Today would have been my mother’s 107th birthday. She was born on August 8, 1901, in Temple, Texas, 2nd child and first daughter of her parents. There were nine more children born into this family, but two died in childhood, one in a tragic accident -- a subject for another post, someday. The youngest, and last surviving, of my mother's siblings, my uncle Truett, died only a few months ago at the age of 85.
I don't know how old my mother was when the family moved from Temple to Victoria County, in South Texas – that’s South with a Capital S! Not the farthest south one can go in Texas, but only 20 miles or so from the Gulf of Mexico. Mama's father bought a farm in a place called Crescent Valley. There they raised cotton, chickens, and the children, six boys and five girls.
Mama graduated from high school in Victoria, a nearby town, and then attended Baylor Female College in Belton, Texas (now Mary Hardin-Baylor University) for a year. Mama always called it "Baylor-Belton." It was while she was in college that she learned to play Bridge, a card game she continued to enjoy for years. She also became 'modish' to the point that she, and most of the other young ladies, bound their breasts so as to appear flat-chested -- which was all the rage in 'flapper days.' She said it was quite painful, and absolutely forbid her younger sisters to do it. In all my memory, Mama never had a 'bosom.' Her breasts were droopy and as flat as pancakes, while her younger sisters all had nice figures.
I don't know if it was a matter of funding but, as mentioned above, Mama completed only one year at Baylor-Belton, then taught school in a small town for a term (one could do that in those days; a college degree was not required). I think she discovered that teaching was not what she wanted to do for the long term and went to work in the accounting department of the Woolworth store in San Antonio. Somewhere along the line, she had completed some secretarial courses and I remember well her trying to teach me Gregg Shorthand (I learned to write my first name, Pat, and the word "dray," not a word I ever heard used in anyone's conversation.)
Mama's father died in, I believe, 1924. Mama left San Antonio and went back home to Crescent Valley and to work in nearby Victoria. As the eldest daughter, when not at work she helped her newly-widowed mother with the younger children, and her wages also helped to support the family. The youngest child was only about 1 year old when Grandpa died, and there would have been several more young children still at home. One of Mama’s brothers, my uncle Talley, quit school when his daddy died, and became the “man of the house” -- at age 14.
Mama told me that she bought a small car (she called it a “koo-pay”) with part of her earnings, and drove over the country dirt roads into Victoria to work as a secretary/bookkeeper for the Gross-Parish Company, where she was still working when she met my father. (I wrote about that in Post 20 - My Father.)
Mama was almost 32 years old when she and Daddy married, on July 24, 1933. They moved around quite a bit to wherever employment opportunities for my father arose. The Great Depression was still in full swing, and jobs were hard to come by. I was the first-born of four children, arriving on this earth in Yorktown, Texas; my sister Meg was born in Kingsville (home of the famous and h.u.g.e. King Ranch); and the youngest daughter, my sister Carol, was born in El Paso. Mama's last child, and only son, my brother Eddie, was born in Las Vegas, NM. I wrote about the day of his birth in Post 6, April 10,1941 . Mama told me in much later years that she was horrified to learn that she was pregnant and worried a great deal about how she and Daddy were going to provide for themselves and four children.
Then -- World War II
End of Part One