Interviewed by Logan Wilson
August 5, 2014
Forest Glade, Texas
[ed. note: Wind chimes are heard intermittently in the background throughout the interview.]
WILSON: My name is Logan Wilson. Today is August 5, 2014. I’m interviewing Mrs. Jo Bayless; Limestone County, Texas; Forest Glade, Texas. This interview is sponsored by the Limestone County Historical Commission and is part of the Footprints of Times Past project. I want to thank Mrs. Bayless for her time and for contributing to the project. The next voice you hear will be that of hers. (moves microphone toward Mrs. Bayless)
BAYLESS: As has been previously stated, I’m Jo Bayless. I was Jo Hamilton up until 1955, when this young fellow came home from the military and convinced me that we ought to be a family. That lasted until 2001 when God called him home. We’ve lived in the Forest Glade community since—I have lived in the Forest Glade community since May of 1945, when my parents moved here from Thornton. We lived about two miles from the Forest Glade schoolhouse. In the rest of her lifetime, my mother never moved further than five miles away from Forest Glade. I don’t actually live, I guess, in what you’d call the Forest Glade community because that went to the corner down there.
Umpteen jillion years ago, Forest Glade decided to incorporate and they were going to go from the corner at—where [Farm Road] 1633 makes a corner to go on toward the reunion ground [Confederate Reunion Grounds] back toward the other side of the schoolhouse, which left the area where I lived in no-man’s-land. So that’s what we called ourselves: no-man’s-land. Needless to say, the incorporation business fell through, so it never happened. Being that happened when I was quite young, I don’t remember the exact cause, but just suffice to say that it did not come to pass.
The earliest memories I have of this community are, like I said, those of a child. We moved here in 1945. I was barely eight years old. I started to school at Forest Glade in the third grade and finished through the eighth. The rest of my family, including five brothers and sisters and three children, were all part of the Forest Glade school system. Most of my comments are going to be based on what went on in the school because that was basically the life of the community, was the school and the school system and the activities of the school.
When I agreed to do this, I started thinking about what I needed to say, what I needed to tell, and one of the things it says, “How far back did the family go? What were the effects of them?” Forest Glade has always been essentially a bedroom community for Mexia.
There was not any industry out here. There was not even a whole lot of farming and ranching going on. Nearly everybody had cows, nearly everybody had chickens, nearly everybody had pigs, but they were all for personal consumption. You raised your own milk—did your own milk, did your own eggs, did your own butter, raised a garden if you had the room. We didn’t ever have a garden here, but my mother’s family that lived down in south Limestone County, they farmed and we gathered our produce from them because we went back down there every weekend. Mother felt like she had to, quote, unquote, go home in order to make the next week. As a kind of little funny: it took a dollar’s worth of gas to fill up the car and we could go to Thornton and come home on that dollar. How far can a dollar’s worth of gas get you today? Maybe it’ll crank your car, maybe it won’t.
As I said, there wasn’t a whole lot of farming and ranching going on in the area. It is in a pecan orchard that was planted by a Dr. Hinchliffe in the middle 1800s and it’s fairly extensive. In fact, Mr. Logan lives—Mr. Wilson [ed. note: referring to the interviewer] lives in part of the pecan orchard, and I am practically at the end of the reaches of the pecan orchard on the north. However, when we first moved onto this place, there was twenty-something trees and we’re down to about ten now. They tend to die off and they tend to break and they tend to fall apart. But, as I said, Forest Glade was basically a bedroom community for Mexia. There was still quite a bit of oil business going on in— when we first moved here. The Pure Oil Company had a pretty extensive pumping service going on around. Several oil wells were still quite functional when we first moved here.
We weren’t really challenged as a community because everybody pulled together. If you had a crisis, everybody in the community went to the crisis, alleviated the problem to the best of their ability.
Most of my memories revolve around the school and the fact that it was an eight-grade school. There was probably fewer than a hundred kids total, and that was eight grades. There was four teachers. Each teacher taught two grades: one teacher for the first and second, one teacher for the third and fourth, and so on down the line. As an interesting aside, my third-grade teacher—third- and fourth-grade teacher taught my youngest son in the first and second grade. Needless to say, she was somewhat dedicated and, as memory serves, a fantastic educator. I don’t guess you could say she could force you to learn, but she made it very expedient that you did learn. If you didn’t learn, if you didn’t know your lessons, we had about a fifteen- or twenty-minute recess in the afternoon. If you didn’t know your lesson, you got to stay in. You stayed in and learned your spelling words or you learned to keep up with your place in the reading.
As far as major families, I don’t know that there was a major family, unless it would be the Gores. Those two brothers, Claude and Hughie. Hughie ran a dairy and Claude ran a lumberyard for several years, and after about fifteen or twenty years in that place, he put in a little grocery store. The Henry house is on the Old Reunion Ground Road, as we called it. It’s County Road 472, 474—something like that now. Dr. [H. R.] Martin, who was a local dentist, lived there with his son and two daughters and the wife. If we had a prominent family, I suspect he would be the one that would be considered prominent. The rest of us were just peons that went to work every day and came home every evening and did what we had to do to survive and make ends meet.
Thinking back over some of the things that—some of the hardships, I guess you’d say, that we had to endure, the first house we lived in when we moved to Mexia did have running water. We were on a well. But from then until I was nearly eighteen years old, we did not live in a house that had running water. We had running water: you had to run out to the barrel or to the water trough or whatever to fetch it, but it was not pumped into the house. However, we all grew up. We all graduated high school. We didn’t suffer any—we never felt any deprivation. We never went to bed hungry. So all the modern conveniences that we think we have to have today, you really don’t have to have them. You can survive without running water. We laughed many, many times about, Yeah, we had running water! You just had to run out to the well to get it. (Wilson laughs) Central heat, central air—never heard of it. We bought a car in 1964, and we had gone to Dallas in it one day and it was hot. Oh my stars, it was hot, and my husband wanted to put air- conditioning in it. No, that’s for wimps. We don’t need air-conditioning in the car. Needless to say, we didn’t put air-conditioning in, but the next car we got had air- conditioning. (Wilson laughs) So, like I said, you can live. You can survive. You don’t need all this stuff.
Forest Glade, most of the activity centered around the school. One of the teachers who taught at Forest Glade, she came out of college as a—well, (tapping in background) she didn’t start to school till her last child started to school, so she was probably in her late twenties or maybe early thirties when she was teaching at Forest Glade. She’s made the statement more times than once that every teacher coming out of school to teach today needs an experience like Forest Glade. It wasn’t that they were—the kids were that smart, because we really weren’t. We’ve got doctors, we’ve got lawyers, we’ve got scientists, we’ve got prisoners, (Wilson laughs) convicts that all came out of Forest Glade. So we were just like everybody else. But the school system had the total support of all the community, and the parents were—whatever the school did, the parents were there in force.
They started—well, I was already out of school, probably already married when this started happening, but they had what they called a fall festival. To give you an example of the community involvement, the lady had no children. One of her nieces went to school, but she would make anywhere from fifty to a hundred gallons of chili every year for that festival. Like I said, she didn’t have any real ties other than the one niece that was going to school at Forest Grade, but she never quibbled. “Ms. Lehman(??), it’s time to make the chili.” “Okay!” She lived up the road here and she was an old German lady.
Kind of cantankerous if you—like I said, no children; don’t know that she ever had any children. So the whole community would pull together, and there’d sometimes be three hundred people out there. They’d come from all over. When Forest Glade was going to have a carnival, people came from all over. We had a cakewalk. We had bingo. We had—and some—the merchants, even, in town, in Mexia and Groesbeck both, would give prizes, give donations to use for prizes for that bingo. And that went on for a number of years.
When I was in grade school, we always did a spring operetta. We’re talking seventh- and eighth-grade people. In fact, everybody in school who wanted a part had a part. I have a picture that I’ll show Mr. Wilson here in a minute of one of the operettas, the whole— everybody onstage at the end of the program. In fifth grade, I think? Maybe I was in the sixth grade. I was one of the leading characters. Sixth grade—and we had music. I mean, it was a full-blown operetta with music and with dancing and with what you’d expect on a major stage production. But the teachers put it together. The teachers pulled it off. We didn’t have any formal direction. We didn’t have any professional training to come in and say, “No, you can’t do this. No, you can’t do that. You got to do this, you got to do that.” Didn’t happen.
At one point in time, they had to close the cafeteria. Again, this is a child’s memory and I don’t remember for sure why they had to close it: if they couldn’t find anybody to run it, if the county ran out of money and couldn’t afford to fund it anymore. But when they decided to start it back up, each child had to bring a plate, a knife, a fork, and a spoon to restock the cafeteria. From then on, I don’t recall it ever being without cafeteria service. Of course, we got a lot of—we had a lot of pineapple and cheese because those were commodities that the FDIC [National School Lunch Program (NSLP)] or whatever it is that gives—the government entity that gives you food, they gave us that. About every three months, the principal would load up the bus, usually with boys, so they could help him load and unload and go to Groesbeck and pick up the commodities. And I remember one time the girls got to go. Man, we thought we were something else, getting to go to Groesbeck to pick up the commodities.
We were, as I said, very small in number, less than a hundred kids, but everybody was involved. Parents were involved. We had athletics. We had two recesses including—not including lunch, but a morning recess, then we had lunch, and then we had an afternoon recess. It was about fifteen or twenty [minutes]—it was a pretty long recess, as I remember. Again, no air-conditioning, basically no fans. When I first started in Forest Glade, they were using coal as a method for heating. Probably sixth or seventh grade they put in gas stoves. Those things were—they put a stove in each room that was being used. Some of the rooms were not being used anymore, so, needless to say, they didn’t get a stove. But it was—
And then, (pen starts clicking) of course, they used—I don’t recall what they used for cooking. When they—after they—and they actually did the cooking at Forest Glade. The lunchroom was upstairs and everybody went upstairs and had lunch. Everybody—as long as there was food, you could go back for seconds or thirds or fourteenths, if the food lasted that long.
But it was just a great place to grow up because, like I said, the whole community—and even after I married, my brothers and sisters kept going to Forest Glade. My children kept going to Forest Glade. The camaraderie, the closeness never changed, even though the educators themselves changed. Jack Sheffield, who was one of the primary educators in the Mexia school system, started as principal at Forest Glade. I graduated from there in May of ’51, and he started as principal in September of ’51. So I never actually went to school under him, but, again, all my brothers and sisters did and all my children did.
Watched his kids grow up. Marcus [Sheffield] is now the pastor of First Baptist Church, has been for twenty-plus years. Can remember back when he was born. So it’s just been an overall—like I said, the relationship with the people. They were close. If you had a problem, you needed help, everybody was there. Everybody was always there to help. There was no classes. You know, we weren’t lower class, we weren’t middle class, we weren’t upper class; it was just a level playing field. Everybody was on the same page.
Transportation: cars. I don’t ever remember not—my family not having a car. I can remember a few times the car didn’t go. I can remember one time we had some friends that lived in—we were still living in Thornton and we had some friends lived here in town and we were going to Corsicana. We came to Mexia and spent the night to go to Corsicana. That was the—it was an all-day affair to go from Mexia to Corsicana. Thirty miles you can go now in twenty minutes, but it took you all day to go to Corsicana and come back. So we went to Corsicana, we’d come back to Mexia and spent the night again, then went home the next day.
Everybody always had electricity as far as I can re[call]—the places that we lived in always had electricity. Like I said, we didn’t have running water, but we always had electricity. We always had some form of heating provided. One house we lived in, we lived—there was a natural gas well and we piped that gas into the house. No purification, no—you know, just that straight gas, straight out of the ground. We’d pipe it into the house and that’s what we used for heating in the wintertime.
It was a fun time. You could—kids got outside and played. Television? What’s television? Nobody had it. Nobody had a clue what television was. (Wilson coughs) I went to a cousin’s in Dallas every year for a little while in the summer. When I was about twelve, I guess, somebody up there had a television set. But as far as around here, it was probably the middle fifties before anybody jumped into the modern age (Wilson coughs) with television.
As civic organizations—there were civic organizations in Mexia. I guess the only civic organization out here was the—I don’t think we called it PTA [Parent-Teacher Association], but it was the parent-teacher—the people who put together the carnival every year who provided if a kid was in need, had some special need.
If memory serves me, we didn’t have anybody that could be classified as mentally retarded. We were all—some of us a lot smarter than others, some of us a lot dumber than others. But, again, we had—one of the guys that I graduated Forest Glade with, graduated high school with, was a doctor at Scott & White. One of the guys that went to Forest Glade was one of the owners of the—[Houston] Astros? Yeah, I believe it was the Astros. He was part owner of the Houston Astros at one time. So, you know, we were just all people. Again, there was no class. It was just everybody was—
And as far as the Depression, I wasn’t here. (laughs) The Depression basically ended around—what?—’35, ’36? I didn’t get here till ’37. They tell me I was here, but I don’t remember. I can remember living in Thornton and back—I’m seven years older than my sister, and, of course, I remember when she came along and some things that happened before she came along.
One of the memories that sticks in my mind, shortly—we moved to Mexia in May. In July or August it come one horrendous storm. I don’t know whether it was a tornado— again, you’re talking about an eight-year-old—whether it was a tornado, whether it was just straight-line winds, but the house that we were living in is about a half a mile down the road and around the corner from where we are right now. It was a four-room house and there was my brother, my sister, my mother and daddy. There was five of us lived in the house and she was not quite a year old. My brother and I were sleeping in the back bedroom, and I can remember my mother getting up and coming in there when the storm started and was sitting on the bed with my sister. She’d put her in the bed with us. My dad walked in and he said, “Old woman?”—and he never called Mother anything but “old woman”—“Old woman? It’s fixing to go.” She said, “What are you talking about?” “It’s fixing to go.” And about that time, the house raised up a couple of times and then just moved over and sat down about maybe twelve or fourteen inches [from its original location]. Blew the house off the blocks. I can see it just as plain as—when that house started lifting, my daddy squatted in the middle of the floor. Don’t know what difference the squatting made, but he squatted right out there in the middle of the floor. That was sixty-odd years ago and I can still see it just like it was yesterday.
But to give you an example of, I guess, God’s glory, Mother had been ironing. She’d left the ironing board up. The iron’s sitting up on the end of it. It was still sitting up on the end of it. There wasn’t any milk spilled in the icebox. There was a number-three washtub leaning up against the fence about thirty yards from the back door. It was still leaning up against the fence. It didn’t blow, it didn’t move. Just that house picked up and set off the blocks.
WILSON: Well, what did y’all do? Did you re-block the house where it came to rest?
BAYLESS: We were renting the house and the people who owned it came down there and jacked it up and re-blocked it.
WILSON: In its new location.
BAYLESS: In its new location. (Wilson laughs) About six weeks later, it was still sitting on the ground. They had not blocked it up. And about six weeks later, we had another storm. My dad always swore that if it hadn’t been sitting on the ground, we would have blown away. He said that because it was sitting on the ground, the air couldn’t get under it to pick it up. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but it was—
The Gores—as I said, Mr. Gore had a lumberyard and they had four kids. One of them was younger than me, but the rest of them were older. They all went to—I don’t know whether they went through Forest Glade or whether they went to—because they were on this side of the demarcation line, if you will—whether they went to the town schools or whether they went to Forest Glade. I know that Mr. Hughie’s kids all went to Forest Glade because, well, we all went to school together. He ran a dairy. He ran about thirty or thirty-five dairy cows that he milked twice a day. It was in that land right out there.
When we first moved here, there was, I think, six houses between the corner down there and the creek. Big two-story house was not there. That belongs to Joe Cannon. The brick house down here was built by Frank Connell, and the house next to it is where the Hughie Gores lived. They built that house and when they put the dairy in, the house next to it was not there. Well, the next is that brick and it was not there. The house next to it was not there. Let me think. What comes next? That house was not there. The drive-in theater was right along there. It was—the drive-in theater was built in ’47, ’48, somewhere along in there. Fellow by the name of Cliff Turner. It was called—Parkview? I believe it was Parkview Drive-In [Parkway Drive-In Theatre].
WILSON: Where was that? The drive-in theater.
BAYLESS: Do you know where—I can’t think of his name. Al that runs the—(whispers) we should stop.
WILSON: No, that’s okay. Let her roam/run.(??) (referring to animal in room?)
BAYLESS: The brick house that sits a little bit off of the road. You come up the hill from the creek, there’s that house right there nearly on the creek, then there’s that white stucco house, and then that house that’s built back up off the road.
WILSON: I know where that is.
BAYLESS: And then that house right there on the road, and then there’s a road that turns and goes up to where the Barkowskis live. Do you know where they live?
BAYLESS: Okay. The land right next to the Barkowskis’ road was the drive-in.
WILSON: How—when was that drive-in taken down?
BAYLESS: Truthfully, I don’t remember. We married in ’55, and it was still in operation then because we could pop a sack of popcorn, take a gallon jug and go to the root beer stand and buy a gallon jug of root beer for seventy-five cents. You take your own popcorn and you go to the movie, and it was a dollar a carload. It was a dollar a carload.
WILSON: If you know, who planted all of those pecan trees?
BAYLESS: This fellow by the name of Hinchliffe. He was a Dr. Hinchliffe in the middle 1800s. In fact, the house that was on this property that—we purchased it in 1959—was the original Hinchliffe house. If you find some of the centennial magazines that were done in 1971, it was one of the dwellings featured in the centennial magazine. I can’t remember the exact dates that—and I think some of it is in that magazine. But a Dr. Hinchliffe was—I’m sure he didn’t plant them, you know, as in on his knees with a shovel and a—I’m sure he had it done because, as I understand it, he was quite wealthy. But that was the story. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. (Wilson laughs) Some of this stuff comes by hearsay. Some of it comes from—well, as again, childhood memories.
BAYLESS: But the schoolhouse was—or the school and the school activities were the center of the community. Everybody supported, everybody was enthusiastic. We didn’t have a bunch of bad kids. I mean, we had a bunch of mischievous boys, don’t misunderstand me. In fact, one of the teachers lived across the street from the schoolhouse. She looked up one day and one of the boys that—we had little porches that go out—one of the boys had climbed out of the window on the upstairs and was out on that little porch. (Wilson laughs) Bless his heart. He was my very first boyfriend. He was a sweetheart and he made a pastor. (both laugh) It just goes to prove God can work miracles if you just let him go.
But we had doctors, we had lawyers, we had, as I said, criminals (Wilson laughs) that all came out of Forest Glade. But it was a joy and if you think back on it it’s a revelation that we all managed to grow up, like I said, with no modern conveniences—whatever modern conveniences are. Again, this is—just because we didn’t have running water doesn’t mean everybody was in that same boat. The houses along there where you live, those are all new. Those were all built within—well, probably since 1950. The houses across the road were built by Lloyd Kennedy in the late—probably middle fifties is when he started building those houses.
And in—’90? Whenever that tornado came through and just devastated that pecan orchard out there. I don’t remember exactly when it was but somewhere along in there. I was still working because my son and daughter-in-law were living here and somebody said, “They’ve had a tornado at Forest Glade.” I said, “I’m fixing to go to Forest Glade and see.” Well, when I pulled up into the driveway, I remembered that they had gone to my daughter’s and they weren’t even at home. (laughs) But we suffered no damage. It was all south and west of us.
WILSON: They tell me that our hay meadow used to be full of pecan trees.
BAYLESS: Um-hm. It was a pecan orchard. Estelle and Jack Lemoine(??) were living in the house that I’m assuming that you live in, and she was in the house when the tornado hit. I heard her tell this. She said she could just see those trees trembling and said then all of a sudden, they were just—either explode or fall over. I think they lost something like ninety trees.
WILSON: Yeah, we were told that it cost over $5,000 just to have them hauled away, so there must have been a lot of them.
BAYLESS: I’m thinking Jack and Estelle(??) said that they lost ninety trees. Then, of course, it went on across—over onto what is now Highway 14 and did some damage over there. But a couple of those houses through there, that gray brick that’s there, it was completely—it was not a gray brick. It was completely destroyed.
WILSON: That’s right across the street from us.
BAYLESS: Yeah. Well, it was completely destroyed. The house that belongs to the Garbers. I think some of the Garbers live—I think maybe Sissie and Jimbo Ingram live in it. Of course, Sissie was a Garber. It suffered some damage. They had to do a lot of rework on it, but that house that’s the gray house, it was completely destroyed.
WILSON: That was a terrible thing. I don’t know. Tell me. Was there any injuries or deaths because of that? Or did we get lucky?
BAYLESS: We got really lucky. I can’t recall—if there were any injuries, most of them were minor. I don’t remember any deaths. I don’t remember anybody dying as a result of it. But it was a fearsome thing.
We talked about this before we started. Your question is, if you could give young people today any piece of advice, what would it be? Well, actually, it’s going to take more than one. Number one is get back to God. Let him be your guide. Let him be your leader. Let him be the center of your life. Number two: get back to basics. Learn how to cook. Learn how to garden. Learn how to be self-reliant. My husband said many times, “If you wanted to bring America to her knees in a heartbeat, turn off the electricity.” Because kids this day and time don’t know how to cook. They put it in a microwave.
This is kind of a funny. We lived at Thornton and we were on Navasota Valley [Electric Cooperative, Inc.] power. Had a storm; electricity went out. Well, my grandsons were there: Grandma, can I have some popcorn? I said, “No, electricity’s out.” But I had a gas stove and I had some microwave popcorn. So I dug the microwave popcorn out of the bag, put it in a skillet, and popped the popcorn. Those boys were just (makes expression; Wilson laughs). They couldn’t believe you can cook popcorn on the top of the stove? You don’t have to put it in the microwave? You know. Of course, it had the grease and everything in it. All you had to do was get it hot and it popped. (Wilson laughs) But you’ve got to—you got to get back to basics. You’ve got to—and don’t be so dependent on technology. I understand technology’s great and don’t misunderstand me: I love my phone, I love my television, I love my microwave.
WILSON: Can live without it.
BAYLESS: But I can cook without a microwave. Now, I can’t cook without electricity because that’s the only source of power I’ve got. But, you know, you don’t have to have it. You don’t have to have all these things that people seem to think they need this day and time. I mean, we played in the yard. We didn’t play in the house. In fact, we weren’t allowed to play in the house. We got up and we got our—did our morning stuff. If we got any breakfast, which was usually what was left over from supper—if there was a biscuit left over, that’s what we had. My mother didn’t cook breakfast. She sewed for the public and she’d get up and kick us out in the yard. Of course, we went to school five days a week. She’d kick us out in the yard and then she’d go to sewing. If we got really whiny at lunch, she’d get up and fix us a little something, but she always fixed a really good meal at supper. I mean, we had a meat, we had usually a couple of vegetables, we had bread, and in the summertime, we ate really well because we had all the garden produce. But even in the winter, I mean, she canned and she preserved and whatever, so I can’t ever say—I can’t ever remember a time going to bed hungry. Now, there was six of us kids. Well, I was sixteen when my baby sister was born. But basically, there was six of us kids in the house and I can’t ever remember going to bed hungry.
WILSON: Your parents took care of you.
BAYLESS: My parents took care of us. They provided. They didn’t—I can’t say that they provided well. I mean, we didn’t—I told a fellow the other day that I’m not on—I’m not worried about where my next meal’s coming from, but I don’t drive a Cadillac or an Escalade. You know, I’ve got all I need.
I worked at the state school as a nurse and retired, and when they started paying them
$4,000 a month I thought about going back to work about (snaps fingers) that long. (Wilson laughs) Then I said, “You haven’t missed a meal. You haven’t missed a go. You haven’t missed doing anything that you want to do. Why do you want to go back to work?” So that was the end of my going back to work. But that would be my two pieces of advice to kids this day and time, is get back to God, get back to the basics. And learn how to live with yourself. You got to like yourself before you can like anybody else.
BAYLESS: If you don’t like yourself, I don’t know what to tell you.
WILSON: (laughs) Well, Mrs. Bayless, I want to tell you how much we appreciate your contribution to this project. I thank you very much. This information is going to be really something in the future (Bayless laughs) after you’re gone, after I’m gone. People will know a little more about those times and those values. I think that’s important and I know you do, too. Again, I want to tell you how much we appreciate your help.
BAYLESS: Thank you, Mr. Wilson. I appreciate being able to do it. I’m not sure how much it’s going to improve anybody’s well-being, but I enjoyed it.
WILSON: (laughs) Thank you again.
end of interview