Interviewed by Logan Wilson
March 21, 2014
WILSON: My name is Logan Wilson. Today is the twenty-first of March, 2014. I’m interviewing Mrs. Vauda Fogleman. This interview is sponsored by the Limestone County Historical Commission and is part of the Footprints of Times Past project. I’d like to thank Mrs. Fogleman for contributing to this project. The next voice you hear will be that of Mrs. Fogleman. (moving recorder) All yours.
FOGLEMAN: My name is Vauda Fogleman. I was born in 1934 and raised in Prairie Hill, Texas. From an early age and for all my life, we lived in town. You go through Prairie Hill now, and you would think, Well, that wasn’t a big deal to live in town. But it was because it was a thriving town. Prairie Hill during the early thirties and forties had four grocery stores, three filling stations—which we called them filling stations. They weren’t service stations; they were filling stations. There was an icehouse. There was a barbershop. My dad owned the icehouse and a filling station, a feedstore, and a barbershop. Then there was a post office and there was a telephone company there. Dad, during the time that he had the icehouse, he would go to Waco and pick up his ice and bring it back, and he had two trucks. He had two men that ran routes through Kirk, Frosa, Delia—all the surrounding communities—and delivered ice twice a week. They just had regular customers, and you’d just put up a sign in your window how much ice you wanted that day. We sold ice: twelve and a half pounds, twenty-five pounds, fifty pounds, and a hundred pounds. So you could buy ice in any of those ways. [Fogleman note: Prairie Hill also had a drugstore and a doctor. During the early thirties the community had a bank and dry cleaners.]
The main focus was farming. There was blackland farms, and primary, they raised cotton. There wasn’t much raising of cattle back then. Cotton was a big thing. In Prairie Hill, we had two cotton gins active at the time that I was growing up. I was told in earlier days there was three cotton gins. And when it became the fall, Prairie Hill was very very busy, day and night, because the farmers would bring their cotton in late in the afternoon, and then they would stand in line with their cotton. They would gin all night to get the cotton ginned up, and then they would start over the next day. [Fogleman note: My mother would set up an area in a side room of Daddy’s barbershop and make hamburgers during this time for the farmers. The hamburgers cost either five cents or ten cents for a large one.] This cotton was put out on the gin yards, and I had a good friend that lived right by one of the gins. Our playtime was to jump from bale to bale on that cotton, and sometimes I ended up with a sprained ankle or something like that. But the cotton gin and the farms was the way—the reason that there was a town there. After they quit raising cotton, they started, more or less, cattle raising. And then, of course, after the war came along, a lot of people moved away from Prairie Hill, and then the town over the years has just died away.
My dad came to Prairie Hill in the early twenties. [Fogleman note: His dad died when he was a small child.] He came with his—his mother brought him, [one of] three boys, and two grandsons. Her daughter had died, so she had five boys to raise. She had a cousin in Prairie Hill, Texas, that told her if she would move to Prairie Hill, he would help her raise those boys. So this is how my dad ended up in Prairie Hill. He was born on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma. [Fogleman note: His mother was half Native American.] When he came to Prairie Hill, then, he stayed there and was an entrepreneur. You think about an entrepreneur being well off, but this wasn’t the case because we weren’t—didn’t have a whole lot of money. But we had a very good upbringing. I know Daddy would cut a head of hair for twenty-five cents. Then I’d go to the barbershop and I’d say, “Daddy, can I have a dime to get me a cold drink and a piece of candy?” He’d pulled out a dime and give to me, and I’d run down to one of the grocery stores and get me whatever I wanted, sometimes ice cream or whatever I wanted.
After my dad got older, he got sick and he had a whole book of people that had charged their haircuts and had not paid for their haircuts. [Fogleman note: The main focus in the community was farming. If the crops did not make, it was hard for the farmers to pay their bills.] By then, Dad was sick, wasn’t able to work, and we were having a hard time. Mother was having a hard time because she had that whole book of people that owed Daddy money, and they were doing quite well during that time. She just wanted to go and dun those people and tell them that we needed that twenty-five cents or whatever they owed. And Daddy said, “No, those people know they owe me. If they don’t want to pay me, that’ll be it.” Well, this was brought up for several times, so he took this book that had the charges and threw it in the trash and burned it. He said he didn’t want that book around to remind my mother of people that owed him money.
The filling station that Mother and Daddy owned had a feedstore in the back, and in later years, Daddy fixed his barbershop there. Up to that day, he had his barbershop in a building that was once a bank in Prairie Hill, Texas. And you think about Prairie Hill having a bank, but they did have. He moved up [to the feedstore] and fixed his barbershop there.
We had a telephone company. We had a little house that sat, and one lady ran this telephone company. She had—my sister was one of them, worked as an operator, and they worked sort of shift work. I remember that our telephone was one long and one short, because anytime you called on the telephone, you had to go through the operator and she had to dial this. And, of course, you listened to people’s conversations and they’d listen to yours over the years. I used to go with the lady that collected for these telephones, and I would go—she’d go from door to door, to Kirk and we’d go to Frosa and she’d go to Delia. She’d just make one around and collected every month for these telephones that they had. It was the old crank type of telephone.
The post office was a very—everybody needed to get their mail, and we had one worker and one sub and then one person that delivered the mail in outer parts of the county or the city. Keeping in mind, when I was talking about the blackland farms that was—where the people came into town to shop. When you talk about blackland, that is what you think about. It’s really, really black. (laughs) Then when it’s wet it just sticks to you, and then when it gets dry, it just cracks and falls away.
Also, in our town—and one of the things that was very important to all of us—was our church. We had three churches: we had a Baptist church, a Methodist church, and a Church of Christ. We went to the Baptist church, and this was an important part of our life. My mother took us from the time we were born and we went to church. Daddy didn’t go with us, but we did go to church. And today, the preacher at Prairie Hill Baptist has been there I think about sixty-five years, and he came to Prairie Hill to pastor that church when I was fourteen years old. He has been there ever since.
WILSON: Mrs. Fogleman, is he still there?
FOGLEMAN: Yes! And he’s still pastoring there.
WILSON: Oh my goodness.
FOGLEMAN: He is the age of my husband. He will be eighty-five his next birthday.
WILSON: I swear.
FOGLEMAN: His wife was one of my dear friends, and I spent a lot of time with her and they lived on one of the blackland farms. I would go out and spend a lot of time, and she was—everybody in the household worked. It wasn’t—they had a job. Now, this friend of mine, she milked the cow, and we always went out—I went out with her when she milked the cow. Just everybody, you worked together to make your—everything go in the community.
One thing that I didn’t mention, too, either, my dad had a corn sheller. He bought all the corn in the area, and back then, the only place to put corn when you bought it was on the ground. He would stack the corn around, waiting to have time to run the corn through the corn sheller. And one year, it rained a lot after Daddy bought the corn, and we really took a hit financially because everything that Daddy was planning on for us having to live on the next year just went down the drain.
One thing that I remember: back in the forties, during World War II, when we had prisoners of war in Mexia out where the Mexia State Supported Living Center is now, Daddy would come out and get the prisoners. They would send one guard with him, and I would come with Daddy to pick the prisoners up, and we’d take them back. We had a flat—Daddy had a truck. We’d carry a load of prisoners to Prairie Hill, and the prisoners would work at the corn sheller all day. It was against the law to give them anything to eat, but Daddy bought them summer sausage and cheese and crackers every day because they loved that. He would buy it for them and they would eat—that’s what they would eat for their lunch every day. And years after that, the prisoners kept in touch with my dad. They would write him if they happened to be coming through this area to see the—where they were kept as prisoners of war. Then they would come by to see my dad. So that was always interesting in the later years when the prisoners would come by.
During that time, Highway 84 that goes out of Mexia into Waco was not a road. You had to go through Tehuacana, and you had to go through Coolidge. And I can remember sitting on the side of the road—because we lived right there in town, on the highway— and sitting there for hours just waving at the soldiers on the convoys coming through transporting them in their trucks. Sometimes they would throw us candy, and we would be so excited when the—because there was an awful lot of those convoys that came through and came through—right through, you know, Prairie Hill.
During this time, they built what is now the racetrack in Prairie Hill, but it was runways for James Connally Air Force Base out of Waco. What they did in training their pilots, that was used for the pilots to land and to take off, and land and to take off. All during the daytime hours this went on. They came right over our house because our house was right in the path for them to descend and to go land on the runway. It was just a constant thing all day, and they were very, very low down when they got to our house because they were fixing to land, then they would take off, and then they would come around and they would land again. So this—I don’t know how many years that they trained, but it was during the war of World War II. So this was always a big thing with the kids: for the soldiers to come through and for the big bombers to come over and us to get to look up and see those.
Let me see. During the Depression—I meant to say this—Mother said—I don’t know, did I say this?—said that Daddy would make a quarter and they would get in a car and go to Waco and go to the show. They didn’t have a care in the world. They didn’t have any money, but if he made a quarter, they would go to Waco and go to the picture show. So they had a good life, as all of us did. We didn’t have all the things we have to eat today, but we always—we were never hungry. We usually had beans and cornbread, and I’ve seen a lot of times that we would have mush. It was really—it was different in the— growing up because you think, Oh, y’all were poor. We probably were by today’s standards, but just keeping in mind that everybody in that community was poor. It was not affluent. Didn’t anybody have a lot of money that I knew of. They probably some had more than the other because I had some girlfriends that lived out in the country on the farms and they raised a lot of cotton.
[Fogleman note: The Depression was about over by the time I was born. My family would talk about these times. I do remember about the rationing of food and other items. We had stamps and we were allowed a certain amount of meat, sugar, and other grocery items each month. Tires and gasoline were rationed because they needed them for the war. We were limited in the miles we could travel because of this.]
Right after I got old enough to pick cotton, I would—I could not pick. I could pick, pick, pick all day, and I couldn’t pick a hundred pounds. But then I could pull it. Then they started pulling cotton and, man, I could pull it. I’d pull 311 pounds a day because you pulled the burr and everything. And what we did, the children, the kids and the teenagers, we’d pull cotton, and that was the way we bought our school clothes because we could have more if we had our own money. All of the farmers’ kids and us—there was one particular family that every year—and I think back about how he put up with all—there’d be seven or eight of us kids—and when I say “kids,” we were kids. We were teenagers, young teenagers. He would pick us up and we would go out and we would pull cotton for him all day. And at lunch—his wife would fix lunch for this bunch every day, and she’d set the table and she served the meal in courses. She had china, she had silver, and she had the glasses that—the crystal that we drank out of, and she would bring the children— and we were kids—and we would eat with them every day. We would be sit down to this—just coming out of the cotton field, we’d be dirty, but she set us down and served us like we were king for the day. I think about her a lot of times, that she—they were really fine people to put up with us, but we also—we enjoyed being able to come in and eat this big lunch every day when we were pulling cotton. He paid us just like he paid everybody else, and then we were able to, as I say, go buy our school clothes.
We did not have a lot of church socials during this time. We belonged to the Baptist church, and the Baptist church then was very strict. My schoolteacher, she was a member of our church—one of them. She also was a schoolteacher and she taught us right from wrong. We didn’t drink, we didn’t cuss, we didn’t smoke, and that was what was expected of us all of our lives. And needless to say, when I got older, I didn’t drink and I didn’t cuss and I didn’t—and all these things. She was very sweet to us, but she also taught us right from wrong when we were in school. It wasn’t necessarily at church. But we just knew that they didn’t believe [in] this, and so we just didn’t do it. [Fogleman note: We had a school with twelve grades by the time I started to school. I went to school twelve years in a white school that was built by the WPA. The school had a lot of influence on me and my siblings and other children in this area. We were taught the basic subjects. We were also taught respect, morals, and honesty, and this stayed with many of us through life.]
And there was—we had, of course, the Masons and the Eastern Star. Daddy was a Mason, but none of the family grew up—we were not—not any of our husbands or anything. My brother was not a Mason or anything.
People in this area were very friendly. We helped whoever needed help, and then you just did what you could. The kids for fun, a lot of times, we would go to homes and we would play dominoes or we would play cards. This a lot of times was not what the family knew about, but we would play what we used to call penny poker, (laughs) and we played with matches. We didn’t have pennies; we played with matches. We’d take a box of matches and we’d divide them up and we’d play penny poker. That’s the way that we passed a lot of our times.
The electricity, when I was growing up, had just—we had it in town, but they didn’t have it out in the country. Most of my friends didn’t have electricity. When I would go to visit with them, they’d have the Aladdin lamps, and that’s a way that you sit, and if you read, that’s the way they did their studying. And I remember that Mother had a washing machine that had a gasoline motor on it, and after the electricity—we got electricity, Daddy put an electric motor on it, and so then we had an electric washing machine. It was a wringer type. We had an icebox, and it looked like a refrigerator would today. But what it was, the ice was up at the top and the cooling was down at the bottom. And, of course, Daddy, being the iceman, we never did run out of ice, but a lot of people just did run out of ice in between.
I spent a lot of time in Delia with my aunt and her family too. Those were fun times. At that time, Delia was a thriving little community.
The big thing—one of the big things was the politicians coming to Prairie Hill. We had twins that were in the state senate, and their names was the Hardin twins [Doss Hardin and Ross Hardin]. So every time there was a governor’s race or race for the representatives or senators for the state of Texas, they would always come through Prairie Hill because of the Hardin boys. I remember when Pappy Lee O’Daniel [Wilbert Lee
“Pappy” O’Daniel] was running for governor. They came through and they would always bring—they would get a big old trailer, and they’d put it out in a pasture. They’d have music and they’d have just a big get-together. That was always exciting when the elections came around.
I didn’t live during the early part of the Depression, but it was just beginning to start after I was born. I remember Pearl Harbor as being a very sad time. I did not—we, of course, didn’t have televisions. By that time we had radios, but not a lot of radios around. I remember that I was in the third grade, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor made a big impression on my mind because it was very—you just—it was uncertainty. You didn’t know what was going to happen. But I remember thinking, Well, you know, I know God’s going to bless America. But then as I grew older, I knew that God would bless America if America would honor him. This was—even though it was a—I didn’t know a whole lot about it, but so many of our young men went to war from home, and I don’t remember—most of them came home. I don’t remember them being killed. I’m sure there were some, but in our family they all came back.
I would like to tell the people that read this that this might not have sounded like a very exciting time, but it was. When you think back and you think about the times and the good times, then you know that it was a good time. [Fogleman note: We were happy and had a lot of fun. Of course, we had no TV, very few radios, and cars were limited, but we made our own fun. I would not take anything for being able to grow up in Prairie Hill.
We were taught to love God and our country.] People were honest. Their handshake meant they were going to do it. You didn’t have to worry about whether they was going to do it or whether they weren’t. And it was very important to love God and to know that he was the one that was the ruler of it all, and that without him we had nothing.
WILSON: Mrs. Fogleman, that was a great interview. I thank you so much. I’m going to ask you that question.
WILSON: If you could give the young people today one piece of advice from your experiences, what would that be?
FOGLEMAN: To love the Lord and to be honest in everything you do, because, you know, when you’re honest and you can go to bed with a clear conscience at night, that is a lot. And to just live each day that, you may not have a tomorrow, but that’s okay.
WILSON: Thank you very much.
end of interview