple, American hill man who loved life and the great out-of-doors. Bill Pollard, may you look for and find a happy hunting ground.
As a small boy in the '20s, I attended Sunday School at the Methodist Church. Some of the families were Patman, Mitchell, Crook, Glenn, Marsh, Grey, Steward, McLester, Boggs, Johnston and Goodloe. Some of the preachers I can remember are Marlar, Peterson, Howerton and one named Patton, I believe. Then I attended some at a community Sunday School at Grubtown schoolhouse.
A little later I went some to the Baptist Sunday School. One day I was sitting on a bench with a row of boys like Hugh, Clark, C.E., Tom Moss and Coleman Hicks, and apparently we became too noisy. Usually I am in the middle of something like this, but this day I was entirely innocent. I don’t think this man was trying to single me out, but most likely because I was sitting nearest to him, Mr. F. Whitten reached back and gave my ear a twist. Well, to say that I was embarrassed is putting it mildly. I don’t think this kept me from becoming a Baptist because Mr. Whitten became a lifelong friend. Some family names I recall were King, Doyle, Henderson, Whitten, Yingling, Moss, Wood, Collins, Hilger and Albert. As I became a teenager, I went some to both the BYPU and the Epworth League.
Then I was gone from Pangburn for five or six years. I came back after the war and attended classes and worship services at the local church of Christ. On the same day in the summer of 1948, Charley Riley, Ruby Daily and I went down to the Little Red River and were baptized into the church. Bro. J. A. Thompson administered this ordinance.
From about 1947 to 1953 we were, I believe, the largest group in town, having more than 100 in attendance each Sunday. But a lot of people moved away in the ‘50s. They had some good preachers through the years like Bros. Thompson, Porterfield, L. R. Wilson, Lyles, Rue Porter, Lacy Porter, Harper and others. I have heard most of our “big” well-known gospel preachers of the last 30 years, and I have read a good many books by some highly acclaimed professors and theologians on Christian doctrine, church history, etc., but I believe the man who could throw more light on the pages of Holy Writ was old Bro. Porterfield out of southeastern Missouri. To have sat at his feet was a privilege indeed.
Bro. S. A. Billingsley, Bro. Jackson and Bro. Peacock were some early-day folks in the Pangburn congregation. Mr. Castleberry gave the ground. Neely Lewis helped Billingsley, Jackson and others build the building, but he himself was a Christedelphien.
Some names I recall who attended here are Jenkins, Capps, Crosby, Wideman, Crook, Vinson, Edwards, Reddick, Pearce, Beasley, Taylor, Billingsley, Norman, Murphy, Finney, Lewis, Boling, Reins, Davis, Dumas, Adcock, Yingling, Lowe, Butler, Fowler, Crews, McAdams, Lawrence, Ramsey, Staggs, Holland, Riley, Daily, Stahle and Froud. Of course, there were several other families.
Now, I’m not running for public office but would like to pass out a little praise. Folks I mentioned in this column were very fine friends to me across the years. I respect each of them highly.
Almost all the schools in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma prohibit smoking today although some principals and superintendents have marked off spots where some youngsters can puff, chew, dip and spit. School officials argue that students are going to do it anyway and the designated areas keep them from clogging up the plumbing with butts or slipping around in a closet and leaving a lighted cigarette. So, with parents’ permission, they allow it.
We old-timers remember that smoking was prohibited back in our day. So they smoked in the boys’ restroom, which was the old 10x20-foot outhouse that stood on the lower south edge of the campus. Those older ones of us can well remember this old building with a tin roof and double tin walls.
Before school, during noon hour, and at other times a cloud of smoke came boiling out. The boys would post a sentry to watch for the principal, but, if he did slip in, they quickly dashed their stubs. Some were good enough to hold the lighted cigarette in their mouths until he left. The boys smoked in there, not because of comfort or fragrance, but for security reasons.
It was a favorite pastime to walk a few yards away and heave a fist-sized rock at this old tin building. Whether you are in there puffing or for other reasons, you can imagine such a hair-raising and nerve-racking experience. It sounded like a bomb and, besides, you half-expected one of those rocks to come through. Both smoking and rock throwing were against the rules. I don’t think the girls smoked in their outhouse, which was 70 or 80 feet down the ditch. But all of us can remember that it was a greater risk and a more serious offense for a guy to bang their tin walls with a rock.
Most school officials are going for the no-smoking rule. One principal in Dallas said, “It’s a contradiction to teach that smoking is a health hazard and then allow students to smoke.” Another said, “If we are required by law to teach how harmful it is, we shouldn’t permit it.” These were noble words, of course, but I’ll bet some of the kids figure out how to slip a few puffs.
In thinking back, I don’t know if we who went to Pangburn School were any better or any worse than kids in other small-town schools during the ‘20s and ‘30s. Throwing rocks at the outhouse for amusement might seem corny and crude to some now. But, anyway, it was our rocks, our outhouse, our Prince Albert and our age of growing up.
“In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” The English poet Lord Alfred Tennyson penned this famous line many years ago. No doubt about it, old Alf had been there--he knew what he was talking about, don’t you agree? The four seasons of the year that we have been endowed with and are privileged to enjoy are nothing short of marvelous, grand and glorious. You have a favorite season and I have a favorite, which happens to be springtime.
Spring has sprung. As one reflects on the impact of these words, many exciting and pleasant memories come to mind. As a youngster, it seemed like the cold winter rains and winds would never end so the first signs of spring were welcome. No doubt about it; Nature did put on a rebirth. Do you recall hearing the buzzing of the bees, the chirping of the birds, and the soft patter of an April shower on the windowpane? Remember seeing the birds nesting, blooms and blossoms coming forth, trees leafing out and the pastures greening up? As one smells the new flowers and feels the gentle wind on the cheek, truly all his senses are brought into focus.
At the first sign of spring, kids got permission to change out of winter underwear. Then, some three or four weeks later, they would get to go barefoot. Man, how that gravel hurt those tender feet early on. Also, this was the season to fetch a fishing pole, a can of worms, and make for your favorite creek or riverbank. Likewise, this was the time to oil up the baseball glove and start limbering the arm and back.
It was always a lot of fun to kids to help plant the vegetable garden and early things like radishes, lettuce and onions were a welcome sight on the table. A little later came the strawberry season. I never tired of these things--could eat them three times a day.
Easter time, of course, comes during the spring season. By tradition Easter Sunday seemed like the right time for both little girls and the older ones as well to come out in a new spring dress. About this time of year many farm families were receiving a big spring mail order from Sears or Wards with some new wearing apparel. Sometimes Easter was warm and mild and then again it could be cold. For instance, in 1935, I think, the temperature was a brisk 38 or 40 degrees. I remember seeing the teenage girls come from church down the walk to the post office. You could call this our local Easter parade. You could see their new spring hats and shoes but their new dresses were covered up with those long winter coats. Hardly any girl could afford a spring coat. Looking back, of course, it seems comical but you had to feel sorry for them that day. Then, many of you will recall waking up on Easter 1940 with the trees all covered with frozen rain.
So spring is really a hustling, bustling time. Farmers are busy preparing the soil and planting crops; their wives are busy gardening and taking care of newly hatched chicks. Kids are getting out of school, some graduating and going through commencement.
Poets and songwriters have always written about spring. “Spring Is Bustin’ Out All Over,” “It’s Spring Again and the Bird Is on the Wing Again,” and “What Is So Rare As a Day in June.”
So, friends, April showers, May flowers, and June brides are all beautiful hallmarks of our wonderful season called spring.
It was back in the years 1934-35 in the middle of a long, hard Depression. Pangburn had no theater or school gym at this time. So, naturally, a lot of folks were looking for some kind of social focal point.
This man moved all chairs and tables out of the front half of his cafe and invited people to dance. The building, which is now the city hall, had a lunch counter going across the back near the kitchen. The space out front had only a nickelodeon music box. Well, they came from age 14 to 40 and all kinds seemed to show up, not only some who were inclined toward drinking, brawling and bootlegging, but also many respectable people. And almost all the young teenage kids, even some afraid of parents, were frequent visitors.
Some called the place a tavern but that was not correct, for they served no strong drink. Some said “roadhouse” but that was usually a place out on the highway. Some declared it a honky-tonk but, again, no strong drink. One enraged lady was heard to say, “Well, whatever you call it, we are worse than Heber for they kept theirs outside the city limit and we have one right in the middle of town.” The kids simply called it “The Cafe.”
One warm spring afternoon the cafe front door was open and the volume on the player was turned rather high. Schoolhouse windows were open and familiar strains from "Music Goes Round and Round” and “Come Sit By My Side Little Darling” came drifting across the study hall. Two girls who were supposed to be concentrating on algebra slowly closed their books and reached over to whisper to me, “We’re cutting out rest of the day--going to the cafe. See you tomorrow.” Please don’t ask who they were, wouldn’t tell you if you choked me. I recall seeing some kids go by there at noon and cut classes the rest of the day. Well, one can see the cafe no doubt posed some problem.
As time went along many parents, teachers and ministers were very upset, got up petitions, and brought much pressure on the mayor and city council. Big cities have their Stork Clubs, Blue Rooms, etc., and for a time Pangburn had “The Cafe.” It operated for several months but, like so many other places and things, it’s long since “gone with the wind.”
Remember the old time Raleigh and Watkins peddlers?
Mr. Houston, a small, short man, used to pack two suitcases filled with their items up and down country roads. He would be very hot and tired, and, as he mopped perspiration, my mom would get him a tall glass of fresh water. Of course, he always gave the kids a stick of teaberry chewing gum.
A little later a Raleigh man went in an old car with a chicken coop tied on the rear bumper so he could trade his wares to the farm ladies. He was always welcome to the front porch of a rural family who hadn’t seen anyone else all day or even all week. As he spread out his items, kids became popeyed and the toilet soap, talcum powders, vanilla and lemon extract, plus the chewing gum, gave those suitcases the most pleasant aroma. If you are 60 or past, you are bound to remember!
When a boy spent the night with another boy, we did not use the expression “overnight guest” or “spending the night,” but we always said we were “stayin’ all night” with so and so. Some of the guys I stayed with growing up were Moody Crump, Mitch Morrow, Houston Butler, Tom Moss, Lawrence Ghent, Paul Strong, Hugh King, Leo Crook, Bosy Johnson, R. B. Pickens and Glen and Hap Hilger. Speaking for myself, this struck me as one of the most enjoyable privileges of growing up.
But one night in April we had just finished a school party at the Legion Hut. This was the night Judon Murphy and I should have “stayed all night” because a cold spring rain was falling and we were afoot. We were sharply dressed in dark blue suits and new white shoes. We also were wearing light gray wide snap-brim hats, like those the Chicago gangsters wore. We crossed the school ground, went through the Sooter pasture, and paused at that red clay muddy road. We didn’t worry about the hats and suits but those $2.98 white shoes were our pride and joy, and we knew that red mud would ruin them.
So Judon says, “I’m gonna take mine off and carry ‘em.” I came back with “If someone sees us, he will laugh.” To which Judon replied, “Let ‘em laugh.” So off they came. And, after rolling up our pant legs to the knees, we walked along, singing in the rain while the sharp rocks and red mud squished between the toes. We said our parting words, and at home after holding my feet over the rain barrel, I hit the kitchen and had a late night snack of cold milk and bread. Then out of the wet clothing, into bed, and, after shivering a half hour, I went into peaceful sleep.
Ah, such was growing up in the Ozarks, but when I tell my kids or grandkids about these incidents, sometimes I get a raised eyebrow of doubt. I tell them to just ask Murphy.
While residents in all communities have had their common nicknames such as Slim, Fats, Shorty and Red, it’s doubtful that any small town has had more of these than Pangburn. While I believe that most nicknames are an indication that people really like the person, it is possible that some of them may have been distasteful. Old- timers will remember most of these second names. Many of them have passed on.
We had the following: Tood, Dooter, Killer, Hansome, Foots, Freck, Hickam, Buster, Babe, Eggs, Pig, Dizzy, Puss, Cut, Chub, Snipes, Hoss, and Muly. Also we had Oce, Gat, Tuck, Jelly, Pedro, Hell-Pepper, Slats, Juber, Hot, Scatt, Peg, Suicide, Whitey, Rabbit, Blackie, Nig, Beans, Peck, Dutch, Hump, Juke, Weasel, Si, Runt, Pucket, Squirrel, Wink, Buz, Pole and Gib. The only two female nicknames I can recall are Bug and Ditty.
I moved to a farm near him in northern White County in late 1927. From 1928-1933, he was the most important person in my world, except for family members. He was the friend with whom I shared adventures, secrets and boyhood dreams. Because he was a little older, bigger and a good baseball player, he was more than a friend, he was my idol. I believed him to be fearless. Copperhead snakes, mad wasps, biting dogs and bucking steers were challenges to him, and I tried to keep up.
We made slingshots, bows and arrows, kites, sleds, balls from twine, carts and wagons. There was cotton to be hoed and farm chores to be finished in the summer- time, but we still found the time for our pursuits. We made tepees and a pole cabin in the nearby woods and imagined that we were Indians as we cooked eggs, potatoes or corn over an open campfire. We rode horses, mules and steers on land and rowboats in the water.
On one of these occasions, we steered a leaky boat into deep water in the Little Red River, and as it began to fill, I jumped into the river. My friend and Dooter French pulled me back into the boat and rowed us back to shallow water. I would have drowned without their help because I had not yet learned to swim. I had promised my folks not to go in the water without an adult until able to swim. My dad, who had tracked us to the river, came along shortly and was very angry and worried. When he saw how white I was and still shaking there on the bank, and also that I was safe, he threw down his switch and gave me a big bear hug.
But back to my friend.
We spent hours wading creeks, sloughs, crawdad holes and pole fishing from the banks. And what fun it was to trudge down the dusty road to spend a summer evening at a brush arbor meeting, which was a gathering place for rural people of that era. In the winter, if we were lucky and had a big snow, we built sleds pulled by a horse to carry us down white hills and across the white fields.
We spent part of each day and many nights together. Each enjoyed visiting in the other’s home. His family was good to me. His dad was a witty storyteller and I still remember his mom’s huge biscuits filled with real butter and real jelly.
Another fascination this friend had for me was the way he used his hands. He threw and batted a baseball righthanded but held a fork and pencil with his left. It was with his left fist that he delivered haymakers. Most of the boys in the area respected his scrapping ability. He was always glad to take on my fights, and I felt safe from rowdies like Dutch Booyer, Truman Hardcastle or Omer Covington, with him as my ally. Of course, on occasion my friend would work me over, but 30 seconds later we were friends again.
But a day of reckoning came for him, as it does to all of us. One day he challenged a boy, Paul Howerton, to come out of Holley’s Barber Shop and settle the score. They were 14 or 15 at the time, and, if I ever knew what the argument was about, I’ve long since forgotten. I think the next few minutes held three surprises for my friend. He probably did not think that Paul would come outside; if he did, he doubted that he’d fight, and I’m sure he never dreamed that he had such a hard punch. It was a one-lick fight. No sooner had they cleared the doorsteps ‘til Paul sent a right uppercut to his chin and just measured my friend on the grass. I always thought this was good for my friend. It may have been his first realization that, even with much skill and luck, we win some and lose some. I believe he’d tell you that himself.
Well, my friend moved away in 1934 or ‘35 to Judsonia and then on to California. Through the years I pictured him growing up to be someone like General Patton or maybe John Wayne. Forty-eight years were to pass before I saw this friend again. His name was Thomas W. Moss.
Not many could afford store toys so we made slingshots (sometimes called bean-flips) and sometimes we made a wheel and paddle to push. We took a three-foot stick, nailed a flattened and slightly crimped Prince Albert can to one end, and took a rim or a hoop from an old wagon wheel hub--this made a nice toy. Old discarded tires, sometimes called casons, also made good toys. I never had a little Honda nor even a bicycle as a kid but I rolled a tire along red dirt roads for many miles, clad only in overalls. Another use for an old tire was to make a tree swing. Still another use was to make a petunia bed. We also made tree swings with a tow sack half filled with hay or sawdust. As a kid I owned two air rifles--sold Cloverine Salve for one and garden seed for the other.
On the school ground girls played hopscotch, drop the handkerchief and pitch washers.
Boys spun tops and shot marbles, part of the time in a big ring and part time playing “rolly-hole.” An agate cost more than an “imp,” and they were both more valuable than the lowly “doogie.” Each boy’s favorite marble was his “shooting taw.” Boys also played “one and over,” and both boys and girls played “shove up” or “work up” with a twine ball. Also both groups played “pop the whip” and on a line of 40 or 50 kids making a bend, the two or three on the end would become airborne.
Then away from school we had corncob fights and rubber gun fights. One just was not a “real” boy until he had been clobbered on the head with a water and manure-soaked cob. One Sunday afternoon a group of us boys were having a real shootout with rubber guns. We must have been about age 13 or 14. A group of girls walked up and seems like it was Lola who said, “You guys are too old for that.” And Mary chimed in, “Yeah, let’s go for a stroll and walk the train rails.” Houston came back with, “Aw, go on back to your dolls.” And Bee said, “Aw, come now, fellows, we’re growing up--or haven’t you noticed?” We looked at the girls and then at each other. And Doc or Paul said, “Know something? I think they are right.” So we went and walked the rails toward Cedar Hill. From that day forward never again would we play rubber guns!
As we grew up, we began going to play parties. Here we played games like Musical Chairs, Pin the Donkey, Spin the Plate, and, oh, you don’t forget Three Minute Date. At school we had various programs. There were the junior and senior class plays, Halloween and Christmas plays and stunt night programs. Many former students will remember the Arkansas Centennial Pageant we put on in 1936.
Some may wonder why write about the Depression period. Like many of you I was a child in the Roaring ‘20s, a teenager in the ‘30s, and a young adult of the early ‘40s war years. We were products of the red clay Ozark foothills of north-central Arkansas. Sights, sounds and scents of this region and of this era leave a more indelible imprint in my mind than any other place or time.
Several years ago a college professor said in our class that there were three kinds of teachers: poor, mediocre and capable. He further said the mediocre are soon forgotten but you will remember the other two.
Most of the teachers come to mind that were at Pangburn Public during my 12 years from 1925-38, especially the ones that taught me. Just about all my teachers were fine people, real warm and helpful. I had Hattie Anderson, Grace Johnson, Icy Wood, Oza Baker, Elsie Little, A. M. Gooding, Jim Mullins, Eloise Vaughn, Fannie Wilkerson, Dula Butler, Zada Martin, I. W. Dillaha. Miss Milburn, Mrs. Smith, Irene Jones and J. F. Barker.
Some other teachers during this period were V. A. Hook, W. K. Frazier, L. T. Lanier, Mr. Hickman, Miss Howard, Mrs. Yarnell, Mr. Bruce, Mr. Snapp and Miss Cotton. Miss Cotton was so striking and pretty that some of the junior and senior class boys had a crush on her.
Other teachers during this period were Gladys Crews, Stella Dailey, Verde Haile, Louise Crook, Almeda Crook, Garland Henderson, Mart Murphy, Velma Johnson, Minor Hilger, Elmer Collins, Nannie Little, and a Miss Hill who was about the size of a kewpie doll. And, finally, there was a Miss Connie Yingling who became and still is a living legend with the school.
Irene Jones was the only woman superintendent the school ever had. When she wanted one of the boys to help her, she would say, “Loyd, may I borrow you for a moment?” But the cutup had no place with her; she ran a tight ship.
Hook and Frazier were real interested in basketball; Mr. Dillaha was brilliant in math and science; Mr. Lanier was a chubby, roly-poly, rosy-cheeked, very personable and warm fellow; Elmer Collins--well, he was just plain ole easy-going Elmer. And what I remember about Minor Hilger is that, as a small boy my parents took me to a stunt night program in the high school auditorium in which Minor, dressed up in female attire, sang “Polly Wolly Doodle” in that high fine voice. For days afterwards my mom kept our family in stitches, for she could imitate Minor exactly.
J. F. Barker was the superintendent my last two years. He directed many plays, programs, operettas, etc., almost every Friday night that we were not in a ball game. He received a good bit of criticism from some parents over this. Once three of us students with homemade megaphones were driving over town advertising a coming program. We drove up alongside the depot and yelled big and loud about the play. Jack Bridger came to the freight-room door, took a puff from a Prince Albert smoke, frowned and replied, “If you got a regular theater over there, put up a sign saying so and I’ll come when I can.” But almost all the kids liked Mr. Barker and enjoyed school days under him. In those years we had no at-home basketball games and had no local theater, so these programs were good clean wholesome entertainment for the kids and the community.
Old-timers, do you remember the six-inch sleet that stayed on for 15 days in February 1932? A few people broke arms and many, many bruised setters. Some parents walked their small children to school. Some of the older boys dug through the ice and placed a couple of 2x12 planks to get some traction. Then kids could skate for a hundred yards across the campus. Almost every kid received new half-soles two or three times. Some of the older boys and girls would build up a big fire at night on the grounds to see by and to warm by while skating. Because they were using the school’s wood, the superintendent had to stop them.
Once as a young guy I was helping Buck Nowell repair a flue in a local church building. We were having conversation and out of the blue he popped this question, “McCourt, have you ever prayed?” I stammered around, “Why, why, I guess so, Mr. Nowell.” He went on to say that, if I ever had a seriously ill child that the doctor could not save, then I would.
That the world is full of sadness may seem a trite statement to some, even so it is true. We expect our grandparents and our parents to grow old and die. We expect to grow old ourselves and die. But we do not expect our children and young people to be taken, so it hurts real deeply. One may wonder why I call to mind such sadness. Well, my friend, life is made up of gladness and sadness, sunshine and rain, joy and grief. Both elements come to us sooner or later. Our community has not been spared through the years.
Fatal car accidents bring to mind the names of Stahle, Marsh, Mathis, Dailey, Tole and Shearer. Around 1930 a hot power line took the life of Aubrey Adcock. Drowning claimed the lives of young Brown and young Johnston. Howell Reeves gave his young life defending our homeland. The day I heard about Howell I hurt inside and shed tears, for he was the most likeable person I grew up around.
Then, there were kinds of illnesses that medicine at the time could not cope with, notably appendicitis, typhoid, diphtheria and pneumonia. I recall that in 1925 my own sister, Mildred Lorene, was taken from us at the age of three. About 1926 Robbie Collins, who was six, died. It grieved me no little to lose such a pleasant playmate. Others brought to mind are Ardel Buckmaster, Rita Medlin, my good friends Jess Staggs and Buddy Henderson. And, of course, the sudden and untimely death of Glenna Crosby shocked and made us all very sad. She was so smart and so friendly.
In our human frailty we know not why these young people were taken in the springtime of life. Some day we will. They touched my life in their brief stay.
Remember the quiet man in the blue serge suit with his blue chambray shirt buttoned clear to the top but no tie who moved around ever so calmly in the big general store he started in 1923? Benjamin Mack Butler and his good wife Sarah not only succeeded in the store, but, more importantly, they reared a fine family.
Farmers’ Mercantile Company was a general store in the real sense in that they carried many lines. Besides the grocery department, there were the clothing and shoe department, the hardware, furniture, farm implements, feed and seed departments. During cotton-picking season the store would be full of customers buying overalls, jumpers, piece goods or ladies’ wear--outfitting their kids for school. I can still see and smell those high stacks of Lee and Big Smith overalls.
A few others owned some stock at the beginning and a few others worked in the store, but, of course, when we think of the company, we think of the Butler family, for they were the main owners and eventually the sole owners. I became acquainted with the family in 1924 in that Houston and I played together as preschoolers. We grew up and went through school together, played many hours of ball, went to parties, did some courtin’ and 101 other things boys do growing up.
But it wasn’t just Houston that I got along so well with. All the Butler family were fine people. Everyone I know had great respect for B. M. and Sarah and likewise the daughters Loren, Anna, Oza and Lela, who each were so friendly and helpful. Troy and Other were fine men and did many favors for many people. Next to Houston, it was David I knew best and came to admire so much. He was one of the kindest and fairest men I ever dealt with. I was talking to one of his newly married daughters and told her that, if the boy was only half as good as her dad, she had little to worry about. She came back with, “Don’t I know it!” It was such a blow to the school, the church, the community and his family when he died much, much too young.
Some other people we remember working in the store were John Medlin and Luther Landrum. And a couple of other nice people were Edra McGehee and Rose Phifer. I can recall Mr. Mack and all the sons working in there and all the daughters, but, of course, Oza worked the longest and seems like Anna worked quite a bit.
Can’t you just see the place? The lady clerks stayed up near the front while the men clerks and the farmers grouped around the pot-bellied stove set in the island of dirt. At intervals you could hear a squirting sound which was some guy unloading a jaw full of Days Work. No doubt but that many of us recall the scent of the new denim overalls, the dry goods, the shoes, the apple rack and the harness leather all rolled together, and how it gave this old general store a most pleasant smell.
There are kids scattered all across the land whose forebearers did business with the store during its 61 years. What a record, what a service, what a memory this company brings to us. The people of the Pangburn area will always recall with great warmness the B. M. Butlers. They and their sons and daughters and Farmers’ Mercantile Company did so many nice things for the community.
Remember radio in the old days? The first set I ever heard was in 1924 at the home of Phillip and Lois Stahle, who lived in what later became the John Medlin home. Then in 1926 the general store of Brown, Crook & Lewis had a set and tuned in to the famous Dempsey-Tunney boxing match. They kept the store open late that night so farmers could gather and hear the fight. I remember going with my dad and most of the men sat or stood around and munched on cheese and crackers.
Today our radios are mostly for music and news. Not so back in the ‘30s and ‘40s because all sorts of programs came over the air. Besides news and weather there were the early daytime soap operas such as ”Ma Perkins,” “Just Plain Bill,” “When a Girl Marries,” “Helen Trent,” “Backstage Wife.”
Also “The Light Crust Doughboys” from WBAP Fort Worth came on at 12:30 daily. My mom never missed this program and thought the announcer W. Lee O’Daniel was a fine man. The little heart-warming talks he made evidently paid off, for he became governor of Texas.
Another popular morning program was “Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club” out of Chicago, similar to our present “Today Show.” As we worked on the first school gym, we could hear the “Breakfast Club” each morning through the screens from Lois Edwards’ little white house on the campus corner.
Then at night there were various programs of comedy, musical, mystery and law and order. Remember “Amos and Andy,” “Jack Benny,” “Fred Allen,” “Charlie McCarthy,” “Riley,” “Snooks” and “Our Miss Brooks”? And what about “Kraft Music Hall” with Bing, “Kate Smith Hour” and “Fibber and Molly”? Then there was “The Shadow,” “I Love a Mystery,” “Inter Sanctum” and “Escape.” Also we had “Gangbusters,” “Your FBI,” “Mr. District Attorney,” “Lone Ranger” and “The Big Story.”
Older folks were very fond of a couple of weekly programs--”The National Barn Dance” from WLS, Chicago, which featured Lula Belle and Scotty and also the Hoosier Hot Shots. Another was the “Grand Ole Opry” from WSM Nashville.
“Your Hit Parade” was a favorite with the young set. It aired twice a week for a long while and then went to Saturday night only. They played the 10 most popular songs of the week. Songs like “Is It True What They Say about Dixie,” “Boo-Hoo,” “I’ll Never Smile Again,” “My Reverie” and “Deep Purple” would be in the number one slot for six or seven weeks. We listened mostly to KARK, KLRA, WREC, WSM, KMOX, WFAA and WBAP.
This little freckled-nose, giggling girl with the straight, stringy hair with bangs was in the first grade. None of us boy classmates thought her pretty--cute, maybe, and prissy for sure. This was just about the image we held on to through grade school.
But by the time she reached high school, Mother Nature was doing many nice and wonderful things with this young lady. In her early years she was called Be-at-trice, three syllables, you know. Then, in early high school, one teacher started calling her Be-tris. But finally she became just plain Bea, but, let me tell you, my friend, by now she wasn’t so plain.
In high school she played in some plays and programs. Once she played the part of a gypsy and, with her loud colored robes and dangling earrings, she did a great job. And we were going to lots of parties. One night a girl said to me right out of the blue, “You guys are dumb as an ox and blind as a bat. If I were a boy, Bea would get a lot of attention from me!” Thinking this girl might be wanting to give me the boot, I stammered around and asked, “Well, uh, uh, what do you mean?” She answered, “Well, she is the most charming and attractive girl in our group and you guys haven’t got sense enough to know it.” And I said, “Well, aren’t you and the other girls envious?” She shot back, “Lands, no, we are glad for her. She’s too nice a person to be conceited.”
While we other guys were dragging our feet, this guy Paul camped on her doorstep. The two became rather fond of each other and it wasn’t likely that anyone could cut in. A copy of the class prophecy at the close of our junior year revealed this item: “By 1950 Bea and Paul would have been married 10 years with two boys and two girls. The first son would have been called Hilger Jeffry and the first girl Paula Sue.” But hold on, the prediction was wrong because in the early summer of 1937 Bea moved to California. Her going-away party got sad at the end because we didn’t want her to leave. Little over a year later Paul moved to Wisconsin. Seems like life is just made up of a bunch of paths and turns.
I saw Bea a couple of times in the early ‘40s but didn’t see her again ‘til our ‘76 school reunion. She and Paul had about a 15-minute chat, no sparks or anything, just went over some good memories. They are two fine friends of mine from teenage days that I will never forget. Paul has a sweet little wife and Doctor “Tipp” makes Bea a fine husband.
After seeing that Bea and another girl named Margie at that reunion had coped with their years so well, my wife came at me with this question: “Are you not sure these girls were just starting school about the time you were leaving?” I said, “Of course not, Honey, these girls just wear well.”
The fall season would come and pass. The cool nip in the air and the bright colors all made all of us feel good despite the hurry-scurry of the harvest. Men, along with lesser creatures of the universe, had been busy laying food by in store for the winter season. Jack Frost would pay a few visits, then a few days later Indian Summer, and then our parents knew winter was right around the corner.
The security and love of a family means so much to kids from about 3 to 12, even though they are not fully aware of it. On cold winter days I could not imagine not having a warm fire, a warm meal and a warm bed waiting for me. My mom and I’m sure a lot of other moms would have a hot meal much of the time about 4 when the kids came in from school. Sometimes they would cook the entire meal on the fireplace or on top of a wood heater. Of course, you can still smell the aroma left by a pot of beans or greens that had cooked all afternoon. And that cornbread cooked in the old skillet on top of the wood heater was delicious when sliced open, packed full of butter and then saturated with sorghum. What a delight to crumble what was left of the bread into a glass or bowl of cold milk. I never burned out on cornbread and milk and to this day I love it.
After supper we would hurry to do the chores before dark. After we got an old battery radio, we tuned in part of the time to “Amos & Andy” and every night to “Lum & Abner,” which came on at 6:30, I think. Next, we kids would work on lessons. My oldest brother would read a Zane Grey, my mom would sew and help with school lessons, and my dad would parch peanuts and look at the harness and tools in the Sears catalogs. He also refereed when my younger brother and I fussed. After warning us once, he reached for the old razor strap and everything got quiet.
With a big snow on the ground or a cold rain falling, what a great sense of well-being it gave one to sit around a hot fire with the hickory sticks giving an occasional pop and enjoying hot popcorn, parched peanuts and winesap apples. If someone told a ghost story, the younger kids scooted their chairs closer. We usually went to bed about 9. On a severe cold night we always had heated bricks or irons placed in the bed.
Few kids in my day had fine clothes or a lot of expensive toys or gadgets, but we had the basic things--the important things. Our great freedoms like freedom of speech, freedom of the press, etc., are all fine in the adult world, but for a youngster growing up, I say “freedom from fear” is so very, very important. Most of the kids in my day had freedom from fear of hunger, from fear of the cold, from fear of harm, and, most of all, from fear of being alone. We knew someone would always be there, someone who cared. Our times weren’t all rough; there was a lot of good there. Think about it!
The cold wave we had back in February brought to mind the cold spells, the snow and ice that came along when I was a kid.
I would wear all the clothing I could get on, which included a sheepskin-lined coat. It was a mile and three quarters to school; a kid would walk real fast or even trot to keep warm. If one was facing a strong north or west wind, tears would come from the eyes and the face would so ache from the winter blast that every few paces along, I would face the other way and walk backward a few steps.
I remember on occasion when a soft, big, fluffy flake of snow started falling at school shortly after noon. The kids became so excited they could hardly wait until the school day ended to run and play in the white, soft stuff. As daylight faded away and nightfall was approaching, it seemed like the whole earth was robed in a big white garment. Do you remember how everything looked so pure and calm? As I finished up with chores and looked out across the fields and trees, it seemed one could hear a pin drop. The farm animals had been fed and taken care of and became quiet. There wasn’t a peep from a dog, a bird or any wild animal. Every creature, man and animal, found shelter, and soon quietness extended all around
After a family had feasted on a supper that usually included a big pan of cornbread, potatoes, soup beans and sorghum molasses, they settled in around a hot stove or fireplace crammed full of mixed oak and hickory sticks. Mom and Dad took the rockers and the kids hurried to get the cane-bottom chair over a box or nail keg. As the evening moved along some, the family would munch on hot popcorn, parched peanuts or winesap apples.
Another winter memory from kid days was the difficulty of getting a car engine started and moving along a muddy road. Most folks stored their old car in a garage or shed from about December until spring. But, on occasion, a brave soul would attempt a trip into town for supplies. Almost always he went in the morning hours after a hard freeze to get his car over the muddy road. Those old frozen ruts would bounce the car around and almost jerk a person into or else throw him from the car. Many times I’ve seen a farmer pour a kettle or two of boiling hot water to warm up the water jacket, the engine and the oil some so it would crank.
We Americans have a tendency to pull for the underdog, be it in politics, sports, business, social, or whatever. Especially is this true if the overdog has used unfair advantage or did an injustice. Of course, the Book teaches us that vengeance belongs to the Lord and a lot of us believe that. But we are still human enough to want to see justice brought in the here and now. This is why most stories and novels end with the good person coming out well and the bad character getting his just dues. But we know real life does not follow this pattern by any means, but sometimes it does happen.
Pull up a chair while we reach back for this story of the hills long ago. We had around us this 14-year-old bully, who thought he was tough and liked to pull mean pranks and tricks on others and laugh real big about it. Our group at this time ran about 12 to 14 years of age. Sometimes we had a boy who was grown in size, 16 or 17, I suppose, who would join himself to our group and this bully kid looked up to this boy.
There was a new family from the bottoms who moved into an old rundown farmhouse. Many of us were poor in those Depression days, but this family was farther down the poverty pole than most of us. Well, one Saturday or Sunday night the oldest boy, about 13, and his younger brother, about 10, came into town to try and meet some boys. So old Bully Boy started in on Big Brother, aggravating and making fun of him. This new kid wanted to make friends and be accepted if possible so he just laughed at the way he was being treated, went along, and played the part of the goat. Then, a few days later, they were back in town and hoped they would be accepted, but, no, this pest started in again, worse than ever. Well, the new boy saw that being a good sport was not gonna work, so he tried to reason with him by saying that, since he was new, he didn’t want to have trouble.
This didn’t work either so he tried ignoring him and giving him the silent treatment. Well, Bully Boy was not having fun so he turned, came out with a slur, and shoved Little Brother. Oh, my, oh, my, he just shouldn’t have done that! Big Brother whirled and was on the bully like a bolt of lightning. His fists went like a jackhammer on the head of that punk. He thought he was being run over by a freight train. Each time the bully kid got up and wiped the dust, manure and blood from his face, Big Brother gave him some more. All at once Bully broke running and crying out, “Why don’t you jump on someone your size!” (They were the same size.) He ran up to his idol, this grown-up boy, and tried to get him to step in. But he had enough sense of fairness not to do it.
I drew some conclusions from this affair through the years. Big Brother was not fighting altogether because he was scared, because he was mad, or even for his Little Brother. He was fighting for the dignity he thought was his or else ought to be his as a free-born human being and American citizen. I watched as those two barefooted brothers in their patched overalls disappeared in the moonlight toward their humble home. They held their heads high and Little Brother must have felt 10 feet tall. Don’t you know that in later years the creek was never too swift to cross if Big Brother needed help.
The rest of us standing around were neither very brave nor fair. Although we didn’t sympathize with Bully Boy, we should have told him he got what was coming to him and shook the hand of the new kid. Anyway, I felt real good walking home. My step was light, I whistled at the stars, and I slept soundly. Injustice was put to flight and Justice shown brightly.
Back in the ‘30s and ‘40s when the October sky was high and blue and the weather was crisp, what a thrill to tune in to that great American classic, the World Series.
Back then it always began the first Wednesday in October. For the next few days it was sure hard for a schoolboy who loved the game of baseball to keep his mind on his studies. Although unable to be in person in Sportsman Park, Wrigley Field, Polo Grounds or Yankee Stadium, I was there in spirit and imagination.
In the 1931 series one of my heroes, Pepper Martin, stole everything but the water bucket as he and the Cardinals took the A’s of Philadelphia in seven games. Martin stole second five times, third once and home once.
I believe it was in the 1932 series that I first heard the games over the radio. Both Decie Epperson’s Cafe and Noel Crook’s drug store tuned in on the games. The Yanks took four in a row over the Cubs that year.
The 1934 series was a good one, which sent the “Ole Gas House Gang,” the scrappy St. Louis Cardinals, up against a strong Detroit Tiger club. The Dean boys got two wins each in the seven-game affair.
In 1937 I played hooky to hear “King Carl” Hubbel go against these Yankees. He was the only Giant pitcher to cause those sluggers much trouble.
Frans Lauck used to announce from Sportsman Park and he was a good one. Mel Allen, Red Barber and Bill Corum did most of the series games in those days. They were colorful announcers. Remember some of our heroes? The Cardinals had the Dean boys, Joe Medwick, Frankie Frisch, Stan Musial, Terry Moore and Enos Slaughter. Hubbel, Terry and Ott were with the Giants. The Yankees had Ruth, Gehrig, Dickey, Gordon, Lazzeri, Keller, DiMaggio and Mantle. I wonder which Yankee team was the best ever? Some say 1927, some 1936, and other 1953. No way to settle it but it makes good sports talk. In the meantime, take me out to the old ball game.
What a debt of thanks we owe the fellows who gave us free trims back in the early ‘30s. Not only did they not take any pay but also they gave of their free time after working all day or all week. Can you imagine expecting a doctor to make a call for free or asking someone to repair your car or hoe cotton for free? Somehow we sort of looked on neighbor barbers like we did musicians--that they did it just for fun.
Some neighbors that gave me a free cut when I was a small kid were Slim Ramsey, Romey Staggs, Vern Marsh, Willie Wisinent, Albert Glenn and Louis Pearson. I think Romey is the only one of these guys still left so just let me give you a big “thank you” right here.
If I were going to be in a school program, sometimes my mom would dig up 25 cents and let me get a “store-bought” barber shop trim. Good thrifty soul that she was, always she followed me to the porch with this final reminder: “Tell him to cut it high, son.”
Small town barbers such as Stewart, Holley, Dewey and Tuck were real friends and real helpful to our teenage group. Not only could we charge haircuts, but on occasion borrow 50 cents from one of them. And that’s not all. We used their shoe polish and hair oil for free. We used their shops to change into baseball uniforms and also to spruce up before going on a date. We must have been a nuisance at times, but they liked us because they showed it. I remember these fellows with great admiration.
Do you remember the school tonsil clinic in October 1930? This was quite an event and undertaking in that some 60 or 70 kids got rid of their tonsils.
Two operating tables were set up side-by-side upstairs in the office of the school superintendent. A couple of surgeons went at it belt-line style with two nurses and two or three other doctors helping. Teachers, parents and the older students who were not patients helped out as orderlies. There were two make-ready rooms in the large classrooms on the first floor, one for boys and one for girls. The auditorium served as a recovery room. It was divided in the middle with a wire and bed sheets, one side for girls, the other for boys. We stayed overnight in this room.
A couple of humorous incidents come to mind. The medics had said then that anything cold was good for soothing and healing the raw throats. Mr. Bowen was letting his daughter suck on a piece of ice and it slipped from his fingers and down her throat. He jumped up yelling, “It’s gone. It’s gone,” and ran for the nurse. She calmed him and assured him that there was nothing to worry about.
Then, way in the night about 2 a.m., there was a loud noise in the operating room. What had happened was that Doctor Spain had crawled up on one of the operating tables to catch a nap and rolled off to the floor.
Once when I was about 13 or 14, Luther Siler, who was teaching at Grubtown, had a sick player and wanted to borrow me to play shortstop for him that day against Providence. He sent one of his students by to ask me but I was helping Dad haul hay and he said no.
Well, just before 1 p.m. here comes Luther himself and puts his hand on Dad’s shoulder and says, “Gene, think you ought to let him go. If I had a boy that was a good player, I’d rather see him become a big leaguer than President. And your boy has a good chance.” Dad rubbed his nose, removed his straw hat, and, after scratching his head, replied, “Take him. Don’t think he will ever make a farmer anyway. But, Luther, you orta have been a politician rather than a school teacher.”
Then some of you will remember back about 1948 Pangburn had a good little junior team. Robbie Dale, Junior, Garland, Jerry Don, Ernest and Bobby were some of them. This little skit is about Bobby.
What Preston Epperson and Julian Southerland were to their generation doing exciting antics on the basketball court, Bobby McDaniel was to his. Once in an important tournament game with the score close, Bobby broke down the court like a wild mustang with head back doing that high dribble. His favorite thing was to end his run with a high leap and pass off to a teammate. This day opposing players checked him about center court, so he leaped, looked to his right, then left, but saw no mate to pass to. So while still floating through the air, he lifted the ball toward the basket some 40 feet away. Coach Lawrence hid his eyes and turned his back in agony, but, so help me, that ball sailed through, stripping the net.
Way back about 1930 a group of boys out about where the old gym is were trying to learn something about football. Malcom Peeler, who had learned something about the game at Searcy, was trying to show the guys how to play and was trying to referee. Of course, no one had on any kinds of pads or protection, but still they were tackling just the same. Tom Sooter was in the backfield of the offensive group. As a surprise to him, the ball was centered right into his hands. A split second after he caught it, three boys coming from various angles tackled him hard. As he slowly got up and brushed himself off, he didn’t seem upset at the tacklers, but with fire in his eyes and voice boomed out, “Who threw that ___ thing to me?”
Some of you will remember the time on our Junior Legion ball team when Dutch Finney stretched a single into a home run. Jack Bridger, who was coaching third, and also the first base coach both tried to hold Dutch up on first, but failing that, thought he would surely stop at second. Jack said, “I saw him coming, head back, laughing like a hyena, and I just got out of his way at third. I needed a lariat rope.”
Then there was the time we senior boys had just got our new maroon-trimmed- in-white gabardine suits and were playing in Judsonia’s new gym that night. Ole Flatus Crook was feeling real good and was trying so hard to impress Juanita, who was in the bleachers. Flatus rebounded under our goal and, after taking a few elbows and knees in the ribs, whirled and dribbled all alone toward the opponents’ goal. Of course, he came to himself after crossing centerline but had to turn over the ball. Flatus (he now goes by the name Wes) was embarrassed a little, but he was a good clean boy and still is a good friend. If a blue chip lady like that had smiled at me perhaps I would have done worse than dribble a ball toward the wrong end.
This same year the county tournament was held in Judsonia. Floodwaters were out and on Friday teams west of the Little Red River could not get home. Some teams slept in the gym or Legion Hut while some stayed in private homes. I. W. Dilliha, Judsonia’s superintendent, took Houston and me to his home. Lorene was a spic and span keeper of the house. We did not shower after our game late that night and, after looking at those snow-white sheets and spread, Houston says, “Let’s be sure and wipe off our feet on our trousers and not get black on the white sheeting.”
We lost our game Saturday morning and were out of the tournament. The river was still over Highway 67 and both Panther and Big Creeks were over Highway 16. Some of us had dates that night and wanted to go home. So we talked Coach Murphy into all of us walking the railroad to Kensett. For about a dime each, we got a taxi on into Searcy. We found Bill Epperson during the afternoon and he promised us a ride in his truck.
We came by way of Rose Bud and got home just before dark. As for the ones of us that were 12th graders, this was our last tournament as schoolboys. With the high waters and all, it was quite an experience.
We have written about some people that have put their mark on the community of Pangburn. Two more, Pauline and Everett, go way back. On the Ghent side, Pauline’s folks came from around Pine Snag, while on the Morrow side they lived near the Brown School District. I remember her family living out east of town just this side of the Carmack place in the early '20s. Across the road were the Tom Woods and later the Sam Billingsleys lived there. Then around 1926 they moved to the west side of town near the gins and sawmill and lived there for several years. They lived near the Bill Rileys, the Elmer Crumps and the Bob Williams.
Their oldest son Jimmy Don was born July 4, 1935, the same day that the Stahle boy was killed in a car accident. Soon as Jimmy was old enough, his granddad Uncle Jim Ghent carried the boy a thousand miles with a jaw full of chewing and a big smile.
Pauline had a lot of talent. In days before beauty shops were common, she fixed a lot of hair and was good at it. But it was as a seamstress that she could really shine. I just wonder how many garments she has made in the past 50 years. Must be in the thousands. She did such a good job and charged so little. Had she lived in a place where one of the nationally known clothing lines had a plant, she could have commanded a responsible and good-paying position. She has made dresses for four generations in my family, and I know she has done this with many other families in the Pangburn area. Folks scattered clear across the land have worn garments made by her. In addition to being a good seamstress, Pauline is a first-class person--never knew what it was to be harsh or to complain. She was always ready to shoulder her load, be it her family, people in her congregation, or folks in the community. I believe I can remember her taking elderly relatives into her home to live on at least three occasions. Now I just don’t run into flocks of folks around who are willing to do this. Pauline was a long-time neighbor and dear friend to my mom. They had many good hours together and confided in each other many times.
Everett was born and spent his early life near Bradford but has lived in Pangburn over 60 years. Everett has known almost everyone in and around the area during this time and they have known him. And I might say nearly all these folks here have liked him and he likes them. It’s his nature to like people and he wants them to like him.
He has worked at farming, cotton ginning, feed mills, been manager and owner of general stores and auto stores, and worked for a while in defense work. A very accommodating man, I’ve seen Everett go at any hour of day or night to help get a friend out of jail, or to give an injection to some elderly person who could not get to a doctor. I’ve seen him willingly sing and help with many, many funerals, some of them for almost strangers. If someone needed help across town and he was caught without a car, he struck out on foot.
This horse lover, foxhunter, song leader, city councilman, good neighbor, good Samaritan, is quite a guy. He is interested in the town, the schools, the community and its people. Pangburn is good for Everett and he is good for Pangburn.
My dad and mom looked on Everett, Pauline, Jim, Ray and Butch as family. Everett and Pauline are two of the town’s best citizens.
Since World War II, families have lived in many different places. By the time my kids were grown, they had lived in many different states. By the time one of my grandsons was 9, he had lived in four states and one foreign country and had visited some 20 states and Canada. My other grandkids by age 6 had been in a dozen or more states.
But when I was growing up, it wasn’t this way. By age 16 I had been no further than Little Rock and at 17 I went to Oklahoma for my first time out of Arkansas.
So when I signed up with the Camps at barely 18 and learned that we would be going out West, I could hardly wait. We were part of a troop train carrying boys all through the western states. Our part of the train was bound for Ogden, Utah. The day we left Camp Robinson had been real hot. We pulled out about 8 p.m. and a severe thunderstorm belted us from Conway to Fort Smith. We got to sleep in real style and we could hardly wait for those Pullman porters to fix our beds. This was strictly class for a bunch of green country boys. Our meals were not so classy, however, as we were served from an Army kitchen car and ate out of mess kits.
Next morning around 7 we pulled into Kansas City. Man, oh man, what a big city, I thought. And the big station and yards were so full of trains, people and activity that we just looked it over in awe. On out across the plains of the great states of Kansas and Nebraska, viewing farm after farm of hay mows and big old stacks of wheat straw with holes eaten in them by cattle. All this was entirely new to a bunch of boys from cotton fields of the South.
On to North Platte and Cheyenne. By now we are getting a real flavor of the Old West in a big way. It’s not difficult to visualize early settlers pushing across in covered wagons, the prairie, the buffalo and a little later the early railroads like the Union Pacific and the Santa Fe. For most of our group that had seen the Old West characters like Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickock or Billy the Kid riding the plains and canyons on the silver screen, now to see these real plains and canyons was a great thrill to us. On to Green River, Evanston, and over the Rocky Mountains into Utah. Those mountains are so magnificent and the streams so clear and swift.
In 1938 Ogden was a town of about 40,000 but it seemed like a big city to us boys from the rural South. It was a big rail center and had a large, nice train station. It was a hustling, bustling little city with a frontier flavor. It had three or four nice hotels, five or six good theaters, and lower 24th Street was lined with bars, clubs and bawdy houses. These things were all new to 18-year-old country boys.
Utah itself is quite historic with all that Morman culture and customs. We learned all about the parts played by the sea gulls, grasshoppers, honeybees, polygamy, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.
Besides my group from Arkansas, we had guys in camp from Missouri, Kansas and Minnesota. I think these boys expected us to be a bunch of dummies from the South, but right away we showed them a thing or two about how to play basketball, baseball and how to get our share of dates with those Mormon girls.
Today Ogden, with Hill Air Force nearby, has well over 100,000 population, while Salt Lake City, 50 miles to our south, had about 60,000 people in 1938 but today has close to 200,000.
Of course, people travel much more today than 40 or 50 years ago, with better cars, roads and jobs. It’s no big deal anymore. But to a kid in the ‘30s, making his first long trip, it was a big deal, a great thrill and appreciated very much.
Those of us past 50 can remember something about home remedies and those 60 or past remember them very well. The items, perhaps in this order, that were used so much were kerosene, turpentine, soda, salt, Vicks salve and castor oil.
Even as dirty and impure as kerosene was, time and again at our house we used it where a rusty nail or wire had made a puncture wound. It sealed off and kept other infections from coming in and we took our chances not to get infection from the oil.
Recently I was reading in a book about home cures and, of course, some of them were humorous, far-fetched and some downright silly. But a great many home treatments did have merit in them.
For excessive bleeding, there were spider webs, a poultice of brown sugar and turpentine, a mixture of soot and lard, or pine resin. On Christmas Day 1925 while visiting relatives in a remote rural area south of Rose Bud, I fell on a rock and split my head open. They packed the wound full of soot, and for the next 30 years I had a black spot on the forehead.
For burns there were castor oil and egg whites, scrapings of a raw white potato, lard and flour, and axle grease. For chest colds, of course the old standby, a poultice of kerosene, turpentine, Vicks, and lard soaked into a flannel cloth. For colic, a pinch of soda in a spoon of water. For a baby, feed breast milk with a drop of kerosene or a drop of asafetida in it. For croup, add a little vinegar, lemon or onion to honey and eat. For a baby, pour a mixture of turpentine and white whiskey into a saucer and set it afire. Hold the baby over the smoke until he breathes it deeply. This loosens him up.
For diarrhea or dysentery, take a tea of red oak bark. Drink some blackberry juice. Drink kraut juice. For "risens,” eat sulphur mixed with honey. For freckles, use buttermilk and lemon juice mixed together to remove them. For the itch, use sulphur and lard or use gunpowder and sulphur.
For hives or measles, use catnip tea or cockleburr tea. Also, make a tea from sheep dung or chicken dung to break them out. For earache, dissolve table salt in lukewarm water and pour into the ear. Hold the ear over a cup of hot vinegar. Pour castor oil into the ear. Warm a spoonful of urine and put a few drops in the ear. (Rather keep the earache, hadn’t you?)
It’s been 150 years since Texas won its independence from Mexico. A wagon train of some 140 wagons and teams started out three days ago to celebrate this event and plans to arrive in the state by July 4. They spent their third night here in our town at the fair grounds, which is only one block from where I live. As my wife and I were walking around and looking them over, it brought to mind just how important the wagon has been in our heritage.
The wagon brought a lot of our forefathers into Arkansas from Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Ohio, Alabama and especially Tennessee and Kentucky. The wagon was the chief means of transportation at one point in Arkansas history. This was true on into the ‘20s and even the ‘30s.
As a small kid I remember the wagon hauled everything--cotton, corn, hay, wood. It brought people to and from town and brought groceries home. The wagon was so versatile. With medium sideboards you could haul corn, potatoes or wood. With high boards it became a cotton wagon and, with a wide and long frame, it became a hay wagon. Put a long coupling pole in and one could haul long timbers. Sweep out the bed, set a couple of spring seats on board and right away you had dependable and economical transportation.
If one was carrying a small load of freight, he might go with two mules, but if the load was very big, he had to have four-up. If a driver got stuck and could not go, he simply had to wait for a fellow hauler to hook on and give a lift. I understand they never charged one another--it was sort of an accommodation. Besides, a hauler never knew when he would bury his own wagon.
If I may say so, my dad was a master muleskinner. He understood his mules and they understood him. He did not want anyone to yell or beat on his mules. He might do it on occasion but allowed no one else to. In the ‘20s he owned a span of mules called Nig and Coalie that any other farmer or hauler would have given his right arm for. They were full of spirit, yet gentle and obedient. They were only average in size, about 1,000 pounds, I suppose, but would make pulls that many larger teams of 1,200 would not do.
As a kid I stood amazed to watch them work on a hard pull. He would pat them on the hip and say, “Lay to it now, steady, steady.” He would swing them in a slight arc and, as he encouraged them on, they would pull so hard that their traces climbed almost to their backs. Even in the winter as he would arrive in town with a load, the team would be drenched in sweat. Dad told me that on occasion if he got hungry on the haul, he would open up a carton of candy bars and have a couple. He always told the store man, whether it was Lee Vaughn, John Shetter, Bob Williams, or whoever, which carton he had opened and they didn’t mind.
I doubt if any old-timers around remember Nig and Coalie pulling a freight wagon; maybe Clarence Norman, Lawrence Dumas or Foster Steward would.
Some time back I read a good research and history on the Missouri & Arkansas train line by Troy Nowell, and it brought to mind how we used to meet the train.
Seems like it ran at 11:15 a.m. and kids, old men, and loafers all liked to watch her come in. Of course, some came to get freight or meet passengers. Uncle Bart Sims would get from three to six or seven sacks of mail and push his two-wheeled cart up the sidewalk toward the post office with a half-dozen kids tagging along with him.
If there was freight to be delivered, Ellis Moody ran a dray service and would handle it. Before the day of very many cars or good roads, people who came in by train and wanted to go out to, say, Hiram, Little Red or Clay would rent a rig or a hack from the Fisher Livery Barn.
But back to the depot. It was interesting seeing who came into town and who went out, and, besides, there was all the excitement of the spewing steam, rolling black smoke, dinging bell, and loud whistle. At one point in history, folks on the Mississippi waited for the steamboat. Then, as the West was settled, they waited for the stage. But as a boy in my hometown, we waited on the M&NA, later changed to just the M&A line. Back in the 1920s a man was to take an early morning train out of Pangburn to be married. As he heard the whistle down the track, he was all excited and in a hurry. He meant to jump into his trousers and toss his coat over his arm. But he did just the opposite, came running up carrying his trousers. The conductor helped calm him down. Working in the fields, we tried to knock off right after 11:30 for lunch and feed and water our teams. Just as soon as old “Doc,” one of our mules, heard this 11:15 train whistle, he just quit and was ready to head for the barn. I was a lot like this mule.
I would like to end this article with a little song or poem about this old train line. You may have heard a similar song.
From the flatlands of the Wonder State
To the hills of Joplin, MO
Thru snow-white fields of cotton
Past sawmills on the go;
She’s smoky and she’s noisy
All hear her clickety-clack.
She is the M-A Cannon Ball
As she rolls along the track.
She came up from Georgetown
Thru Letona by the way
As she stopped for Pangburn Station
You could hear the people say,
“There’s a girl from Woodruff County,
She’s long and she is tall.
She came to make a visit
On the M-A Cannon Ball.”
Listen to the jingle
The rumble and the roar
As she glides thru Patton Hollow,
Sugar Loaf and Little Red shore.
See the mighty bluff at Libby,
Listen to the Heber call.
You’re traveling thru the Ozarks
On the M-A Cannon Ball.
Perhaps two of the best-known citizens connected with the first half of the 20th Century were Napoleon Hilger and Crawford Monroe Peeler, M.D. Mr. Hilger went by A. N., Pole, or Captain. (Most folks said “Capen” for they did not put the “t” in there.) Dr. C. M. Peeler was mostly known and called “Doc.” These two played a big part in the financial, social and political life of our little community for many years. They both served as mayor, were on the school board and were active in county and state politics. They were old-line Southern Democrats on the national level, but they differed both quite often, sometimes sharply, on county and state candidates.
Once, Peeler’s candidate made a speech in Pangburn. Hilger, who was the precinct “boss,” was backing another man. This candidate opened his speech something like this: “I was told it’s no use to come here because Pole would pull all the votes. Well, my friends, I just don’t believe that Pole’s pole is long enough to do this!” Of course, this brought laughter and cheering but the center of attention was focused on the good doctor who leaped two feet into the air and chuckled for five or six minutes.
The two had some similarities. They lived across the street from each other several years. Both wore belts, suspenders, and white straw hats. Both smoked cigars, at least part of the time. Both were ambitious, busy, hard-working and successful businessmen.
Mr. Hilger was a huge man, over six feet, a big stomach and waistline, and weighed perhaps 250. He had a deep booming voice and talked to people a lot. He always called his peers “boys,” never men. (But this was not meant to be a put down. He was trying to be jovial and relaxed.) Doctor Peeler was short in stature but stocky built. He was less talkative, which was understandable, because he was preoccupied with his medical books and patients.
These two fellows had faults and enemies, of course. But they also had many, many friends. As a kid in this town, they fascinated me no little and I should like to relate a couple of humorous incidents in their lives.
(Cap told me this one himself.) After serving in World War I in Italy, Cap came home and became engaged in some kind of law enforcement work. He and another officer had been unable to apprehend this suspect. They knew he was in the house. They waited until after bedtime, slipped through a window, and moved quietly to the bedroom. As Cap held his pistol on the bed, he told his buddy to light the lamp. Being a hot summer night, this suspect’s wife was sleeping by him with neither covers nor clothes. Cap says, “I have never seen two men take a worse cussin' than we did from that woman!”
Then one time in the ‘20s during the holidays, some of the kids were letting the firecracker shooting get out of line along the streets. Mr. Hilger was mayor at the time and walked out of his house to the sidewalk. One of the Stahle boys ran up and, tugging at his arm, yelled, “You gonna make ‘em stop, Pole? You gonna put ‘em in jail, Pole?” Very gently, the Captain removed the boy’s hand from his arm, turned and replied very calmly, “Son, don’t call me Pole, call me Mr. Hilger.”
Around 1933 or ‘34, it looked like the Old West would rise again in our town. One Sunday afternoon here comes this drunken hoodlum riding his horse right down the sidewalk. Evidently the city marshall was not around but Doctor Peeler was mayor and, hearing the commotion, came out of the drug store. The drunk said he was gonna ride into the drug store. Doc said no and ordered him to take his horse and go home. Then he was gonna whip Doc and sort of rolled from the saddle. No damage was done to our mayor as this guy was drunk and swung over the short doctor, who himself got in a few punches to the stomach and ribs of the drunk. The mayor called on a couple of citizens to help him and they tied the drunk up with a rope. This was during the Depression and I believe he got off with a $10 fine.
Doc told this one on himself. He made a call across the river over some real muddy roads. He saw his patient and left a couple of kinds of medicine, all for a $5 charge. In those days most people did not pay for a few weeks or even months and some never paid at all. After complaining some about the charge, this fellow pulled out a $5 bill and paid him. Doc started back to town and a short way down the road buried his Model A coupe in a mud hole. So he went back to the house he had been to and the farmer brought out his team and pulled the car out. Doc says, “How much?” The man says, “Five dollars.” And Doc ended up by saying, “I gave back to him the very same bill he had given to me a few minutes earlier.”
Well, these two old-timers carved many nicks in the history tree of Pangburn. As I visit the little town from time to time, I still envision seeing these colorful characters making their way along the sidewalk. I shall never forget Captain A. N. Hilger or Doctor C. M. Peeler.
Remember the Big Swing Band Era? Some call it the Swing Band Era while others refer to it as the Big Swing Band Era, but I think they are talking about the same thing. This time could probably be pegged from the early ‘30s to the late ‘40s. Its heyday was from about 1937 to 1947.
Some of the ones that come to mind are Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Glen Miller, Sammy Kaye, Guy Lombardo, Wayne King, Artie Shaw, Harry James, and Charlie Barnett. This is only 10 bands and there must have been another couple of dozen well-known ones that played across the country.
It seems that through the years each band always had one or two selections that were more or less its trademark. That is, they seemed to come up with a better rendition of that number than did other bands. Also, most of the bands carried one or two vocalists and sometimes three or four. Some of them had small singing groups of three or four that did special numbers. Most of the bandleaders played some instrument.
Benny Goodman, the King of Swing, played the clarinet. Some of his singers were Helen Forest, Helen Ward and Martha Tilton. A couple of his well-known tunes were “Bugle Call Rag” and “And the Angels Sing.”
Tommy Dorsey was known as the “Sentimental Gentleman of Swing,” and he played the trombone. Jo Stafford sang for him for a long while. Also the Pied Pipers, a singing group, did “I’ll Never Smile Again” and “There Are Such Things.”
Sammy Kaye had a real pleasant band to listen to and the Kaydettes did a fine job on numbers like “To Each His Own,” “Blueberry Hill,” and “Harbor Lights.”
All of these bands were similar in that they were called swing bands, yet each had a distinctive style. Glen Miller developed a sound called “sweet swing.” He played the trombone and his singers were Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton and Tex Beneke and the Modernaires. Miller’s trademark numbers were “Sunrise Serenade,” “My Reverie” and “Tuxedo Junction.”
Jimmy Dorsey played the saxophone and his singers were Bob Eberle, Helen O’Connel, and Kitty Kallen. Wayne King played the saxophone and was well known for his rendition of “Waltz You Save for Me” and “Josephine.”
There was old indestructible Guy Lombardo with his “sweetest music this side of Heaven.” We remember him for “Auld Lang Syne,” “Boo Hoo,” “September in the Rain,” “Isle of Capri” and “Red Sails in the Sunset.”
Artie Shaw was outstanding on the clarinet and his “Begin the Beguine” is still a classic. Harry James was a whiz on the trumpet. One of his well-known numbers was “You Made Me Love You.” And no one could play “Cherokee” like the fine band of Charlie Barnett.
Remember from where we heard them? From the East it was Glen Island Casino, Frank Daily’s Meadowbrook or Hotel Pennsylvania. In the Midwest it was Chicago’s Aragon and Blackhawk Cafe, in Memphis Hotel Peabody and in Dallas the Baker Hotel. In the far West it was from the Trianon and Palladium in Los Angeles and in San Francisco from the Sir Francis Drake and St. Francis hotels.
1. Old-time heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan had worn the belt for a few years. He was a real crowd pleaser, a big roaring man who could both give and take hard punches. But in 1892, a real smart and wiry boxer named James Corbitt, who was a few years younger than the old champ, took the title from him. It was rather a touching moment when the older former champ shook the hand of the young Corbitt and said, “You won this belt fair and square--wear it with honor.”
2. In 1926 boxing history was almost repeated. William Harrison “Jack” Dempsey, another hard puncher and popular boxer, had held the crown for some seven years. But once again a young, smart boxer with good footwork named Gene Tunney defeated Dempsey in 1926 in Philadelphia. In 1927, in a rematch in Chicago, Tunney won again but not without controversy. Dempsey had always gone on the premise that he would take two punches to get in one. But Tunney had stayed back from the hard right until the seventh when Dempsey sent him to the floor. Tunney got the long count of some say 14, some say 16, instead of the usual 10 count, and got up and won on decision in 10 rounds. This was the first $2 million match.
3. Talk about getting a team up for a game; here is a true story. Knute Kenneth Rockne was the famous football coach of Notre Dame in the ‘20s. They had an outstanding player called George Gipp who had died unexpectedly the year before. I believe it was in 1928 and Notre Dame was trailing a big and powerful team at half at West Point. It is said that Coach Rockne neither chewed them out nor pampered them, or offered any new solutions. He simply paced the locker room floor a couple of times, turned, and quietly said, “Well, I had hoped we would win this one for the Gipper.” In deep agony and with not another word said, he left the room. Well, for the rest of the story, sportswriters there that day said that in the second half the Notre Dame offensive line opened holes in the Army line big enough to push a bale of cotton through. The Irish went on to win that day.
4. On October 15, 1946, in the eighth inning of the seventh game of the World Series, the Red Sox and Cardinals were tied at three games each and also tied 3 to 3 in this ball game. Enos “Country” Slaughter was on first for the Cards and took the steal sign and broke fast for second. Kurowski and Rice had just been retired but Harry Walker blooped a slow single between the outfielders. John Pesky, Red Sox shortstop, went out and took the throw from outfielder Culbertson. John turned, wondering whether to throw to second or third but saw the dashing Slaughter about two steps past third, digging for home. His peg was a little short and the runner scored, which won the series. Said Pesky, “I would have needed a rifle to nail Slaughter.”
5. Here is a good one. On August 12, 1951, the Giants were 13 1/2 games back of the Dodgers. But they won 39 of their last 47 games and, at one point, won 16 in a row. The two teams ended in a tie and were tied one game each in the playoff. The Dodgers had a 4-1 lead in the last of the ninth with big Don Newcomb pitching. But Alvin Dark and Don Mueller had gotten singles and another batter got on base although there were two outs. Up steps the fiery little Scotchman, Bobby Thompson, the Giants’ third baseman. He worked the pitcher to a 3-2 count and then big Newk split the plate with a fast one. Little Bobby was ready and one of baseball’s all-time greatest moments flashed before us. That ball was hit so hard and so high it looked like a speck as it sailed over left field fence. It won the game and the National League pennant for the Giants. Durocher went crazy as the team carried Bobby from third to home.
Nothing gets my dander up more than seeing an adult, even if it’s the parent, mistreating a child, especially if he is about 1 or 2. I know you have seen two extremes of parents training children. There is the one in which Junior goes into a house or a store and breaks or tears up half the things in sight. He is a spoiled kid and the parent defends him and can see no wrong in anything he does. Then there is the little fellow who is afraid to breathe or bat an eye for fear of getting thumped or jerked around and yelled at. Both situations are bad but I would rather put up with the former.
One night we were on our way out to dinner and stopped by a store for a minute. This little kid about 1 1/2 was either ill or tired and worn out or both and this big baboon was fussing and yelling at him, whipping, thumping and jerking him. I told my wife that I ought to ask this guy to take it easy and she said that perhaps not. Good thing, I suppose, for I know it would have meant losing my teeth and getting a broken jaw. But that child’s eyes seem to look at me and ask what chance do I have when my own dad treats me like this. Well, I might as well have gone home--it ruined my evening, didn’t enjoy my food for thinking about that little guy.
All over this land children are mistreated by one or both parents. I get the idea that they blame their kids for interfering with them having a good time. The extra expense may knock them out of buying some gadget. Or they may blame the kids for keeping them from going out and living it up, so they are cross, cranky and abusive to the children. For the ones that do this, isn’t it a sad situation?
My wife used to tell me that she would take some mistreatment herself, but the man never lived that could mistreat her children and get away with it. Kinda think she would have scalded or poisoned him, whichever was easier. But back to the little fellow mentioned earlier, he stands a good chance of growing up either to hate his dad or become a criminal, or both. And that’s not good.
I once read to steer clear of anyone that would fail to notice puppies and/or small children. It’s a good clue that there just might be a warped link there. Physical abuse and mistreatment are not the only kinds of cruelty. There is the mental kind. Some people are moody and selfish and want their own way all the time. There is the devious and dishonest kind that tries to make others think his or her idea is the best for all concerned.
Just what advantage, what glory, what challenge or what accomplishment a big hunk of a man or woman gets from running over a small child is beyond me.
One of our old sages had some things to say about manners and behavior. Here are a few from Mr. Emerson: “Your manners are always under examination, and by committees least suspected . . . ” “Wise men read very sharply all your private history in you look and gait and behavior.” “Manners impress as they indicate real power.” “Self-reliance is the basis of behavior.” “Society is the stage on which manners are shown.”
Not long ago I read of a course on party manners for young girls from 10 to 12, put on by Dillard stores. They were taught telephone manners, table manners, grooming, posture and so on. They also learned how to applaud, read menus, make introductions and write thank you notes and invitations. This sounds like a good idea. No doubt but that young boys could profit from some similar course.
Several years ago our minister asked me to come along and do some visiting in the community. We called on one old retired fellow whose wife showed us in. He had his feet hiked, his pipe puffing and the TV going loud. “Come around, fellows, have a seat.” But this ole guy not only didn’t turn his noise box off, he didn’t even turn it down. Well, we yelled a couple of dozen words to each other, wished him well, got up and left. As we crossed the yard the preacher just shook his head and remarked that this fellow was sure fond of his TV. My remarks were a little harsher--seemed a case of crude manners if ever I saw one. When I have friends or relatives to visit me, I want that thing to stay off. And if I’m in a group at another’s house and the TV is blaring, my visit will be short. We all got to be such slaves to TV in the ‘60s that it robbed us of much good reading and conversation among friends and relatives.
Another case in point of rude manners is the person that hogs all the conversation, and many times it centers on him. He tells how much money he makes, how much he has and how much property. Or it may be what a lady-killer he was, or maybe how he threatened ole “So and So” with his fists or a lawsuit. Have you ever run into one like this? Just a big bore.
We all admire good manners, younger people toward their elders, men toward ladies, boys toward girl friends, etc. Some may yell “square” or “sissy” but to be honest, they know it’s a good mark. Good manners are an indication of a good character behind them. In fact, I think they are a part of character.
Do you remember how it was back when we were growing up when the kids, one by one, left the family flock for the first time or two for a period of time? You didn’t need an alarm clock. You simply told your mom to wake you at 5:30 or 6:00, and, of course, she lay awake over half the night reflecting on every move you had made since baby days. As the ole wall clock came to the time set, Mom was torn between a rock and a hard place. She so dreaded to wake you and watch you put away what might be her last pan of biscuits from her to you. On the other hand, she was duty bound to keep her promise to call you.
You would shake hands with Dad on the porch and he would say, “Take care of yourself, Son. Your ma and me have tried to raise you right.” Then, after a goodbye hug from Mom, she followed you to the yard. You tried to cheer her up by telling her everything was gonna be fine but somehow she didn’t quite buy it. She took one long, last good look, waved a slow goodbye, turned, and slowly plodded back to the house and deeply wept for several minutes. Then she would pull in and do two days work in one to keep from worrying.
Once when my older brother had just left and Mom was crying, I asked her, “Why are you so upset. You said he was lazy and he always picked a fuss with me.” I received no answer, not even a look. Of course, I began to understand this sort of thing much better when my kids went away.
Up until about 1940 I would say, most kids were born at home. Older brothers and sisters were taken over to stay with a relative or neighbor. Before the day of better medicine and hospitals, a good many mothers died in childbirth. My mom once told me this was a very trying and sad time for her to see her small kids leave not knowing whenever she would ever see then again and help raise them.
My wife and I and our daughter and her family just got back from a nice trip to Kentucky and Tennessee. These are two beautiful states, chucked full of history, and also most of us had forebears who lived here.
In Bardstown, the Stephen Foster Story presented in the outdoor theater was superb. In Nashville, Opryland tickets are $13.50 for all ages but are good for three days. They have three or four fine shows in the park. Those young performers who can imitate the older country singers really have some good talent.
Reunions are great, I say. I’ve heard excuses by a few for not coming, like “Some just come to let it be known how successful they have been.” Or “Some want to see how much nearer 50 he or she looks than their friends.” Or “I don’t want to come--no one would remember me.” Well, fiddle, faddle, there is not a speck of truth in any of these reasons. We go to school reunions because we long to take a little excursion, a little trip for a few hours back to the time and place of our younger days. A little trip back to the front side of the rainbow, if you please.
As we look and talk to each other, we don’t see a group of pudgy, wrinkled folks with thin and faded hair. We see people at another time, rosy-cheeked, lively step, full of vim and vigor. I took this trip Saturday, June 1, and really enjoyed it. I saw ole John Bartlett dashing around that racetrack like a blue streak. I saw old Sloke, who never was a fireballer, put some lefthanded “worms” on a few pitches. I saw this slender, handsome black-headed boy called Elbert unload a busload of noisy youngsters. I saw Daisy, Florence, Marie and Earline scampering across the ball court in those maroon suits with a big white letter “P.” I even got a glimpse of Almeda, Vada, Opal and Lois. And there was my old friend Julian trying to get someone to “call the coin.” (Of course, he had two on his arm--one heads and one tails.)
So, we could all identify with each other, all 66 of us. We kicked the same rocks, waded the same clay mud and creeks, and climbed the same hills. I had not seen Lola Adcock or Lola Whitten in a bunch of years and it was good to visit with them. Hubert brought Lela Butler Epperson by for a while. She smiled and talked to all of us--a very gallant and fine lady.
I only pulled one boner. This lady spoke to me and asked if I knew who she was. I said, “Sure, sure, you are Christina Doyle.” She replied, “I am not. I used to be Pearl Vinson.”
I just imagine that the student who came the greatest distance was Lucile Reeves MaHarg and Carlton, from the state of Washington. Kie and Connie Patterson won the door prize.
Here is a try at who attended: Ruth Edwards, LaVerne Collins, Earline Jenkins, Lola Adcock, Daisy Gray, Zola Vaughan, Esther Marsh, Ava Marsh, Lola Baker, Louise Crook, Evelyn Medlin, Lola Whitten, Bertie Ghent, Florence Floyd and husband, Pearl Vinson and husband, Lucille Reeves and Carlton, Kie and Connie Yingling Patterson, Carl Vinson and wife, Louis Crook and Mildred, Hubert Epperson and Lela, Hal Lewis and Ethel, Lonnie Gray and Mildred, Julian Sutherland and Helen, Elbert Halle and Pauline, Cecil McCourt and Coleen, Houston Butler and Betty, Judon Murphy and Violet, Leon Van Patten and wife Nancy, John Bartlett and wife, Sloke Butler and Marie, the Fate and Fell Campbells, Arlon Hughes, Malcom Peeler, Joe Moody, Oweta Staggs, Irving Van Patten, young Malcom Peeler, Louis Crook Jr., Eddy Epperson and R. C. McCourt and Iuka. It was enjoyable, folks.
Pangburn High School is celebrating its 75th anniversary. As I remember, in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s, PHS had a pretty good school for this size community. I believe that in the late ‘20s the school offered Latin, typing and even had a music teacher, all in addition to the regular units in the standard fields of math, science, English and history. But hard times took their toll and all but required subjects were cut out. One had to start paying for typing and music, and for a half a year in 1934 and ‘35, high school students had to pay monthly tuition.
Kids within three or four miles radius walked in. Some kids who lived farther out rode in on horseback. Some boarded with a relative or friend who lived closer in. The first bus route ran from six or seven miles west on Highway 16 and about the same distance south. I remember how exciting it was the first morning a bus pulled in driven by Mr. Marion Whitehurst. All kids gathered around to watch the new students unload. This was in 1929, I think. Marion was followed first by Elbert Haile and then by Odis Pickens. These two routes were all the district had for several years.
Through the years PHS always had some good softball, basketball and track people. For many years Pangburn opened its basketball season on Thanksgiving afternoon. If the old outdoor clay court was dry and the weather was clear and mild, you could expect a big crowd around the court to yell their lungs out. I remember them playing Letona, Wilburn, Russell, Bradford, Rose Bud and Heber Springs.
At first the teams were known as the Zebras but in 1929 or ‘30 they became the Tigers. The teams of the 1938-39 season were the first to have their own indoor gym to play in. This gym burned in the early ‘40s but was rebuilt on the same site. The present facility was built in the ‘70s.
As one thinks back on the years, many events come to mind. The school had some three or four fires with much damage. Many will recall the community tonsil clinic performed in the old main building in October 1930. In 1933 there was a lawsuit between the superintendent and a student. The first talking movie that I ever saw (and this no doubt goes for many other kids) was in the auditorium of the high school. A traveling man showed the picture about 1933 or ‘34.
It’s interesting to occasionally think back about the various teachers, superintendents, coaches, custodians, bus drivers and all the many students I can remember. I don’t plan to ever forget them; it keeps me young.
Remember the dramatic, the historical, the changing ‘40s? Of course you do. What an exciting period of our lives! Of course, the war years come to mind right away.
As we entered the ‘40s, World War II was underway and that fall our country instituted the first ever peacetime draft. Our leaders could see that sooner or later we would be in the war ourselves. So our industry began to switch over to war production. Defense plants and shipyards got the green light to forge ahead at full swing.
I worked at North American Aviation plant for a while where we turned out the B-25 Mitchell which was a medium bomber and the P-51 Mustang which became one of the best fighter planes in the war.
Women stopped wearing their tight sweaters, put on overalls, tied their hair up with a bandanna and went to work in the plants right along with the men. Our big cities were active 24 hours a day, shifts going on and coming off duty at all hours, so grocery markets, restaurants, gas stations and theaters were open all night.
The draft and the pending fear of war brought about the construction of many new military training centers. The Air Force, the Navy, the Marines and the various
branches of the Army had sites all across the country. If you lived around one of these defense centers or training centers, you soon learned to get used to crowds, even though it wasn’t pleasant. One stood in line every place--the market, the bank, the theater, going on shift, coming off shift. And on the weekend, trying to get on a bus or train was next to impossible.
Even so, the old G.I. who was fortunate enough to catch a USO show or go on a furlough was really grateful. Most felt that training camps were terrible; you were treated like trash and a nobody, which one soon learned to take in stride. Amid all this grind, every hour and every day there was always something comical or exciting taking place. (It was well put by the guy who said, “I wouldn’t take anything for this experience but do not care for it again.”)
On the home front there were shortages and rationing. Do you remember red stamps, blue stamps, shoe stamps, sugar stamps and gasoline stamps? Nylon hose could not be had so some girls had hose painted on.
Then, in December 1941, came the Pearl Harbor incident, and we were thrust into a four-year struggle. There were the sad reports of “Missing in Action,” “Prisoner of War” lists, and the traumatic receiving of a War Department “Killed in Action” telegram. Do you recall such expressions as 1-A, induction station, allotment, emergency furlough, shipped out, etc? Some songs from our war years include “Don’t Sit under the Apple Tree,” “Harbor Lights” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
There were two main theaters of the war--the European and the South Pacific. Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Truman served as President during this period. Jimmy Burnes was a very capable Secretary of State. General George Marshall was a very key military person in the war years and then became a top Secretary of State under President Truman.
Some of the Army brass were Generals Bradley, Eisenhower, Patton, Clark, Hodges and Patch. General Hap Arnold was over the Air Force. Navy leaders were Admirals Nimitz, King and Halsey. We well remember the North African Campaign, Salerno and Anzio in Italy, D-Day in France and the immortal Battle of the Bulge. There were many good motion pictures about the war such as Sargent York, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Mrs. Miniver, Casablanca, Wake Island and Bataan. After Armistice there was the G.I. Bill, the Marshall Plan and war brides.
Folks, the ‘40s were a transition period. Our living style changed. We moved to various cities and states, meeting people from other sections of the country. Many of our friends who had been rural and small town left, never to return. Just as 20 centuries ago when all things were referred to as B.C. or A.D., World War II did this again to some extent for us. Everything became dated. So-and-so happened “before the war” or “after the war.” Women entered the work force and never looked back.
Remember all the good movies we saw through the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s? There was a strict code then that kept them clean and decent. But in the ‘60s, just like in much of our literature, music and morals in general, movies joined the sordid march and these things went to pot. There are very few movies today that are not filled with rough and dirty language and scenes.
I suppose that “Gone with the Wind” has been the best and greatest all-around movie since 1940 and will remain so for a long time. I saw this movie in 1940 at the Gem in Heber and there was a line a block long. But one fellow remarked to me, “Shoot, this ain’t nothing--last year the line to see “Jesse James” reached clean to the park.”
Around 1937 “Stagecoach” was a real good picture about the romantic West. Then a couple of years later along came “Union Pacific” with good film shots and a fine story linking up the West with the East.
My favorite wartime movie was “Mrs. Miniver.“ But the most enjoyable movie to me of all time was “How Green Was My Valley,” a story about a poor, hard-working family of Welch coal miners. Their love for each family member and their determination to always remain honorable was very impressive.
A couple of movies that I liked real well and that stuck with me were about schoolteachers. In “Remember the Day,” Claudette Colbert had lost her husband in World War I. She had taught this couple as kids and later taught their son and the girl he grew up to marry. Years later the son became senator and was being nominated for President. The teacher, an old lady now, came to the convention hall hoping to see him, but he walked right past her without recognizing her. But her face remained on his mind and suddenly he remembered and ran to the foyer. The nation was kept waiting for his speech on radio as he greeted and embraced his fondest teacher.
Then, another “Good Morning, Miss Dove,” with Jennifer Jones, Robert Stack and Chuck Connors, was an outstanding human interest story. The teacher was to have serious surgery and a whole host of her former pupils learned of it and gathered on the street below her hospital window. She gave the young surgeon (a former pupil) a gold watch that had been her dad’s, telling him, should things not go well, to keep it and pass it on to his son. The key scene came the next morning when Miss Dove woke up and asked the doctor to “give it to me straight.” He said not a word but pulled the watch from his pocket, gently placed it on the bed, and left the room.
Some actresses with good talent in those days were Irene Dunn, Claudette Colbert, Bette Davis, Greer Garson, Joan Fontaine, Olivia DeHaviland and Loretta Young. These and some others not listed here were great but for sheer acting ability I would pick Bette Davis.
On the actor side I’m not too impressed with these later day guys like Newman, Reynolds and Redford. When they play a part about the old West or some other historical period, seems to me they make fun of the role and treat it lightly. But the giants in my day gave you a good, sincere performance. Cooper, Stewart, Cagney, Bogart and March were a delight to watch. And what about Tracy, Brennan, Pidgeon, Holden and Heston.
For all-around ability, intelligence and personality, I would pick Jimmy Stewart. Charleton Heston and William Holden would be near the top. These guys have been class actors.
Remember the funnies of another era?
The comic book belonged to the war years but the comic strip belonged to the ‘20s and ‘30s. The funnies were very innocent and honorable in those days, just as were the movies, novels, songs and music. None of these dope mongers, out-in-the-open homos or hippy thugs belonged to the comic strip of this era.
Harold Teen may have slicked down his hair with 20-weight oil. Still he had the good manners and good sense to speak to the parents of his date and promise to bring her home at a decent hour. Winnie Winkle on occasion would dress like a flapper. Tillie the Toiler had Mac, her short boy friend, wrapped around her little finger. Blondie sometimes fumed with Dagwood. Still none of the three thought of having a “live-in” boy friend.
Do you remember “Mutt & Jeff,” “Katzenjamer Kids,” “Blondie,” “Skippy,” “Terry and the Pirates,” “Gasoline Alley,” “Winnie Winkle,” “Popeye,” “Moon Mullins,” “Dumb Dora” and “Tillie the Toiler?” “Little Orphan Annie” was timeless. She stayed a pre-teen for years and years. There was “Dick Tracy,” “Harold Teen,” “Flash Gordon,” “Superman,” “Prince Valiant,” “Happy Hooligan,” “Barney Google,“ “The Timid Soul” and the old favorite, “Bringing Up Father” with Jiggs and Maggie. Also there were “The Gumps,” “Boob McNutt,” “When Mother Was a Girl,” “The Van Swaggers” and “Lil Abner.”
The comic strip was also used as an effective means of advertisement. We were all made aware of the bogey scares of “pink tooth brush,” “bad breath,” “mottled pimples,” “Mr. Coffee Nerves,” “tattle-tale gray,” or the scariest one of all “B.O.” I liked the strip that went “Babe takes a Lifebouy bath. B.O. gone. Romance returns.” (I used Lifebouy some myself, but I think it smelled more like dog and cat shampoo.) Another good one was on “halitosis.” This young lady was all upset from emotion, so she decided to go see a shrink. No boy friends or any other friends yet the good doctor could see her face, her body, bloomed with beauty and vitality. But as he leaned over to talk with her, it was obvious, for he got a whiff. He advised, “My dear, you don’t need a psychiatrist, you need Listerine.” Soon she was engaged to a “well-to-do Easterner who simply adores her.”
One event in 1937 that put the state in the national news was the arrest of a high school girl who walked down the street in shorts. I believe the small eastern Arkansas town was Nettleton, near Jonesboro. The big magazines and news services had a field day. Very likely the shorts came a little above the knees. If those shocked citizens of that little town were around today, I wonder what they would think.
Then in 1957 the state got a lot of unjust, unfair, and incorrect publicity when the federal troops moved into Central High. The whole South and much of the nation felt just as Arkansas did but, unfortunately, they were picked as an early target for a test case so the press--eager for a big story--gave the state and city plenty of black marks. My relatives living near Central at the time said the event was blown way out of proportion by the media.
Arkansas has some fine people who have brought notoriety to the state.
The first All-American in college football for the state came in 1929 when a young man from Pocahontas named Wear Schoonover received that honor. The next one came in 1937 when Jim Benton from Fordyce was selected at the university. Clyde Scott was the next All-American in 1948. Since then, the state has produced some 15 to 20 All-American selections.
The state let a couple of fine athletes, Paul Bryant of Fordyce and Don Hutson of Pine Bluff, get away to another state. Of course, we know what those two went on to accomplish. Fred Thomsen, George Cole, Glen Rose and Gene Lambert did a lot for athletics in the state. Of course, Barnhill and Broyles really put the state on the map although they were not native sons.
Arkansas has had some good baseball native sons. There was Travis Jackson, Bill Dickey, Lon Warneke, Lyn Rowe, the Dean Brothers, Eldon Roe, George Kell, Brooks Robinson and Johnny Sain. As a kid from Swifton, Kell played third base for Newport Junior Legion and I played third for Pangburn against him.
In national politics the state has had some powerful men in Washington. Their long tenure of office brought them to head some important posts. Joe T. Robinson, William Fulbright, John McClellan and Wilbur Mills helped shape the nation and the world. Although Harry Truman or Lyndon Johnson never cared for Fulbright, still he was highly educated and a well-respected senator in his work.
In the entertainment field we have Cash, Campbell, Jim Ed Brown, Patsy Montana, Charley Rich, Bob Burns, Lum & Abner, Dick Powell and Alan Ladd. I never figured Burns helped the state one iota; he portrayed everyone as being an ignorant, lazy hillbilly. Lum & Abner played rural characters all right, but they gave you a good side of the people and the state. When Glen Campbell came along, I thought he was an excellent singer and a fine, clean-cut young man. But after fame, money and three or four wives, he looks rather seedy and sorry to me.
In this collection of my essays I’ve written about incidents of growing up in the hills and for the most part they were pleasant times. Many would argue with me today that our mode of living is so far better than 50 years ago due, of course, to economic reasons and advancements in technology. I would be dishonest and foolish to argue with them, because this is true.
But I want to think with you about some qualities that have slipped and are still slipping through our fingers here in America. Our relatively young nation is a little past 200 years of age. I believe our knowledge of history and our respect for patriotism and the good things of the past have slipped.
A few years ago, Rather and Brokaw were broadcasting the royal wedding in Britain and these two fellows pondered why Americans were so crazy about watching it. Their answer had to do with fairy tales, knights in shining armor, and pageantry.
I think they missed the real point. Americans are hungry for real cultural history and no one can preserve it and display it like the British. There was a line in a play recently about modern America: “The more it’s disposable, the more it’s beautiful.” How sad. This country, home of disposable plates, Presidents, spouses and morals, yearns for a more stable heritage.
The distinguished professor and lecturer Duncan Williams has some interesting thoughts. “The recovery of moral control and the return of spiritual order have now become indispensable conditions of human survival.” He says man does not want to conform to an authoritative norm because he is intoxicated with the concept of “freedom.” Further he says: “If, in the novels which he reads, in the plays and films which he sees, and in the ethical treatises which are presented for his edification, Western man is continually and exclusively subjected to a vision of himself as a being--violent, animalistic, alienated, mannerless and uncivilized, then is he not being encouraged to identify with such an image and to mold his own outlook and behavior to conform with such an image?”
Now, friends, these things just mentioned are important to you and to me because I firmly believe they are a big cause for the central issue that faces us today. And that is the breakdown of the family. Folks, I do not want to appear preachy but let’s face it. Our nation is in real trouble. We are in trouble because of divorce and broken homes. The home is the foundation of all other elements of society. So all this trash in literature and all these rotten TV films and plays that treat marriage and the home in a light and a vulgar manner need chucking in the river and people need to take a stand against them.
A man is going to find something that he likes and loves. It may be fishing, athletics, reading, farming, traveling, crime, infidelity, family or whatever. Blaise Pascal, the 17th century French religious philosopher and scientist, said: “It is the nature of man to believe and love; if he has not the right objects for his belief and love, he will attach himself to wrong ones.”
The author, R.C. McCourt, died January 15, 2004, and was buried at Henderson Cemetery in Pangburn, just a few miles from the forgotten community of Grubtown, where he was born on September 4, 1920.