Conducted by Logan Wilson
June 9, 2011
Today is June 9, 2011 and we are here in the office of Mr. Humble here at Groesbeck Texas. I am here to hear his recollections of early times in Groesbeck. The next voice you hear will be Mr. Humble.
Mr. Humble: Good afternoon Logan.
Mr. Wilson: Good afternoon sir.
Mr. Humble: I am pleased to be able to recollect some of my experiences as a youngster, first in the years of the depression as become known. My family operated in such a way that I really had no recollection that we were having a hard time fortunately. But my dad was trying to sell automobiles to people that had no money or very little money and Henry Ford was sending him Lincoln automobiles that he had no market for in Limestone County. Somehow or other he got through the depression without having to lay anybody off and when things began to get better World War II came along and he couldn’t get automobiles. He couldn’t get parts and the employees that he had taken care of in the depression years went on to take jobs that were involved with the war effort and he had no ill feeling toward them for that reason.
Back in the early days, in the Model T days, they received automobiles by rail. Twelve to the car as I recall, from what’s been told me. I don’t have any particular recollection of this. And he had a number of men that assembled those cars after they unloaded them from the rail cars and the Model T sold for about four hundred dollars at that time. And in recent times in the last ten years or so since I returned to Groesbeck, I’ve had people come in and tell me about their father buying automobiles from my dad and what had happened to them on the way home in the country area where they lived. The car was so tightly constructed engine wise that the engine would overheat and they would stop at some creek and get some water so they could make it on home. I had one fellow tell me that his father paid four hundred and thirteen dollars for their car.
One of the funny things that I remember my dad telling me about is a gentleman came in with a car that he had struck a buzzard with. It came through the windshield and it threw up on the interior of the car and he left that car with my dad and bought a new one. My dad cleaned that car up, or had it cleaned up and had sold it and each time it had rained the people that had bought it would bring it back to him because the odor would return and so he sold it again. He sold it five times before somebody kept it as I recall.
In that day and time we had no pavement in Groesbeck to speak of except the brick streets downtown. And when it rained we had a big mud puddle. We had poor drainage. We had ditches around the home and mother said one time it wasn’t uncommon for her to clean me up and put me on dry clothes three or four times a day after a rain when water was standing in the ditches around the house. But fishing for crawdads was pretty good in those ditches. We had a great time.
Getting into World War II, my dad left his brother with the Humble Motor Company and became the post master here in 1940 and during the war and for subsequent years while he was acting as post master here in Groesbeck.
In school, I finished school and got in two semesters at A & M and was about to be drafted so I volunteered for induction and went into the Navy. After a couple of years I finished my tour of duty and come on back and went back to school to finish.
In those early days, in the thirties they were building the state park on the river, known as Fort Parker State Park. There were a group of people who were interested in the building of that park. They had a chance to get a black CCC group. Others had turned that opportunity down and the men in this committee decided it was a wonderful opportunity and they said yes, we would be delighted to have them move here and begin the park. And as a youngster we used to ride out everyday to see what was going on with my dad. They were at that time building a dam that was going to form the lake and felling the trees in the river bottom, clearing them out. They had a saw mill going where they actually made their own lumber from those trees. Generally hardwood trees were plentiful in the lake bottom or what was going to be the lake bottom on the river. Enormous trees. Four or five foot diameter wasn’t uncommon. And they built the buildings in the park such as the recreation center, from the lumber that they cut. Also they were mining rock and crushing rock on location in the park which they paved the roads in the park. So there was quite a bit of work going on and these men accomplished all that.
About sometime in the late thirties, the dam was completed and the lake was formed, which it was estimated that it would take a year or so for it to fill and the first big rain we had it filled. The fishing in that early day in the lake was tremendous and especially good with large catfish, yellow catfish and people fished for them with floats. They’d bait a large hook attached to a line and a float and turn it loose. They’d use gallon jugs, usually colorful where they could find them and the next day they’d come and start looking for their float and usually they had a fish on it.
That’s about it as far as my recall of what was going on here in Groesbeck.
We had two trains coming through during the war, during World War II. Several a day it seemed like to me. We also had convoys on the roads that came through town and they were camping in their travels out at Fort Parker State Park. They would spend the night there and be on their way the next day wherever they were going. This happened pretty often.
Later as a teen, the park was very popular with the young people and we had a wonderful place to have a good time, fish and swim and dance at night. The nickelodeon was so loaded with nickels you couldn’t get a nickel in the nickelodeon. We had a great time out there as young people. And people from all of the communities in this area where coming out there so that we got acquainted with the kids from Mexia, Coolidge, Teague and Wortham, Fairfield. And some kids came over from Waco. It was a great place to get some fun and meet people.
As a sailor in World War II I was aboard an aircraft carrier, the USS John Hancock, an Essex Class F65 carrier and its compliment crew wise was over five thousand people if we had aircraft aboard, which was somewhat larger than Groesbeck at that time. And we had all conveniences aboard that ship, cobbler shop, tailor shop, a laundry, and bakery and so on. Fantastic, the comforts that we had while at sea.
After I finished my tour of duty with the Navy I come on back and finished my degree at A&M just in time for the war to break out in Korea and shortly I knew I was about to get my orders because I was about twenty-four years of age and single and was inactive. I was not in an active reserve and sure enough I got my orders to report to Camp Chaffey in Arkansas and I wound up going to Korea and I found out how cold it can get in the Manchuria area. Sometimes forty below for weeks at a time.
As far as the citizens here in Groesbeck in the days of growing up, this was a wonderful community in which to grow up. We had dedicated teachers, a wonderful school system led by the superintendent, H.O. Whitehurst. We had teachers I remember in each grade who my teacher was. They were all dedicated ladies. I didn’t have any problem. I went on to Texas A&M with my grades. I got wonderful background here in this school system. I have no regret about coming back to Groesbeck after I retired from the Humble Oil and Refining Company, later Exxon. And I have enjoyed being back here for the past twenty-one years practicing law and trying to help people with their problems. We were welcomed back by the people of this community and we really enjoy being back here.
That’s about it.
Mr. Wilson: I sure appreciate it sir, that’s a lot of information. Let me ask you something. I ask the same question to everybody and the amazing thing is I get the same answer. And the question is, if you had a brief word of advice or a thought to give the young people today what would it be?
Mr. Humble: Pay attention to the instruction and guidance of their parents. Pay close attention to those instructions and advice. Study hard, try to learn as much as you can, academically speaking. Also with your parental guidance because they are giving you advice that you can get no where else. That’s it.
Mr. Wilson: Well, that makes it unanimous. I thank you again sir.