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I was 4 in 1949 when my dad got a new job managing a cotton gin for Paymaster Gin Company. His first gin was in Roscoe, a small town not far from Sweetwater. This is the first time they didn’t live in Hamlin since the middle of the Depression.
We only lived there until the middle of my second grade, but we resided in three different houses. The first was a little white house on the edge of town. I remember several events from when we were there. One was that I poured a pot of boiling coffee over my torso. Then coffee was brewed in a percolator that was heated on the stove. I was about 5 and decided to pour my dad a cup of coffee and pulled it down on me. I was taken to the hospital in Hamlin, 45 miles away. There are some pictures of me in the hospital all bandaged up.
Then I saw a lineman fall from a telephone pole in front of the house. I was still about 5 then, hadn’t started to school yet. I was playing in the front yard and saw the man fall, apparently he had undone his safety strap or something. I ran in and told my mother and she must have called someone. She made me stay in the house.
My brother was sent to Korea at the beginning of the Korean War while we lived there. I remember my parents talking about it and my mother putting together a CARE package for him. Why I remember that was he wanted a hunting knife and she bought and sent him a really cool one. I recall holding it and being in awe.
Just when I started the 1st grade, we moved to a really nice house next to the elementary school. I could just walk across the street to go to school. It was a new house built by an older couple who owned a little store next door. I think they wanted to rent it out for a while, I don’t know why. We lived there for about a year and then they wanted to move in. I looked at the area with Google Earth and the house and little store aren’t there anymore, possibly burned down. Several houses I lived in as a kid are completely gone, but I did find the little white house we lived in first though. It’s still standing and still on the edge of town.
My dad had a 1946 Ford Coup, I remember the car. That was before we had antifreeze and Dad had to drain the radiator and block every night when he thought it might freeze and then refill it before he went to work. We only had one vehicle then, Dad didn’t buy his own pickup as a second car until 1954. Mom would drive him to work on days she needed the car to go somewhere, but she couldn’t go visit her parents or anyone and stay overnight. She had to be back in time to pick up Dad from work. Funny what we take for granted today.
My first grade teacher was Mrs. Proser. Very nice lady, seemed really old to me at the time, she was probably in her mid 40’s. I got into my first fight that year, the first of one nearly every year of my public schooling. The reason was my mother bought me this really nice, wool coat that came down to below my hips. Unfortunately, when I walked into the school wearing it, some kid pointed out to everyone else that I was wearing a girl’s coat. The fight was on, every recess, all day. When I went home that evening, I told my mother about it and that I didn’t want to wear that coat again. Bless my mother, she took me into town and bought me another coat. The next day there was no problem.
I used that story when I was teaching hate crimes in the police academy. The morale was that I was picked on because of my coat, I took the coat out of the equation and I was no longer picked on. If it had been because of my skin color or religion, I couldn’t have changed that and it would have went on.
Another big event was my brother came home from the Korean War! He had been missing for nearly 90 days and my parents didn’t know if he was dead or alive. It turned out he had been trapped at the Chosin Reservoir with a Marine unit. I remember my mother opening the letter from him that started, “Kill the fatten calf, I’m coming home!” She was so excited! That was one of the few times I remember seeing my mother so openly happy.
We went to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma to pick him up. I can remember vividly sitting in the backseat of Dad’s Ford Coup and just staring at my big brother in his uniform. Although we didn’t live together very long, I always had a bit of hero worship towards him, even after I was a grown man.
About the time I started the 2nd grade, we moved to another, bigger and older house in town. That was when my cousin moved in with us. I had a friend across the street named Dennis who was a year older than me. I remember he had a sister who was deaf and I was fascinated by the fact he could communicate with her with sign language. Dennis and I were great friends, I hated having to move.
Also, my cousin taught me to ride a bicycle when we lived in that house! She had a green girl’s bike and she let me ride it! I’m glad It was a girl’s because it was a full size bike and I wouldn’t have been able to touch the pedals otherwise. I’ll always be grateful to her for that!
Halfway through my second grade, Dad was transferred to a gin in a little community named Halfway. It was about 15 miles from Plainview. I’ll talk about that later.
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