the 1940s, the daily lives of Dibollians were punctuated by the
shrill blasts of a siren affixed to a 100-foot water tower owned
by Southern Pine Lumber Company.
The siren was likely blown for loftier reasons such as personnel
shift changes and fires, but Dibollians came to know the sounds
as “the biscuit whistle” and the “cornbread whistle.”
The long-standing story is that the whistle was blown as a signal
to the town’s housewives that it was time to mix up the bread and
place it in the oven in preparation for the midday meal known as
In those days, lunch was “dinner” and the evening meal was “supper.”
Breakfast was always breakfast and apparently there wasn’t a whistle
for ham and eggs. The whistle was usually blown at 11:15 a.m., giving
the town’s womenfolk enough time to prepare a suitable meal.
It has been
said that on a fateful day, when the whistle was not blown, chaos
spread through the households of the sawmill workers.
home for their noonday meal, but the biscuits and cornbread had
not been prepared, the stove was cold, and the kids were still playing
in the yard. Chastised by their husbands for failing to prepare
a hot meal, the wives had a solid reason, “Why, the eleven-fifteen
ain’t blowed yet”
whistle was “the cornbread whistle” or the “biscuit whistle” has
been debated for years in Diboll.
But one of my
high school teachers, Julia Schinke, whose father started the practice
of blowing the whistle, once said that “it had to be the cornbread
because biscuits don’t take that long to bake.”
on a book about Diboll,
the Diboll Historical Society agreed to stick with cornbread. Some
members argued that white flour was too expensive for the sawmill
Years later, Vernon Burkhalter probably settled the matter with
this observation: “I agree with Ray Rector that the biscuit whistle
was at 5: 30 a.m. and the cornbread whistle was at 11:15 a.m.”
But then again, there are likely some Dibollians who remember the
old whistles in a different fashion.
But one question remains: “Why didn’t they have a whistle for supper?”
25, 2012 Column
(Bob Bowman of Lufkin
is the author of more than 50 books about East Texas history and
Bowman's East Texas >
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers