Interviewed by Logan Wilson
November 7, 2013
WILSON: My name is Logan Wilson. Today is the seventh day of November, 2013. I’m interviewing Mrs. Mildred Monk at her home in Tehuacana. This interview is sponsored by the Limestone County Historical Commission and is part of the Footprints of Times Past project. We want to thank Mrs. Monk for her contributing to this project. The next voice you will hear will be that of hers. (moves microphone)
MONK: I was born in Frosa [Texas]—not in the town, in the country. There was very few people that lived in the town of Frosa. Of course, Frosa wasn’t a town. It was just a little community. All that was in the town of Frosa was two grocery stores and what we called a beer joint and a school. The grocery stores were owned by Mr. Charlie Ward and Mr. Sid Hines [Sidney Hines]. When Mr. Ward died, his son and his wife and daughter moved in that store.
Down the street from the store was the beer joint, and it was owned by Doc Howard. Mother wouldn’t let me go to the beer joint—never did—but a lot of people did. Always had a funny tale about that. My stepdad drank. He would stop by Doc Howard’s and get him some beer. Well, Mother was kind of a curious person. We had to clean out under the house one day. The chickens would get under the house. It wasn’t underpinned. And Mother found these two bottles of beer. Well, she poured them out and put water in them. She put them back. Well, it just got the best of her in a few days, and she had to know what happened to that beer. So she asked Daddy, she said, “What happened to that beer that was under the house?” And he said, “You know what? The last time I got drunk, it made me so sick I took that beer back and got my money back.” (both laugh) We always wondered what the person thought when he bought those two bottles of beer and there was water in it. (both laugh)
But anyway, the school building itself was a huge building, and it was used for church, too. It didn’t make any difference what preacher—whether it was Baptist, Methodist, Assembly of God—if they wanted to come and preach, we went and listened because there was nothing else to do in the Frosa area. We always went to church, and there was at least one revival held every year. Somebody would come and hold a revival.
The school had three teachers. Aulsie Sims had the high school kids. That was before the state required twelve years of school. There was only eleven. Aulsie Sims had nine, ten, and eleven grades. Malda Bell from Prairie Hill had the next three down, and Marie Dulaney from Coolidge had one, two, three, and four. They were all good teachers. The school had a little house at the end of the school building. You could just walk right out of the school to the house that the school owned. Aulsie Sims and his wife and daughter lived in it, and they rented a room to the teachers. The teachers had cooking rights. They could cook in the house with Mr. and Mrs. Sims. Kids nowadays that are going into the teaching profession wouldn’t believe the salaries that those people made. I’ve seen it in the summertime where Mr. and Mrs. Sims would pick cotton to supplement their income because they just didn’t have much money. The schoolrooms were big rooms. They had huge, big old potbellied stoves, and the high school boys, along with Mr. Sims, would have to bring wood in for the teachers. But it was the teachers’ job to start the fires in the mornings.
At the closing of school every year, we would have a three-act play. And, of course, there wasn’t a lot of kids that went to school at Frosa when I was growing up, but there was enough that we could have a three-act play. The men in the community would come together—the time we’d have the play, they would come and dig a trench in the ground outside the building. They had a big pan—they’d build a fire in that trench. They’d put a pan over it, and they’d cook barbecue all night and all the next day. Then all the women would bring the fixings for the rest of it, and we’d have a picnic for the end of school.
We’d always have a Christmas play. And I’m sure the kids nowadays would laugh at our Christmas tree. The boys would go out with Mr. Sims and find a cedar tree and they’d cut that tree. I would imagine that that auditorium—the ceilings were twelve-foot high, so they’d always get a big tree. They’d bring it and they’d set it up in the building. As I’ve said, we had no electricity. Therefore, we’d make the decorations we thought was pretty. We’d make chains out of construction paper. Whatever we thought would be pretty, we’d make it and they’d put it on there. But all the community would show up for the end-of- school plays or the Christmas plays and the Christmas tree. Everybody got a bag of apples and oranges. I don’t know where it came from now. It’s been too long, but I guess the community just paid for it. I don’t know.
Sometime after—oh, I don’t know what year, but none of the kids that I went to school with graduated from Frosa school because it consolidated with Groesbeck so that everybody had to go either to Groesbeck or Prairie Hill to graduate.
As I said, I grew up in the country as everybody else did. Frosa was a farming community. Also had a gin that was well used because everybody raised cotton. Most of the people that lived around Frosa were farmers, and they produced their own [food]. They bought very little because we grew up in the Depression. The ration books that they gave us were of no value because we didn’t do that much buying anyway. But Mother would—she’d can everything. My sister and I were talking last night about the things that Mother would fix. She would take corn and make hominy out of corn. When the gardens were in season, if she had a good garden, she’d make soup and can it. She’d buy pineapple. If they went to town and pineapple was cheap, she’d buy pineapple and she’d can it. There wasn’t anything they wouldn’t can because that’s what we lived on.
WILSON: Do you remember, Mrs. Monk, (clock begins chiming) the process by which hominy is made? How did your mother do that?
MONK: I don’t know. Mother would put it in a big barrel, and she would put different things in it to soften it. I don’t know, I don’t know, wouldn’t even begin to say.
Mother raised turkeys, and, of course, it was my and my sister’s job to watch the turkeys. If you’ve never watched a turkey hunt a nest—you had an experience. They’ll go in and out, in and out amongst the trees or the bushes, and you’ll think, Okay, they’re going to settle down. They’re going to nest. They don’t. They slip out the other side, and they go someplace else. When they finally do decide where they want their nest, then you have to—or we had to take a glass egg and put in that nest and replace it with her egg, so that she’d think that, okay, that is my nest. There is an egg there. But a snake would get the eggs if you left it there, so you had to collect the eggs every night. Then when the little turkeys came along, we’d have to see that they come in every night. You’d have to go get them, wherever they were, because if you don’t know anything about little turkeys—if it rains and they’re outside they’ll drowned because they’ll just hold their heads straight up, and that rain will just wash right down in their faces. So we always had to see that the turkeys were brought in. Then when Mother would sell the turkeys in the fall, that’s when we got our winter coats. Things like that was what we got with the turkey money. [Monk note: That was the only time of the year that we got to go to Waco.]
Daddy would kill the hogs in the fall. Seasons weren’t like they are now. Daddy would start killing hogs in maybe November—first part of November. We had a smokehouse, and he would cure that meat with salt and different things that he had mixed up, and he would hang the meat up in that smokehouse. It would stay cold from then on. It didn’t turn hot, then cold—didn’t turn hot like it is now. It stayed cold. But we had to eat the things that would perish first first. We had to start—and whoever came to him. All the farmers around would come help kill hogs because then you would share. We had to eat the—you started off with the things that would perish, like liver and things like that. That had to go first. The last thing you got to eat was the hams because they would cure the best. After the hogs were already dressed and everything was put away, then Mother would make lye soap. I hated lye soap. When it’s cooking, it smells terrible. You’d have to cook it outside. But anyway, she made lye soap and we used lye soap.
There was no such thing as going to a laundromat. You didn’t have electricity, so therefore we used washtubs. Mother had two big washtubs and a washpot. And my mother-in-law said—when I married, she’d say, “A girl is not old enough to get married til she can build a fire around a washpot.” (both laugh) I guess I never got old enough because I never could make a decent fire. But Mother would make a big fire around a washpot, and she would put lye soap in it, in the washpot. And then she would take her rubboard and she would wash by hand all the white clothes first, then the colored clothes. Then the white clothes would go in the washpot. They’d boil and then she’d take them out, and then we had to rinse them. When she’d get through with that, we had to scrub the floors with the water because you had to conserve water. We only had cisterns, and in the summertime, the cistern would go dry. So Daddy would take a water tank and go to Coolidge and get water and bring it back.
Mother was afraid of storms. She had good reason to be afraid of storms. She was in several in her lifetime. Daddy built a storm cellar for us, and every time it came up a cloud, we got drug to the storm cellar. (laughs) This has nothing to do with Frosa, but Mother was in the Waco tornado. She was working within a half a block of the R. T. Dennis building. So Mother had good reason. She was in four tornados in her lifetime.
But back to Frosa. It was a close-knit community. Everybody knew everybody. I can’t say that everybody loved everybody because I guess they didn’t, (Wilson laughs) but you were not afraid. We walked—our home was three and half miles from the school, and we walked to and from school. Never occurred to us to be afraid. There was nobody to be afraid of, and I don’t suppose that Mother was ever afraid for us, either. It’s sad when you think about now kids can’t walk to the end of the road without being afraid. But anyway, Frosa was a nice little community.
We didn’t have a lunchroom in our school. Everybody had to bring their own lunches. Mother would get up early in the morning and she would fry sausage. She always made biscuits every morning. She’d make two big biscuits—big biscuits—and then she would fry sausage and she’d put mustard in those biscuits, and she’d make us what we called a hamburger. And then she would fry pies for us. We had cousins that were also in school and they’d say, Your lunch is better than ours. (laughs) But it was all homemade; Mother did it. It just depends on whether you want to get up and go the extra mile, and she did.
I don’t know what else to tell you about it. It was just a little farming community where Daddy farmed with mules. He had two sets of mules. And, of course, he knew their names, and he knew what they were capable of. He always worked them in pairs. No, you never mixed them. You worked them in pairs. He had four cows and he always had hogs.
Cotton-picking time affected us all, all the schoolkids. School didn’t start until cotton was pretty much gone because the schoolkids had to help pick cotton. Daddy’s job was to empty the sacks, which was/wasn’t(??) a hard job, but that’s all right. Daddy did it. Well, my sister Jean and I and Mother would pick cotton, and that’s the only time I ever got paid. Daddy would pay us for cotton. When you chopped cotton and corn, you didn’t get paid. That was just your job. You just did that. But cotton picking, he would pay us and we’d buy school clothes and things like that. [Back] then you picked cotton; you didn’t pull cotton like they do now. Daddy—like I said, he emptied the sacks, so you didn’t dare put a green leaf in it. Green leaves would weigh heavy, but you didn’t put a green leaf in that sack because Daddy was going to open it, and he would see (laughs) that you had green leaves in there. So that’s one thing we had to do, was we had to pick cotton. And then when we came in from school, if there was any cotton left, we had things we had to do at home. But on Saturdays we had to get out and pick cotton.
We didn’t have—like I said, we had no electricity. One of our jobs was to always keep the lamp globes clean. You had to clean the lamp globes because they had smoke on them. When we came in from school, we had to feed the chickens, we had to feed the turkeys, we had to feed the cows. My sister thought milking is such a neat thing, so she asked Daddy to let her learn to milk. He did. Then he gave her a milk bucket. I never asked. (laughs) So Daddy made me make cornbread, and Jean went to milk. One time— Jean says she can’t remember it, but I remember it very well. We were really afraid of our stepdaddy. He didn’t beat us or anything, but he could—we was afraid of him.
Anyway, he sent us to get the cows, bring the cows up. Jean had an ear of corn in her hand, and this old muley cow was dragging around. I don’t know why Jean did it, but she did. She threw this ear of corn; it hit that cow right in the middle of the forehead. She [the cow] dropped to her knees and I thought, My gosh, if she’s killed that cow, Daddy’ll kill us! But she got on up and she was fine. (both laugh) That was not as bad a job, though, as going to get the turkeys. Behind our house was a cow pasture, 540 acres. It had big trees and it was dark. They had a cow in there that would fight you. Those turkeys loved to get over in that pasture because there was grasshoppers over there, and we’d have to get out there and bring those turkeys back to the house. As the kids used to say, it was a great life if you didn’t weaken(??), but we grew and we grew up and finished our schooling and went on and did other things.
WILSON: Mrs. Monk, I always ask the same question to the people that contribute to our oral history, so I’m going to ask you. If there was one bit of advice that you could give our young people today, I’m interested to know, what would it be? What would you tell them?
MONK: Set a goal. Decide what you want to be and then work for it. This idea of the government owes me or Mother and Daddy owes me, that’s not the way. Set your goal and then work for it. Whatever it takes, legally do it. That’s my advice to my own kids and to everybody else’s.
WILSON: Well, that makes it pretty unanimous.
MONK: Does it? Okay.
WILSON: And I thank you very much.
MONK: You’re welcome.
WILSON: I appreciate that.
end of interview