Conducted by Logan Wilson
March 1, 2012
Mr. Wilson: Today is March 1st, 2012 and I am in the home of Mrs. Doris Freeman. The next voice you hear, is going to be her voice.
Mrs. Freeman: Hello I’m Doris Freeman, I have lived in this vicinity for 60-65 years. I was born in Coolidge. My parents were Harvey and Rosie Brooks and we lived 2 and a half miles north of Coolidge on a farm that my uncle owned and my dad was a share cropper. I am the youngest of 3 children. I had 2 older brothers, Jaylyn and Roy Brooks. They’re both passed away now. And I lived in Forest Glade 30-35-40 years. My husband passed away in 1999, May the 5th. We have 3 children, 2 girls and a boy. And I was raised in Coolidge. We were very poor, we didn’t have a nickel. My mother and daddy raised chickens and on the farm we raised cotton, corn, and maize. We raised hogs so we would have pork to eat and chickens to eat and cows. It was a small farm but we had additional acreage in the Pin Oak bottom and we’d go down there and pick cotton and harvest everything. Then my mother would cook lunch and carry with us and we would have lunch down there and then we would come home and do the chores. I went to school in Concord it was a little bitty there and I have a picture of us. It was about half a mile from our house, down there in the slew. Down west from our house is where that Concord school was at. And we just had a little bitty old school, and there was about 4 or 5 of us and a teacher and that’s all we had. And when we closed that school, I went to school in Mexia and Coolidge in colored town. They had a school down there ‘til they got the high school and the new school built. And that would be about third grade. I failed in the third grade or they held me back. Anyway, I went on to the new school and graduated there in 1948. And that’s the year that I married. I married about 5 days before I graduated from high school. Me and my husband, well he worked for the VA in Temple and we had our first child down there. And then we came back to Mexia, and it was pretty rough. I mean, with us being married, and him having a good job, we came back to Mexia and he went to work for the Highway Department. And when my youngest child was in the 6th grade, I went to work for the Forest Glade School. And I worked there until they closed it and then went to work in Mexia, and worked in McBay.
Mr. Wilson: Mrs. Freeman, when did they close that Forest Glade School? Can you remember when?
Mrs. Freeman: In 1980 sometime.
Mr. Wilson: In 1980? Okay.
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah. Cause I worked there and they transferred me to McBay. And I worked there until they offered me a job at R.Q. Sims and I went over there. And that’s where I retired from in 1992. We were just a poor family in the 30’s. It was rough but we got by and we were happy. We didn’t know we was poor.
Mr. Wilson: You produced pretty much of what you ate.
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah, my mother and daddy would milk cows and she would save the cream and on Saturdays, she would take that cream to Coolidge and sell it to, his last name was Hudson. And then she’d give me 22 cents to go to the show and I’d stay in that show all day long. That was my entertainment.
Mr. Wilson: 22 cents.
Mrs. Freeman: 22 cents. Yeah.
Mr. Wilson: You mentioned something walla go Mrs. Freeman, you said something about, there was a community canner. Tell us how that worked and how it came to be.
Mrs. Freeman: Well, if my mother and daddy, when they’d kill hags or a beef or something, they would can that meat and then if a neighbor needed a canner, they would take it and can their vegetables or meat or whatever they had and then it would come back to my mothers’ house and I guess she was the central keeper of it.
Mr. Wilson: So it was purchased by a community and used by the community. Now is that like a pressure cooker?
Mrs. Freeman: Yes.
Mr. Wilson: Okay, so it’s just a big pressure cooker?
Mrs. Freeman: Yes, it’s a big pressure cooker. And I’ve still got it in the attic somewhere.
Mr. Wilson: If it came to it, do you think you would know how to use it?
Mrs. Freeman: Uh Huh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mr. Wilson: You do? Okay, good.
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah, I canned in it. I can in jars, but you can use it for jars, or cans, or whatever.
Mr. Wilson: Now, back then, you canned in metal cans as well didn’t you?
Mrs. Freeman: Uh Huh, yeah, I canned in cans and my mother and daddy had like a sausage grinder or something to grind the meat up. And they would can it and well, we didn’t go hungry. My mother had a vegetable garden and dad raised cantaloupes and I remember when I was a kid, I would come in from school and I would get my salt shaker and go up to the top of the hill and pick tomatoes and eat them.
Mr. Wilson: Right out of the garden?
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah, right out of the garden. I didn’t care if there was bugs. And we had a mulberry tree in the back yard. It was funny, cause I would climb up in that mulberry tree and eat them mulberries. I didn’t care if there was bugs in them or not, cause I didn’t know.
Mr. Wilson: They’re pretty seedy aren’t they?
Mrs. Freeman: Yes. But they were good big ‘ol long mulberries. But like I say, I’d come home from school, grab me a piece of cornbread and onion, go out in the field where mother and daddy was at, cause she was always right beside him. You know, hoeing cotton, pulling corn, or whatever.
Mr. Wilson: So it was a family pulling the load together?
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah, uh huh. But my brothers, my oldest brother went into the army when he got 18. And we didn’t even have a car. We went to Coolidge in the wagon, and horses, and hooked up the mule to the wagon, and we’d go to town and mother would buy groceries and stuff and like I say, I went to the show. I stayed and mother would go and visit with her friends while I was in the show, and they had a domino hall up there and that’s where my daddy would be. When she got ready to go home, she would go get me, and we would go home.
Mr. Wilson: In the wagon?
Mrs. Freeman: Uh huh, in the wagon. And we parked the wagon behind one of the grocery stores up there. Everybody did that.
Mr. Wilson: Can you remember the first automobile your family had?
Mrs. Freeman: Well my brother was in the service and he bought it and it was a model A, and I don’t even know if my dad had a drivers’ license or not.
Mr. Wilson: Speaking of your brother in the service, I’ve been told that were ration cards. You couldn’t have all the tires or gasoline you wanted, you couldn’t have any more than the card allowed.
Mrs. Freeman: Well see, I was too young to know about that, but I do know that they rationed the sugar and stuff. And my older brother was in the army, and he was stationed down in San Antone. And my brother next to me was in the Navy. He went in the Navy.
Mr. Wilson: And they came through it okay?
Mrs. Freeman: Well, my brother next to me got blown off the ship, and he was wounded. But he made it out fine. Yeah, he was wounded. And my older brother was a cargo on the airplane and he brought home a piece of scrap metal that had landed in his seat in the plane. He liked to got it. That’s too close. He was stationed in St. Louis at Saint Jefferson Barracks up there and he married a girl up there in St. Louis.
Mr. Wilson: But they did survived?
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah, they survived the war.
Mr. Wilson: Then they came back?
Mrs. Freeman: And they came back, uh huh.
Mr. Wilson: That was pretty hard. My uncle H.C was in the Navy in the South Pacific and he saw some real bad things.
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah, my younger brother was pretty badly wounded when he got blown off the ship. I don’t even know the ships name or anything like that. He never did talk about it.
Mr. Wilson: Yeah, a lot of those people won’t talk about it.
Mrs. Freeman: No, he never did talk about it. My older brother didn’t talk about it either.
Mr. Wilson: They wanted to leave it behind.
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah.
Mr. Wilson: I understand that.
Mrs. Freeman: But I was 10-12 years old when all this was happening. It was rough but we made it through.
Mr. Wilson: Well, your family worked hard, was self-sufficient and they helped each other. I guess the whole community did didn’t it?
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah, oh yeah.
Mr. Wilson: You told me walla go that you didn’t think that a person now, if we took them back then, would make it. You’re not the first person that told me that.
Mrs. Freeman: Nope, I don’t think they would. They don’t know what work is.
Mr. Wilson: Nope.
Mrs. Freeman: Cause farming is never done, it’s never done and we didn’t have tractors or anything like that, we had mules.
Mr. Wilson: So you worked the land with mules?
Mrs. Freeman: Yep.
Mr. Wilson: That couldn’t have been easy.
Mrs. Freeman: No, it wasn’t easy. Daddy had 2 old mules, one was gray and I don’t know what the other color was. But he worked them, proud.
Mr. Wilson: You must be proud of what y’all were able to accomplish in the hardship.
Mrs. Freeman: Oh yeah. I don’t regret being raised on a farm.
Mr. Wilson: Yep, learned some values?
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah, I believe in if you work, you eat. That’s what the bible said, if you don’t work, you don’t eat.
Mr. Wilson: We’ve come a long way from that haven’t we?
Mrs. Freeman: Uh huh, oh it’s nice to go into a store and buy groceries and have the money to pay for them.
Mr. Wilson: When you go into a grocery store now a days, and everything is so convenient, and you have the money to pay for it, do you ever think about when you were a little girl and what it was like?
Mrs. Freeman: I didn’t know what bologna was. I didn’t! I didn’t know what bologna and cheese and stuff like that was. That was convenience. And Dr. Peppers and drinks and stuff like that, I didn’t know what that was.
Mr. Wilson: You said y’all had a well?
Mrs. Freeman: Uh huh, well we had the system. It was at the back of the house and when it rained, rain went down into that system.
Mr. Wilson: Did you withdraw it with a pump or buckets?
Mrs. Freeman: With buckets, we didn’t know what a pump was.
Mr. Wilson: Does that mean if there was a real long drought period that you might run out of water?
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah. And we would see the wiggle tails down in the water. My mother would drop eggs down in there to kill them.
Mr. Wilson: Just break an egg and drop it in there?
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah, uh huh.
Mr. Wilson: And that would kill the wiggle tails?
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah.
Mr. Wilson: Well I guess it wasn’t bad because you didn’t get sick. So I guess it was okay.
Mrs. Freeman: I drank that water just like it was good. I didn’t think about any wiggle tails or anything like that. Yeah, we had a bucket and we would draw that water up in that bucket.
Mr. Wilson: Did it ever go dry?
Mrs. Freeman: Nope.
Mr. Wilson: Always had water?
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah, always had water.
Mr. Wilson: Must have been a pretty good sized system then.
Mrs. Freeman: It was. And it was made out of brick. It was a fancy one. It wasn’t a tin little thing, it was made out of brick. And it’s probably still up there, covered up.
Mr. Wilson: Yeah, and it did have wiggle tails?
Mrs. Freeman: No. But I didn’t have no faucets in the house, no bathroom in the house or anything like that. That was a convenience back in those days.
Mr. Wilson: Things are sure different now aren’t they?
Mrs. Freeman: Ohhh me. If the lights go out here, we had an old Aladdin lamp I’d study by. It was a tall lamp with a chimney and it had a wick in it.
Mr. Wilson: Kerosene. Or coal oil I should say.
Mrs. Freeman: Uh huh, coal oil. And that was a bright light then. It’s not like electric lights, but before I had that, I had kerosene lamps. And we didn’t have electricity for a long time out there. And oh the day it come through, oh happy happy happy. We had an old ice box that we put ice in.
Mr. Wilson: Did you have to go to town to get the ice or did they deliver it?
Mrs. Freeman: No, there was a man who sold ice come by the house, sold ice and put it in the refrigerator.
Mr. Wilson: And I guess there wasn’t any gas or electrical stove either was it?
Mrs. Freeman: Nope.
Mr. Wilson: Had to cut the wood.
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah, had to cut the wood.
Mr. Wilson: People don’t know about that now. I’m gonna guess that some wood was better for cooking, than others?
Mrs. Freeman: I just don’t know anything about that. Because I was too young to even be paying any attention to that. But anyway, we had a male come by the house, the ice man. When my husband was young, they sold ice in and around Mexia. Him and his brothers would.
Mr. Wilson: Well I told you earlier, I suggested that I ask everybody the same question at the end here. I’m gonna ask you. Mrs. Freeman, from your experiences, if you could tell the young people of today one piece of advice, one thing that they needed to do, what would that be?
Mrs. Freeman: Well today, you need an education.
Mr. Wilson: Yes ma’am you do.
Mrs. Freeman: Get your education and then go find you a good job. Because it’s not going to get any better.
Mr. Wilson: That’s what several people, in fact, everybody has said. Get an education and then get a job and go to work. I think it would be good if they took that advice.
Mrs. Freeman: My son was here yesterday and he’s got a son and he used to work, before he started school, digging ditches. And all they know how to do now is play games, and be on the computer. And I told him yesterday, I said well if he wants to go out, he’s been trying to stop school, and his daddy told him no. And I said well if he wants to dig ditches again, let him do it. He’ll want to go back to school.
Mr. Wilson: Well people now a days do have the opportunity to get an education, it’s a shame that they choose not to do it.
Mrs. Freeman: It’s a shame! And it’s not working. And I can’t understand it.
Mr. Wilson: You would’ve jumped at that chance wouldn’t you?
Mrs. Freeman: Oh man.
Mr. Wilson: Even if you had to study by a cold oil lamp.
Mrs. Freeman: Yeah, I remember getting my lessons done by a cold oil lamp. I made it out of high school.
Mr. Wilson: Good for you. Mrs. Freeman, we sure appreciate this. It’s been wonderful talking to you, and we’ll get back with you.
Mrs. Freeman: Okay, thank you!
Mr. Wilson: Thank you ma’am.