Memories of John Henry Shaffer Jr.
My name is John Henry Shaffer Jr. and for a few years now my children have encouraged me to sit down and put in writing some of the things I remember growing up.
I was born, June 28, 1925, in Fannin County, the state of Texas and just about one mile west of the town of Leonard, Texas to John Henry Shaffer and Myrtle Mae Morris Shaffer. I might add everyone back home called me by my initials J. H. My sisters and their families still call me J. H. today. My great great Granddad on the Shaffer side of our family was named John Henry Shaffer. My great Granddad on the Felmet side of our family was named John Henry Felmet. My dad was named after John Henry Felmet.
My father and mother lived and worked on a farm. They were known in those days as share croppers. In other words the one who owned the farm land was the landlord and the share croppers gave to the landlord 1/3 of all cotton that was raised and 1/4 of all corn or other feed that was raised. This was payment for the use of the farm and the home and all other buildings on the farm.
In 1925 almost all farming was done with horses and mules. There were few tractors and they were only used to clear land of stumps, and break land for planting. The farmer raised most all of his food there on his farm. I remember Mother canned lots of vegetables and fruit every year and we stored it in the storm cellar where it was cool. All the stuff that she canned was put in glass jars, not cans, until we got ready to use it. Mother would can enough to last us through until the next canning time. We would raise and fatten two or three hogs each year. They would be killed and processed about the time we had our first or second real cold spell each year. We would cut up the meat that was to be eaten and salted down in what we called the smoke house. This consisted of the hams, shoulder, middlen for bacon and the ribs. That part that we ground into sausage was either put in cotton cloth sacks and hung in the smoke house or was made into sausage patties and partially fried then put in glass jars and covered with grease and sealed. They would keep longer this way. Then we would take all of the fat of the hog and cut it into small pieces then cook it in a very large cast iron wash pot until the fat turned into lard. It would then be strained and put in three, five gallon, tin containers to be stored and used to cook with until next hog killing time. The liver, tinder [sic] loin, ribs and some of the sausage we got to eat first for we had no way to keep it for any length of time. We had no freezers or refrigerators. We did not even have any electricity. After dark we used kerosene lamps to light our home and also to cook with.
It was also at this time of year that we made lye soap from some of the fat of the hog. This lye soap was used to wash our clothes. We would make enough to last from one year until the next. Also I remember, Mother taking the hog head and some way made mince meat which she canned and was used to make delicious pies. Mother also knew how to make hominy out of corn by using lye to do it. I know it had to be done just the right way or the lye could hurt a person.
I guess it was in about 1937 or 1938 that what was called the farmers co-op, organized and began to build refrigerator freezers where farmers could rent a refrigerated locker in this building and keep frozen any meats that was to be kept for long periods of time. It was only then that beef could be killed and kept by the farmer. Until then, if a farmer wanted to kill a beef, he would go around to his friends and neighbors and either sell or swap all the meat he could not use up real soon to them, for it would not keep without refrigeration very long. The other meat that was available to us as farmers was chicken. We always set several hens on twelve or fifteen eggs each year in order to hatch small chickens every year. So about the time all our pork was gone we could start eating chickens. I remember we had to be on the look out for a bird called a chicken hawk. They were bad about flying down and picking up the young chickens and flying off and eating them. Once a chicken hawk starting raiding your chickens you almost had to shoot him or keep the chickens penned up.
I remember that there were times when we did not have pork or chicken and we ate rabbit and squirrels. Remember this was during the depressions times. Times were hard for lots of people. There was no money. We were lucky to live on a farm to raise our food. We did not have much but I don't remember going hungry. I have sat down to pinto beans and cornbread and maybe an onion and most of the time milk and make a meal out of it lots of times. You did not see many fat people back in those days. Also, looking back to when I was a lad I never thought about it then but with no radio and not even a daily news paper we did not know what the rest of the country was doing. We went to town maybe once a week, sometimes not even that often so there was no bad news or good news. Therefore, we did not worry like people do today. Today people worry about world wide problems. There must have been less stomach ulcers back then.
Our farm bordered the railroad on the north side about a mile outside of town. Many times we would count the hoboes or men migrating across the country looking for work to feed families back home from which they came. They would come to our farm and offer to work for just something to eat. I don't remember Mother ever turning down anyone that was hungry. Those times and under those circumstances it was embedded in my mind and has been a motivating force in my life to not be lazy and save for that rainy or bad day that would and does come to everyone.
I don't remember Sis, Martha Jean and myself being sick very much. All three of us had bad tonsils. Back then doctors would come to your house and treat you. Dr. Staford was our doctor and when my tonsils would swell up and get festered and infected Dr. Staford would come and lance them and give me medicine. He said on one such trip that they had to come out. Dad wanted to know how much it would cost and he said $50.00. He told Daddy to just bring all three kids to his office and he would take the tonsils and adenoids from all three for the price of one. His office was in the back of a drug store on the west side of the square in Leonard. We went in one morning and was home that evening. I remember it hurt but the bad part was the ether that they put us to sleep with. Sis later had some trouble with her eyelids. Went to Greenville, Texas for her treatments. I also wore a brace on my front teeth for awhile. The dentist office was upstairs on the north of the square in Leonard.
I remember when Franklin Roosevelt our President came out with the New Deal. The W. P. A. was organized and the three C.C.C. and other programs that would put people back to work. You only got one dollar a day but you could keep a family alive with that dollar each day. The government paid farmers so much per acre to plow under cotton and other crops. They were paid so much to kill off cattle. All of these things were done to help the economy. Times were rough up until the beginning of World War II. It was then that jobs opened up in the cities. I was the only boy and the oldest of three children. I had two sisters, Katherine Viola and Martha Jean. We were born in a three room farm house. We were delivered at birth by a mid-wife. My father was a young farmer on his first farm about 75 acres. His Dad, my Granddad , gave him a team of horses, a cow, a hog and enough farm equipment to get started. The work was hard and the hours was long. As far back as I can remember I worked. Dad always had something for me to do.
I started out as a very small lad milking the cows and feeding the chickens and carrying the water for Mother to use in the home and wash clothes with. Mother had to wash all of our clothes on a rub board. We had a big black cast iron pot that we would build a big fire under. When the water got boiling hot Mother would cut up some lye soap and put it in the water and the dirty clothing. After boiling them for awhile she would take them out and rub them on that rub board to get all the dirt out then rinse them in about two tubs of water and last rinse them in some bluing water and then hang them on a clothes line to dry. She had to ring every piece of clothing and sheets by hand. All of this took lots of water and was a full days work most of the time. To iron the clothing she had a flat smooth bottom iron that she heated over the burner of the cook stove. Most all of our clothing had to be ironed because they were all cotton material not a mixture of materials that don't need ironing that we have today. Mother had it rough back then.
We had to haul our water from down in the bottom about half a mile away. We had two 55 gallon barrels fastened to a sled pulled by a horse that we would go and fill and cover with tarps and take back to the house and park at the back door so it would be handy to get to. When it was gone, back to the well we would go to refill the barrels. We would draw the water from the well by hand with a bucket on the end of a rope. Time did not mean anything back then. No one was anxious or got in a big hurry. If there was a job to be done, we just did it.
I remember also, that most people took a lot of pride in what they did back then. A mans character and dependability was determined by the way he worked and how honest he was. Lots of business deals were made and closed with a hand shake back then. Dad would go the bank at the beginning of spring and borrow $125.00 to make a crop on. This was done by a signature loan that was to be paid back when the first bale of cotton was picked. Dad always kept the cotton seed from the first bale to be planted next season. As we would feed corn to the animals we would put aside the big full ears of corn for seed the next year or to be used to make corn meal for use in the home. I remember selling eggs in town for $.09 a dozen. these were tested. Untested eggs were sold for $.06 a dozen. I remember gasoline selling for $.09 a gallon during the depression. People would throw their cars out of gear and let it coast down every hill just to save a little gasoline. I remember that the model T fords had the gas tanks at the rear of the car. They did not have fuel pumps on cars back then. So the only way that gas got to the engine was by gravity flow. If the back of the car was lower than the front end of the car the gas would not get to the engine and it would not run. So to over come this problem when you came to a long hill you would stop and turn the car around and back up the hill. That way gas flowed to the engine. When you got to the top level ground just turn and go forward again.
The house that I was born in was about a quarter mile off the black top, an all weather road. The lane or dirt road up to the house was real muddy when it rained.
It could only be traveled by horse back or in a wagon or walk. There were lots of wagons on the road back then. Not a lot of cars. As a kid I remember my Dad drank more than he should. He gambled to [sic, too] much. They would have dice games and card games in the barn on the weekends. This caused lots of trouble between Mother and Daddy.
Granddad was real bad about doing these things. I know he made home brew (beer) in his cellar and kept it to drink all the time. But he was a good farmer and a hard worker. Granddad had nine children and one was born dead. Their names are Rachael, Maggie, Louise, M. J., Carl, Geraldine, Felmet and John Henry. My uncle Felmet was three weeks younger than I was. Grandma died when we were babies however I don't remember her because I was so small when she died. Aunt Rachael the oldest of the girls in the family took over as Mother and raised Felmet and the other brothers and sisters.
Felmet and I were real close because of being almost the same age. We were together a lot until Mother and Daddy divorced when I was about thirteen years old.
Daddy expected a lot from my two sisters and myself. We began working in the field at a very early age. I remember standing on a tub to be tall enough to put the harness on the horses. Daddy taught me well and I was able to do almost everything there was to be done on a farm by the time I was ten years old. We moved from the house I was born in when I was about seven or eight years old to a new four room house about two and a half miles west of Leonard on the black top road owned by the same landlord. Daddy kept the 75 acres to farm at our old place and we had about 75 acres at our new place. So we had twice the amount of land and twice the work to do. Dad would take me out of school to help on the farm if he got behind with the work. I did not like school. I was shy and real quiet. I was not popular and did not feel accepted. I was not good in school. I was a country boy who wore overalls and work shoes to school. They were clean but they stood out to the rest of the kids as being different. I finished the seventh grade and quit when I was thirteen years old. That was when Mother and Dad separated and later divorced.
Mother and us kids went to live with her half brother in Saint Jo, Texas when I was about twelve years old but only stayed three months. Mother went back to live with Daddy thinking things would work out but did not. By now Daddy was drinking more and was going out with other women. He worked a lot at the cotton gin in Leonard. This left much more work for me and the girls to do on the farm. He really expected us, just kids, to carry on as if we were adults. We really did not have a chance to be kids as other kids because we worked all the time.
When it rained and we could not work in the fields we did play as kids. I remember such games as hide-in-seek, jump rope, Mumble peg with a pocket knife, Cowboys and Indians, follow the leader, playing catch with a ball, I even played jacks with my sisters. I even played dolls with them just to get them to play some other game with me. We just did not have store bought toys. We just made our own. We could take an old rubber car tire or wheel and roll it around all day long or take a small round metal wheel and push it around with a stick with a cross piece at the bottom to push it with. We made wooden stilts to walk on. We had corn cob fights at the barn. There was lots that we could do and it was fun to us back then. Daddy did let us take off on Saturday afternoons most of the time. He would give me $.25 to go to town and spend as I saw fit. I could go the movies which cost $.09, buy a hamburger for $.05, a coke for $.05, two big delicious apples for $.05 and with $.01 I had left I would buy a package of gum. I would make this last all afternoon and get home before dark.
I remember one Saturday afternoon on my way home a man in a new car picked me up and gave me a ride. I noticed several guns in the back seat of the car half covered with a blanket. When he stopped at the dirt lane and just before I got out of his car he looked at me and said "Son, you got to do something today that not many kids have ever done. When you get home tell your folks that Machine Gun Kelly gave you a ride home", Then he drove off. Well, my shirt tail didn't hit my back cause I ran so fast to get home to tell what happened. I must have been about seven or eight years old at that time. Later we found out that Machine Gun Kelly had been in that part of the country. I also remember when about the same age about midnight one Saturday we had gone to bed when we heard lots of loud noise up on the blacktop road. Daddy and me walked to the road to see what was going on. I will never forget what we saw. A car had run head on into a wagon pulled by a team of horses. The wagon tongue ran all the way through the driver of the car, killing him. The horses were in such bad shape that someone took a gun and shot the crippled horses to put them out of their pain. The man in the wagon was not hurt. I don't think I slept for several nights for being scared. I remember Granddad telling about late one night he was coming back from the gin. He had taken a load of cotton to be ginned and was bringing home the cotton seed piled up in the back of the wagon. They were about to cross an old bridge when he heard a noise behind him in the wagon. He turned and standing up on that pile of cotton seed was a man coming toward him. Granddad always carried a pistol with him when he was out at night. So he turned to the man on the cotton seed and shot three times point blank at his body. He fell back out of the wagon. Granddad whipped the team of mules to move out of there as fast as he could. He just knew he had killed a man. Early the next morning he took two of his sons and they went back to that spot thinking for sure they would find a dead man however, they found no man, no blood in or on the wagon. That spot in the road was and has always been a mystery. These things do something to a young kid.
I also remember when I was about five or six years old Grandma Stanfield (my Mothers GrandMother) gave me a very small just weaned bill goat. I carried it home in my arms and begged Daddy to let me keep it. He let me keep that little goat until it got big enough to start eating the bark off the peach trees and told me to get rid of it. I asked Granddad Shaffer if he would let me keep it at his place and he said yes very reluctantly. I guess that goat caused him lots of trouble also because one day after school I just happened to go to Granddad s to see Felmet and saw a butcher from the Leonard meat market hang my goat by his two back legs, cut his throat and as he was bleeding and dying he caught a cup of his blood and drank it. He told Granddad that it tasted like warm sweet milk. I thought that this was the meanest thing I had ever seen. You can bet I never ate any of that goat meat. I wont forget what I saw that day.
I remember when I listened to my first radio. You put this headset on your ears to hear the sound. There was a lot of static. I was about ten years old. I was about that old when I talked over my first telephone. I remember the first airplane I saw up close. It landed in an opened field up by the black top road not far from the house. It was a two passenger plane with open cockpits. The pilot would take people up and fly them over town for $.50 each. He would even turn the thing upside down or roll it over if the passenger wanted him to. It seemed real scary to an eight year old boy to see this happen. I also remember another big event that happened each year in Leonard that everyone for miles around attended. It was the Leonard picnic. There was always a big carnival with side shows, lots of rides and plenty to eat. Lots of friends and neighbors to see and fellowship with. People were more friendly and neighborly back then.
Today while walking I saw two crows back on the creek not far from home and it reminded me of many crows we had back when I was a kid on the farm. They are a smart bird. They would follow where you were planting oats or corn and scratch up and eat what you had planted. They also ate lots of pecans and even peaches. They were very destructive. Across the black top road and down some distance from Granddad s place was about one acre of woods or trees and at night thousands of these crows would come here to roost. The county agent one day set lots of explosions up in several of those trees, scattered over that one acre and that night after all those crows came into roost they set off those explosions and killed thousands of those crows. This seems cruel today but sure helped the farmers back then.
Almost every year some farmer in the county would get sick and need help with his crop in order to have a harvest season. The neighbor farmers would all meet at his place with their horses and mules and equipment and stay until his crop was brought up to date. There would be no charge most people really believed in and wanted to help their fellow man back then. Somehow today people have become selfish and greedy and could care less about their fellow man. I remember when as a small lad about seven or eight Mother would take me and my two sisters to church in Leonard. We would get up early and walk to town. It was a small Church of Christ. I remember getting to help pass out the song books and also the hand fans to the people as they would come into church. Later when we moved the black top road two and one half miles west of town Mother took us to a little Baptist church about one half mile from home out in the country called Shady Grove Baptist Church. I remember the pastors name was Bro. Hunt. I remember being under conviction real strong there in that little church and under Bro. Hunts leadership. After Mother and Daddy separated we were unable to attend that church because of no transportation. I also remember the Christian influence my Aunt Maggie and Uncle Hughie had on my life. They belonged to a church that most people call "The Holy Rollers Church". They did not believe as I was taught about a lot of things but their prayer life is what I remember most of all and this is what influenced me the most. They would pray at every meal and at night they would kneel and pray. They believed in prayer and many, many times I can remember God did answer their prayers. So through their lives I as a kid knew there was a God. They were so different in the way they lived their lives. I somehow wanted to be like them and yet because of other influences was pulled in other directions many times.
I remember Granddad took me to Leonard one Saturday with him, which was very rare. He took me to a cafe and bought me something to eat and drink. I was about eight or nine years old. Then he took me into the back room of this little eating place. In this room was some slot machines which was, of course, illegal but I was too young to know this. He gave me four or five nickels and showed me how to put in the nickel and pull the handle. After one or two times of pulling the handle I hit the jack pot. Nickels just kept coming out of that machine. I remember Granddad taking his hat to catch the money. I don't remember how much money was there but to a small lad it sure was a lot. I don't remember ever playing a slot machine since then. When Mother heard about it she gave me a good talking to and probably Granddad too.
I also remember how cold the winters used to be most of the time. When it would snow, while living in the house where I was born, snow would blow through the cracks in the wall and snow could be seen around the outside walls inside the house. We drank water from a wood bucket with a long handle dipper that we could leave inside the bucket. On those real cold days the water would freeze in that bucket inside the house. I also remember the old crock churn that we would churn the milk and cream in and make butter. I have turned out many pounds of butter in that old crock churn for Mother. That butter milk and butter was just a lot better tasting than that you buy today.
We heated the house with one potbelly coal stove that sat in the middle room. You had to get real close to feel the heat and when you would back off just a little ways it would be cold. We slept with several quilts on us. I remember Mother would take a big round flint rock that she had and put it on top of the stove just before going to bed in order for it to get hot. Then she would wrap it in a small blanket and put it to her feet in bed to keep them warm at night. I remember that all we had was outside toilets. So at night we had what we called a pot or slop jar in which we could use the toilet inside the house instead of going outside when it was cold. I remember at Christmas my sisters and I would move three straight back chairs next to our bed so Santa Claus could leave us something. We usually got an apple, orange, banana, some store bought candy maybe a few walnuts and usually one toy. Sometimes maybe two toys each. We thought that was a big Christmas. I remember Uncle Hughey dressing up one time like Santa and came to our house one Christmas night. I think we were too scared to enjoy his presence with us. Anyway, he sure fooled us. I must have been ten years old before I knew who Santa was.
I remember one summer when we had caught up with the farm work, Daddy and Mother took all of us as a family on the only trip that I remember us taking together. Daddy said one day "the mustang grapes are ripe, the wild peaches are ready to pick up on the Red River just north of Bonham". "The fish should be biting so let us all load in a covered wagon and go up and have a week of fun". As kids we were sure excited. We were so small I don't remember all the details of that trip but it was fun. We did catch fish, we did get lots of grapes and peaches. Mother made lots of jelly that year. I do remember it was a little scary sleeping out at night in the dark hearing all kinds of strange noises. I think we also brought back a load of water melons that Daddy bought or borrowed from some farmers field when he was not looking. I do remember it being a great trip. From our farm to the Red River it was about twenty five miles.
There is so many little things that I remember like when the girls and I would go to our old home place which was about one mile away to work for the day. We would walk across fields to get there cause it was closer that way. Mother would fix our lunch in a tin, one gallon syrup bucket with little holes in the lid so our food would not sweat. We would have such food as: sausage, or ham between biscuits, a large can of pork'n beans with opener, three small plates and spoons. Usually she would have us three home made butter chocolate fried pies in that bucket also. Now, to keep the ants out of our dinner we would take a string that had been soaked in kerosene and hang the bucket to a tree limb. That way the ants would not get on the string. We took our water in a two gallon glass or crock jug that was wrapped with a burlap bag that was real heavy and the outside soaked in water so as the breeze hit the jug our water stayed cool in the shade. People used Mother nature then to survive more than we do today. We used the wind and water to cool and preserve our foods. To keep our butter, eggs and milk and some other foods from spoiling we would put them in a three gallon wooden bucket and let them down into the well where we got our water. By letting the bucket to sit in the water it was cool enough down there to preserve food for several days. We did not have even what we called an ice box. When we did buy ice, Mother would wrap it in a quilt then we used it that day for ice tea in our meal. We bought ice only a few times a year. I remember when we would get our first bale of cotton Daddy would go by the ice house and get a fifty pound block of ice and bury it in the cotton seed to keep it from melting so fast. Then we would bring it home and make ice cream in the old hand cranking ice cream freezer, boy what a treat that was. This might happen three times each summer. It was a very special time.
Many times we would be there in the field working just the three of us Sis, Martha Jean and myself but we knew not to play because Daddy knew about how much work we should get done. If it was not done we were in much trouble. I remember learning to drive when I was very young about ten or eleven years old. Daddy had a 1929 model Ford. If he was working at the gin I would put some pillows in the seat under me so I could see out and go into Leonard and pick up cotton pickers and take them out to the farm to pick the cotton. Then take them back to town that night. I don't remember Mother ever driving a car back then. As I have already said, Mother and Daddy divorced when I was thirteen years old we moved in with her Uncle Elmer Stanfield and his family. Lived with them a few months and then moved into Leonard and rented a little three room house. We had a barn and we did have running water but still no electricity, and still a outside toilet. This place cost us seven dollars a month and it was owned by the town banker. The girls went to school. I worked on a farm for Mr. Narwood and stayed at his home during the week and on the weekend I went home to be with Mother and my sisters. Mr. Narwood paid me seventy five cents a day and room and board. If it was too wet to farm I would go home and go down to the hammer mill where farmers would bring wagon loads of corn to get hammered into feed.
They would pay me twenty-five cents a load to unload the wagon of corn by hand with a scoop into the hammer mill. I could do some times four or five loads a day. This was big money back then. Not every farmer would hire me because they did not have the twenty-five cents so they would unload their own wagon. I was about fourteen years old at this time. Mother after so long a time with the help of friends got on the W P A working in a sewing room. It was located up stairs in the Leonard court house there in the middle of the Leonard square. Later Mother was transferred to Ravenna, Texas to work in a school lunch room. Still for the W P A again I remember this was in about 1939, during the depression; hard times, not much money.
It was about the time that we moved to Ravenna that Granddad Shaffer moved from Leonard to Kiwa, Oklahoma to a farm that he owned. All the kids had married and left home except Felmet. Rachel had married but was still staying with Granddad taking care of Felmet and Granddad . So she and Bailey, her husband, went with Granddad to Oklahoma to live. We did not see much of them after that. Granddad died and was buried in Leonard while I was in the Army. I did not even get to come to his funeral because it was during the war. Dad had gotten married and was working the oil fields in West Texas and later moved to Midland, Texas. He had two boys by his second wife. The oldest was Danny who got into trouble as a teenager. He served time in the penitentiary and when he came home was later shot and killed by his uncle on his mother's side.
James Ray, the youngest, is still living somewhere around Leonard. His Mother lives there as well. Daddy died in 1968 from cancer of the lungs while living in Chickasha, Oklahoma. He was buried in Leonard Cemetery. He told me in so many words that he was a Christian and we can only hope that he was.
In Ravenna I got another job on the farm living with and working for Mr. O T Finnly for $0.75 a day and room and board. Mr. Finnly had gotten blood poison in his right hand and could not work. He had fifteen milk cows that I milked by hand two times a day seven days a week. He sold milk to Kraft Cheese Company in Bonham. They had a truck that came each morning at ten o'clock to pick up the milk. There was no electricity at Mr. Finnly place so we had to cool the night milking by hand by putting well water around the cans and stirring the milk until it cooled. Then we would wrap the cans with a wet blanket so as when there was a breeze it would keep the milk from spoiling.
Mr. Finnly also farmed about 125 acres of land. Farming around Ravenna was altogether different than I was used to. Back where I was raised was all black land. When it got wet it was muddy and would stick to what ever touched it. In Ravenna was sandy loam and did not stick like black land so you worked the ground different. They raised lots peanuts and water melons and hay for cattle. It was like learning to farm all over. There was lots of trees and pasture land that made for good squirrel and rabbit hunting.
People around Ravenna cooked and heated with wood stoves. The wells for drinking water was dug different in the sandy land than the black land. Lots of things were different. I helped Mr. Finnly through one crop then I went to work at the school in Ravenna as a janitor. I got $30.00 a month for this job and I worked there until Pearl Harbor.
I was almost seventeen years old when I went to Dallas. I worked in the Safeway warehouse in the produce department. Even though I was not quite seventeen I told Mr. Price I was eighteen years old. When I went to Dallas I had just enough money to buy a bus ticket one way. I told Mr. Price that I had no place to stay and no money and he told me it would be two weeks before I would get paid. He took me to a boarding house close to safeway and got me room and board on credit until I got paid. I worked there until I was eighteen and was called up for the draft to go into the army. I took my test but failed it because of some kidney problems. They put me in 4F. I went to a doctor in Dallas about my examination and he treated me and my problem cleared up. I have had no trouble since. To help in the war effort, I worked at North America Defense Plant were we made the AT6 training plane and P53 Mustang. I was a welder and this was in 1943.
When I went to Dallas in 1941 the city transportation system was by street cars and buses. The street cars were very popular. For $0.06 you could go all over the city by transferring from street car to another. Metzer's Milk Company delivered milk in rubber wheel wagons drawn by horses all over Dallas and Oakcliff. Ice was delivered by icemen house to house each day. I had an Uncle by the name of Marvin Henry that was an iceman. I went with him on his route a few times just to watch. A lot of homes back then still had the old ice boxes where you kept things cool by putting a block of ice in the top to keep things from spoiling.
During the war there was a lot of rationing by our government and there were a lot of things that you could not buy no matter how much money you had. Gas, Sugar, Butter and electric appliances were just a few things but you had to have government stamps to purchase these because they were rationed. There were a lot of things that were rationed.
Mother and my two sisters came to Dallas in 1942. Mother was transferred from WPA lunchroom work to Dallas to be trained as a defense worker because of the war. After her training on Ross Avenue, she went to work at North American Defense Plant in Grand Prairie. Let me stop and say a few things about our Mother. We know very little about her people. Her Mother and Daddy divorced when she was a small baby, maybe before she was born. Her Daddy's last name was Morris. Her Mother later married Claude Brown. When Mother was about ten years old her Mother died and she went to live with her Grandmother in Leonard. Great Great Grandmother's name was Standfield. This was her second marriage. She was married to a Henry before that.
Mother was living with her Grandma Standfield when Daddy and she got married. Mother was seventeen years old and Daddy was eighteen years old. So Mother and Daddy must have lived together for about fourteen or fifteen years. Most of those years were not good for Mother. Even remembering those times I think Mother still loved Daddy up until she died in 1984. After Mother and Daddy divorced in 1938, times really got bad for her. She had a family to raise by herself and her health was not the best. She never got any help from Daddy in anyway. Mother was determined to give us a home and provide for us and I think she loved me and the girls very much. She showed it in so many ways. She always encouraged each of us to do our very best. She had a way of lifting us up when we would get discouraged. She was always positive in her thinking and she never gave up. She believed God would see us through.
I was gone away from home more than at home but when I did come home on the weekends Mother would have a special meal of something I liked. I guess after Daddy left, the girls sort of looked to me as a Daddy to them. I guess maybe at times, I was hard on them, maybe I expected too much but guess what, look at them today. They are two almost perfect, special sisters and I love them very much. I was so thankful for the way Sis and Martha Jean stayed close to Mother and helped her even up to the time God called her home of a heart attack in her home at Mesquite, Texas. Mother was born in 1906 and died in 1984 and was buried at Memorial Cemetery in Killeen, Texas beside her husband Jesse L. Thornton who was born 1901 and died in 1984.
Mother and Jesse were married about 32 or 33 years. They lived most of this time in Killeen, Texas. Jesse was a barber and had his own shop in Killeen. After he retired in about 1980 or 1981 they moved to Mesquite, Texas to be close to Sis and her family. Sis and J. C. was a big help to both Mother and Jesse. I do appreciate both of them for what they did as well as Martha Jean and Clyde.
After me and my sisters got married and had families of our own, Mother wanted us to come to her home so we could all be together as often as possible. She always fixed big meals. She was a good cook and loved to cook for her kids and grand kids. I know she must of prayed for all of us very often. She would give to us Christian literature to read that she would send off for. She loved to hear Billy Graham. She was not perfect, just like all of us are not perfect, but she was a sweet precious Christian lady and Mother. We all loved her very much.
A person can not change time past but if I could there is many things I would change when it comes to my Mother. I would let her know more often than I did that I loved her. I would have called her more often than I did after she moved to Mesquite. After Jesse pasted [sic] on I would have helped her more financially although she had about everything that she needed. I would have visited her more often. A person does not know how much you miss a Mother until it is too late. One day there in Heaven I will get to be with her again. I wish kids and young people could see now, today how much Mothers need their love and attention before it is too late to give it to her.
Myrtle Earline Crumby and I got married December 1, 1943 at 4809½ Reiger Avenue in Dallas, Texas. This was my Mothers home. I first met my wife just over a year before. We really lived pretty close to one another when I lived in Ravenna, Texas but did not know one another. She lived at Fairview, Texas just down the road a few miles. Her Mother, Emma Crumby, was a divorcee and had raised my wife Earline and her brother Otis from babies by herself. She also worked for the W.P.A. and was transferred to Dallas to go to a defense school about the same time that my Mother went. I already lived in Dallas. Mother and Emma came to Dallas and started to this school on Ross Avenue that would prepare them to work in North America Defense Plant.
I was to go back to Ravenna one weekend for something, when Emma asked me to pick up her two kids and bring them back to Dallas with me. I said ok. I had never seen Earline or Otis before this. I went to the place where they were to be and saw for the first time a little freckled face 5 foot 2 inch brown eyed girl with long black hair that changed my life completely. She was not easy to win because I had much competition. She was very pretty and was very popular back home. We went together off and on for about a year before she finally said yes I will marry you. I was working at North American Defense Plant at that time.
Otis, her brother, was already in service. He was somewhere in Europe fighting the Germans. After we were married we lived on Ross Avenue in Dallas in a one room, very small kitchen apartment. Emma also lived in this same apartment house. Not long after we were married I had some trouble with my foreman at North American. He called me a draft dodger even though I was 4F and I hit him and knocked him over two welding machines. It was minutes later that two armed guards escorted me out the front gate. I had been fired. I was working the midnight shift and it was about five am. I went to the employment office in Dallas before I went home and got a job working for Austin Bridge Company in the shop in Dallas. I worked there about six weeks when I got a call from my draft board to come in to be examined again for the Army. They passed me real fast and the next thing I knew I was at Camp Walters in Mineral Wells taking my Basic Training to go over seas.
Earline was pregnant at this time. Jeanie Odeen, our oldest child was born June 29, 1945 just before I left to go over seas into the South Pacific. I guess one of the hardest things I ever remember was getting on that troop train to go to California and then over seas, leaving Earline and my daughter. I went to Fort Ord, California and took more training for about a month then to the Luzon island in the South Pacific. It took us 21 days and nights by ship to get there. I was stationed over seas for a little over one year and then came home. I guess the Army did a lot for me or to me. Some not so good. I grew up for one thing. I used to be shy and did not mix too much. Did not express myself.
As an acting first sergeant over seas it changed all that. Earline said I was too hard on Jeanie when I came home. I guess it did take some adjusting on both of our parts. It was good to get home and out of the Army. I went back to work with Austin Bridge Company after I came home. Worked for them about six years. Earline had lived most of the time with Emma, her Mother while I was gone there in North Dallas on Reagen street. that is where she was when I came home and was discharged from the Army.
In that same apartment house we rented us an apartment and stayed until we bought a new two bedroom home between Dallas and Mesquite. Texas at a place called Pleasant Mound. We gave $6,500.00 under the new GI bill. It had a big lot. We had a little garden also had some chickens. I was proud of that place because it was our first home but we had some more adjusting to do because Earline and her Mother were apart. Earline and Jeanie had to adjust to me being home and as I thought head of the house. This I guess I carried too far for many years and it has caused lots of heart aches.
I remember Otis and I buying our first car together. It was a 1932 Model B Ford. I think we gave $50.00 each. Otis never did learn to drive at that time and sold his part back to me. It was while living in this first home and working at Austin Bridge that I got into the Masons and made a Master Mason. This caused some trouble in our family because of the secrecy of Mason work. I later demitted from Masonry after moving to Killeen. Mother and Jesse Lee Thornton got married while we lived in this home in 1951. Also while living here we began to go to the First Baptist Church at Pleasant Grove. Later we accepted Christ and was baptised in that church. This was quite a change in our lives at that time, yet in time I know I began to go back to doing some of the things I used to do. It was not until we went to Killeen and got active in church there under the leadership of Bob Lambert and other strong Christian leaders that I rededicated my life and began to live a different life.
I was ordained a Deacon in the First Baptist Church in Killeen in 1960. Men like Bob Morgan, Bob Adams, Clarence Clements, Clyde Robertson, Jim Ragsdale, Tom Lamb, John Able, Tom McGehee, Willie Hodge, Gene Hallmark, Rolland Fuller, V.C. Russell. These just to name a few encouraged me so much in my spiritual walk with God.
Shirley Lee was born November 27 1951 at Florence Nightingale which was part of Baylor Hospital. Shirley's Middle name was after Jesse's middle name. I remember being so excited. Earline woke me up in the middle of the night having labor pains close together and I thought she had woke me up to go to work. Anyway when I found out the problem I got nervous. We got in the car headed to the Baylor hospital on Gaston Avenue in Dallas. I was not home when Jeanie was born so this was my first experience. Here we are on Gaston Avenue driving pretty fast when Earline asked me, "Honey where are you going?". I said, "We are going to the hospital". I thought man this is a strange thing for her to ask. then she said, "Well Honey, you will have to turn around because you just passed the hospital". Now even then Baylor covered over one city block. You can guess how embarrassed I was. Anyway, we did make it OK and Shirley was born healthy and beautiful.
Jeanie started to school at a little country school just up the road from where we lived. She could even walk but we did not like for her to do this. Jeanie had a girlfriend behind us who had a horse. Jeanie liked this very much. We bought our first black and white tv from Western Auto while living there. The picture was not too good but we thought it was OK. We also bought our first washing machine with a roller wringer on it. That, we thought, was progress. Sure beat the old rub board and wringing clothes by hand. Still had to hang clothes on the clothes line outside in hot or cold weather.Sis and Martha Jean had gotten married while I was over seas. We all visited each other real often. I really liked Clyde and J.C. right off. We worked on cars together and helped one another do something all the time. Jesse Thornton, Mother's husband owned a barber shop in Killeen, Texas. This is where they were living when he asked me to go to Barber College and get my Barber License and come and go to work for him. Well, Working at Austin Bridge was hard work and a white collar job sound pretty good. Although, the kind of work I did with Austin Bridge gets in your blood, I liked it, I liked the people I worked with. It was not easy to walk away. To go to barber school would cost $250.00 and 6 months of schooling.
With no money coming in what would we eat on and how would we pay our bills? I talked to John Wickham, my superintendent at work and shared with him my thinking. He did not want me to quit. Said this work was in my blood. I would be back in six months but he said I will let you work part time for me four hours a day from eight a.m. until 12 noon, same pay per hour. I was making $1.87 ½ per hour. This was top pay back then for the kind of work I was doing. My job description was heavy duty mechanic, machine shop work, metal fitter and welder. This was the only way I could have gone to barber school and pay our bills. Even then at six p.m. when barber school would close I would go downtown Dallas and drive a taxi until 11 p.m. then go home. I would study the barber book between passengers. For six months I did this then passed my first test and got my Apprentice Barber License. This would allow me to barber under a master barber until I took my next test one year later which I did and then got my Master Barber License.
Earline, Jeanie, Shirley and myself moved to Killeen October 7, 1952. Rented a one bedroom apartment because housing here in an Army town was hard to find. Earline really had her doubts about coming to Killeen so I told her that if she was unhappy after one year we would go back to Dallas. Well, I broke my promise. Times were hard I was trying to get established and build up my trade and working long hours. I was away from home too much and did not get to help with the kids as I should. There were lots of problems.
We moved from the one bedroom apartment to a two bedroom apartment on Hall street about a year later. This helped some. It was close to the barber shop.
John H. Shaffer III, was born November 10, 1954 at Burrow Clinic in Killeen. We now had two fine girls and a big boy. We joined First Baptist Church in 1954. Bob Lambert was pastor and has become a great friend over the years. We became real active at the First Baptist Church. Fact is, this was the beginning of another big problem in our lives. I guess I began to put church before my family. I spent too much time doing church work and not enough time with my family being a Daddy and husband. I think the results of that is being felt by our family even today, years later. If I could do it all over again things would be different. We moved from Hall street to a two bedroom house on Gray Drive and lived there about a year. I bought an acre of ground south of Killeen thinking we might build a home on it one day but Earline did not like it being in the country. In 1968 I traded Ed Thornton that acre of ground as a down payment on a three bedroom home on Patton. It cost us $9,500.00 which we paid out over the years.
I barbered in Killeen 20 years for Jesse and three years for 0.P. Tucker. In 1975 I quit barbering and bought city drug store for $15,000.00. We paid $5,000.00 down and the rest at $1,000.00 per month. We sold the drug store in 1985. I then worked for Parker and Sutton Rentals until about 1988 as rental manager. After I became 62 I retired. I bought and sold some property. I repaired some rentals that we owned and later went to work at Killeen food center with Raymond Smith in 1989. I worked there until 1996.
I can remember a lot of good things happening to us here in Killeen along with the bad. God has been good to us in so many ways. Most of the things that has happened to us as a family each of the kids can remember and relate to themselves. Jeanie being the oldest by about six years was our big helper with Shirley and John. She helped Earline do a lot of work around the house. I guess because of this and because Earline was sick some of the times we really asked too much of Jeanie. Maybe did not let her be a kid like we should have. Parents hind site [sic] is always better than fore site [sic]. Earline and I did not have much training on how to be good parents. There was not as much information published on parenting or emphasized as much as it is today. So we learned by doing and some areas we did not do so well.
Jeanie was about seven or eight when we came to Killeen. She went to school at Eastward Elementary School then to Rancier Junior High, then to Killeen High School. All three of our children went to these same schools. They all graduated from Killeen High School. Jeanie was in the choir. At one time I was President of the Sour Notes Club that helped sponsor the choir. Jeanie had a very beautiful voice and sang lots of solos in church. Lee Birdsong, our music director, help Jeanie a lot with her voice. Shirley, our middle child, had a nice voice just did not want to use it. Shirley needed lots of attention and demanded it. She got in lots of trouble because of this.
I can see where she was coming from today but did not understand back then. John III, being the baby, got more attention I guess than he should have. Earline had her hands full with the kids as they were growing up. She was doing the cooking, house work, taking care of the kids needs and doing a big job as Junior Sunday School Superintendent in our church. I worked lots of hours at the barber shop so she did not get the help from me that she should have. For one thing all three kids wore cloth diapers when they were babies. No disposable diapers. She had to clean and wash them. This with in its self was a full time job. No dryer, she had to hang all the cloths out on the cloths [sic] line.
We all had a big time planting the pecan trees when we moved to Patton street. I built the kids a real nice play house in the back yard. It was about a six foot by eight foot and tall enough for an adult to stand up in. They had lots of fun there. Shirley had a way with kids. There were always lots of kids at our house.
When John was three years old he had an operation for a double hernia. When he was eighteen months old they had to take out his tonsils. Shirley had hers taken out the same day. She was four and a half or five years old. I never will forget how Shirley begged me not to let them hurt her. I think it hurt me more than it hurt her. John also had spinal meningitis when he was four or five years old. He was in Scott and White Hospital in Temple. Back then Scott and White was located where the Santa Fe Hospital is now.
John also had a broken arm one time. I don't remember his age. Jeanie had her tonsils take out while we lived in Dallas.Page 2