Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Rambling Reflections": Pearl (Griffin) Digby's Life Story

Rambling Reflections
by Pearl (Griffin) Digby

The autobiography of a Rural Schoolteacher in the towns of Central Texas.

Pearl (Griffin) Digby
February 15, 1907 to September 4, 2006

My earliest memories are of living in a little farmhouse close to the Salado creek near Sulphur Springs, the second daughter of George and Betty (Mary Elizabeth) Griffin.

George & Betty (House) Griffin
(Parents of Pearl Grifin)

We were tenant farmers; that is we lived on the farm.  My dad had the equipment and worked the land, and the owner got a part of the crop, one third of the cotton, one fourth of the corn.  The garden, chickens, pigs, and cow were ours.  Mostly we lived off the land.  Sometimes my father would have to go into town on Saturday for things like sugar and whatever was needed that the land did not produce.

One incident I well remember was one Saturday when he was gone, and my older sister, a cousin, and I were out playing.  My grandmother Griffin dipped snuff (nasty habit), but a lot of older people did that in those days.  We often stripped little twigs of the young elm trees to make her brushes for her habit.  We would strip off the bark and chew the end of the twig to make the little brush.  My cousin suggested that I go up to the house and get the sharp little knife of my mother's that we were strictly forbidden to touch.  I didn't want to, but the two of them talked me into getting it.  We would put it back, and mom would never know - so they said.  I sneaked the knife out and going back decided to try it out.  I cut the top end off of a finger.  The flesh was hanging by a thread of skin, and I had never seen so much blood in my six years of life.  Mother heard me cry and came running.  There were no first aid kits, or no near neighbors.  She took off a lid of the old iron cook stove, used some of the sut on the underside, and wrapped my fingertip in place with that old, black ash.  She was so frightened she did not paddle my backside; however, I was pretty well convinced that when we were told to leave something alone that was the thing to do.  I have often wondered if modern-day doctors would give wood ash (black sut) any healing qualities.  Now it would be a tetanus shot and anti-biotics.

One day my father was offered a larger, better farm about a mile away - about three miles from Salado.  While my father and  a neighbor loaded household goods and farm equipment in the wagons, my mother with the baby, my sister and I started out to walk to the new place.  The local mail carrier came by and gave us a ride in his buggy.  Ivy and I standing in the little space behind the seat.  Mr. Duke was the postman (Father of Leyland Duke who was our tax man in Bell county for many years).  Ivy and I in the years we lived on the Aiken place were often waiting for him to come by at the mailbox at the end of the road.  Very often he would leave the two of us a peach or some other piece of fruit in the mailbox.  We thought he was our special friend.

There are a lot of pleasant  memories  of our years on the Aiken place - the big, yellow house with it's fireplace, large rooms, and  lots of room to play.  One Christmas Eve it was very cold, and we were sitting by a big fire in the fireplace.  Of course Santa could not come down the chimney.  There was a window on each side of the fireplace, so he appeared at a window by where my dad was sitting and passed our gifts through the window.  For Ivy and me, it was a beautiful China doll.  Ivy's had black hair, and mine was blond.  Then for the baby - Jewell, who was barely a toddler then, and was sitting in mother's lap, a quite pretty rag doll.  It was cuddly and soft with pretty clothes.  She looked at it, then at ours, and threw hers in the fireplace.  Mother snatched it before it had but one little hole burned in it.  I do not remember if she ever played with it.  As usual, one good toy, then fruit and candy were our gifts.  We did not get fruit and candy (usually a sugar stick) often, just at Christmas.  We did not have vacations, such as now.  I do remember a few times in the summer when the crops were laid by (that is the planting and growing seasons - then for a few weeks most of the hard work was done until harvest time).  We, with some neighbors and friends, would go camping - must have been on the Lampassas River.  For two or three days we stayed in tents near the river.  The men would fish and hunt; women had their crochet or other hard work.  They cooked on campfires, and the children had a great time playing in the woods.  We played ball, using a stick or board for a bat, and our baseballs usually were made from yarn ravelled from old sox and rolled into a ball.  Hopscotch was one of our games.  We marked off a length of square spaces in the dirt, and then whoever could cover the most squares hopping on one foot was the winner.  All of these years were not fun and games though.  Ivy and I had diptheria, a very contagious disease, so we were in quarantine.  Nobody except mother and dad came to see us, and our family doctor, Dr. Goddard from Holland.  Later, we had whooping cough; there were no shots then, so if one got it then all of us had it.  In those early years I also had scarlet fever - that was a horror; the treatment then was so many ounces of castor oil every day.  I could not keep it down; they mixed it with everything they could come up with - milk, orange juice, ....  I was only six years old, but I, to this day, choke at the word "castor oil".  When I finally could get out of bed, I could not walk without help for a long time, but God let me survive.  I still think my long, serious illness was caused more from the treatment than the disease.  I hope medical science has come up with a better cure; I never hear now of much scarlet fever.

We attended Sunday School and church at Bell Plains Methodist Church.

Bell Plains Methodist Church (Taken in the 1930s)
Pearl (Griffin) Digby taught here in 1928.
I had a wonderful teacher in the Card class; now it would be called Pre-school.  Mrs. Poteet certainly was a wonderful Christian lady, and I am sure none of us have ever forgotten the influence she had on our young lives.  Little did I know that I would have the privilege of spending some time with her in her last years at the same place she had lived when she was my beloved Sunday School teacher - I will get back to that further on.

Then I was seven and started school in the Fall of 1914 in Salado.  In December though, we moved to my grandmother Griffin's place at Val Verde in Milam county.  My uncle Frank helped us move in two farm wagons, on a very cold, damp December morning.  We left the Aiken place by daylight and made the long, cold trip.  It was after dark when we arrived at my grandmother's house, cold, tired, and hungry.  Now it takes less than an hour by car.

Oops!!  I'll have to backtrack a little here.  On August 15, 1914, instead of another China doll, we were presented with a real live baby doll, a baby sister with black hair and brown eyes like our mother.  Rena, our pride and joy, even though she was the fourth "girl" and not a boy like I'm sure our father would have wished.  She was only four months old when we moved to Val Verde.  Before that trip though, I'll pick up a few childhood memories of those first seven years.  One is a Christmas spent with the grandparents and relatives in Little River Academy.  My older sister and I usually spent a few weeks in the summer with grandpa and grandma House.  In those days, in a farm wagon, it was a long drive from Salado to Little River and easier done in the summer when the weather was good and the crops laid by (planting season was over and there was a little freedom from field work waiting for the harvest).  This year we went as a family for the week of Christmas.  We had the tree on Christmas Eve at my uncle Luce's home.  It was a huge cedar.  My grandfather saved the gold foil from his tobacco all year for us to use for decorating.  We made gold stars, paper chains, plain paper colored with crayolas (We had never heard of construction paper), strings of popcorn and red berries we had gathered along the creek bank (Boggy Creek).  The only thing on that tree bought with money was little metal candle holders and candles.  We also made cut-out snowflakes from white paper.  My mother taught us that.  There were very few gifts - fruit and candy and just one or two things for each of us, perhaps some warm clothes and one toy.  The greatest joy was in decorating the tree.  We were very proud of those meager gifts.

Now we will go back to the move to Milam county - Val Verde, one cold, rainy, winter day in mid December.  We left the Aiken farm about three miles east of Salado for my grandmother Griffin's farm, all of our household goods and farm equipment in two farm wagons (ours and uncle Frank Griffin's - he helped us).  It took all day and into the dark, cold night.  If felt so good to get into grandmother's warm house, have something to eat, and get into bed.  The next day we moved into the tenant house, three rooms (not three bedrooms, three rooms).  One large bedroom, which served as our parent's bedroom, and the parlor (or main living room), another very small bedroom for we three older children, then the kitchen and dining room; a far cry from the large house with the fireplace and the large bedrooms on the Aiken place.  This was to be home for the next fifteen years of my life.  Over the years, the living conditions improved a bit, and we came to love the community.  It was home.  So, that December in 1914, we entered school at Val Verde, my sister Ivy and me.  My first grade teacher was Miss Sally Graham.  I was in her room that first three years.  The old school was only three rooms, first through tenth grades.  Those were good years.  Miss Sally was a very dedicated, caring teacher, and through the years she was never married or had children of her own.  She was an inspiration for many other children.

Our desks were homemade - wooden desks with long bench seats with four of us for each one.  That first year Val Verde began with first grade, replacing the old desks with factory made, double ones.  My seatmate, Almerta Gregory, and I were given one of the new ones.  They were dark red, with black iron metal supports.  We were so proud of them.  Oh well, pride goeth before a fall - you've heard.  Almerta decided that our new desk needed our names on it, so she scratched "Almerta and Pearl" in her first grade scrawl into the pretty, dark red wood, so we lost it.  We had to move up from back seats to the front on one of the old wooden seats.  That was the greatest catastrophe of my early life - I felt disgraced.  We lived over it, learned our lesson, so to speak.

Val Verde School Picture (about 1915-16)
(Pearl Griffin in 3rd grade, located toward middle left side)
(Source of image: Pearl Griffin Digby; now in Billy Blair's possession)

List of students/ teachers in above picture
remembered by Pearl (Griffin) Digby.
(written on back of letter envelope).
Everybody walked to school.  We were less than a mile from school, some were four or more miles away.  When the weather was bad, our muddy road seemed long.  We were not permitted to miss school unless we were just too sick to go.  We also were expected to do our homework and never criticize our teacher.  If we were punished at school, we could expect the same when our parents learned about it.  That was a pretty good incentive to behave.  Dad's double-strap razor strap wielded a pretty good wallop.  We took our lunch, usually in a little tin syrup bucket.  If the weather was good, we sat in groups on the playground, picnic style.  On Monday morning we had a list of chores for the week.  We were assigned with two girls each day to sweep the floor, clean the blackboard, then go outside and dust the erasers.  The boys different groups were assigned to carry wood for the large heaters for each room, then different groups to bring in drinking water from a neighboring farmer's water well.  Each of us had our own drinking cup, but the water was in open buckets and passed from a dipper into our cups.  Doesn't sound very sanitary by today's standards, but a lot of us survived all that.  School opened at nine o' clock.  When the bell rang, we lined up in front of the building in three lines, one for each room, saluted the flag, said the pledge of allegiance, then marched to our room.  Woodrow Wilson was President, and we were taught to only speakof him with respect.  In our room, the roll was called, and we were registered "present" or "tardy".  Those three years with Miss Sally, a very loved teacher, were great.  Then I went to fourth grade, the middle room.

That was a whole different ballgame.  Miss Sally kept us in line, but her discipline was with kindness and understanding.  She made us want to obey her rules because we loved and respected her.

The very first day in fourth grade, Miss Mabel let us know that we were to obey the rules or else.  The "else" was a pine paddle ruler or stand at the blackboard with your nose in a ring on your tip toes.  Miss two words in spelling and you wrote each word correctly on the blackboard 100 times.  Some of us, most of us, were terrified of her.  I never suffered any of her punishment, but worked hard, did my homework and Trembled!!  The boys and girls had separate playgrounds and were not allowed to stand around and talk with each other.  That year we had some new students.  There were no boys in my family and I had never paid much attention to them before, but there was a new boy in my class who was just about as shy and scared of our teacher as I was.  For some reason, we were attracted to each other; we did not dare exchange notes because that was against the rules too.  However, through an older cousin of mine we managed to get a few little silly, friendly messages to each other, and too, his crowd walked the same road home, so we were in speaking distance, but both too shy to make much of it.  After that year, his family moved to another community, and we didn't see much of each other.  We must have had something going for us, because after graduation from High School and three years of college, four of teaching, I married the kid.  More about that later - now back to school in the middle room.  One day our teacher took her paddle to one of the older boys for some infraction and he resisted.  It was quite a fight and ended with the boy leaving school.  At that time, my dad was President of the four member Board of Trustees, and the next morning, just as my sister and I were leaving for school, Miss Mabel came marching down across our pasture to talk to my father.  The boy's mother had threatened her with a lawsuit.  I am sure the paddle had left some bruises, and not all on his bottom with the fight that took place.  Of course, daddy told us to be on our way.  We were not allowed to listen to her complaint, but how good it felt to see that she was scared to death.  I do not know how it was resolved; but I think the boy never came back to school, and Miss Mabel was not quite so tough after that.  The next year, we had a different teacher, and I made it through those four grades without failing and moved up to High School - eighth grade then.  I guess, in some ways, the demanding teacher helped me, because I was top of the class in spelling and often won the spelling bees we had on Friday afternoon.  If any of you care to edit this writing now, you will find that I have lost a lot of that ability these last years.  We had a girls basketball team, and I was active in that all my four years.

We competed often with the nearest schools, and one year we were entered in a tournament with several Milam county rural schools.  The tournament was in Rockdale.  In those days, with dirt roads that could become impassable in bad weather and shortage of transportation, we could not have that type of thing very often.  However, our principal had a Model T Ford, and along with one parent who had the same, our team was transported to Rockdale for the two-day affair.  We stayed in the homes of Rockdale students; there were no motels and such there then.  There were two whole days of ball games on dirt courts.  The main court was under a tabernacle, so the second day when it started raining we were able to finish the tournament and leave for home.  Because of the heavy rain and muddy roads, we had to go back through Cameron and Rogers on the gravel roads.  We got into Rogers after dark, and, as the road out to Val Verde was mud, no way could we try it at night.  We had to spend the night there.  There was one small hotel, and three of us who had no relatives in town had to sleep there.  It was a two-level building, and the room assigned to us was up the narrow, creepy stairs.  The three of us had to sleep in a double bed.  The sheets and pillows were clean, but the floors were dirty; did not look like they had been swept in a week.  We washed our feet, then tossed an extra pillow on the floor to walk on to get in bed.  Quite a miserable night, not much sleep, and I was glad when morning came, and we could go home.  We were less than two miles out of Rogers when we were stuck in the mud, and standing out on the road waiting to get the Model T out when our family doctor came by riding a horse (The road was too muddy for him to  risk the seven miles out to our house).  He told me that I had a pretty little baby sister.  That was a nice welcome home.  Five girls now - poor daddy.  God just did not plan for him to have a son, I reckon.

The other years in school at Val Verde were good as a whole.  We had a debate team, and my partner and I were chosen to take part in a contest with a couple from "Joe Lee", a rural Bell county school.  There was no organized, Inter-scholastic league then, but occasionally we had these contests with neighboring schools.  This time the meeting took place at the Val Verde church.  There was competition in all events - spelling, math, etc....  Roy Whittington and I were representing our school in Debate and we won.

Finally, graduation day - six from tenth grade, and I was the only girl.  Others had moved away or dropped out of school.  We had our little graduation program in the little Val Verde church, and we felt so important receiving our diplomas, real sheepskin scrolls tied with a red ribbon.  Of course, then the seven months of classes, rural schools were not State affiliated, and I had gone to Baylor Academy in Belton for the summer to get approval for my courses to go on to Rogers for my last year.  Out of our little group of five, one of the boys went  on to become a very successful dentist and dental surgeon.  Two of us went into teaching, and the other two stayed with farming.

Before I leave Val Verde to go to Rogers, I will backtrack and mention a few more memories: In school at Val Verde we did have special programs most Friday afternoons - Recitation, singing.  We had the old yellow-backed song books, and would all join in singing.  Then there was the occasional Box Supper, our fund raiser.  The older girls would prepare a supper, often fried chicken and such.  It would be placed in a shoe box and the box decorated with crepe paper and ribbon.  They tried to see who would have the prettiest box.  They would be auctioned off to the highest bidder.  The boy who bought the box then would share the food with the girl who had provided it, picnic-style.  We often had ice cream suppers on the school grounds or at church.  The old tabernacle at Val Verde Church provided the place for those and many more community activities where neighbors were together for fellowship.  Most everybody went to the Val Verde Baptist Church; it was the only church in the community.  We walked to Sunday School and church on Sunday mornings, then back again for youth service (B.Y.P.U.) on Sunday nights - three miles.  You surely did not need exercise classes.

Pearl Griffin's childhood New Testament
Pearl Griffin's childhood New Testament
(In possession of Billy Blair)

In the summer,  we had a special Childrens Day.  On Saturday we walked to the church and practiced for our special program, in July or August when we did not have so much farm work to do.  The day we were to put on our program we gathered wildflowers, vines, etc... and decorated the tabernacle.  We had crepe paper then, so we did quite a job.  We had memorized poems, scripture, and songs; it was quite an event.  Also, we usually had a new dress for that, and that was special too.  Several of the ladies from church helped out, but one was special, Miss Della Whittington.  She played the organ for all services.  The old pump organ - that was hard work.  She was a very special person, along with teaching and playing the organ, she was the first there to help out if someone was sick.  One time, I remember when my mother was sick, she walked the five miles from her home to ours, helped take care of my mother and fixed meals for us.  She did those things for everybody.  She never married, but devoted her life to helping others.  I think in later years she gave my two younger sisters piano lessons.

My parents were Methodist when I was fifteen.  I joined the Methodist church at DaVilla, but there was no way I could attend regularly.  It was too far away, so I did go to Val Verde church.  When I married in 1929, Martin and I both joined First Christian Church in Belton.

My sister Ivy and I had spent two summers at Baylor Academy.  Then it was an all girls school.  We lived in a small, two-level white frame Dorm.  There were twenty girls there, all of us working to help pay tuition.  There were ten rooms upstairs and ten down.  Two girls in each room, one shower and bath at the end of the hall; can you even imagine that with twenty girls?

There were about six boys on campus who worked their way in school.  The school had it's own Dairy, pigs, and chickens.  We were not allowed to stop and talk with the boys, and if we had dates, we had to have the Dean's permission to entertain our date in the Dorm parlor, with a housemother sitting in as chaperone.  That didn't bother us; we had to study.  I worked two hours, dusting, sweeping, and cleaning restrooms in Alma Reeves Chapel for 20 cents per hour.  If we went off campus, we had to walk in groups of four, with an older girl acting as proctor, always with us.

Sometimes, on Saturday afternoon, we would take our water pitcher and walk down to the power house and buy the pitcher of ice cream for a quarter - a great treat.  They did the ice cream for the dining rooms, also milk and butter.  We pooled our nickels for the treat.

In September 1924, I entered Rogers High School - instead of all classes in one room, we had a teacher for each subject, and Study Hall in (to me) the huge auditorium.  Always there was one teacher as supervisor.  I was still a very bashful person, had been taught at home and at school to obey the rules, so it was quite a shock to see some of the things going on in Study Hall.  One morning, I heard a noise and felt an ink bottle hit my foot.  The boy way back in my section had sent it spinning straight down.  If it stopped, you were supposed to keep it going and keep "Teach" from finding out who was involved.  I would not have touched that ink bottle for love or money, therefore ruined my chance of being very popular with some of the Senior boys.  Later on, most of them came to be very good friends and classmates, but I never took part in any of their pranks.

The Rogers High School basketball team, 1924 - 1925.
(Pearl is in the middle of the top row).
I did earn a place on the girl's Basketball team and loved every minute of it.  Some of those girls have been lifelong friends, as is usually true, I lost traces of some through the years.

In the Spring of 1925 on the Stage in the beautiful old Methodist church in Rogers, I got my official State Accredited High School Diploma.

In the Fall of 1925, my sister Ivy started her first teaching job, after finishing her freshman year at Baylor College for Women in Belton.

Rural schools did not start until October as children were needed to help in the fields with the cotton and corn harvest, so on the strength of her upcoming job and my Dad's good name, they borrowed $ 75.00 from First State Bank in Rogers, to get me off to college.  In early September, I left for my first year in Southwest Texas Teacher's College in San Marcos.  One hundred miles was a long way from home in 1925; I knew that I would not be home again until Christmas holidays.  I was to live in a rooming House with thirty other girls.  I did not know my roommate until I got there.  We did our own cooking, laundry, and cleaning.  The House was two-story with a screened-in sleeping porch around all but one side of the house.  On the second floor, until the weather got too cold in late October, our beds were there.  Then we were moved into our rooms with a very small, oil cook stove and wood heater.  There were all rooming and boarding houses on and around College Hill in those years - one small girl's dorm for about twenty girls.  There was one bathroom downstairs and one upstairs.  Our landlady was too stingy to furnish toilet paper.  She kept a stack of daily newspaper (The San Antonio Light) in the bathroom, and could never understand why she had so many plumbing bills that cost so much.  Other than that, she and her husband were very nice.  We had a curfew, lights out at ten o' clock, and no dates without written permits from the Dean of Women.  That still didn't bother me much; I had to study too much.  My social life consisted of Sunday School and church in the First Methodist with some of the girls, or playing tennis once in a while.  I did double date with my roommate once in a while, but not often.  From September to the last two weeks of December, I did not go home or see any of my family.  Now it takes about an hour to drive to San Marcos; in 1926, it was quite different, poor transportation and the expense were prohibitive.  Anyway, now came Christmas holiday, and several classmates and I from this part of the state boarded the train for home.  My stop was Holland.  There were Temple-Killeen and other destinations.  In Austin, we had added to our group people from U.T.  Then in Georgetown, people from Southwestern - standing room only.  Everyone was in a happy mood - we were going home.  There were songs, yells - what have you.  I do not know why the conductor did not throw us all off, but he just laughed and put up with us.  It was after night when the train got to Holland, so daddy's cousin, Adolphus Griffin, picked me up at the station.  I spent the night with them, and Ivy came in for me the next morning.  Cousin Dolphus and his family were close friends of ours.  There was a large family, and we had some happy times with them.  Some of my children well remember their granddaughter, Kathleen (Sherrod) Davis.

It was a great two weeks at home.  On New Year's Eve we were invited to a party at a young married couple's home.  A cousin of mine, Lola House, and another girl, Nora Oswalt, were teaching at Val Verde then and boarding with my folks.  Nora and Ivy were not going to the party, but Lola and I were double dating for it.  We had great fun, played 42, popped corn, and roasted marshmellows - there was no hanky-panky, just good, clean fun.  It was about one o' clock when we got home.  The temperature was freezing, and there was no warmth in the house.  Besides, we tried to be as quiet as possible.  My parents felt New Years or whatever, all of us should be in bed by eleven o' clock.  We crept in and into our long flannel nightgowns just as fast as possible.  We shared a room with Ivy and Nora that had two double beds with just as many quilts and blankets as you could have.  We crawled into bed, and out again pretty fast.  Ivy and Nora had covered our sheets with corn meal - ugh - just imagine trying to sleep in a bed of sand.  We had to get up in that cold, cold room and change that bed.  You might know we had very little sleep.  It was a cardinal rule that everyone be up early and at the breakfast table on time.

A few more days at home then back to school with no visits home until June.  I had moved to a different apartment, not so many girls, the Housemother only rented two apartments.  Ivy was coming back to summer school and she had thought this was a better place for us, even though it was down nearer town and  a longer walk to classes.  For that semester, I was to share one room with another student.  She was much older than me - in her middle thirties.  We did not have much in common, and our path did not cross very often.  After about a week, she had not come home until very  late, she had a lot of dates, and not often with the same guy.  I locked the door and went to bed.  About three thirty, I was awakened by a noise at the window.  It was Ruth begging me to let her in.  I was scared, so I did not open the door, but went to the other apartment, and the girls let me sleep on their couch.  The next day while I was in class they moved my things into their apartment.  They said they knew my roommate, but when I came they did not know that I did not have the same lifestyle, call girl, women of the night, or whatever - oh, so much for some more education - I did not know there were such people.

Ruth Dalchan and Vera Short were two of the best friends I have ever had  - if I could not be at home I could not have found any better place to be than with them.  Their love and support helped me survive those long months away from home.

Ruth Dalchan
Ruth Dalchan

We shared everything: food, clothes, lessons.  Vera was a bit older than Ruth and I.  She was our counselor, shoulder to cry on and Pal to laugh with.

There were no big supermarkets like H.E.B., etc.... then, just the local grocery store.  We did our shopping at The Service Grocer - they delivered, and we paid at the end of the month - dividing the bill three ways.  The assistant manager became a very good friend of mine.  We had an occasional date and often he would come to the apartment when he was off work and have supper with us.  He often brought his share of food, and was a real good friend to the three of us.  He was not a college student, so if I went out with him I had to walk up that long hill and get written permission from the Dean of Women.  The King family was one of the older, well known families in San Marcos and I was never refused permission.  That was a rule - all girl students were under supervision of the Dean.  The permit and curfew were enforced unless Henry knew early that he would get off work, it would be too late for me to get a permit, so a few times we would risk going to the movies.  The theater was only three blocks from my apartment, and on the same street, one Saturday night too many I guess.  Henry's family had one of the old colonial homes, and his mother provided room and board for several Faculty members, when Henry got home after taking me home, one of the teachers waited up for him.  She had been to the movies too.  She told him that she was not going to report to the Dean, but it wasn't worth the risk of me being in trouble with the Dean, and we had best not go out without the permit - so I knew I could not afford the risk.  When he could come to the house for supper we had a very good time - Vera was a good cook and Ruth and I just helped and washed dishes.  Henry helped too if he was there.  We had no T.V., radio, or stereo - so we just talked or played card games.

The Head of the River, (now it is Aquarena Springs) in 1926, was just a natural area - picnics and canoe rides were popular.  When Spring semester was over - Ivy and her boyfriend (later husband) came to take me home for a few days before summer school - and to look for a teaching job.  We took a picnic lunch to the head of the river.  Henry was with us, and he took me on my first canoe ride.  That river was beautiful in it's natural state - clear, cold, and eighty or ninety feet deep.  You could look down and see the plant life and fish.  We had a lovely time - free from studies and the chance to go home for a while.

(Left to right): Ruby Dolehite; Joe Zicheck; Sam Dolehite; Pearl Griffin
Blanco River

We went back to Winston House, loaded our luggage into Len's Model T Ford, and headed for Val Verde.  Near Hutto (a little town south of Austin) we had car trouble; it was almost night and the mechanic told us we could not get the repairs done until the next morning.  We had to spend the night in a small hotel in Hutto.  Len called his father and he got word to our parents.  I was miserable - the very idea of Ivy and me having to spend the night in the same hotel with Len.  I just knew we would be in disgrace and all the folks at home would talk about us.  Ivy and Len stayed down in the lobby and played dominoes and visited with the couple who owned the hotel.  It was not late when Ivy came up to bed and Len went to his room a long way from ours.  Ivy tried to convince me that we just had to make the best of a situation, and that what really mattered was that we did nothing out of line.  I slept very little and was glad when the repairs were done and we were able to go home.


I signed a contract with a school in east Bell county - "Content", a two-teacher rural school.  I was training for and wanting to teach at the fourth and fifth grade level.  Schools were not easy to get; there  were not many jobs available to women in those days.  I had money to pay back; I also would have to go to summer school to maintain my teaching certificate.  I had to take what was available, a principal's job at Content school in which I taught fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.  Content was a two-teacher school about thirteen miles east of Temple; ten of those miles were dirt road, which became next to impassable in rainy weather.

I signed my contract and then went back home a day or so before I went back to San Marcos for the long summer.  Ivy came for the last semester, so that helped.  I made a lot of good friends that summer.  There were more girls at Winston House, and I guess I was more adjusted  to being away from home.  I had to study a lot, and along with that brush up on math - especially Algebra, as I would be teaching first year Algebra.  I had a "B" average in the two years of Algebra in High School, but sort of put it out of mind.  I did not like math and tried to tell myself that I could forget about Algebra.  Ivy was a good tutor; she was always top of the class, so I learned more Algebra that summer and fall than I thought possible.  I played tennis for my required  P.E. course and loved it.  Another semester, I took swimming lessons - the college pool was in the San Marcos river.  That water comes from springs out of the hills at the head of the river; it is as cold as ice and as clear as crystal (You could see a pebble at the bottom of the pool).  I never learned to swim; I could not overcome my fear of deep water.

To explain why my mother had instilled in all of us such a fear of water: When Ivy and I were small, my mother and father loved to fish.  At times, they would take corn to a grist mill on the river to be ground into cornmeal; while waiting for this process to be finished, they would fish.  Ivy and I would play nearby.  I was just a toddler (about three or so); I toddled over where my mom had her fishing pole and tumbled over the bank.  She caught me against the steep bank with her fishing pole and screamed for daddy - he came and pulled me out.  I'm sure that ruined their day.  I know she never picked up another fishing pole, and if any of the six of us went near a river bank, it wasn't with her knowledge.  So you see, I suppose I was in a way responsible for my sister not learning to swim.  I do not know if any of them ever did.  If I had it all to do over in bringing up mine, they would all have learned to swim.

In late August, summer school was over and it was back to the farm to work in the fields until our respective schools would start the first of October.  Now, when a person is sixteen, they learn to drive a car and get a driver's license.  Earlier than sixteen, we learned to harness a team of mules and hitch them to whatever we were using: planter, cultivator, rake, or wagon.  The planting, cultivating, hoeing was spring - now we would be picking cotton or harvesting corn.  The corn job was not so bad; we did not have to stoop over to do that job.  The worst thing was that once in a while, a stinging scorpion would get into our glove - the gloves were made from the same canvas as our cotton socks, with the finger open at the end.  Those scorpions loved the corn shucks.  If you pulled the ear off of the corn stalk, they would get into that open finger.  It was no fun to drag a cotton sack up and down the rows all day, often with from fifty to seventy five pounds in it.  We worked from daylight until dark, with about an hour off at noon.  Enough of that.  We survived and were ready to start our teaching jobs.

The other teacher and I rented a room from the Moore's, who had been neighbors and very good friends at Val Verde.  Mr. Moore was one of our trustees, and later they were Ivy's In-laws.

We were about thirteen miles from Temple and lived about 3/4 mile from our school.  In bad weather it was a very long 3/ 4 mile.  That was what we called black land - wonderful farming country.  When it rained, it was like black wax.  We wore knee length rubber boots and, when possible, we walked in the bar ditch beside the road.  Walking in the water, you did not get stuck in the mud so much.  Our classrooms had the old pot bellied coal burning stoves.  I had no experience with coal; we had plenty of wood in Milam county.  I had quite a lot of trouble with that old heater, but with the help of some of the older boys, we managed it.  I hated that coal; smoke and dust settled everywhere.  After getting started, we could delegate some of the janitorial work to the students.  The boys took care of the coal and the girls swept the floor, etc....  Usually two were given the jobs each day - drawing the water up from a well on the grounds was one of the tasks.  I was nineteen and some of the fifteen year old boys in my room were much taller and larger than  me.  I had heard a lot of stories about pranks some of them played on the teacher before me.  He was an older man and a bit hard of hearing.  They had done such things as put carpet tacks or glue in his desk chair seat.  I knew that some way I had to gain their respect.  Somehow I did, and they never tried any of that with me.  I had two boys that required discipline quite often.  One of them was similar to the cartoon character, Dennis the Menace.  He was just overly mischievous, but it could become disrupting to the students, so I had to try to keep him in line.  One day, I was spanking him, and almost in tears, for having to do it, when he looked back at me and said, "Miss Griffin, I really feel sorry for that hankie in my hip pocket".  In later years, he went on to finish college and became Farm Editor of the Dallas Morning News.  Very few of those boys had no ambition further than getting out of that country school and working on the farm - not that there could be anything wrong in becoming a good farmer.  Before this age of high technology, we needed them.  The other trouble-maker just had a mean streak; the things he did were mean and ugly.  I could never, no matter how hard I tried, gain his trust of discourage him for his acts of cruelty to the younger children.  I was always in school early, but one morning he had been there earlier and had written obscene, vulgar words all inside and outside of the girl's restroom.  He had to be punished, so he was to stay in and study during play periods for the rest of the week.  I do not remember  just what other penalty I meted out - with a little abusive language, he left saying he would go get his mamma and she would take care of me.  I had not met his mother, but had heard that she spoke very little English and had the same personality as her son.  I had no idea how to deal with her, so I just prayed that somehow the problem would be solved.  He had no more than time to get home than we had a very severe thunderstorm.  No one could have come through the wind, rain, thunder, and lightning.  In fact, I could not dismiss school for some time after regular hours.  You could not have told me that God did not answer my prayer - "You know he works in different ways, his wonders to perform".  I had to tell Mr. Moore  about the incident; he was chairman of my board of trustees.  He said the boy had always caused trouble and unless his parents could do something about it, they would have to expell him.  He never came back to school.  I hate to see any child quit school, at least until they finish High School, but there are some few you just can't help.  A teacher's obligation was not just in the school room; we were expected to help our neighbors.  We had no extra help other than a textbook, so by the light of a kerosene lamp, we spent many hours planning lessons - with five grades that had to be done after hours.

One of the hardest things I was ever asked to do was to help out with a death.  We did not have funeral homes; the casket was bought from the General Merchantile store, and neighbors helped prepare the body for burial.  This was a three month old baby.  With the help of another friend, we bathed that child, dressed her in the beautiful little clothes the parents had chosen for her burial.  Then we sat in the parlor with that child the night through.  That was not easy, but I was certainly learning to face life, with all it's joys and sorrows.

Another thing I had to learn was how to bake bread; the little country store did not stock bread, just flour, yeast, etc....  Those women had one day a week, baking day; bread, cakes, cookies for a whole week were baked on that day.  We learned or did without.  A neighbor across the road always had us a plate of hot, fresh kolaches on Thursday after school; they were delicious.  The school year was coming to an end.  We were to put on a play - we had worked hard, practicing after school, working on our costumes.  We were to have it at Flag Hall, a dance hall in the area.  Just before time for our play, one of the girls who had a lead part in the play had a grandmother who died.  Her family was Catholic, and there was to be no social activity during the period of mourning.  It was too late to have anyone take her place.  I talked with her father and tried to persuade him to let her do the part.  After several sessions, back and forth, he finally consented, provided the party to follow the play be cancelled.  We did our play to a full house.  The trustees approved my contract for another year.  The community as a whole had been good to me, but I didn't think I could face another year out there.  I had grown up where Sunday School and church on Sundays was a way of life - out there, it just wasn't possible.  I had put my application in at Bell Plains, another two-teacher school just south of Salado, and when I was accepted there, I turned down the contract with Content.

(Photo ID by Pearl Griffin Digby)

Pearl (Griffin) Digby with student
at Bell Plains School.
(Photo ID by Pearl Griffin Digby).

Pearl (Griffin) Digby with students at Bell  Plains School.
The girl in the light dress is Mary Parrott.
(Photo ID by Pearl Griffin Digby)

I had seldom attended the local parties and dances, but did go to one wedding and the festivities.  It was a Lutheran wedding - a very impressive one, the older sister of two of my students.  The reception - banquet style.  I have never seen so much food.  Most Czech or German women are wonderful cooks.  This was in the fall, and they had constructed a dance platform in the garden.  I did not dance; however, I enjoyed very much watching the others, and the music.  The people ranged in ages from ten to seventy plus - all the families, not just the young people.  My parents did not approve of dances, but I think, that like most all social gatherings, the evil is not there unless it is created by the people taking part.  There simply could not have been anything sinful in the happiness and fellowship there.

The last day of school, Ivy came to pick me up.  Earlier in the year, she and I had bought a new Model T Ford, as we had to have transportation.  I think it was about $ 750.00.  She was teaching at Val Verde and living at home.  Our grandmother Griffin  was not expected to live, so we needed to finish up and get home as soon as possible.  We sat up until 3:00 am to complete my yearly report.  The next morning we had to come through Belton to get my report signed and approved by the County School Superintendent.  We got home and helped mother prepare for all the relatives coming in for grandmother's funeral.  A few days later, Ivy and I both went back to San Marcos for summer school.  Before that, Ivy had done a bit of sewing, some for both of us and some for mom, Rena, and the little sister, Georgia.  I had helped mom with canning vegetables and the general chores around home.

That summer, we shared an apartment in Armstrong House, nearer the campus with a friend from home, Ruby Dolehite.  Our families were good friends and her brother Sam was big brother to all of us.  School was much better for me that summer; it was not just all study and no play.  We went on picnics sometimes; Wimberley was a favorite picnic area, on the Blanco river.  The scenic area around San Marcos was all in it's natural state - not man-made into a tourist attraction.  We played tennis and, at times, there was entertainment in the college gym, games, and a taffy pull.  Before I finish this writing, I will do a bit of research to find a good description of a taffy pull.  It was lots of sticky, gooey fun.  It was understood that which one of us got out of school first would do lunch.  One day I had that duty; I had cooked a good meal, set the table, tea in the glasses - decided it might get a laugh if I replaced sugar in the sugar bowl with salt.  Ruby and Ivy came in from class, tired, hot, and hungry.  When Ruby sweetened her tea, she blew her top - I've never seen one so angry.  She wasn't speaking to me for a week.  She was and still is a good friend, but I learned the hard way that some people can't take a joke.  Our houseparents (always Grandpa and Grandma Armstrong) were like family, along with a little twelve year old granddaughter who lived with them.  The summer passed and I was looking forward to my new school.  I was not going to teach Algebra, but did a lot of brushing up on my math.  We had courses in teaching math.  I had to try harder, because it was not my favorite subject.  It was back home to help out on the farm again until October.

In October, I started my second year of teaching at Bell Plains, the rural community  where I had attended Sunday School and church in my early childhood.  I had room and board with uncle Raith and aunt Fronia McQueen, a short distance from school and the little Methodist church.  I was principal again, but had one less grade to teach.  As I have mentioned before, all the material we had were the textbooks, so we had to do a lot of creating our own help.  By request, companies would send us samples of toothpaste, soap, etc....  One incident I recall - I was talking to my sixth grade class about health.  I had samples of bath soap for them and most of them already knew how to keep clean.  However, I had two children from a very poor family that evidently did not practice cleanliness.  The children were never clean.  The boy interrupted my talk and told me that he only took baths in the summer when they could go to the river.  I believed him; his skin was positively crusty.  I never knew if my talks influenced him or not.  They lived not far from us - just across the road from my uncle's farm.  My uncle had the reputation of being hard-headed (a tight-wad), but honest.  We have a tendency sometimes to judge others when we have not looked far enough into that person's character to really know what is really there.  One time when we were in town and stopped at the service station for gas, we had gone about two blocks when he discovered that the attendant had short-changed him a dime.  He asked Leta to turn around and go back and she refused.  She had gone out with the boy some and told her dad that it was embaressing and after all, it was only a dime.  He got out of the car and walked back to get his ten cents.  I knew him well enough, that he would have done the same had the ten cents belonged to the other person.  He was just honest and expected others to be the same.  The year that I lived with him,  I saw how many times he saw that the family across the road did not go hungry or had a little work when he could manage.  In the twenties, there was no State or Federal welfare - food stamps, etc....  What the church or neighbors offered was all there was.

I enjoyed going back to the Bell Plains Methodist Church where some years before I had gone to Grannie Poteet's "Card class; now we would call it preschool.  There I taught a Sunday School class of teenagers.  Grannie Poteet was still living in the old homeplace, just across the pasture from the McQueen's farm.  Her bachelor son lived at home and cared for her.  He was Superintendent of Sunday School and everybody's friend.  A few times Bernice, my cousin, and I would put on our heavy coats, take an old kerosene lantern and walk through the woods to their house.  We would go possum hunting with Mr. Louis - he had traps set, so would check them.  Then we would go back to the house and have hot chocolate and popcorn in front of the fireplace.  Grannie Poteet was older and did not get out, but she was a wonderful person to visit with.  She and her son were an inspiration to us and to most of the young people around.

I had very few discipline problems at Bell Plains; the children as a rule were from good solid families and were well behaved.  At Content, only two of my students were all American.  Most of them were Czech or German.  Most were very nice people, but used to an entirely different lifestyle than mine.  I felt I did a much better job teaching at Bell Plains - although I still wanted to get into third and fourth grade and get away from a principal's job, being responsible in a way for the whole school.

My cousin and I usually went into Belton on Saturday to do the grocery shopping and spend the day.  Most farm families did the same, so it was more seeing people and visiting than shopping.  It so happened that my friend from fourth grade was living in Belton then, so we meet again.  I had seen him a few times through the years; his aunt and uncle still lived in our area and they were there for visits now and then.  However, the two of us had not dated in all those years.  He was working nights at a bakery, so our dating started on those Saturday afternoons when Bernice and I were in Belton, then became a steady thing when he had time off.  We often double dated with his sister Merle and her boyfriend (later husband), Leonard Cosper.  Sometimes both his sisters, Cody and Merle.  In every way it had been a rewarding school term.  My co-teacher, Maurine Wray, became a very good friend and good to work with.  When it came time for our "end of school" play, we had to call on people outside the classroom to take part in the production, as very few of the students were old enough, so we asked for volunteers.  Our play was a great success.  We had a full house at Bell Plains and were invited to put it on for a neighboring community, Amity.  That old schoolhouse is still out there off highway 35, between Belton and Salado.  There too we had a full house, and at 25 cents a ticket we had a little money left over from expenses to buy extras for our classrooms.  I was on cloud nine - felt I had done a good job, and had the support of parents and school board, so I thought.  Into every cloud some rain must fall - I found I had made one big mistake.  In choosing people to take part in the play, I felt I was doing right by accepting a lady who had no small children at home, and nothing to keep her from our practice sessions.  I did not know that one member of the school board's wife coveted that part in the play and had a long going feud with the woman I gave it to.  She was a spoiled, selfish person.  Anyway, she demanded that Mr. Board member not sign my new contract, and he did not dare cross her.  I felt I was destroyed; however, she or I did not realize she was doing me a favor.  A day or so before term was over, I was informed that there was a vacancy teaching third, fourth, and fifth grades in the new four-teacher school at Val Verde.  Besides teaching the grades I wanted to teach, I could live at home; the room and board saved could help out my family at home.  The bad part was, I could not see as much of Martin; we had become a pretty steady pair.  With his working hours, he could only come to Val Verde on an occasional Saturday, getting to my house around 9:00 pm.  He would stay about an hour, then go on to his aunt's to spend the night, and we could be together on Sunday.  At that time, he had a Chevrolet roadster, with a cut out on the exhaust.  My dad always said he could hear him coming when he crossed the old bridge over Little River, about a mile away.  One Saturday, by the time he got to our house, it was raining hard and the two miles further to the Dolehite's was mud and slush.  When it came time for him to leave, my dad came in and insisted that he just stay over - that low slung convertible would not have made it in all that mud.  So he slept in the spare room across the house from the room I shared with three sisters - nevertheless, my mom thought we would be disgraced and she took a long time to let me forget it.  With all the family there, and nothing out of line at all.  I gave this writing the correct title, "Rambling".  That happened after I had spent another summer in San Marcos.

In June, after leaving Bell Plains, I went back to San Marcos for two more semesters of summer school.  That meant that I would see very little of my steady boyfriend with his working hours and no reliable transport - he just could not get to San  Marcos.  I did get home a few weekends, and sent him a letter every week.  He was not much for writing, so his letters were few and short.

Card that Mart Digby sent to Pearl (Note his initials).
Pearl mounted it on a board because it meant so much to her.

Most times Merle wrote for him.  We made it; I had to study a lot, and each change of semester there were new people to meet, and soon summer was over and I was back home planning my first year teaching at Val Verde.

Simplistic drawing by Billy Blair of the old Val Verde Schoolhouse
based on information supplied by Pearl (Griffin) Digby
on December 25, 1979.  The top of the map faces south.

That was the age group of children that I enjoyed working with, and it was nice having a principal to do our reports for the county superintendant, and direct us in our work.  Virgil Chaffin was one of the best.  I challenged him one day for destroying the bird nest; having the high school boys clean out the gutter and destroy the pretty little birds that had made their nests there.  He told me that if they were left there, and my classroom was overrun with mites, I would change my mind.  He was right, as usual, so I never questioned his judgement again.  There were no organized sports there, but our children played baseball and basketball.  That first year, I organized  a team of my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade boys; now it would be classed "Little League".  Mr. Chaffin had a team of high school boys - at times, we would play with some area schools: DaVilla, Vilas, or Joe Lee across the river in Bell county.  One such contest we went over to Joe Lee to play.  I had all my team in the Model T Ford and Mr. Chaffin had his.  This was on Friday afternoons after school hours.  My little boys won their game and his lost; I never let him forget it.  That year at Christmas time Mart gave me my engagement ring.  If it had been a two karat diamond I could not have loved it more.  At school on Monday morning Mr. Chaffin stopped me in the hall and said he was looking for a magnifying glass so he could see my diamond; he was forever teasing us.  The other two teachers were wonderful friends and people to work with.  The first and second grade teacher had been a classmate of mine in early school years at Val Verde.  At the end of school, I knew I had to go back to summer school.  Mart had asked me to transfer to Baylor so I would not be so far away.  A friend and I rented an apartment just off campus.  My dad learned that the year before, the son of the people there had died with typhoid fever, so he insisted that I have typhoid shots before I moved into that house.  For three afternoons when school was out I had to drive into Rogers for the family doctor to give me that series of shots (I still don't like shots).

Two high school girls from DaVilla wanted to go to Baylor Academy that summer to get accredited to go to Bartlett to graduate the next year.  One of the mothers agreed on the condition that they share an apartment with me - quite an honor that she thought me worthy to act as their chaperone.  The apartment was two bedroom, with a kitchen for each one.  Things worked out fine.  I scheduled my classes for morning - had a few hours in the afternoon to study in the library - and some free time to be with Martin before he had to go to work at night.  He was still working in the bakery.  They furnished bread for local stores and delivered to Salado and area stores.  He told me of one funny thing that happened at work.  One night, he and his supervisor had mixed this enormous amount of dough.  They had a larger warming oven where they put it to rise, but found they had used whole wheat flour.  They did make whole wheat bread, but only in smaller amounts.  They knew their boss would have their heads for wasting all those ingredients.  They dumped the dough in the supervisor's pick up truck and drove to the Leon river bridge.  This was late at night, so there was no traffic.  Thinking they would send the dough to the bottom of the river, they dumped it over into the river.  By that time, the yeast had begun to work and instead of sinking, this huge, white mass of dough floated off downstream like a big, white buffalo.  They could do nothing but go back and get on with another batch of bread.  They were terrified, but as luck would have it, they heard no more about it.

Baylor was at that time just a women's college; however, some area teachers were allowed to attend classes.  Virgil Chaffin, my school principal, was in my history class.  They were required to sit in back of the classroom and not sit with the girls.  I felt I had to do my best to make a good impression on the teacher and my boss in the back of the class.  I put in a lot of hours on that course in ancient history.  I don't think the instructor even thought of our having other courses.  I barely made a passing grade, but had an A-B average in my other two courses, so I met the requirement for renewal of my teacher's certificate.

Summer was over, so it was back home to pick cotton and other chores until school opened in October.  Martin and I would have liked to get married , but no way.  I had debts; he had debts also.  We both tried to help our families as much as possible, so we decided if I taught one more year and he had steady work, we would finally see that day.  In those days, it was almost impossible for a married woman to get a teaching job.  She had a husband to make the living, so leave the jobs for the younger ones.  In October, it was back to the classroom again.  I loved it, as I said before, that age group children were the greatest to teach.  There has to be some discipline problems with that many in a group, but they were very few and easy to deal with.  This year, I took on the extra job of coaching the High School girl's basketball - no extra pay, just more work, but something else that I liked doing.  I had played basketball both at the old Val Verde school and in Rogers high school.  I had a good team and we competed with other area schools.  Sometimes I was asked to referee contests between other schools.  I liked it all.  My suit for the referee's job was white, like my players wore, only their's was white blouse and green bloomers.  The bloomers were six to eight yards of fabric pleated onto a waistband with elastic in the hems.  The top was a middy blouse, white stockings, and white tennis shoes.  The only skin showing was the arms from the elbows.  The first time that Mart could make it to one of the games I called, he was a bit angry with me - thought my suit was not modest.  I could not give in to him on that one; that was a part of my job.  He soon got over it.

Late one evening, I had an urgent call from Merle, Mart's sister; he was in the  hospital.

Mart Digby in the uniform he wore
while working at the bakery.

He had opened the door to the warming oven where they put the dough to rise and there was a gas explosion; he was badly burned.  I got in the Model T, went by his aunt's, and picked up Ruby, his cousin, to go with me.  It was already dark and my parents did not want me to go alone.  When we got there, I went to see him.  He was swathed in bandages; I could only see his eyes and mouth.  His eyebrows and eyelashes were gone; his lips were clear blisters.  The doctor had peeled the blistered skin from both arms and his face, plastered him with ungentine, and the bandages (I believe they treat burns differently now).  He had an old cap on his head that probably saved his hair.  It was hard to leave him, but that I had to do.  At least he was going to live.  His boss carried no insurance on his workers and did not even offer to pay the hospital bill, even though he had known of the gas leak, and just not had it fixed.  So much for that - now Mart had a hospital bill to pay.

Soon after he was out of the hospital, he took a job with Porter's Feed Store - twelve to fourteen hours a day, but better pay.  He was off work early enough on Saturday that he could come to Val Verde more often.  Euriland and Almerta Pierce, life long friends, were married then.  A lot of Saturday nights they would come by and we would go into Rogers to a movie.  We would see silent films; Tom Mix and his generation of actors.  It cost us 25 cents per ticket.  In November, we decided we were not ever going to save any money and if I could keep my job until school year's end we would go on and get married.  He went with me to talk to the school board.  I knew that my job performance was good, but there was this thing about married women teaching, so what had to be had to be.  We visited all three members; they were wonderful.  They just said that so long as my teaching was up to par they would not object.  However, Mr. Quint Cryer, whom I saw often through the years, never let me forget that I had to get his permission to get married.  He was a big tease, like my uncle Tom.  His older children, the oldest of fourteen, were very good friends near my age.  His younger ones I taught in school and one daughter was on the high school basketball team that I coached.

So, December 7, 1929 we were married at the parsonage of the First Methodist Church in Belton.  Sam Dolehite, Nan Skinner (my life long friend and fellow teacher) and my little sister Rena served as our witnesses.  After the weekend together, I was back home to finish out the school year and Mart was back in Belton to work in the Feed Store.  I spent most every weekend in Belton.  In back of Mart's parent's house, there was a little red brick building - one room over a root cellar.  That was Mart's bedroom, so that was our honeymoon retreat on weekends until school was out and we could get our own place.  Merle and Corinne were still at home and everyone worked Saturdays.  That gave Mart's mother and I a day together.  I helped her around the house; we fixed lunch.  They were all home for lunch, including Mack D. and Gran Wallace.  When they were back to work, we would clean up then have the afternoon together.  She was a wonderful lady.  One such Saturday, she told me that she and dad were going to leave early, go to DaVilla to visit the married daughter so I would be the "Lady of the House" for that day, cook lunch for the bunch, ....  What I knew about fixing lunch for six adults you could put in a thimble.  Growing up, I had done everything on the farm but cook.  My total experience in the kitchen besides washing dishes, set the table, and carry in stove wood was limited to our for two quick light housekeeping lunches in college.  Oh well, I had to learn - if any of the people complained, they didn't let me know it.  About all I can recall is that I did salmon croquets, cornbread, and some kind of pie that I found in a cookbook.  What else I don't recall.  When the folks all came in late in the afternoon I had all the cleaning done and was very thankful that I did not have to do supper.  That was the first lesson Mattie Digby, my mother-in-law, taught me; there were a lot more such as love, patience, and understanding.  She lived only seven years after I was a member of the family, but in those years we shared a very deep friendship.  Her daughter told me later that she had talked about things with me that she had never shared with them.

I finished the school term in early May.  I recall only one weekend I had not spent in Belton - that Friday when Mart came to pick me up, we had what we called a "Blue Blizzard".  Before he got there, the wind blew in from the north with sleet, ice, and snow.  He had to go back on Sunday, but had to leave the old Chevy Roadster and drive our Model T.  The slush and mud was too much for anything else to get out.

In the days when we were dating, driving here and there, he often sang for me - "Let Me call you Sweetheart" and my favorite was "My Blue Heaven".  We found an apartment on South Main, two bedrooms.  We bought some furniture and accepted odds and ends from our families.  My first "china cabinet" was two wooden apple boxes, nailed together on the wall, with a flowered curtain across the front.  We didn't have much, that was our "Blue Heaven" - no roses blooming, just noisy main street out front and a bunch of stinky rabbit hutches in the back yard (our landlord raised rabbits).  That was our beginning - also the start of the worst Depression in U.S. history.  We had also learned that other verse to our song - and "Baby Makes three" was a fact to face.  It wasn't exactly the plan we had in mind; we had hoped to be a bit better off money wise before we started a family.  Plans do not always work out as hoped. 

I was so sick, and to top that came down with the worst case of flu imaginable - so much fever that I was out of my head for a few days.  Mart could not work and take care of me, so his mother insisted I stay with her until I recovered.  We lived through that crisis.  At that time, Mart's best friend and soon to be brother-in-law, Leonard Cosper, lived in south Texas.  When he had a chance to come home, he would ride his motorcycle and it would be late night when he got into Belton, so he would just stop and spend the rest of the night with us.  We never locked a door, so he would just come in and go to bed in the front bedroom.  One such time we were not expecting him and my cousin was spending the night with us.  It was a bit of a shock to both of them when about 2:00 am he turned on the light, tired and sleepy, and found a strange woman in the bed.  Everything worked out fine; Violet just came to bed with me and Mart and Leonard shared the other bed.  Then, one other time, when he was sleeping over in our bedroom something else disturbed his sleep.  We had a "Big Ben" (an old fashioned alarm clock).  Mart had to be at work early, so we needed the loud alarm.  Something was wrong with it and Mart had tried to fix it.  Bless his sweet soul, he could never fix anything, just take it apart.  He could not get it to work, so he just stuck it in a drawer next to the bed and forgot it.  About the time Leonard got to sleep good after that long motorcycle trip, that old alarm went off, loud enough to wake up the dead.  We could never figure out why; it was a wind up clock and had been in the drawer several days. 

One day a good friend came by and asked us to consider moving.  The large house where she had lived a good many years with her family when she was a teenager was available in two apartments, so if Mart and I would take one, she and Fred the other, it should be a good thing.  We thought so too, more privacy.  We could even have our own milk cow.  The couple we were renting from were always having knock down, cursing, ugly fights.  That was hard for us to accept.  I never heard that sort of language in my home and my parents did not air their differences in the presence of we children.  Then too, we would be glad to get away from Main street and the noise.  So we moved to what is now known as the Jones Beimer Historical House.  Fred and Jollie Whittenburg moved into the south apartment and Martin and I the north side.  All the upstairs rooms were vacant.  Fred and Jollie were wonderful neighbors; also, it was a nice, friendly neighborhood.  They were expecting their first child; so were we.

We had only been there about two months when Fred was offered a job in Lometa in west Texas.  They moved away and left us in that monstrous big house, all of it vacant except our northside apartment.  One of the first things Mart did when we were settled in there, with a big fenced yard and a barn out back, was get our own milk cow, then come home with a cute little bulldog.  We had not been allowed to have a dog at home.  That old saying, "Love me, love my dog" does not always hold true.  I loved that man, but that little dog "Dan" was the proverbial thorn in my side.  Then we still did the laundry with washboard tubs, the old black washpot to boil the water.  Next you would put the clothes in and then hang the clothes on a line to dry.  Dan's favorite pastime was taking a long running jump and hanging by his teeth to my sheets, etc.... and later, the baby blankets.  I had more ragged sheets... than you could count.  I was constantly having to mend and patch the damage he left.

There was a wide, long stairway in the hallway of the house.  One night, like midnight or later, I heard steps going up the stairs.  There had been a man murdered at Little River Academy that week and they had not found who did it.  I could just see the bad man sneaking into our house to hide.  Mart was a sound sleeper, so I waked him up; he found little "Dan" the pup had come in and was making the trip up the stairway.  Some weeks later, Dan disappeared; Mart found him quite a way from home, dead.  He had seizures quite often, so whatever it was wrong had caused his death.  I shed no tears.  We nearly always had a dog and most of them sort of became a part of the family, but never another one that gave me as much trouble as Dan.

In September of that year, my sister Rena came to live with us to finish High School.  We did not have much, but enough to get by in the way of food and shelter.  She was a delight to have around and a lot of help to me.  I could help her with some of her class work and she helped me with house work.  In January, "Baby Makes Three" came along; our Blue Heaven had a few clouds in it.  Our little five pound bundle of joy entered this world with yellow jaundice and strong lungs.  She cried; it felt like constantly.  I did not feel so good myself that Friday night and later.  The Sunday after, we were still trying to make a crying baby happy and I'm sure Mart, Rena, and Corrinne felt the same about making me feel better.  I'm sure that day that almost every relative and friend within walking or driving distance came by to see the new baby, some to spend the day.  I loved them all, still do, and appreciated their love and concern; however, that made me believe that you should look into whether or not people are feeling up to having visitors before making a visit.  All I wanted that day was to get that baby happy, and having about twenty-four hours of undisturbed sleep.  Eventually our doctor decided the baby needed to be put on a bottle; after adjusting to that, she was a doll.  The first one in the five couples in Mart's family who had been married within a year of each other.  We came through that crisis, with the help of many loving friends and family.  Rena graduated from Belton High School and went home.  Our landlady decided she wanted to move into the big house herself, so we moved again into a small, new house on South Pearl street.  We had both joined the First Christian Church in Belton soon after we married, me from DaVilla Methodist and Mart from the Baptist church.  From our place on South Pearl, we could walk to church.  Rena had an offer of Western Union telegraph, training.  Then, they did an apprenticeship for their training, so she came back to live with us again.  We had some very pleasant days there.  The little one had gotten over her three month colic, was doing well on the different formula, and was getting enough love and attention for two instead of one.  Aunt Codie and uncle Emmitt were the worst; they almost worshipped her.  Very often, Emmitt came by from work and played with her a while before he went home.  One day he came by on his white horse, the trick horse; I was scared to death of that horse.  Nobody could do anything with him but Emmitt; however, he wore me down and persuaded me to let him take Jeannine home with him on that horse.  Mart and I were to go pick her up after supper.  They made it fine; she just lost one of her little white kid shoes.  I could not fuss about that as he had bought them for her.  One thing happened at that little house I will never forget.  One Sunday night we came home from church.  Mart had gone to bed; he usually fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.  Rena also was in bed and I was in the kitchen warming the baby's bottle.  There was a loud knock on the door, several in fact.  Mart waked up and rushed to the door in his boxer shorts.  He no more than turned the door knob than this black woman rushed in carrying an ax.  Her husband was trying to kill her and she needed protection.  Mart managed to get the door closed and I led her into the dark living room while Mart got into his trousers.  We got her calmed down and tried to convince her to go over two blocks into Main street and stay with the black family there.  We put her out the back door, axe with her, then locked our doors.  Rena's bed was the back one; with that outside door she and I were both scared to death.  Jeannine had her bottle and was settled peacefully asleep in her crib.  We just moved over and let Rena come to bed with us.  Mart was totally an understanding big brother and tried to comfort both of us, but in later years he could not resist teasing us about one time sleeping in his bed - ha!!  He was on the far side and Rena   was snuggled up to me.  There was no thought of fun and games that night, just the shadow of a black woman with a lethal looking axe.  Her husband was the highly respected principal of Harris school (Schools were still segregated then).  Mr. Porter, Mart's boss, was a member of the school board then.  On Monday after school, Mr. Wright came by the store and apologized to Mart and explained to Mr. Porter what caused the disturbance.  It seems that his wife, under the pretext of visiting her mother in east Texas, had gone off with another man.  When she came in on Sunday night he had found out about it, so they had quite a row.  He said there was no death threat at all, and after she left our house, she had gone back home.  He kept his job, but I don't think he kept her.  After that, we locked the doors at night.

Rena finished her Western Union apprenticeship and went to Louisiana for her first job.  That spring, I canned quite a few vegetables.  One day Mart came home with a great big ham, fresh.  The only way I could preserve that was to slice it, cook it, and seal it in jars.  We had no refrigeration.  That was a whole day's work.  I had handled and smelled greasy meat, pork at that all day.  All at once, I was sick and just vomitted my head off.  Oh!  Oh!  There has been no pregnancy test invented that could have been more convincing that "Baby makes four" was on the way.  Added to that, the economic depression was being felt more and more.  Soon after, Mr. Porter told Mart and Leonard that he would have to let them go, and make do with the help of his two sons.  With Mart's last paycheck, he stocked the pantry with staples, paid Dr. Pittman to deliver the baby when the time came; that was all of twenty-five dollars.  I was not under a doctor's care that nine months; we couldn't afford it.  Leonard and Merle moved in with us and we shared the rent.  Mart and Leonard took whatever odd job they could find.  There was no minimum wage; you just had to take what was offered.  There were no food stamps and government aid; you just made out with what your could earn.  It wasn't easy, but it was honest; I still believe it is more honorable to earn your living.  Their first job was to dig a water well on a farm - by hand (pick and shovel and back muscles).  A lot of it was through solid rock; at $ 1.00 per foot that did not bring in much for two families, but it paid for milk and bread and they did not give up.  I do not remember how many jobs they had before they found something regular, but we got by.  Leonard and Myrle were expecting their first child too and near time for ours.  They moved in with Mart's parents.  We thought with three little ones , the place would be a bit crowded.  Jeannine was just walking good.  We got milk from Mart's parents, who lived down the street with a large, vacant lot between us.  One morning I missed her; I went outside and saw her toddling down the street with her little sand bucket.  When I caught up with her, she was just going to grandma's for the milk. 

That very hot, dry August "baby makes four" came along.  Now there were two little girls to share our very turbulent Blue Heaven.  I guess you could say there were lots of rocky roads in our path, but we weathered the storm.  Our little girls were loved and cared for; our problems were, well, it took a lot of patience and understanding to exist in those times.  We did not have anything that we could not work through together.  We did not fuss and fight.  One of my sisters in law told me one time that it was not possible to not ever fuss and call each other names.  She thought we just did not air our differences in public.  She was wrong; you don't have to do that.  It is wise for both to not get mad at the same time and best to let the anger fade away before discussing the problem.

When Jeannine was four and  a half and Mattie was three, we moved again; it was a nice little house on Avenue D.  Mart was working at a service station then, seven days a week, twelve hours a day.  The depression was in full swing, but we were still getting by.  I was ironing one day and Jeannine and Mattie were playing on a little screened porch.  I went to check on them and noticed they had company, a little black girl about their age.  What a fact to be brought home to me; prejudice did not start with children.  I did not disturb their play.  This is beginning to sound like a sob story - more or less, it is.  1935 was not a very happy time for anyone.  The middle of the Depression, people were out of work and most that were working were earning very little.  We had two precious little girls; they were healthy and usually happy.  It wasn't such a good time to learn that the third child was on the way.  We were paying the rent (eight dollars a month), utilities, and we were not hungry, but there was nothing left for doctor bills, so, again I did not have medical care until time for the baby.  The only time that my mother had been free to come be with me, a very tragic time for us; our first little boy was stillborn.  The times when the first one had cried constantly with colic and I would have loved for her to stop, this time, I would have given anything to hear that baby cry; his little body had stopped breathing even before birth.  Even though we had our two precious little girls, we were not ready to give that one up.  Without the love and support of Mart and other family, I would not have survived those weeks of recovery.  Above all, for both of us, was the help of our doctor; his counseling and never-ending good will helped us over that rocky road.  The twenty dollar fee we paid, $ 2.00 -$ 2.50 at a time when we could do it, he never sent us a bill.  It took some time for me to get going; for several weeks I was very depressed.  Not a very good wife or mother, I'm afraid; with God's help, the love and patience of my husband and others, I finally realized that we had to go on making the best of what we had.  Mart worked seven days a week, so on Sunday mornings I took my two little girls and walked to Sunday School and church.  The Spruce Wilhites lived up the street from us; they had one little girl.  She walked on to the Church of Christ and we stopped at First Christian.

Mart and Odell Hyer went to work for Cities Service Oil Company.  They had the service station downtown and Mart drove the oil truck to service the other stations in Temple and Belton.  Mr. Frank Knowles was dealer for the Temple/ Belton area and their boss, a very good one too and good friend.  We moved from West Avenue D to North Pearl street and shared a house with Corrinne and Odell Hyer.  The house had two apartments, with a wide hallway in between.  We had the north apartment, a bit larger than theirs.  We had the two girls and they had Billy Louis, about eighteen months old.  Codie went to work at a Dry Goods store in town and I kept Billy with my two.  He was an exceptionally good child.  I had no problems except a few times when he was sick; they they had to come home and help me get the medicine down.  You would not believe that, at times, it took three of us to get him to swallow: one to hold him in their lap, one to hold his hands and feet, and one to hold his nose so he would have to open his mouth; then, when the spoon was put into his mouth, he had to swallow.  The doctors had not started giving shots then; it had to be by mouth.  Jeannine and Mattie were enough older that he liked playing with them.  We never had any problems living with Corrinne and Odell; she was just like a sister.  Very often, mornings before Mart and Odell left for work, you could look out on the back steps and there would be a lonely, old man sitting there with a cup of coffee or waiting for Mart or Odell to hand him one.  Mart and Odell called them railroad bums.  I guess they rode the freight trains, then bummed something to eat - harmless, just bums.  One night, we had been to church; we had just gotten into bed when we heard some noise.  Mart and Odell got into the hall about the same time and ushered an old fellow out; he had walked in off the street and was making his way down the hall.  They led him out and stayed outside until he was well out of sight; then they came in and locked the hall door.  The bums are O.K., but no drunks allowed.

One fourth of July while we lived there, we had quite a crowd.  People liked to come to Belton for the parade and rodeo; at that time, the rodeo was in the afternoon.  Mart had gone early to Val Verde and brought mom, dad, Georgia, and Doris to spend the day.  We had planned a nice day: watch the parade, then the men would go to the rodeo, and we would take them home in late afternoon.  Just before time for the parade, a friend and customer of Mart's at the station (He had a lot of them - cedar post haulers we called them.  That was a big business here then.  Cedar came from Sparta Mountain, now the lake).  Anyway, I had met him and his family a few times; they came with their three children for an overnight stay.  My mom helped me; we cooked and washed dishes.  We did not have Golden Fried Chicken and all the prepared food around then and very few eating places.  Besides, it was better to stay and eat with friends.  We got everyone fed and off to the rodeo.  The rodeo was well under way when we had a terrific rain - I would say a cloudburst.  Those people at the rodeo were soaked to the skin.  The friends from Georgetown had extra clothes; however, we had some old neighbor friends who were living in San Saba then and had driven to Belton for the celebration.  They came to our house with dad and Mart from the rodeo and we tried to fit them in dry clothes for their long drive back to San Saba.  It was a little bit of fun as Clyde Kattes, the man in the bunch, was short and skinny.  We sent him off in Mart's shirt and pants - legs and sleeves rolled up and belted tight around his waist; he looked like a clown.  Them we were glad to see, as we had been in school together and neighbors for a long time at Val Verde.  That long after the rain when he was driving them home (just this side of Little River), the water was so deep it ran in the doors of the Model A Ford.

We enjoyed living there; we shared the Model A Ford with Corrinne and Odell.  It was used for work and the few places we went.  We went home to Val Verde about once every six weeks, and if they had some place to go, there was never a disagreement over the car or whatever.  We had a few sad times while there too.  My beloved mother-in-law (Mattie Wallace Digby) went into the hospital for what we thought was hernia surgery and it turned out to be terminal liver cancer.

Mattie (Wallace) Digby; Corinne Digby on right
The family were all at the hospital and I kept the children - nine of them, including mine.  It was one way I could help, and Loraine's girls were old enough to help.  They brought Mother D. home, with a nurse to take care of her.  She did not live long.  She was a wonderful lady and it was hard for all of us to give her up.  Soon after her death, Mart's dad sold the homeplace, the small house among all the elm trees in southwest Belton, where we had shared so many Sunday dinners, Saturday nights in the back yard with sandwiches and lemonade.  Leonard and Merle Cosper bought the place, so it was sort of still in the family.  I do not remember how long after, when Mart came home from work late in the afternoon.  He had Lyndell, their four year old; Leonard and Merle's house had burned to the ground.  He left Lyndell with  me and went back over to help them.  I think the kerosene cookstove had exploded and caused the fire.  They had lost everything, but they rebuilt the house later and picked up their lives.  I think in those years, adversity was a thing that brought couples closer together, not something to send you to the divorce court; you sat down and talked it over and tried to figure a way to face it.  It was not always easy, but nevertheless a way of life.

When we had to give up the Mitchell House on North Pearl (I think Mr. Mitchell was ready to sell it and we certainly could not buy it; we did well to pay the $ 15.00 rent), we moved again to the Hunt House on what then was labeled "Hungry Hill" across the street from the Beimer/ Jones house where Jeannine was born, still sharing a house with Corrinne and Odell.  About all I can remember of that was our three little ones had the whooping cough.  Jeannine and Mattie had a terrible time and you would hardly have known Billy Louis had it.  He was about two then; he coughed, but not the strangling, turning blue spells that Mattie and Jeannine had.  Codie was a Godsend; I could not have handled it without her help.  Jeannine had enlarged tonsils too, and that made it even worse.  Believe me, I saw that the last three had shots (which had not been available with the first two).

Another near fatal thing - one day, Jeannine swallowed a marble; it lodged in her throat and she was choking to death.  No telephones, no "911", just us.  Codie grabbed her feet and held her upside down while I rammed a finger down her throat and took out the marble.  She had a bloody throat, but she was alive.  We bathed her face and finally got her calmed down.  Really, it took a while to calm all three of them.  There, we had a pretty back yard with a white, picket fence; it was a safe place for the three of them to play.

I will skip back a bit to the time on North Pearl street.  Mart's older sister Loraine was left with three little girls on her own.  We let her come live with us until she could afford a place of her own.  Mart and I gave up one of our rooms; they were large rooms, plenty of room for a bedroom for them.  Corrinne and Odell shared their kitchen and bath with her.  She got a job in the courthouse and the girls were all three in school, so it was not so bad.  She was never hard for us to get along with, but not the companionable person Corrinne was.  It was several months until she was able to rent a house two doors down from us.  We could still be some help to them, and I am sure that in her way she appreciated our sacrifice; she just wasn't the one to say so.

One day Mart came home, walking on air.  We had a wonderful chance to rent a little house a few miles out of town; it was a pretty place made of natural rock.  It had three rooms, a few acres, chicken houses, and a barn.  We could have a cow, pigs, and raise chickens; at last, the big chance at the "Blue Heaven" we had dreamed of.  There were roses blooming by the door, a lovely lilac bush in the yard, a nice, quiet place with no close neighbors; it was a chance to feather our nest so to speak.  We moved in.  My mom had given us a pretty, young Jersey cow; Mart bought one more, two pigs, and came home one day with about fifty fluffy, yellow baby chicks.  We set them up in the browder houses, with feeders, water, and the lights to keep them warm.  Mattie and Jeannine loved helping me feed and look after the chickens.  Mart had long days, so I fed the pigs, milked the cows, and watered them.  We had a deep water well just off the little narrow back porch, with one of those old fashioned water pumps you propelled by hand, so it was quite a chore.  However, Mart could do a lot of filling the water troughs for the animals.  It started raining long, heavy days on end and before  we knew what happened, the little yellow chickens started dying from cackcidiousis (pneumonia in chickens).  The roof's leaked and they got wet and cold.  We doctored their drinking water, but could not save enough of them.  Then one morning in the early hours, Mart waked up in terrible pain.  No telephone and  along time until he could get in to see a doctor.  He just leaned on a chair, used it for support, and walked the floor until he could get to town.  I did not drive and he managed to drive in, taking Jeannine to school, and Odell took him to the doctor; the doctor said it was inflammatory Rheumatism.  When Odell brought him home, he had to help him in the house and to bed; he could not walk.  Hot packs, linament, aspirin; he just did not get any better.  We were still sharing the Model A.  Mart used it to drive back and forth to work.  There was a black man who worked for the local meat market and helped out at the station some.  He looked like, and I'm not sure he was not, an ex-convict.  He had been in so many fights that his nose was broad and flat and he had scars and tattoos.  I suppose he must have paid his dues and changed his ways; most everybody liked him.  Anyway, he used the Model T, brought Jeannine home from school, and helped me with the livestock and lifting Mart (He could not use his legs at all).  That was another good lesson in judging people.  I could not have made it without that old black man.  We called him "Blizzard" or "Bliz"; I can't recall his real name.  We had tried everything we could hear of.  A friend of ours came by one day, Emmitt West; he was one of the more prosperous truckers.  He and his wife were good friends; he offered Mart $ 3, 000.00 if he could find a hospital or doctor who could help.  It was a kind offer, but we knew nothing to do.  Later, a big, fat, red-headed nurse came out and gave him electrical shock treatments; she came every other day for several weeks.  It did not seem to help for long either.

Meanwhile, I had learned that I was pregnant again, and the girls took a good case of chicken pox.  It was winter time; the little cozy house had plastered walls and in rainy weather, they stayed damp.  This wasn't good for Mart's condition or the girls; we only had a wood heater for warmth.  The girl's bedroom was a large screened-in sleeping porch; it had heavy canvas curtains, but still was cold.  We had two double beds and usually slept out there, but I had Mart in the front room, so he would not be disturbed.  The girls were covered with those horrid eruptions that is chicken pox; they were so miserable that I slept between them to try to keep them warm.  The heavy covers and their itch wasn't conducive to keeping the covers on and I sure did not want them to get pneumonia.  In about six weeks or more, Mart started getting better and was eventually able to go back to work.  The girls were over their pox, but we were sort of disillusioned with the idea of making extra money.  Mattie came up to me one day when we were at home alone, with an impish little grin on her face; she said, "Momma, next year when school starts you'll be out here all by yourself, because I'm going to school".  I knew not, but just let her dream.

When it was time for our baby, our beloved Dr. Pittman had troubles of his own; his wife was in Galveston Hospital.  We had to have someone else.  I had quite a lot of trouble, but did give Mart his son for a birthday present.  Not too much later, we decided we needed to give up our dream and move back to town, near school and work.  As you notice, we moved several times in those years we were renting; never by landlord's request.  Each time, we thought we were doing better.  All places meant new friends, good memories, and some not so good.  Every day is a learning experience in some way.  I believe today and always have, as the saying goes, "If you return anger with anger, you wind up with ashes".  We did not always agree on everything, but managed to work things out without calling each other ugly names.  I can look back and understand that in so many ways I could have been more understanding and a better example for my children!  Oh, but it would be great if we could just wipe out past mistakes, but life just doesn't work that way.  What is done is done, so we must just ask God's forgiveness for past sins, our loved ones understanding, and try to make today and the days to come better.  Our children could never know how very precious they were to both of us.  Geeps!  I am rambling and if I want to finish this in my lifetime,  I had better get back on the road.

So, we moved into the Upshaw house on South Main, next door to Grandma Upshaw and her two single daughters; they became some of the best friends we ever knew, and I think grannie Upshaw was a great influence on our lives.  The house was old, but clean and lots of room.  The first night we were there, I got up about 2:00 am and went into the kitchen to warm Dwayne's bottle; when I turned on the light, the sink was black with cockroaches.  This was my first experience with the creatures  and was not a very pleasant one, with all our effort in spraying and cleaning.  Then we had a spell of freezing weather, ice and snow, for several days; I think that helped us get rid of them.  Jeannine and Mattie were now in school (Tarver, the old Elementary school where Calvary Baptist Church is now).  In those years, Main street was Highway 81, all traffic from Dallas to Austin and other points in route.  Most heavy truck traffic was at night.  Our house was very close to the street and just upgrade enough so that the trucks changed gears when passing our place; this was a noise you could never get used to.  We lived for years near a railroad track, and after the first few weeks the trains never woke us up at night because the noise was always the same sound.  Highway traffic is constantly different.

Another thing, Dwayne was learning to walk and when the girls were not home to keep watch over him, I lived in fear of his toddling out into that busy street.  So much for the worries - the time living there had it's rewards.  We were doing better in so many ways.  After Mart's bout with inflammatory rheumatism, he could not handle lifting and shoving oil barrels around, so he went to work for Sam Street, who had the Pontiac agency in Temple.

One afternoon I had been visiting Rose Coppin next door.  I started home, had Dwayne in my arms, and tripped on the bottom step.  I managed to keep from dropping Dwayne, but twisted the leaders in an ankle.  Mart took me to Dr. Julian Sewell, who had an office upstairs over the Avenue CafĂ©.  With Mart's help, I made it up the stairs.  Dr. Sewell wrapped my ankle and sent me home with pain killers.  I had several days of misery, but it could have been worse.  Then Mart came down with the flu, a good case of it.  He was in bed for quite a while, with no appetite.  Grandma Upshaw came over every day; she brought him soup, but he just couldn't eat.  She tried several times and I guess was ready to give up on him, so, one day she brought over a pitcher of ice water.  Her visits really were worth more than the food anyway; she just had a way of making us feel better.  One day she came with some icy, frozen custard and Mart ate it and told her it was the first bite of anything that had tasted good, so most every afternoon she came over with his dish of frozen custard.  (They had an electric refrigerator; we did not.  A lot of people could not afford that luxury then).  Several months later, Grannie Upshaw passed away.  As was the way of things then, her body was kept at home until the burial.  Friends took turns sitting with the casket in the family parlor.  Mart, Codie, Odell, and I took our three hour shift, a way of showing our respect to a very dear old friend and to her two daughters, Miss Mattie and Miss Anna.  We had a lot of good memories of our time in the Upshaw house.  It seems like a lot of the early years we had someone of one of our families staying with us.  Leonard and Merle had the newstand on Main Street and both worked long hours, so Lyndell stayed with us a lot.  She and Mattie were nearly the same age and all three girls were close in age.  One Sunday morning, they went to Sunday School.  I did not go with them, but they had a short distance to walk to First Christian and had been told to come straight home after Sunday School.  They came home about an hour and a half late; it seems they decided to go down to the park and play.  When they finally came in and told me where they had been, I told them that they had been told not to cross the street, much less go alone to the park and play.  When I picked up my trusty little paddle, Lyndell sat down with a smug smile, saying "You're not my mother".  She thought that Mattie and Jeannine would get their spanking, but not her.  She was wrong.  Merle, Corrinne, and I had an understanding that when one of us had the children, whoever was in charge, so she got hers too.  Through those years, she was with us a lot.  After that time, I never had a problem with her; she knew that when she was with us, she was just another part of the family.

Mart's brother, Emmitt, and his wife were divorced and after some time, she remarried and was moving to New York City.  She offered us her house at a reasonable rent, with an option to buy it later.  We had lived there when Jeannine and Mattie were small, in the west side apartment, with Emmitt and Alta in the east apartment.  We loved the place, so we accepted her offer.  We felt badly too, that this had happened; we all loved Alta and liked having her as part of the family.  Her husband was in the service, stationed in New York City.  With her secretarial skills and his status in the military service, she soon went to work for the British Trade Commission.  We enjoyed her letters, telling us about her job and life in the big city.

This time there, we had all the house, so we rented one bedroom to James Norman, the local Justice of the Peace and a long time good friend.  This was room and board, so I had one more to cook for.  The Mellon family were our neighbors across the street.  We had known them from our time in the Beimer/ Jones house where Jeannine was born.  Rena was with us then and she was in High School with Sue and Mary Mellon.  They were good neighbors and kept things lively.  Our doors were never locked, so we felt free to visit back and forth.  Mart had another bout with the flu; he had such a hard time recovering when he got sick.  We were given so many remedies.  One morning a good friend, Leyland Phillips, came; he told Mart that he knew he could give him something to break up that flu.  He had brought a pint of whiskey and fixed up a tody or whatever he called it.  Mart took about two swallows out of the big glass and then told him he had just about as soon die if it took that to get him well.  I wanted him well, but was glad he did not like the taste of alcohol.  He also had a bout with a stomach ulcer, and had to be in the hospital for a bit.  He was on a very strict diet - riced potatoes, whole milk or cream,....  I believe now with stomach ulcers, the doctors take you off of all dairy products.

I guess Mattie was my healthiest child; Jeannine and Dwayne were always coming down with sore throat or Bronchitis and Mattie not so much.  Her teacher sent her home a few times - said she had a fever; she would come home and play all day.  I took her to the doctor.  He said eventually the teacher was checking her temperature as soon as school opened, after she had walked or run the distance to school.  Besides, some children just registered a little higher temperature than others.  I had to have him tell the teacher that, so there was no more trouble.  She had the usual childhood ailments like whooping cough, chicken pox, and later, measles, but she had the usual, little pesky ailments less than the others. 

In those early years, there was a band, "The White Horse Band".  They gave concerts in Yettie Polk Park on Saturday nights.  Families would go; we usually took a quilt, for a pallet for the little ones, sat on the grass, and listened to the music.  Nolan Creek was a beautiful stream; there were ducks and, if I remember right, two or three swan on the creek.  There was also a canoe, that took everyone for a ride.  I wouldn't say that the country was crime-free, but there was very little crime and we had no fear for our children playing in the park. 

The Belton High School "White Horse Band" in 1915.

The "White Horse Band" in 1936.

Note about "The White Horse Band": 
The band was founded by Lewis Franklin Cox in the early 1900s.  One member said in 1904 that the band was composed of members who were "incorrigible and full of beans".  They display raucous enthusiasm and youthful bravado.  They played at almost every public event in Belton and traveled to other small towns in the area to promote businesses.  They played concerts in Yettie Polk Park in Belton in the summer, but their big concert of the year was during Belton's July 4th celebration.  Their only pay was "Honor and fame", nothing else. (Source: Temple Daily Telegram newspaper).

On April 12, 1941, we had another little girl, "Gale".  I suppose God wanted me to know how very precious a child is; both of us really had trouble.  Our good Dr. Pittman spent the night with us, along with a nurse.  We made it, but had continuing trouble with the baby.  About the third week, Doctor Pittman insisted we take her to a specialist in Austin.  We were doing better financially, but not that great, so Mart made arrangements for a loan and we took off for Austin.  We found the specialist to be another like Dr. Pittman, just a caring, dedicated man.  We were well pleased with the care he gave Gale, and that when we were ready to leave, the charge was no more than a local office call.  He just gave us a special formula for Gale, and we did not have to go through with the loan.  More later about Gale's diet problem.

We had some happy memories of our time on "Hungry Hill", as sometimes that area was called.  Good neighbors and friends.  However, when it came up to own the house and acreage  with it, we could not handle it.  Only $ 1, 500.00; we could not pay cash, a good down payment, but not all.  When we applied for a loan, we were not turned down because of our credit rating, but the property was just on "the wrong side of the tracks", so to speak.  If it would have been in north Belton, it would have been O.K., but not south of Nolan Creek.  It so happened about then Mack had bought a large farm and he offered us the small house and thirteen acres out on the Austin Highway for $ 1, 000.00.  We could handle that, so here we go - our first very own place.  It was not the perfect "Blue Heaven" we sang about and dreamed of, but nearer there than we had been so far.  We had learned early on that life has it's ups and downs.  You must enjoy the "ups" and learn to deal with the "downs".  This was in the Salado School district, so Jeannine and Mattie rode the school bus.  The house was small, only three rooms.  It had one small bedroom, a good sized living room.  We made it a living/ bedroom combination.  Jeannine and Mattie shared a double bed and Dwayne the couch.  The kitchen/ dining area was large.  We had a water well, windmill, and well house with a shower in the well house.  Lyndell Cosper stayed with us quite often, so there were three girls in that double bed.  Leonard and Merle had the taxi service then and both worked at night.  We had chickens, a nice chicken house, and some small chicken coups for the hens.  We did not go into the broader business of raising chickens, just were keeping enough for our own use.  We also had a cow.

Mart was working as a civilian guard at Fort Hood.  We were just getting into World War II and they were building Fort Hood.  He was very lucky to get the job, as there was not much car sales then.

Mart Digby's Civilian Guard Application
Fort Hood Army Base
Mart Digby's Civilian Guard Application
Fort Hood Army Base (back).


Mart Digby, Civilian Guard
Fort Hood Army Base, Killeen, Texas
Mart Digby,Civilian Guard

He had to get up early, like 4:30 am.  He would milk the cow while I made breakfast and packed his lunch.  There was not much idle time.  I would send the girls off to school, then with two little ones at home, it kept me busy.  The final decision for a formula that Gale could tolerate was goat's milk.  You could not buy it, so our only alternative was to buy a goat.  The nanny goat had two kids.  You do not know anything yet, unless you have had to deal with three goats.  I had to pen the kids and milk the goat.  To pen a goat, you not only need a high fence, but it needs to have a top cover.  They were always getting out.  They soon found that they could jump up on the chicken coup, and from there onto the roof of the hen house.  Before I knew it, their sharp little hooves had ruined that roof and it had to be replaced.  As soon as those two kids could be taken away from the nannie, we got rid of them.  I hoped they made tasty barbeque.  I still milked the goat to feed my baby and I'm sure it saved her life, or perpetual illness.  There are goats of several breeds and colors in a pasture near where I live now; I love to walk by and watch them, but I'm glad they belong to someone else.

When we moved out there, Mack had given the children a little black and white bulldog.  He was mostly black, just a little white around his face.  Owen Carpenter was Bell County judge then; he had given the dog to Mack, so Mack named him "Judge".  We all soon became attached to the little dog and I especially was glad that he was Dwayne's constant companion.  He was three and old enough to play outside; if Judge was at his heels, I did not have to worry about him so much.  One day when Mattie and Jeannine went out to wait for the school bus, he had followed them out into the road.  That was Austin highway 81 and a very busy road; a Greyhound bus ran over Judge  and just crushed him flat.  They were broken-hearted and got on the school bus crying their eyes out.  I got the kid's little red wagon and an old blanket and hauled the little dog back to the back yard.  I had a time with Dwayne all day.  When the girls came home from school, I took a hoe and shovel and we pulled the little wagon to the far end of our pasture and gave him a proper burial, prayers and all.

We tried to go see my family about every six weeks, so one weekend, before we got to Val Verde, Jeannine wasn't feeling good and had fever.  We didn't think much of it as she very often had sore throat and fever.  Sunday morning she was even worse.  Mom and dad had asked Mart's aunt and uncle, the Dolehites, to join us for dinner.  When Aunt Wavy came in, she said right away, "That child is coming down with the measles".  She said she smelled them.  We came on home and put her to bed; within a short time, she had the ugly rash and Mattie had the fever.  So finally, I had four children with bad cases of measles at the same time and on top of that, it rained for days.  I gave them sponge baths and changed their clothes and bed clothes every day.  Still the smells were horrible.  Gale, like all my babies, had very little hair, so she looked like a little red beet with all that rash.  By the time she was so sick, Jeannine was well enough to help me with her.  That was the worst epidemic of red measles ever in this area; several children in Bell county developed pneumonia and died, so I'm sure God was good to us that ours made it.  Thank goodness medical science has developed ways to deal with those childhood ailments now.  We didn't have Rita then, so she had her measles all on her own when she was about four years old.

We loved that little place, but the family was outgrowing the little house and we had a chance to make a good profit on the place and buy a larger place on what is now Highway 190.  So, we move again with great hopes.  The old salt box type house had never in it's long existence had any paint on it, but with it's attic room, porch, and big oak tree in the yard, it was home.  There are so many memories of that place, I would not be able to record them all, so I will just do some.  The place had a small tenant house, and Mart thought we should offer it to my parents.  Dad's health was not good, so Mart's idea was that they could sell their small place at Val Verde.  Dad could have his chickens, a garden, and cows.  They would be more comfortable, closer to a doctor and us.  Oh!  If my husband could have had his heart and compassion and Ross Perot's bank account, he could have helped so many people!!  However, the idea was not so bad.  Dad wanted it; mom did not, so they did not give us an answer.  We decided since they did not want it, we would just tear it down and use the lumber for some improvement to the property.  So Mart went to work when he was off to demolish the little house.

Meantime, we settled in; I was expecting another little one.  Soon I went for the first time to the hospital for that one, another girl.  I had only been at home a few days with orders from Dr. Pittman to stay in bed fourteen days - something else the medical profession has changed views on.  I had no trouble for once, felt fine and hated staying in bed.  Mart hired a girl to stay and take care of us.  She bathed and fed the baby - gave Dwayne and me cold cereal for lunch and spent her other time on my other downstairs bed, smoking cigarettes and reading.  That had a worse effect on my health and well being than having delivered a very healthy little girl.  Then Mart was called up for the Army and had to go to San Antonio for his physical.  Mattie and Jeannine were in school and were burdened with cleaning the kitchen and washing diapers after school.  The girl had to go; Corrinne and Odell came and stayed the two days that Mart was in San Antonio.  Then I got up; I had about eight days in bed and could not tolerate it longer.  Mart's stomach ulcer kept him from passing his physical and not the fact that he had a wife and five children at home with no visible means of support.  We were happy to see him come home.  Soon after, my dad sent word that they had changed their mind and would accept our offer.  We had demolished the little house and stacked the best of the lumber, so we just put off the improvements to our house and went about helping them build one.  It was war time, so materials were not easy to find.  That little house had lumber in it that came from Cameron, Bartlett, Rogers, and Belton.  Rena sent them money for bathroom fixtures.  When it was finished, they had a very comfortable little house, electricity, indoor bath, and clothes closets; these were things they had never had before.  They moved in, brought the white Leghorn hens, and their cow.  Daddy and Mart put in a garden and a few fruit trees.  We soon learned that those pretty white chickens did not like to be moved; they just simply went on strike.  Oh, they produced enough eggs for the two families, but not enough to pay for their feed much less show a profit.

Another addition to our household was a beautiful Collie dog.  One day my dad was working in the garden and, as usual, Shep was with him.  They found a rattlesnake, or it found them.  The snake bit Shep on his head.  We just knew that we would lose him; his head was swollen twice it's size, but he recovered.  The vet told us that when the bite is on the dog's head, it is seldom fatal.  Evidently, Shep saved my dad who might not have fared so well.  Gale was there and often wandered between our house and the other.  Shep was always with her and if a cow or anything came up, the dog was between Gale and whatever.  He was another dog that became a much loved part of the family.

Our children were growing up.  Rita was walking, tagging after Gale and Dwayne all over the place and thinking my dad could not feed the chickens without her.  In the new chickens, there was one little runt.  She seemed healthy, but just remained smaller than the others.  Rita sort of adopted that one; when it wasn't in her arms, it was following her around.  The children had plenty of safe space to play.  We had sold some acreage on the south side of the farm and one acre in the northeast corner.  We had about forty-five acres of pasture, the house, barns and other chicken houses and a big barn-like structure that was my wash house; I had the old wringer-type washing machine.  There was room to hang wet clothes when the weather was bad.  We only owed about $ 1, 000.00 on the property; I felt at last we had it made.

My dad had no income; there was no social security and there was not enough profit on the chickens and garden, so he got a job in a laundrymat in town.  Later, mother was helping out some there too.  Most times, they had to ride the bus to and from town as their hours did not meet the long hours Mart worked and we had only one car.  That soon got old, and dad wanted to live in town where he could walk to work.  In the end, Mart bought a lot on Surghnor street and had the little house moved onto it for them.  Of course, we had to get a loan to take care of that expense.  I still felt we were not so bad off staying put; however, Mart's brother thought he had come up with a deal that would help them both.  We could get a good price for the place, then buy another that was up for sale with better facilities for chickens and cows; it also had a lovely orchard.  Emmitt was a super salesman - ha!  I suppose I came nearer stomping my feet and throwing a tantrum (God forgive me) than any time in my life.  They finally talked me into signing the papers and giving up that place.  So we moved again.  We had bought the chickens and cow from dad.  Our beloved Collie Shep would never get in a car; we had to put him on a lease and one of us hold him to get him there.  We had only been at the new place a few days when he disappeared.  We found him on the highway just before he got back home to the old place, run over and killed.  His loyalty to two families and devotion to what he thought was home had taken his life.

Before we could move into the new place, Mart had to get help to eliminate a hoard of cats; the place was overrun with them. The house was more modern, but just did not have the home feeling the other place had.  We were too far out for the children to walk to school and too close in for them to ride the school bus, so Mart had to make extra trips to bring them home.  Mornings, they could go as he went to work.  Also, he had to do the grocery shopping as we had the one car, and I didn't drive anyway, not since the Model T.  We did have fruit trees and the chickens.  I never understood the partnership; it was mostly our financing from the good price we got from the other place, and we certainly did all the work.  Still, the others wanted half of everything, so that great partnership was not working very well.  We had some good times there; it wasn't all bad.  Three children in school, Mattie and Jeannine in High School and Dwayne just starting.  Two little girls at home, so there was seldom a dull moment.  I had a full time job.  I still do not understand how any woman can be a wife, mother of five, with the house to keep, cooking, washing, ironing, sewing and all that goes with it and work outside the home.  You can always look back and think, "I could have done better".  I could have been more understanding, had more patience with my children.  I would have liked to have had more of their confidence; created a relationship where they would have come to me with their problems, without fear of criticism or punishment.  We can't go back and correct our flaws, just have to take one day at a time and make it better.

3-D View (with later changes) of Mart & Pearl Digby's Nolanville Road home, Belton, Texas.
(Image by Carmen Snyder; top of map is north)

One day Mart brought Dwayne and Mattie home from school.  I knew something was wrong right away.  Not very many times had I seen him lose his temper; this was almost an explosion!!!  When he told me what was wrong, I will have to say I was no better.  Jeannine, after much pleading, got permission to spend the night with a girlfriend.  Instead, she had eloped.  We thought she was still a  child; now she was a child bride.  We had no fault with Glenn Blair, only she was too young and had not finished High School.  Uncle Mack came to the rescue.  Before we found out where they were, he had persuaded us to accept it and make the best of it.  He probably not only saved their marriage, but saved the two of us from making fools of ourselves as well.  In the late spring after they were married in February, they asked us to go with them to New Mexico, so my sister Jewell and her husband came and stayed with the other children and we went with them to Carlsbad Caverns, then on to Clovis to visit uncle Jim Wallace's family.  It was a very nice trip.  We had not had very many, if any at all, vacations up to then.

We eventually sold the place and moved to the Porter place on North Beal street.

Mart & Pearl Digby home
1130 North Beal Street, Belton, Texas

(Image by: Billy Blair on March 12, 2007; view is SE to NW)
We still had not found our "Blue Heaven", but along the way had learned that marriage had to be a partnership, where you can share the good and the bad.  The almost eighteen years we lived at 1130 North Beal were the best years of our lives.  Our youngest was four; she had her red measles all by herself.  The other four had them before she was born.  I must say, it was a lot easier than having four sick at the same time.

When we bought the house, we had it completely redone on the inside.  Not too long afterward, we found that termites had ruined the foundation, so we had to replace that.  Mart had a concrete patio on the south side with a Barbeque pit.  One morning after a few days of heavy rain, he started to work and saw a gaping cavern going under his patio.  We had not known that at one time there had been a cesspool there.  So, there was another thing to be fixed.  He had several loads of sand and gravel poured into that hole; enough to make the slab of concrete secure.  Through those years, we had many picnic suppers and family get-togethers under that big oak tree on that patio.

Helen Ferguson home, Belton, Texas
(east, across street from Mart & Pearl Digby home on Beal Street)
Photos by Billy Blair on March 12, 2007.

Hitching post - north side
Hitching post - south side

It would take forever to record all the memories of North Beal street; most were pleasant; some not so.  It is best to remember the happy times and leave the others to the past.  Our children were growing up.

Dwayne Digby and his mother, Pearl
Beal street home, front living room.
Gale (left) & Rita Digby 
Front living room by front door, Beal Street home
February, 1959

With the help of a very patient, understanding son-in-law (Glenn Blair), I got my driver's license.  Big deal - my driving had stopped with the Model T Ford, when we didn't have to get a license.  That was a big help, as Mart had vowed when we moved into town that his shopping for groceries and driving the kids to school was over, so I had the honor.  A lot of my grocery shopping was by telephone as there was free delivery then.  I tried to take an active part in P.T.A. (Parent/ Teachers Association) and church activities, so it was a big help to drive myself.  Since the Car Sales was our livelyhood, anything we were driving was for sale.  Very often, I would get a call "Bring me the car, I have a prospect to sell".  So I would pick up something else, usually one that didn't sell so well.  For several years we had lived in an area where we did not have close neighbors, so I enjoyed having many good neighbors.

Our youngest was four and now we were presented with our first grandchild.  Our yard was the neighborhood playground.  Dwayne had to have his tonsils out; he spent two days in Sewell/ Long hospital.  Then Gale had a little bout with pneumonia and had a few days there too.  So, we had the general run of ups and downs, but over all, life was good.  Our first one graduated from Belton High School.  I had my time with parent/ teacher meetings and such.  We were in town now, where we could go to Sunday School and Church. 

We had made a small, efficiency apartment out of part of the garage for Mart's father; he only lived there a short while, so we rented it out.  Housing was short then as so many soldiers were coming to Fort Hood.  Over those years, we had quite a few couples living there.  We did not make a lot of money off of it, but I like to think that it made life a bit easier for those young couples far from home and most of them were like a part of our own family.  One couple I remember well.  They were walking by the car lot; Mart was out front.  He spoke to them; they spoke, then walked by.  The girl turned back and told Mart that they were sent to Fort Hood and could not find a place to live.  If they did not find one, she would have to go home to Tennessee and he would have to live on post.  Mart and his kind heart thought we ought to do something about that.  The little garage apartment was rented, but we had a big house.  Mattie and Jeannine were both married.  He called and asked me if we could put Dwayne's bed in the small room where I had my sewing machine.  Actually, it was the back half of the big hallway; we had closed it off and added the front space to the living room.  So, we rented the big, back bedroom to them and shared kitchen and bathroom.  They were very young; he had just returned from duty in Korea and they had not been married very long.  That tour of duty in Korea had been a horrible experience for him.  He did not talk about it, but Peggy told me that he still had nightmares from the memories.  One of those memories was having a buddy loose both feet from cold and frostbite; they were in the same foxhole.  He had never owned or driven a car; now he could afford one.  Mart sold him one, helped him start driving, and get his driving license.  The many months they lived with us, things worked out well.  He had to leave very early; she did his breakfast, they both got baths before we were up.  She never left a dirty dish; everything was clean.  When she was expecting their first child, they felt they needed to find a larger apartment, so they moved to Killeen.  They came by to see us, then one time after he got out of the service, they came by; then they had two children.  We never had any regrets for their living with us.

Another couple that lived in the little apartment were special too.  They were a little older and more mature than Bill and Peggy Scruggs had been.  They were with us a long time and stayed with us until he was out of the service.  They had a darling baby boy while there.  He had a bit of a heart problem at birth, a hole in his heart.  When they were ready to go home to Lansing, Michigan, she came in one day and told me that she just could not make the long trip without having the baby christened and she needed someone to serve as "proxy" Godmother.  I could not do that for her as we were not Catholic, so Edith Bridges, who worked with Mattie at the bank, agreed to do it.  We saw them off and felt that something special had been added to our lives for having known them.  I still hear from them once in a while and they came back to visit a few years ago.  After he finished college in Michigan, they moved to San Clemente, California where he was an engineer with the space program.  Several couples lived in the little apartment in those years, and most were good friends, but those two were sort of special.

Several families who were good friends had formed a riding club, so Mart, Dwayne, Gale, and Rita had horses.


(View is SE to NW).

Pictured above, left to right are:
1.  Martin Van Digby ("Mart")
2.  Rita Digby
3.  Gale Digby
4.  Dwayne Digby

Rita, Gale, and Dwayne Digby on their horses at home on Beal Street.

They rode with the club in parades and on Sunday afternoons.  It was a family oriented thing; we had picnic dinners and such.  I sewed the red satin shirts and cooked and supported my family's fun, but riding was not for me.  Horses scared me to death.  I watched my kids ride in barrel races and other events and held my breath a lot, just knowing one of them was going to get hurt.  The only injury I can recall, Dwayne was feeding the horses one morning and got a terribly bad, bruised hip when one of the horses kicked him.  Eventually, we were out of the riding club.  The good thing about it, it provided entertainment for the family to do together, children and adults.  I felt we spent too much money that should have been saved; I probably was wrong.  Our teenagers would have missed a lot of good, clean fun, and so would the rest of us.

We were the first to own a T.V. within our group of friends - good old black and white, with only one station within our range (KTBC in Austin).  Our living room became the gathering place on Saturday nights; often there were as many sitting on the floor as in chairs.  My good friend, (and kissing cousin) second in fact, told me not long ago that she had a hard time talking her husband, Johnny Mellon, into buying a T.V. because they would not come to our house on Saturday nights anymore.  Her dad, Clarence McQueen, often came on Saturday afternoons to watch baseball; most of the time, he came alone, but sometimes with a friend.  I always just went on with whatever - washing, ironing, sewing.  The front door was always open and they knew they were welcome.

Pearl Digby's Rub Board cookies - mmmm!

We usually went to church on Sunday night and got home in time to watch "The Fugitive" or "Dragnet".  They had some really good programs on in those first years of television.  "This Old House", a program with the good old songs I love (Good music, but  not so loud it would drown out the words and good voices).  That was before the time of vulgarity, obsenity, and so much amplified sound that it hurts your ears.  Forgive me, my children, if you think of me as just an old grandmother, great grandmother who has outlived her time and treasures the memories of the things I loved.  Don't misunderstand me; I know that there is good music, good people, and I believe most of my family are in that group.  I'm just sorry that the other tries to overshadow the good.

One other thing when Gale and Rita were teenagers, a new fad was the nylon net and cold starched petticoats the girls wore.  I made the skirts and petticoats and wondered how a school seat and desk could accomodate  them.  I was happy when they were no more in style.

There are some regrets.  I am sorry I did not have pictures and better records of some of the happy events, school, church, and other occasions.  In my memory, I can see the girls in their first formals, Dwayne all dressed up and picking up his date for the school prom in her beautiful formal, driving his first car all his own (a not new, blue pickup).

Gale (left) & Rita Digby - Normal
Gale (left) & Rita Digby - Posed
Back yard at home on Beal street, Belton, Texas.


(Left to right): Gale Digby, John Wayne, Rita Digby
Fort Clark, Texas while Mr. Wayne was filming "The Alamo"
July, 1959 (polaroid picture)

Mart Digby's business card
Mr. Wayne signing Mart Digby's
business card (pictured to the right)
July, 1959 (polaroid picture).


Mart Digby's business card (back)
"The Alamo" set , Brackettsville, Texas
July, 1959

(polaroid picture by Mart Digby)

(NOTE TO READER: No images of the Pearl Digby letter regarding Mr. Wayne, Mart Digby's business card, or photos of Mr. Wayne or "The Alamo" at Brackettsville are to be reproduced in ANY form without the written permission of Billy Blair).

I feel there are so many wonderful people who influenced our lives and were inspirations to all my family.  To name a few: Rev. Powell Smith, pastor of our church; Rev. Clarence and Betty Doss.  He was our pastor and wonderful friend and counselor for five years.  Rev. Walter Feay.  Also, too many teachers in Belton schools, where my children, grandchildren, and soon quite a few greats attended school.

At one time, Mart was due to have a very serious surgery, but had to have blood transfusions before; then here it had to be donor to patient.  There was no blood bank.  Three good men gave him three pints of blood, another proof that good friends and family are worth more than riches.

I wish I had a photo record of all my children's memorable times, but I do not; it is all just memories, but nice ones, most of them.  There comes a time when the children grow up and have minds of their own and you just have to trust that you have been a good example for them; it isn't easy to let go and not say "no" at times when you want to terribly much.  Our children had a curfew and there were very few times they did not abide by it or call to say why they were late.  I am sure they made mistakes, so did we.  I can look back over the years and see the times that I could have been more understanding and patient with them, but that is water over the bridge.  We loved our family very much and if we were not always the perfect parents, that did not mean that we loved them less.

No way can I record all the wonderful memories or the sad ones; our children grew up, finished High School, and all were married  and away from home, but the youngest, when we traded the beloved big house on North Beal for a smaller one on West 14th street.

Mart & Pearl (Griffin) Digy home on 14th street, Belton, Texas.
Back-tracking a bit - the years on North Beal street.  It would be impossible to record all that happened there.  At one time, both my father and older sister were terminally ill at the same time.  At that time, you could not get the help that is available now, so the heartbreak of witnessing their day to day suffering and trying to keep up with their care, with family at home to care for, was devastating.  In Romans, chapter 5, it says that "tribulation worketh patience, patience experience, and experience hope".  I often wonder how people who claim to be atheist cope with trials and tribulations.  I could not have coped with all life's problems without a faith in an all-loving God and the power of prayer.  I have never been the strong, demonstrative Christian worker I probably should have been, but have always believed that whatever came along, happy or sad, my faith helped me deal with it.

Now we've moved; we enjoyed the small house and having the Hyers and Wallaces as neighbors.  Rita had finished High School and was working.  The others were married and away from home.  Mom and dad no longer had control; we could not spank their little bottoms or tell them anymore.  You have to learn to be happy when they are happy, be sad when they are sad or having a hard time, pray a lot, and bite your tongue instead of giving them your advice unless they ask for it.  The grandchildren were our pride and joy; now we had several.

One Sunday morning we helped our last chick pack up and leave our house.  With her husband, she was leaving for Oklahoma where Loyd was stationed in the army.  As we stood in our driveway, along with Gale and Joe, our emotions were at the breaking point.  When they drove away, Mart said, "Get ready now; we'll go to the horse races".  That would be a first, but with Gale, Joe, and Dell Mack Hyer we went to Fredricksburg to the horse races.  We stopped at a roadside barbeque place before we got to the racing ground for lunch and then watched the horses.  It was midnight when we got home, so we were tired and sleepy enough to not spend time crying. 

Mart and I were going to take a week vacation and go to Clovis, New Mexico with Bill and Windy Wallace to visit the relatives.  Mart had been having some trouble with digestion and a knot in his abdomen, so he went to the doctor.  Dr. Pittman said he had a hernia and should wear a support.  I did not feel good about that - just something made me think it was not just a hernia; however, we went on the trip and enjoyed it very much.

We had started a small, used furniture antique business with the idea it could become a source of income and something we could do together when Mart retired from the car dealership.  It was like a joy and, at times, a burden.  It did get me out of the house and used to meeting people, another learning experience.

Mart's health continually got worse, the indigestion and fatigue, eventually he could not swallow, so we went to the hospital for the message that the cancer was too extensive for effective treatment.  I spent the night in the recliner by his hospital bed, not sleeping, just thinking back to the things that had happened through the years.  First, that spell of what the Dr. called inflamatory rhemantism, that kept him practically in paralysis for almost two months.  Then, a long bout with the flu, including a horrible reaction from a sulfa drug.  The drug was new and I think the doctor gave him too much of it.  A few years later, he had a long bout with stomach ulcers.  Another bad spell of flu in the forties.  He had a hard time recovering from his illnesses - the surgery when he lost so much blood; he had to have three transfusions.  So many things that left his physical system in poor shape.  Now this.  All we could do was accept the experimental treatment and take one day at a time.  We went each day to Scott and White hospital for the treatments.  The last day, I was suspicious when the doctor let me sit by the door of that isolation room while he had the treatment instead of further away in the waiting room.  When he came out he told me I could not take Mart home, to have him admitted.  After not too many hours, I knew I had to call my children.


August 22, 1966 I had to say goodbye to my beloved husband, after 37 years, 4 hours, and 15 days together, sharing the bad times, enjoying the good, it had to be a new beginning.  How do you manage to start over, pick up the pieces, and get on with what's left of your life?  Without the love and patience of my children, I could not have managed  They shared so much and I feel like watched over and protected me in so many ways.  However, there is just so much they could do.  No one could fill that special place in my life; it was up to me.  I made many mistakes, emotionally as well as other errors.  I had good neighbors and lots of good friends.

Poem read at Mart Digby's Funeral.

Mart Digby in front of "The Car Mart" in Belton, Texas.
(Last picture taken of him; note the hospital bracelet).

Letter written by Bob McElroy to Claude & Viola Jacks,
who used to own Avenue Cafe in Belton, Texas.
Avenue Cafe was the local coffee drinking hangout in Belton.  

Pearl Digby thought this letter was a
great tribute to her husband, Mart.

First, the little furniture business (It was called "The Bargain Barn") had to go; I could not handle it alone.

"The Bargain Barn", Belton, Texas (view is SW to NE).
("The Car Mart" located just west across the street)
(Image by Billy Blair on 3-12-2007)

Then I went to work babysitting two little boys.  I learned a lot out there.  Two little mischievous boys; they were a lot different from the five children I had.  A Catholic I am not, but I do respect their way of life.  Their older boy was in the Catholic school where all three would go through the eighth grade.  When I left them to work another job, I felt I had made some good friends, and I am happy that all three of the boys are graduates of Texas A & M with good jobs and families of their own.  When I was working for them, both their mother and father were working full time jobs and working toward college degrees, plus caring for a large herd of black angus cattle on their farm.

I then went to work in the office for B.E. Wilson Construction (Note: Billy Ed Wilson), another learning experience - answering the telephone and two-way radio when they were out on a job and keeping his books in order for his bookkeeper to take over.  There too, I met people and made new friends.  Several I had known slightly and passed judgment on.  That's a little fault I am constantly praying to overcome.  We are all God's children and have some purpose in life.  We should look for the good in others, forgive their shortcomings, and try to eliminate our own.  One example I want to leave with you is - There is this lady I have known for a long time.  I did not approve of her lifestyle - a bit in the fast lane I was thinking.  Then, just in our retirement years, we became close neighbors in an apartment complex.  One day, she put a little cutting from one of her rose bushes out by my window and tended it until it grew into a lovely rose bush.  Later, I put a cutting from that one by my bedroom window.  For several years now, I have enjoyed the beautiful roses almost nine months out of the year.  I take care of them now, and when I look out my window or cut a few of the roses for a shut-in friend, I feel humble and ashamed that I ever passed judgment on another person.

Back to my story - While working there, I stayed with an elderly lady on weekends when her daughter and son-in-law were out of town.  This was out in the country a few miles from town.  They paid me pretty well and I really enjoyed staying with her.  I would drive out from the office on Friday afternoon and come home Sunday morning.  She was a lovely friend.  I was offered a job at Wallace's Dress Shop; the pay was no more, but I would not have to drive across town and could be with people more.  Eventually, several of my friends were widowed too, so we sort of got together and planned our own entertainment.  As a group, we would go to see plays, at a theater out of Austin.  It was a dinner playhouse and we enjoyed the trips together.  Some of the group loved to fish, so we went to Valentine Lodge in Kingsland for a weekend about once a year.  Two of us did not fish; in fact, we got seasick just sitting on the dock, so we had to cook.  They caught and cleaned the fish and we cooked the meals.

Pearl Digby and friends on a fishing trip.

We played "42" at night, also met new friends.  For several years the six of us went on trips, go together in our homes, sometimes with other friends.  It filled our time and generally kept us out of our children's hair, so to speak.  In all that togetherness, there was never a cross word or hard feelings with any of us.  Each paid their own way and shared responsibilities.  Eventually, two of our group remarried and for various reasons, we could not continue our regular trips and activities.  Age and circumstance has decreed that our old gang is broken up.  Two have passed away and others are shut-ins, but our times together will always be among my sweetest memories and one of God's greatest blessings.

Back to my working days.  After a few years in the dress shop, I went to the Belton Bookstore and worked there until it was closed.  I loved that job; I think my children all know that one of my greatest loves is books.  I ended up with more responsibility than I asked for, but with a very patient and understanding boss, I learned to handle it.

To backtrack a little, when I was still in the Construction Company office, I decided to rent out a bedroom with kitchen privileges.  So I rented to a young couple from Indiana.  He was stationed at Fort Hood.  They took care of some of the lonliness too, the house was not so empty.  They became a part of my life too, and after all these years, we keep in touch.

Finally, I had to give up the house; the upkeep I just could not handle anymore.  That was sort of heart-rending too - room for my children to come home, the yard with the big pecan tree for the little ones to climb and play in it's shade.  The last place I had shared with my beloved partner.  Along the road, I had learned that you must accept the things you cannot change and make the best of it.  Apartment living has it's advantages, no yard work and they take care of the upkeep.  I thank God every day that with all the years behind me, I can still keep busy, go to church and Sunday School, and enjoy time with friends and family.

I am sure that at times my children have wanted to tell me I was wrong at times, but they have not done so; however, they have always been there if I needed them.  I am forever thankful for all they have done for me: for the family get-togethers through the years, and how well they get along.  I have not seen anger, disagreements and bitterness between them.  My prayer is that they continue forever to love and enjoy their times together.

This is about as far as I can go with memories, so in closing I want to say God Bless all of you.  May you have the faith and strength to be strong enough to cope with all the problems you are likely to come up against in these sometimes violent and troubled times.  I hope you can love and enjoy your families as much as I have you.

So that you might know something of my philosophy of life,  I quote a conclusion in one chapter of Charles Allen's book, Victory In the Valleys of Life:
"There are three valleys that really do not need to be valleys in life.  I can be myself, no matter who somebody else is.  I do not have to be worried about being overshadowed by the great accomplishments of another person.  In the second place, I can thank God for age and instead of it being a valley, it can be a mountain peak in which I can stand and look out over years of living.  In the third place, I can not choose how long I will live, or when I will die, but I can choose the quality of life I live, and I  do not need to live in the valley of the shadow of death".

I like this ancient benediction, so I give it to you my loved ones:
"May the roads rise up to meet you.  May the wind blow at your back.  May the sun shine warmly on your face.  May the rain shine softly on your fields, and until we meet again, May God hold you in the Palm of His Hand".

                                                               (Mom, Grandmom, Great-grandmom)

Thanks :
  • To Billy Blair, my grandson, who has promised to get this into some form of legible print, that who wishes to might be able to read it.
  • To my good friends, Jack and Mary Hannon, who let me read Jack's life story and encouraged me to do this.
How life was when Pearl was growing up:
(Pictures selected by Pearl Griffin Digby from an old Farm magazine)

Personal Note: 
     The text and magazine pictures at the end of this life history are original to Pearl Digby's book. All of the other photographs, drawings, or documents were added by me from family history records to give the story more of a visual aspect for the reader.

Billy Blair

Letter from Lena Armstrong regarding receiving a
copy of Rambling Reflections for the Belton Public Library.

Personal Note: The following book of Pearl (Griffin) Digby was written and given to Jeannie (Blair) Pittman on Christmas Day in the early 1990s (before Rambling Reflections).  It contains some duplication, but since it also contains  some additional material, I've decided to include it.  I have not consolidated the material; I wanted the stories to remain as written.

Billy Blair

Reflections of A Grandmother
         by Pearl (Griffin) Digby
     With apologies for the errors - the shaky handwriting.  I hope you can wade through it and understand something of my childhood.  I barely could do this once, surely not sixteen times, so, if any of the others are interested, please share it with them.  If I had started this some years ago, I might have done a better job; as is, you know an old irreprable machine doesn't make for a good job, so here tis, as is.  I love you all,

My birth certificate reads: white, female, born February 15, 1907 near Heidenheimer in Bell county, Texas.  In those days, few records were kept.  I was always a bit too much overweight and short, so I suppose I was borned fat.  My father was a farmer, a share-cropper to be exact, and he rented from the landowner.  He had his own team and equipment, so one fourth of the corn crop and one third of the cotton went to the landlord for rent.  The vegetable garden was all ours.  We always had a cow or two, so we had milk and butter.  Daddy selected some of the best ears of corn and took them to the grist mill to be ground into corn meal.  We ate a lot of cornbread, but always had hot bisquits for breakfast.  We had hogs; I hated feeding them.  They were clumsy, greedy creatures that knocked their wet, sloppy food all over you.  When the weather turned cold enough in the Fall, they were butchered and processed - ham, bacon, sausage, and the fat cooked down into lard.  Mother used lard and butter for all her baking.  Now the doctors say you should avoid pork.  We grew up eating it; beef was a luxery we could not afford very often.  My first memories are of a little farm house near Salado creek in the Sulphur Springs community.  That was the Robertson farm.  When I was five (Note: which would have been in 1912), we moved to a larger farm about one and a half miles up the road, about three miles east of Salado.  The household goods and such were moved in the farm wagon, but mother, my two sisters, and I walked.  Jewell was a small baby, so mother had to carry her in her arms.  We had not gone far, when the mail carrier came along and gave us a ride in his buggy.  Mother and the baby in the seat with him and Ivy and I stood in the box behind them.  I had a lot of pleasant memories of that postman.  He lived in Belton and had a peach orchard.  When they were in season, he would often leave Ivy and I a ripe peach or pear in the mailbox.  The postman, family doctor, and the cross country peddler were special friends to farm families.

The new place was nice: much larger house, yellow with white trim, and a fireplace.  It had an entrance hall and several large rooms.  We could even have a Parlor (living room).  It had a large kitchen with a pantry closet for canned goods and supplies.  I well remember that closet.  I was never allowed to pick up the eggs from the hen's nest.  I was too little and might break them - so one afternoon I went out and picked them up, went in with all those eggs, holding them up in my apron.  I told mother that I had found a new nest under the running rose bush at the back corner of the house.  She knew better, so she put the eggs away and let me sit in that dark pantry until I told her the truth.  I didn't try that again.  I have a lot of pleasant memories of that farm, and some not so pleasant.  I think I had most all childhood diseases by the time I was twelve.  There were very few vaccines in those days, so if the germ came by, we just got it.  I had whooping cough, diptheria, and scarlet fever while we lived there.  When I finally recovered from scarlet fever, I could not walk for a long time.  Now I think the weakness in my knees was caused more from the treatment than the disease itself.  I don't think they drench you with castor oil; in fact, I don't think doctors give it for internal medicine at all now.  Then, I had so many ounces every day.  They tried disguising it in every way possible; they mixed it in orange juice, milk, and finally in a whiskey tody.  I would get hysterical when my mother or father came through the door with that awful dose.

At Christmas time, we usually had one or two toys, a doll and some fruit and candy.  We did not have those things any other time.  We attended a small Methodist church in the Bell Plains community.  I was in the Card Class; that was pre-school and first/ second grade level.  I never forgot the class or the wonderful lady who was our teacher.  Our lesson was from a picture card, a religious picture on the front with the  memory verse below and the lesson on the back.  We learned the verse and for attendance and memorizing the scripture, we had a little gold star by our name.  Mrs. Poteet always gave us a stick of peppermint candy after class; that was when I was six or seven.  Little did I know than that years later, in 1927, I would go back there to teach school.  I had the privilege of many visits with that dear lady.  She still lived there, in the same house where she had raised her family.  She was in her last years, but was still the same, caring, lovely person.  I attended that same little Methodist Church and taught a Sunday School class of teenagers.

Sometimes we would go to my grandparents in Little River/ Academy for a few days at Christmas.  That was a long trip in a farm wagon or buggy.  We usually had the big Christmas tree at my uncle's house.  We spent hours making decorations for the tree.  Paper chains that we colored with crayons, strings of popcorn and stars made from cardboard and covered with the silver and gold foil that were wrappings from grandpa's chewing tobacco.  He saved them all year for us.  There was no electricity, so no strings of lights; sometimes we had little metal candle holders that clamped on, but had to be very careful as the tree was always real and could catch fire easily from the candle flame.  My older sister and I used to spend two or three weeks with our grandparents in the summer.  The other nieces and nephews lived close by, so we had some good times.  Uncle Tom was single, still at home, so he sort of supervised us.  He did a lot of things to show us a good time, but had rules.  We were expected to obey those rules and, if not, he could place some pretty hard licks on your backside with a hairbrush.  Even so, he was our favorite person.

My first school days were in Salado.  We did not start school until we were seven years old back then.  We lived about three  miles from Salado; there were no school buses or cars, so my father and a neighbor shared the expense of a horse and buggy and the neighbor's teenage so drove us to school.  There were two girls in that family and they were good friends and neighbors. 

In December of that year, 1914, we moved to my grandmother's farm, the old Griffin home place.  It was in the northeast corner of Milam county.  It was in the Val Verde community, seven miles south of Rogers and about eleven miles east (should this be "west") of Holland.  That was my home until I married in December of 1929.

In August of 1914, the 15th we were blessed with a very precious little sister, Rena; that made us four girls.  Then in December, we moved.  It was a terribly cold day.  Uncle Frank came with his wagon to help with the move.  Two covered wagons loaded with the household goods and farm equipment and all of us.  We made the long trip from near Salado to Val Verde in Milam county.  In those days, before most families had automobiles, that was indeed a long journey.  It was after dark when we arrived at grandmother's place.  We were very cold and hungry, so it was good to have something to eat and get into a nice, warm bed.  We spent that first night in grandmother's house.  The next day, they unloaded the wagons and we were back in a little three room house.  It was home, and in those days you learned to accept what you had and take each day as it came.  We had some hard times, but a lot of love and care.  That first Christmas, there was no money for toys, so we three older children got little crocheted hand bags, one blue, a red, and a white.  Mother had done them with what thread she had on hand and lined them with scraps of Japanese silk.  There was some fruit, nuts, and candy.  None of us were disappointed with the gifts; we felt they were special.  The baby (Rena) had a rag doll, also done with mother's needle and thread.

Later, daddy was able to build onto the little house and it was nice to have more room.  He also, with a neighbor's help, dug a better water well.  We had to draw all the water we used up in buckets from that 42 foot well; that included water for the livestock, including four mules, two cows, two or three pigs and chickens.

We had chores to do, helping with the housework and when we were old enough, we helped in the fields.  we did not have insecticides, so when the corn and cotton came up, we took our hoes and walked up and down the rows, cutting out the weeds and thinning the plants if they were too thick.  In the Fall, we picked cotton and gathered corn.

When you are teenagers, you learn to drive the car and get your driver's license; if you are on the farm, you learn to drive a tractor.  We learned to harness a team of mules and hitch them to a plow, planter, or cultivator or wagon.

Now for the games we played in those pre-teen years.  We played dolls and pretend housekeeping, with a bunch of broomweeds tied together for a broom.  We would sweep off a space, preferably under a tree, then outline the rooms: kitchen, bedrooms, porch,... with rocks.  Our dishes and furniture would be broken dishes from the trash pile and pieces of wood.  You could do a lot with your imagination as there were very few store-bought toys.  We played "Hop Scotch".  With a stick, we would mark off a rectangular space on the ground, divided into nine spaces.  You should hop from one space to the other on one foot.  To win, you had to go all nine spaces before putting the other foot to the ground.  We played "Jacks", using tiny rocks for jacks and often we had a small, rubber ball.  We also played "Hide and Seek" and "Anti-Over".

Sometimes our father would let us go to the river bottom with him squirrel hunting; we tagged along with him all afternoon.  I especially liked that, in the spring, he would push back the dead leaves and show us the first wild violets in bloom (They are still my favorite flower).  There were wild plums, with banks of snowy, white, sweet smelling blossoms.  Later we would go back and pick the plums for mother to make jelly.  We had some pretty good lessons in nature on those trails.  Daddy taught us what was good to enjoy and what we should not touch.  There were Black Haw and Red Dewberry and Pecan we picked up in the Fall.  Pecan was not a cultivated crop then.  The only poisonous snakes in our area then were water moccasins, and they were just in or near the river.  In later years, when they were building Fort Hood with all the excavation out there, the snakes migrated on down to our area.

Uncle Luce, my mother's brother, bought us a puppy.  He had two, a solid black, part bulldog that was a little vicious.  He kept and called him Tomball, for some notorious outlaw.  The little black and white spotted one he gave us; he was named Bob Schuler, after a famous Methodist preacher.  He was gentle and friendly.  That little dog was our constant companion.  Daddy had a hired hand who lived on the place.  One rainy day when they could not work in the field, he went to the river bottom hunting and took Bob Schuler along.  Late in the afternoon, they came in.  Our little dog's head was swollen to twice it's size and he looked like death.  A water moccasin had bitten him; we were really angry.  We blamed Mr. Frank for letting that happen.  Bob recovered and was a great playmate for a long time after that, but we never forgave Mr. Frank.

We lived about a mile from school and always walked.  Everyone walked, so there were a lot of us on the road in all kinds of weather.  We were never allowed to miss school unless we were too sick to go.  There were no compulsory attendance laws, except our parent's rule that we go.  I do not recall ever wanting to miss school.  Teachers had a free hand with discipline; if for any reason we were punished at school, it was understood we would be punished again when we got home.  Our parents did not allow us to criticize the teacher.  I only remember one teacher who was so strict that most of us were terrified of her.  She had a nice sized pine paddle on her desk and I think she loved to use it.  For the least infraction you got whacked on the backside with that paddle.  If you missed two words in spelling, you stayed in at recess (play period) and wrote each of those words on the blackboard one hundred times.  I excelled in spelling in the fifth grade.  One day, one of the larger boys talked back to her about something and she tried to bend him across his desk and paddle him.  He fought back and it was quite a battle.  He walked out and went home with quite a few bruises.  The rest of that day, there were no unnecessary noises in the room.  It so happended that my father was president of the school board at that time.  The next morning before we left for school, we saw Miss Mabel coming down through the woods slinging her umbrella.  Of course we were not allowed to hang around and listen to her conference with daddy.  It seemed that Frankie's mother did not like having her favorite son come home with all those bruises and Miss Mabel was about to be in some trouble herself.  I never knew what the outcome was.  I don't think Frankie came back to school that term.  It gave most of us a bit of pleasure to see Miss Mabel scared too for once.  The boy deserved punishment, but it could have been handled differently.  We often had new people in school; farm families who rented moved often.  In the fourth grade, there was a new boy in my class.  We had lot in common; we were both shy and had to study hard.  We sort of liked each other; really, he was my fellow.  It was against the rules to write notes, and neither of us was about to risk a few swats with that pine paddle.  At play periods and the noon hour, the boys had to stay on their side of the playground and the girls on the other, so we could not talk to each other then.  About the only communication we had were messages sent back and forth by an older cousin of mine.  We walked the same road to and from school, with about nine or ten other boys and girls.  Then the next year his family moved to another school district and I saw very little of him for several years.  I eventually married him, but that's much later.

Before leaving for school each morning, we made the beds, washed the breakfast dishes, and whatever chores needed to be done.  Life was not all work and no play, but on the farm everyone had to do his share to keep things going.  On Saturday we helped do the laundry in the morning; that was quite a chore.  First, we filled the old, black wash pot with water and made a fire under it, then filled three tubs with water.  The first one was the scrub tub, with the wash board in it.  After the scrubbing, the white things were put in the pot with a large amount of lye (homemade) soap, then boiled and kept punched down into the water with a stick, then rinsed in three different waters.  The clothes were then rung out by hand and pinned on the clothesline to dry.  Shirts, dresses, tableclothes, pillow cases, ... were starched.  In the afternoon, we ironed, scrubbed the floors and cleaned the yard.  Mother usually made bread on Saturday about mid-afternoon.  She would take the loaves of bread out of the oven, along with a batch of steaming hot rolls about the size of the hamburger buns we get now.  We would take a break and sit around the kitchen table and share those hot, buttered rolls and a glass of milk.

The only church in the community was the small Val Verde Baptist church about three miles from our home.  We walked to Sunday School and church, then back again on Sunday nights to B.Y.P.U. (Baptist Young People's Union) and church services.

In the summer we always had a special children's service.  For several weeks we went to the church on Saturday afternoons to practice for our program.  On the day of the program, we gathered vines and wild flowers and some crepe paper for streamers to decorate the stage of the old open air tabernacle stage, where we put on our program and had all services in the summer time.  Almost everybody in the area came to hear our program of songs, recitations, and scriptures.  Our beloved Miss Della Whittington played the organ, the old pump organ.  She must have pumped that thing thousands of miles, had she been walking instead of pushing the pedals on that organ.  She played for all the services, taught Sunday School, and was always the first person to our house to help take care of a sick child or anyone else who could use her help.  I think of the words in an old hymn, "Will there be any stars in my crown?" and I am sure that in Miss Della's there must be a whole constellation.  There are a lot of pleasant memories at the old tabernacle at Val Verde Baptist Church, lots of life long friends.  I can still see the old pump organ, the stage for the church choir, and hear the wonderful old hymns.  When I was fifteen, I joined the Methodist church at DaVilla; however, most of the time I attended Val Verde Baptist Church.  It was only three miles from home and we could walk.  When I married in December of 1929, Mart and I joined First Christian Church, Belton together.  We felt that if our life was to be together, then our church membership should be the same, and First Christian (Disciples of Christ) was a fellowship that we both could accept easily.  Neither of us had any criticism of either the Methodist or Baptist doctrine.  Sometimes in the summer, we would have ice cream socials.  Families would bring homemade ice cream and cake.  This gave families a chance for visiting and fellowship, something families did together, including all children.  This was usually on the school or church grounds.

Our school at Val Verde had three classrooms.  In the morning when the bell rang at 9:00 am, we formed three lines: primary, intermediate, and high school classes.  The flag was raised; we would salute the flag, repeat the pledge of allegiance, then march to our rooms.  We started the day with singing songs from a small, yellow-backed song book, then a short devotional message.  At mid-morning, we had a short recess, then an hour at noon.  Everyone had a sack lunch and we would sit out on the playground with our respective playmates to eat, then play.  Basketball and baseball and the boys, baseball.  When I was old enough (9th grade), I was on the basketball team.  We had no interscholastic league, but did compete with area schools at time.  When I was in the 10th grade, my last year in Val Verde schools, we had a tournament in Rockdale, including several Milam county schools (rural schools).  Our teams made the trip in two Model T Fords.  The games lasted two days, so we had to spend the night there.  At that time, there were no motels in Rockdale, so we stayed in private homes.  The basketball courts were outdoor and on dirt.  Our suits were pleated bloomers, knee length.  Then we had to wear stockings with tennis shoes.  Our colors were green and white.  The tops were white, middy blouses, long sleeves, trimmed in green braid and ties.  The bloomers were green, several yards of fabric.  My mother had to use a lot of her butter and egg money to keep me in stockings; one game and the knees were torn.  We did not win first place, but I think we did very well and it was quite an experience.  The last day, it rained; it was fairly late in the afternoon when the games were over, and we could not travel the dirt roads, so we had to go home the long route, by Rogers.  Only about one mile out of seven out of Rogers was gravel and as it was late at night, we had to spend the night there and wait for daylight to go on to Val Verde.  We stopped at the end of the gravel road for the driver to put  mud chains on.  We were standing around waiting when our family doctor came by on horseback.  He told me that he had been out to my house and I had a baby sister.  It was February 24th, a few days after my seventeenth birthday.  I think my daddy shed a few tears as here were five girls and he so much wanted a son.  However, he never ever said a word and as a family we almost worshipped that baby.  Rena was almost eleven and we had not had a little one in the house for quite a while.  Finances were a little better then, so she had more toys and such than the four of us ever had - more love and attention.  She was our pride and joy, and grew up to be quite a nice lady, our Georgia.

In the spring of that year,  I graduated from Val Verde public school 10th grade.  I sat on the stage at Val Verde Baptist Church with five classmates, all boys except me.  From that group, two of us went on to teach school, one became a well known Dentist and Dental Surgeon with an office in Houston, one a cotton ginner/ farmer, and the other a farmer.

I had gone two summers to Baylor Academy, taking extra courses so that I might complete the eleven years of school in just one year in Rogers High School.  My sister Ivy and I were both in Baylor (now the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor).  She was a college freshman and me, Academy - High School level.  We lived in a two level, small frame building called the annex.  There were twenty rooms, ten upstairs/ ten downstairs.  Each level shared one bath at the end of the hall.  Lights out at 10:00 pm; homework, bathes,... had to be done by this time.  Baylor was the Baylor Female College for Women.  There were four or five campus boys working maintenance to pay their tuition.  We were not supposed to have anything to do with them other than speak when passing.  To have a date, we had to have written permission from home, then entertain our date in the parlor with a chaperone.  The rules did not bother me as I was too young to date, and had to spend my time with books and work.  I worked cleaning half of Alma Reeves Chapel two and a half hours each day, making twenty cents an hour.  That seems little now, but it paid for school supplies.

Taking my credits for two summers in Baylor Academy and ten years in Val Verde, I entered Rogers High School in the Fall of 1924.  I was still very shy and had been taught to abide by the rules, so it was quite a shock to learn some of the things going on in study hall.  One incident, just a few days into school, I heard a noise and an ink bottle landed under my feet.  I was scared to death, of course.  I was supposed to keep it moving so the study hall teacher could not locate it.  I would not have touched it with a ten foot pole, so some of my classmates sort of put me on the bottom of their list.  However, most of them were eventually good friends before term was over.  I never took part in the ink bottle, spit ball games.  I did earn a place on the girl's basketball team.  I loved playing, enjoyed the close friendships with my teammates, and had a very dear coach.  This helped more than words could express that last year in high school.

In May of 1925, in the beautiful old Methodist church, I got my High School Diploma.  The Methodist church had the largest auditorium in town, so it was used for a lot of activities.

In the Fall of 1925, my sister started her first teaching job.  Rural schools did not open until October, as children were needed to help pick cotton and gather corn.  Daddy had helped her and in return she was to help me pay my way.  With daddy's good name for paying his debts and the assurance of Ivy's income, they borrowed $ 75.00 from the bank for me to start college.  My fees for the first semester were $ 34.00, then I had to buy books (used ones cost less; if they were kept in good condition, I would get a partial refund on them at the end of the term).  With very few clothes and my big $ 75.00 bank account, I left for San Marcos and my first year in Southwest Texas State Teacher's College.

When Ivy got her first check, she sent me a little more money and made me another dress.  There was never extra money for movies or such, but most of the thirty girls in my rooming house were on limited resources too, so we thought nothing of it.  The rooming house was two level, with a screened in porch around three sides on the second level, with fifteen double beds side by side.  When the weather got cold, the beds were moved into our rooms - one room with two of us sharing each room.  Our stove and table were also in that room as we had a parlor.  We all shared and there was one bathroom on each floor.  We did our laundry at the wash bench in the back yard and hanged the clothes on a line to dry.

Our landlady was too stingy to buy bathroom tissue and kept a stack of The San Antonio Light (the daily newspaper) stacked in the bathroom.  Needless to say, she had a lot of plumbing bills.  Other than that, she was very nice to all of  us.  There were rules: Lights out by ten or ten thirty; no dates on school nights.  I went to Sunday School and church at the Methodist church then, with some of the other girls.  There was a piano in the parlor and usually someone to play, so we had fun and studied a lot.

From September until Christmas holidays I did not go home or see any of my family; I could not afford the train fare.  That is funny to you now, when you can drive to San Marcos in about an hour; it was quite different in 1926.

When classes were out for Christmas, several of us from this way boarded the train for home; my stop was Holland.  In Austin, a group from University of Texas boarded, then others in Georgetown.  There was standing room only; everyone was happy.  School songs, yells, and laughter; there was not one word of reprimand from the conductor.  A relative who lived near Holland met me at the station and I spent the night with them and someone of my family picked me up the next morning.  It was a great two weeks at home.  On New Year's Eve we were invited to a New Year Eve's party in the home of a young married couple.  A cousin of mine and another girl were teaching school at Val Verde with Ivy and were living with my folks.  Ivy and Nora did not want to go to the party, but Lola and I had dates and did go.  We had a great time, played 42, popped corn, and had hot chocolate and stayed to see the New Year in, so that made us get home about 1:00 am.  It was terribly cold and I knew that come morning we would be in for one good lecture from mom and dad.  New Years or else, there could never be an excuse for coming in after eleven o' clock, so I was not feeling so good about that.

We four girls shared a room.  There was no warmth in the house and the cold wind came in too.  We hurriedly undressed and crept under the heavy covering.  After a minute, we discovered that something was wrong.  Ivy and Nora had generously sprinkled our sheets with cornmeal.  That is an experience you will never forget.  We had to get up in the cold, take all of the heavy quilts and the sheets off our bed and shake them and remake our bed.  We had kerosene lamps and didn't dare light a lamp.  We were doing our best to keep from waking my parents.  Needless to say, Ivy and Nora were trying to smother their laughter in the next bed.  We didn't get much sleep, as no one stayed in bed late at our house unless you were really sick.  All of us sat down to breakfast together, early.

A few more days at home, then back to school with no visits home until June.  This semester, I moved to a different place; this was a place with a little less rent and not so many girls.  This housemother rented only two apartments this semester.  I didn't know the girl who was to share my room until we moved in.  She was much older than me and a divorcee.  I soon learned that we had nothing in common.  She had too many men friends.  One time, about 3:00 am, she waked me up, knocking on the window by my bed wanting me to let her in.  The door was always locked near 10:30 at night and I was not about to open it.  She was supposed to be at home in San Antonio.  I put on my robe and went down the hall to the other apartment.  The girls put me to bed and the next day while I was in class, they moved my things into their rooms.  They knew the girl as a "call girl" who went out with too many different men, but they did not know me until then.  Their apartment had room for the extra bed, so with the housemother's approval, I shared their rooms.  Ruth Dalchan was from near Caldwell and Vera Short from Marlin.  They were great; without their love and support, I do not know if I could have survived those long months away from home.  We shared everything: clothes, food, and study.  Vera was a bit older than Ruth and I; she was our counselor, shoulder to cry on, pal to laugh with.  I do not remember what happened  to the ex-roommate, whether or not she had to move. I just knew I could not share anything with her.

There were no big supermarkets like H.E.B., Safeway ..., just neighborhood grocer stores.  The one we shopped with was "The Service Grocer".  We became good friends with the assistant manager, Henry King. He was a really nice guy and eventually we started dating about once a week when he had some time off from the store.  All female students were under the supervision of the Dean of Women.  Henry was not a student, so I had to have permission from Miss Brogden to go out with him.  Henry's family was well known and he had a good reputation too, so the permit was always granted; however, sometimes he did not know he was going to be off of a Saturday night until the Dean's office was closed, so the movie theater was on the same street where I lived.  We would just walk down to the movie about three blocks.  Several of the teachers had room and board with Henry's parents and one such time one of them was at the movie too.  When Henry got home, she had waited up for him to tell him for us not to risk going out again without permission or we would be in trouble, especially me.  We did appreciate the warning instead of her reporting us to the Dean, so after that, I always walked up that high hill to get my permit.  If it was too late, he would often come by after work with his contribution for supper, and the four of us would eat supper and just spend the evening visiting together.  If you can believe it or not,  ours was a purely Platonic friendship.  In the Fall when I was teaching, we exchanged letters and he sent me the college newspaper back in summer school the next two summers.  We had the occasional date, went on picnics out to Wimberly, a favorite picnic area (not the resort it is today).  We did not spend money on dates, except once in a while a movie, or food for the picnics.  The Head of the River area was off limits to students.  I suppose it was off limits because of the danger; it was a natural, beautiful area then.  Of course, now it is "Aquarena Springs"; then, the only concession to man's interference was an old fellow who rented canoes.  When Spring semester 1926 was over, my sister and her boyfriend (later husband) had driven down to take me home.  That evening late, the two of them, Henry and I went up to the Head of the River, rented canoes, and went down river.  The river had not been dredged then; it was very deep and filled with plant life and fish.  It was a lovely evening.  The next day it was go home and apply for a job before going back for summer school.  Teaching positions were not plentiful then; teaching and secretarial jobs were about the only positions for women.  I found a positon as principal of a two-teacher school, about thirteen miles east of Temple, at Content, in the Airville community (a largely Chech/ German community).

I preferred teaching 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades, but instead I had 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th.  In the summer, along with my regular college courses, I had to spend a lot of time reviewing 7th grade arithmetic, 8th and 9th grade algebra.  My sister came for the last semester of summer school.  She was a math and science major, so she helped me plan lessons, work problems, and all of it.  It isn't easy to follow a straight "A" student when you are just average and have to work hard to be that.  I could not resent her, just had to thank God that she was good, and there to give me the much needed help.

After getting my contract signed, just a few days at home and then back to San Marcos for the summer.  Things were better for me.  I was more adjusted to being away from home, sure of a job to be able to pay back the borrowed money, and continue in school.

I made a lot of new friends that summer.  Most of us after getting our first teacher's certificate returned to college in the summer.  Continuing our college courses was a requirement for keeping our teaching certificate in force, so we always had more students in summer than regular term.  It was a long, hot summer; there was no air conditioning.  Some classrooms had ceiling fans.  I lived downtown that summer; it was a long way uphill to the campus.  I walked there and back at least twice each day.  I chose tennis for my physical education course.  I loved the game and enjoyed playing it often.

In late August, the end of summer school, it was back home to work in the fields until my school opened in October.  After supper to plan lessons and such, also I had to keep on with the review of arithmetic and algebra.  With Ivy tutoring, I was able to face the task of presenting it to the children.  My lessons were planned well ahead of the class.  If I ran across a difficult problem, Ivy was ready to help me solve it and know how to keep the students with it.

October 1st, my school term began.  The primary teacher and I had a light housekeeping room with the Moore's, a family who had lived at Val Verde for many years before.  They had been good neighbors and friends of my family.  We were about three fourths of a mile from the little, white two-room school house.  In rainy weather it seemed much further; that year, we had a lot of rain and cold.  That part of Bell county was great farm land; in rainy season, it was just black, gummy wax.  The roadways were just dirt; it was about twelve miles to the first gravel road.

We wore almost knee length rubber boots, then kept to the water-filled ditches by the side of the road, as that way we did not just bog down in the mud.  Our classrooms had the old pot-bellied coal burning stoves.  I had no experience with coal; we always had wood burning stoves, so you should have seen me for the first time trying to start a fire in that thing.  I hated that coal; the smoke and dust settled on everything.  The teacher had to be there early, and for  a while I had to deal with that stove each morning.  Later, two of the older boys started getting there early enough to do that chore for me.

We were able to organize clean up crews and delegate most of the janitorial duties to the students.  We had four to a group and one week each group.

I was all of nineteen, and some of my students were a head taller than me.  I had heard many stories of practical jokes the boys would play on the teacher, but I suppose I soon gained their confidence, as I never was subjected to their practical jokes.  I did have two boys who required pretty stiff discipline once in a while.  One little boy was just a good natured, mischievous kid; he was rather small for his age, tow-headed, and freckle-faced.  One time I well remember, when I had to paddle him, he looked up at me with that mischievous grin and said, "I feel sorry for that handkerchief in my back pocket".  There I was, almost in tears for having to punish him.  In later years he finished college and became farm editor of the Dallas Morning News.

The other boy was the rough, beligerant bully.  He was always abusing the younger children; he was one that would not listen to reason.  I could never seem to gain his trust.  One morning he was at school before any of us and had covered the inside walls of the girl's restrooms with horrible obsenities.  Of course, he had to be punished.  He was very angry, walked away from school after telling me that he was going home to get his mother and she would take care of me.  His mother I did not know very well, only that she did not speak English too well and the family had a reputation for being very high tempered and unreasonable.  I did not know how I would deal with her, so I silently prayed that I could handle it.  He lived quite a distance from school, and couldn't have had more than enough time to get home when we had one of those violent thunderstorms, just a flood.  There was no way that anyone could come through that.  You couldn't tell me that God did not answer my prayer (You know, he works sometimes in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform).  Later in the week the boy was back in school and didn't give me any more trouble.

I teacher's job did not end with the regular day in the classroom.  We had no extra help with lessons other than the textbook.  All of our lesson plans, grading papers, ... were done after school hours at home.  We were also expected to help out in the community in emergencies, such as serious illness or death.   Usually a body was prepared for burial at home and kept there until time for burial.  The most difficult thing I was ever called on to do was to bathe and dress a baby about six months old, then sit by that small casket with some neighbors the rest of the night.  We did not have funeral homes as now; the casket was purchased and the rest was up to family and neighbors.  That was the most difficult things for me; I had to rake up all the courage I could muster.

At the end of the school term we always put on a play.  Students with a few young people in the community took part.  We worked hard practicing, learning our lines, and getting our costumes ready for our performance.  I supervised and played the part of a grandmother.  My student who had the leading role had a death in her family just a few days before we were to do the play.  Her grandmother had died.  The family were Catholics and believed that no one of their family should take part in any social activities for several weeks of mourning.  We were to put the play on in Flag Hall, a dance hall in the area.  The school room was too small for the crowd.  It was traditional to have a dance after the play.  No way could we persuade the girl's father to let her take part and no way could anyone else learn her lines in those few days.  Finally, with the help of the Board of Trustees, the father relented on the condition that we not have the dance.

I had seldom attended the local parties and dances. I did enjoy a few of the wedding dances; it was usually a dinner followed by a dance.  They were often in the homes, with family and friends all ages.  Those people never get too old to enjoy their dancing and the music was great.

Out there, we had a little country grocer, but they did not stock bread.  Each family had one day set aside for baking to last the week, so there was no sale for bakery products in the store.  Usually on Thursday afternoons when we got home from school, our neighbor across the road would have us a big plate of kolaches just out of the oven.  Mrs. Moore gave me a start of ever lasting yeast and taught me to make bread.  I learned it well and soon could turn out lovely loaves of bread, but never could do the kolaches or sweet rolls like the neighbors did.

I finished that school year with a good record and all of my school board had approved a new contract; however, I was ready for a change.  I did not like the isolation; there was no protestant church in the area and mud, bad weather and such, it was impossible to get home very often. 

I had applied for a job at Bell Plains, south of Belton, and my application was accepted, so I did not sign the new contract at Content.  They gave me good references and I left some good friends and pleasant memories out there.

The last day of school, late in the afternoon, Ivy came to pick me up.  We had bought a new Model T Ford that year; we needed transportation.  I think it cost us about $ 750.00.  Ivy was teaching at Val Verde and living at home.  Our grandmother Griffin was dying, so we needed to get home as soon as possible.  I sat up until about 3:00 am to finish up my yearly reports, so that we could go by Belton the next morning and leave them at the county Superintendant's office, and have him sign my last paycheck.  A few days later, Ivy and I both went back to San Marcos for another summer school.

In the Fall, I started my second year of teaching in the Bell Plains community where I had attended Sunday School and church in my early childhood.  I had also done a lot of visiting in the home of an aunt and uncle who lived there.  I had room and board with aunt Fronnie and uncle Rayth McQueen. 

We had only eight grades, so I had one less grade to teach and no black, gummy mud to wade through to get to school.  The year at Content had helped me in knowing how to relate to the students and deal with their different personalities.  In any group there will be some problems, but there were very few serious ones.  Most families kept pretty strict discipline at home.  On the farm, both parents were around; there was plenty of work for the whole family.

I loved my work and the wonderful families that I came to know.  I enjoyed attending and working in the little Methodist church out there.  I taught a class of teenagers, quite a few of them I got to know years later after I married and moved to Belton to live.  Some of them that I had taught attend some of the same senior citizen activities that I do now.  Strange isn't it?  I was just twenty or twenty one at that time, so when we have grown older, they are not really that far behind me.

We tried to teach our children good health and cleanliness habits.  We had no textbooks for that but had to make do with whatever we could get together.  Upon request, some of the companies would send us small samples of soap, toothpaste, ....  We would have enough to hand out to each child.  Colgate palmolive was one supplier; included would be colored charts with a daily routine to follow. 

We had one family that was very poor and not very motivated  to improve their way of life.  There were about eight children there.  I think we had four in school.  One day when I was talking to them about cleaning their teeth and taking a bath, one little sixth grade boy said, "Miss Griffin, I only take a bath in the summer time when we go to the river swimming".  If you had seen him, you would have believed him; his skin was crusty.  I hope Maurine Wray, my co-worker, and I had a little influence there.  I learned in later years that several of those children did quite well for themselves.  I like to think that a lot of people along the way were kind to them and encouraged them to make something of their lives.  My uncle had a reputation of being very tight with his money and a little hard headed.  People have a tendency to judge others when they have not really looked into that person's character.  I knew how often he had seen that those people had something to eat and work to do when he could manage it.

My cousin and I went into Belton on Saturdays to do the grocery shopping and whatever was needed.  My friend from fourth grade at Val Verde was living in Belton, so we meet again.  At that time, he was working in a bakery at night.  We started getting together on Saturday afternoons and later we double dated with his sister and her friend, sometimes both of his sisters.  They were Leonard and Merle Cosper and Corrinne and O'Dell Hyer.  Martin did not have a car of his own, so often he would borrow one of his older brother's car to come out to Bell Plains.  He furnished a lot of gas and new tires for their vehicles before he had a car of his own.  Before the school year was over, I suppose in today's language you would say we were "going steady".  Our end of school play was a great success.  We played to a full house and were invited to put it on at a neighboring school, Amity.  The small admission charge paid expenses and helped provide a few extras for our classroom.

At the end of school term, there was a vacancy in Val Verde schools, third, fourth, and fifth grades.  Being a larger school, it had four teachers.  I did not have the principal's job, with all of the extra responsibilities and I could teach the age groups that I wanted.  I could live at home and what I paid for room and board could help my family a little.  The worst thing for me was I would see much less of Martin.  He worked six days, like twelve hours, and at night.  When he could come, he would get to my house around 9:00 pm.  We would have only a few hours visit, then he would go on to his aunts, about three miles away to spend the night, and we would get together on Sunday afternoon.

Summer school again in San Marcos.  Ivy, a friend from home, and I shared an apartment.  This time we were nearer the campus and could go home between classes.  We shared housekeeping chores and whoever was out of class first did lunch.  Ivy and I had shared a lot of time away from home in school together and thought nothing of the practical jokes that were shared with other girls in our apartment house.  That summer I nearly lost us a roommate.  One of the treats each of us looked forward to when we made it back from class at noon was iced tea.  That day it was my turn to have lunch on the table when Ruby and Ivy got out of class.  I sugared my tea, then replaced the sugar in the sugar bowl with salt.  I learned right away that some people can't take that prank.  Ruby didn't hit me, but she would hardly speak to me for days after.  Sometimes peace is of more value than laughter, so Ivy and I cut out the pranks and really had a long lasting friendship with Ruby.

There were quite a few girls at Armstrong House that summer, and Grandma and Grandpa Armstrong made us feel as much at home as we could be away from home.  Martin's work and no car of his own, he could not come to San Marcos and we could not afford the expense of going home, so we had to settle for letters back and forth that summer.

The end of summer school it was back home to help on the farm until our schools would open in October.  Ivy was teaching her second year in DaVilla and my first year at Val Verde.

At last I had the classes I wanted to teach: third, fourth, and fifth grades.  Other than my regular classes, I coached girl's basketball and occasionally refereed other games between neighboring schools.  I can sympathize with a referee when they make a fair call and someone on the sidelines sees it differently.  To this day, I dislike anyone getting mad at the referee.  In baseball season, I had a team of my little boys, comparable to what is now Little League.  They were good, and won a few times when Mr. Chaffin's team lost.  We only played against about four schools close by.  Our games were on Friday afternoons.  If the games were not on our grounds, I put on my sunbonnet, loaded my little boys in the Model T Ford and away we went.  I do not recall ever having any trouble with them.  Mr. Chaffin and his older boys were along too, and usually one or two parents to transport some.  If children have something to do, they are seldom troublesome.

In recent years, I have had the pleasure of visiting with two of those "little boys".   Val Verde church has an all day Memorial service the last Sunday in April each year.  We were there.  One of the guys has retired and bought a farm and moved back.  He had thirty years with an oil company in the Houston/ Pasadena area.  He is a very nice gentleman, bald-headed and slightly stooped.  The other one is retired.  After graduating from Texas A & M, he had served as a county agent.  I loved seeing them again and Oh My! that day really made me feel that I deserve my role as mother, grandmother, great grandmother.  What an honor.

Another note about the basketball bit.  My suit for the referee times was all white pleated bloomers - knee length - several yards of fabric, white mid blouse cotton stockings and tennis shoes.  There was no skin showing unless I fell down on the ground and tore my stockings.  One Friday afternoon, Martin came for a game.  He left very angry with me; he thought my attire was indecent.  My bloomers didn't cover my knees; the stockings did not count.  He soon got over it.  In 1925, our colors were red and white on the Rogers basketball team.

Christmas, 1928, Martin gave me my ring.  We could not set a wedding date.  We wanted to pay our debts and save a little money first.  I finished my school term and transferred from San Marcos to Baylor College in Belton for summer school.  I also signed a contract to teach another year at Val Verde.

A friend and I rented an apartment just off campus that summer.  My father learned that the landlady's son had died from typhoid fever in that house the year before, and he insisted that I have typhoid shots before I moved in there.  I had to go into Rogers for our family doctor to give me the shots, after school hours three different afternoons.  A short time after school closed for the year, I moved to Belton for the summer.  I had classes in the morning, studied in the library and had time to see Martin in the afternoon, most afternoons.  He was still working nights.  Before the summer was over, he had a better job, at D.B. Porter Sr.'s Feed & Grain Store.

End of summer, I went home  to teach another year at Val Verde.  If you recall from history, that year was the beginning of the Great Depression.  We were not, either of us able to save any money, just pay off debts, help our families a little, and pay our own living expenses.  In December, we decided we would go on and get married; if I could finish my year teaching, at least we could spend weekends together.  First, I had to get approval from the school board to continue teaching.  In those days, jobs were given to men or single women, so they could legally cancel my contract.  We went together and got permission from each of them for me to continue the rest of that school year.  On December seventh 1929, your grandfather and I were married in the parlor of the First Methodist Church in Belton, with my sister Rena, Nan Skinner a good friend and primary teacher at Val Verde, Sam Dolehite, a cousin of Martin's and a good friend of my family in attendance.

Until school was out in May, I continued living with my family and teaching.  I spent the Christmas holidays and most weekends in Belton.  We had thirty seven years, eight months, and fifteen days together.  It would take volumes to record those years and the twenty one years without him, so I will not try to cover it all.

We had some very hard times in those first years, along with the love and joy that we shared.  As I have mentioned before, those were depression times, jobs were scarce and pay low.  Material things we did not have, but we had each other, families that were dear to us, and good friends.  We started out with a three room apartment on South Main street.  We bought (and paid for by the month) a three piece bedroom suit ($ 125.00), a small dinette, and a porcelain enamel topped kitchen table.  The extra bed, oil cook stove and odds and ends were provided by our parents.  There were no built in fixtures; my first cabinet was three apple boxes (wood).  They had a divider in the middle that made a shelf.  They were nailed to the wall above the little kitchen table with a flowered fabric curtain across the front.  I had linens, dishes, and  a minimal amount of kitchen ware.  There was an outdoor privy and a number three washtub for baths.  We had to heat water on the kitchen stove.  There was electricity, but no gas in south Belton, so we cooked on the kerosene stove and had a wood stove for heating.

I did not know much about cooking and planning meals; my duties at home had been washing dishes and cleaning in the kitchen, so I learned by doing and consulting a book.  While we were still spending weekends with Mart's parents, one Saturday his mother told me that she and dad were going to spend the day visiting and she would let me have full charge of lunch that day.  Mart, two sisters, and a brother all working in town would be home for lunch at 12 noon.  She thought she was being nice to me, but I was terrified.  I do not remember all that I cooked, and I do not know if they had enough to eat, but I got through it and no one said a word (in my presence).  I had one of the best mother-in-laws in all the world.  I treasured her advice and the times we had together.  She only lived seven years after I became a part of her family.  The love and influence of someone like that wonderful lady is never forgotten.

Our landlord and his wife fought like cats and dogs, called each other awful names.  That might have helped the two of us to want to keep our relationship on a more solid footing.  No two people can always agree on everything; however, we could always work out our problems peaceably.  It helps if one person keeps his or her mouth shut at the right time.

In the late summer, some friends of ours, Fred and Jollie Whittenburg, asked us to share with them two apartments in the what is now the restored Jones-Beamer House in southeast Belton.  We were to live in the north apartment and they took the south one.  There was the wide hallway in between with a lovely old stairway leading to the vacant upstairs rooms.  It was a nice arrangement; they were good friends and neighbors, and the area was a  nice neighborhood.  Jollie and I were both expecting our first child, so we had a lot to share and I was quite disappointed when in September, Fred got a job in Menard in West Texas and they had to move away.  We were left in the big house by ourself.  Half of the downstairs and all the upstairs were vacant. 

In September, my little sister Rena came to live with us and finish her High School year.  Eleven grades was still the requirement for a High School diploma.  Val Verde had only ten grades, still bad roads and no school buses so that was about the only chance she had to go on to school.  Mom sent us produce and vegetables from the garden when she could, but mostly she was just another member of our household and the year after high school she came back to stay with us and do her apprenticeship to become an operator for Western Union Telegrapher.  I don't think either of us ever had any regrets at having her; she was a very lovely person.  Mart had not been allowed to have a dog at home, so he soon came in with a cute little bulldog "Dan".  One night he got into the hallway, padded up the stairs, and roamed about in all those dark, vacant rooms.  Those soft, padded steps sounded like some outlaw creeping around.  Rena and I woke up about the same time, just terrified.  I went to her room and we felt we just had to wake Mart up to go find the thing.  Of course he laughed at us when he found the pup out there.  I never learned to like that pet.  He enjoyed running to jump at the clothes line and swing on the clothes.  I don't think I had a sheet or baby blanket left without frayed corners.  I was a little relieved when we found him one day dead from natural causes.  We nearly always had a dog; most became a part of the family, with children's tears and heartbreak when something happened to them and my resolve that they could not have another (That just lasted until another was found).

There was never money for anything other than necessities.  Rena walked to and from Belton High School, along with a lot of other kids in our neighborhood.  Mart worked twelve hours a day most of the time with only Sundays off, and I had my hands full at home, teaching and college classes forgotten.  Then, if you had a family, you took care of them.  Would you like some Depression menus?  Basically, pinto beans, cornbread and potatoes.  How many different ways can you scramble eggs?  Plain, scrambled with a little can of chili or with finely chopped potatoes and onions or with a small can of tomatoes.  We had chicken a lot.  If the feed store got some in that weighed a little more than the standard two and a half pounds for a fryer, they sold for less.  Of course they were live.  I had to scald, pick, and cut up the fowl.  That is one thing I knew how to do, thanks to my father's teaching.  Once in a while, we had steak and gravy for Sunday lunch.  Enough round steak for dinner was fifty cents.  This is no sob story; it was a way of life.  Most all our friends had the same lifestyle.

Recreation?  There wasn't much time for a lot of things.  We had Sunday lunch with Mart's family and once a month or so we would get down to Val Verde for the weekend.  When the children were older, we took them out to Baxter's Crossing on Nolan Creek to wade and have a picnic.  That was a beautiful spot; the creek was not polluted then, but had pretty, clean water.  Just once in a while we would go to a movie at the "Beltonian" theater.  The tickets were 25 cents.  We had a radio.  In the late forties, things in general began to get better.  Jobs were better and too, we had learned a lot more about making the best of things.

One of the very worst years of our lives was 1938.  We rented a little place out on Dog Ridge road (now highway 190).  There was twelve acres, barn, pasture, several chicken houses.  We had great dreams, two cows, pigs, and we would raise a whole flock of chickens.  Mart brought home several dozen baby chicks.  We got them all set up in those nice houses, with food, water, and warmers.  Oh boy, they looked good, until we had about a week of rain.  The roof on every chicken house leaked and, one by one, two by two, and soon every chicken died from coecodicus, or if in plain language, chicken pneumonia.  Oh, I doctored them, but they died anyway.  We still had two cows and two pigs; they didn't get sick, but my two little girls did.  They came down with chicken pox, the worst I have ever seen.  It looked more like smallpox.  It was cold wintertime and the house was cold at night; it was next to impossible to keep them covered up, with all those spots on their little bodies.  In the meantime, Mart waked me up one night in unbearable pain.  He spent the rest of the night walking the floor supported by a straight chair pushed in front of him.  We had no phone, so had to wait for day to get him to a doctor.  The diagnosis was inflamatory rhematism; he was bedfast for several weeks.  I do not know how I could have made that spring without family and friends.  You see, I was expecting another child too.  There was the ugliest, meanest looking old black man you could ever hope to see, who worked around the service station some.  He had scars all over his face and looked like a prize fighter.  O' Dell started sending him out there to help me late in the afternoons.  He chopped wood, fed the livestock and whatever I needed done.  I still milked the cows, but he helped with everything else, even to lifting Mart, so he could change positions.  I do not remember his name, but we called him "Blizzard".  I soon learned to respect that ugly old black man and be really thankful for his kindness and help.  Mart finally got better and could get back to work.  That April 1st we had Dwayne and when he was eight months old we moved back to town.  Our efforts at that project did not prove profitable.  We had other bad times and good times, but never anything like 1938.

World War II came along and only because of his stomach ulcers Mart was exempt from going to war; by then, we had five children.  I suppose I would have managed; some mothers had to.  I was thankful I did not have to face that problem.

It has been a wonderful life.  Even in good times, we did not accumulate much wealth, partly due to poor management; but we have a large family, the center of our universe and worth more than anything else in all the world.  We can't go back and correct our mistakes in life, just take one day at a time and do our best to make that a better one.  Some of the things I would try to do better are: be less judgemental and more understanding of my children and their problems.  Try to create a relationship that would inspire their confidence and permit them to talk to me about them.  I would budget my time and finances as much as possible and a lot of other little things could have been managed better.

I hope I have been forgiven for all the times I lost my temper instead of listening to their explanations.  I am not sorry for the times they were punished when they needed it.  I believe that we all learn from discipline, and children are done a great injustice when they are denied it.  We are all human and fall down at times.  That's no reason to stay down; just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start going again.  Let us remember the blessings of life, all the wonderful things, the love and concern for each other, and put the sad things behind us and make the best of what's in the future.

We'll go back to a few memories of old.  There were not vacations as such.  I do remember one time, long, long ago when the crops were layed by - that is, that few weeks in summer after planting and cultivation there was no work in the fields until harvest time.  My family with two uncles and their families went on a campout on the river.  We had canvas tents and dirt floors.  The men fished and hunted.  We played around the campsite and the mothers had their crochet or embroidery.  The cooking was done on an open campfire much as you see in some of the old western movies.  The coffee pot on the coals, the old cast iron bean pot on a tripod over the fire.  The fish were cooked in the old black iron wash pot and bread in the old cast iron dutch oven.  It was a happy, care-free time.

Other times we would pile in the covered wagon and go to Little River to spend a few days with the grandparents.  It would take us almost all day to go from Val Verde to my grandparents; it was almost a mile east of where Little River/ Academy School is now.  That must be weird to you now, when you can drive it now in less than an hour.

I am not sorry that you, my children, have all the modern conveniences; however, I think children have missed something when they grow up to think little chickens just come from the store or incubator and have never had the joy of watching an old mother hen come off the nest with her brood of little fluffy, baby chickens following her or see a couple of baby  calves playing in the pasture or find a bird's nest full of eggs under a lilac bush and try to keep the cat or some other pest from finding it before the mother bird can hatch them and teach them to fly.

When I was a teenager, we got our first Victrola (record player).  The neighbors already had one; when they got a new record, they would call and we would listen to it over the telephone, and we did the same.  I think there were thirteen families on that rural telephone line and every time one phone rang, everyone listened in.  You surely did not want to reveal any secrets over the phone.  That system was O.K. for emergencies, but as a means of casual conversation, it was for the birds!!  Perhaps in the days to come, I might come up with something to fill the extra space, but this is all for now.

What I wish for all of you is faith, hope, and love, the purpose to make your life count for something good.  God does not waste time making a nobody.  Everybody is somebody and you are repsonsible for the somebody he made of you.  May the world be a better place because you have lived in it.




1.  Pearl (Griffin) Digby.
2.  Drawing of the old Val Verde schoolhouse area by Billy Blair based on information from Pearl (Griffin) Digby on December 25, 1979.

1.  Scott Brookshire does a show at schools,... called "Century Man".  He uses a lot of Pearl Digby's stories in his show.  Pearl gave him a butter dish to use in his show.  (Source: Jeannine Blair and Gale Cosper, February 10, 2007).

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