of my earliest memories are of times when I heard the grown-ups talk
of boom towns in East Texas.
They spoke of the wealth that came to landowners after oil was discovered
on their property.
In 1936 oil was discovered in northwestern Titus
County. According to Jone Clemmons, who was City Secretary of
Talco in 1999, the
first well was drilled there on the C. M. Carr Lease # 1. The lease
was held by Magnolia Oil and Tidewater Oil.
a boom somewhat comparable to those experienced earlier by Kilgore
and Gladewater and
other towns to the south. Entrepreneurs built flop houses, charging
roughnecks and others 50 cents a night to sleep on beds with mattresses
covered only with cotton ticking. Xanthus Carson of Hopkins
County, husband of my oldest sister, leased a small frame building
that served as a flophouse. He bought iron bedsteads as well as mattresses
and feather pillows so that he could furnish the establishment.
Carson began to work for Magnolia Oil, and my sister worked as a waitress
in a café owned by Mud Williams of Mt.
Vernon. There was a housing shortage, so the Carsons lived in
a furnished room at the back of Williams' café. Later they rented
a house on Hwy. 271 south of Talco.
It was one of six or eight identical houses built in a row on the
west side of Meadows Curve, a section of the highway. Each house was
a boxed house with three small rooms, one of which was a lean-to attached
to the back.
During the spring of 1937 there were heavy rains. When White Oak Creek
flooded, the water flowed into the Carsons' backyard and lapped against
the steps at the backdoor. There was also serious flooding on the
in the precinct where the oil field was located voted to allow the
sale of beer. One business that flourished after the sale of beer
was made legal was called the Country Hotel. It was located near Winfield
on Highway 67. Several Saltillo residents, as well as residents of
communities surrounding Winfield, frequented the honky tonks that
One Sunday afternoon when I was five or six years old, Lonnie McCoy,
a neighbor, came to visit my family. As my parents, my younger brother
and I sat on our front porch, the neighbor told us that on the previous
Saturday night, the customers at the Country Hotel were startled by
the appearance of the Devil himself. Walking on his cloven hooves,
the Devil allegedly entered the front door of the establishment and
walked the length of the bar room, exiting at the back door. Lonnie
was not present, but he said that he received the information on good
During mild weather tents covered platforms where dancing was allowed,
even on Sunday afternoons. Beer and soft drinks were cooled in galvanized
tubs filled with ice. In 100 -degree heat the ice melted quickly,
of course, and the beer and sodas were served lukewarm.
At the height of the boom in Talco
the population reached 2,000, but by 1940 the official census gave
912 as the number of people residing there.