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 Texas : Features : Columns : "Cannonball's Tales"

Depression was depressing,
except brother's paddling

by W. T. Block
NEDERLAND - I'll never forget the Great Depression, notwithstanding that many others probably fared much worse than we did. In 1933, my mother was widowed with three children under 12, and the living we earned, such as it was came from five milk cows and a big flock of chickens.

I remember in 1934 when the WPA dug a large drainage ditch across our land, and 500 unemployed men - teachers, engineers and others - earned $1 daily, manning a shovel. I remember the day in 1932 when Dad and I hauled 30 sacks of potatoes to Beaumont and there was no selling them, even at 25 cents per hundred pounds. There was also no welfare, unemployment compensation, food stamps, or anything else during the 1930s.

But one incident that I remember with fondness, though, was the date that my brother Broomtail got a paddling at school, and it stopped the entire learning process in its tracks.

In 1935, we moved to Nederland but we continued to rise at 5 a.m. to milk the cows. After milking, we bottled it in one-quart bottles and delivered milk on bicycles all over town. And after delivery, we went on to school at 8 a.m. wearing the same overalls we had worn in the cow pen.

One of Broomtail's chores twice weekly was to mix the sacks of cow feed. That included mixing sacks of cottonseed meal with sacks of rice bran and other ingredients. And cottonseed meal, which is ground finer than flour, has an unbelievable tendency to creep into every pocket.

One day Broomtail was in music class when Miss P. caught him throwing spitballs. Miss P. was quite small, a little less than five feet tall and weighed perhaps 90 pounds soaking wet, but she whipped students with a paddle that resembled a boat oar. I remember that the boy who made the paddle in shop class was the first one to get whipped with it.

Miss P. called Broomtail up to her desk to get a paddling. And as he spread his hands out over her desk, she hammered his caboose with that boat oar with all the stamina her 90 pounds could muster. And just as quickly, the cottonseed meal began to rise in a cloud from Broomtail's back pockets.

At first Miss P. began to cough then she began to choke, and finally she sat down at her desk and began to bawl like a baby. In the mean time, the bell rang, and Broomtail and the other students left for the hallway.

So far as I can recollect, Broomtail never did get the rest of that paddling.

W. T. Block, Jr.
"Cannonball's Tales" >
August 21, 2006 column
Reprinted from the Beaumont Enterprise, October 17, 1998

 
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