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Bob Bowman's East Texas

Memories of Growing Up

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

Before she passed away, Opal Young sat down with a pencil and a tablet and left for her family the recollections of growing up in rural East Texas. Her son Coleman Standley of Lufkin shared her memories with me recently--and I spent an evening enthralled by how hard life was for families in those days.

School busses were rare in Opalís school days, so she and her fellow students rode to school in a wagon pulled by four horses. Benches were built into the wagonís bed, along with curtains which were rolled down in bad weather. The wagon carried the students four miles each way.

The school later bought a truck with the same bed. But the roads were often muddy and the truck stuck in the mud, and the horse-drawn wagon soon returned. Opalís school was located at Helmic, near a Trinity Lumber Company mill, but soon moved to another lumbering camp.

Students at her school played basketball and baseball. The ball used by the baseball players was made of old socks. Gloves were rare and Opal once caught a ball bare-handed and broke her thumb. A teacher yanked on the thumb and pulled it back in place.

Summers were filled with work around the family farm. Opal, only ten, plowed with Pete, a family mule, planted cotton and corn, chopped weeds in the rows, and harvested the crops. She often had to miss school to work the crops because they were essential to the family. She also had to kill hogs for meat on the table and picked bugs off tobacco grown by her father for chewing and smoking.

A cranky mailman once told Opalís mother to stop her children from dashing out to the mailbox before he drove off. Irritated by his action, Opal put a cat in the mailbox. When the mailman opened the box, the cat jumped out and frightened the mailmanís horse.

Opalís mother died in 1994 at the age of 99 and Opal passed away in February of 2009.


Bob Bowman's East Texas September 12, 2010Column.
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers

See Texas People | Texas | Texas Travel | Texas Towns A to Z
(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of 44 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)
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The Forgotten Towns of East Texas, Vol. I
By Bob and Doris Bowman
Texas Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history and vintage/historic photos of their town, please contact us.
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