Conducted by Mr. Logan Wilson
July 10, 2012
Mr. Wilson: It is July 10, 2012, I am in Mrs. Jackson’s home in Thornton and the next voice you are going to hear, will be that of Mrs. Jackson.
Mrs. Jackson: I have been asked to say something about the depression, but the depression didn’t make a big impression on me. My father was in business, and we didn’t have a whole lot, but we had as much as anybody else had. I grew up all my life in Thornton, and I have lived in about 5 different houses, maybe more, in Thornton. But he was in business until I married, sometime after I married. My mother made all my clothes, and we really didn’t suffer any during the depression, but I do remember a little bit about World War II, not that anybody in my family actually went through the war, but I had some uncles and cousins that served in the service, and my brother went in the service for a while. But I do remember being in school here in Thornton, same school that my mother graduated from, and I had an aunt that lived to be 95, she graduated from the same school that I did. My son went to this school until he was in the 8th grade. But anyway, I remember we didn’t have modern things. A lot of homes didn’t even have radios, but our school group went to the auditorium one morning and listened to Roosevelt tell us we were at war.
Mr. Wilson: That was bad wasn’t it?
Mrs. Jackson: Oh yes, on the radio. But I do remember about rationing, and the rationing didn’t hurt us so bad about the gas because we didn’t go anywhere out of town. We went very little. This was a thriving community when I was growing up here in Thornton. It had 4 cotton gins, and numerous grocery stores, a hardware store, and a big mercantile store. There was one store, Wilson Brothers’, they said they’d take care of you from the cradle to the grave. They were the undertakers, they had anything you wanted, and later, when I was growing up, they had real good clothes and materials, and anything you needed, you could get in Thornton, it was amazing. We had a little hospital, my tonsils were taken out here at the hospital, mine and my brothers, when I was 6 and he was 5. And since my father was in business, he was on Main Street in Thornton at a garage. He was a top mechanic, everybody knew him from miles around, and they would bring him their vehicles. And older people that came from the country, sometimes, we had an older lady, and I never will forget, she would come to get her car worked on and it was an old model A or something like that, but daddy would bring her to the house to eat and spend some time with us while he worked on her car so she could go home. But anyway, we had lots of neat experiences like that. But my mother sewed for me. In fact, she made all of my clothes. I was born in the house right behind where I live now. We didn’t have indoor bathrooms until I was in the first grade. We moved a block over to a house that had a bathroom, we thought we were rich then. But, my brother, who was just a year younger than me, we had to share a bedroom in that house but we had indoor plumbing. That was great. We didn’t always have a car, but like I said, we did most of our business here, and we could take care of just about anything, and sure enough even after I married, my husband worked at the cotton gin some during that season. I went all through high school here in Thornton. I graduated in 1949, I was valedictorian in my class and I was to have my room paid for at college, and then I ran off and got married.
Mr. Wilson: You didn’t go to college?
Mrs. Jackson: No.
Mr. Wilson: Although you had a scholarship?
Mrs. Jackson: Yes.
Mr. Wilson: You mentioned something a while ago Mrs. Jackson. You said something about the things that were in short supply during the war, the ration. You mentioned gasoline, what else was rationed?
Mrs. Jackson: Sugar was the main thing that hurt us. I told you my family was a sweet dessert type people. Mother and daddy had brothers and sisters that had big families, and my daddy, since he was in business had to help them some. And they would bring mother the sugar rations.
Mr. Wilson: So you shared the rations?
Mrs. Jackson: Yes, and that was a blessing to us because we would really miss the sugar. It’s funny, the things you remember that you didn’t want to do without.
Mr. Wilson: We would hate to be without sugar now, wouldn’t we?
Mrs. Jackson: Oh yes.
Mr. Wilson: You wouldn’t be able to make that good recipe with peaches without it.
Mrs. Jackson: No. But anyway, we were just a close knit community, and back then, peoples’ word was all you needed, you didn’t have to have something in writing, and even in writing now, it’s not always good. But, a hand shake was good, and my father was in business, like I said, and he trusted people, and most of the time, they were honest with him. But he had a good reputation, and that was a benefit to me, and he was on the school board when we were in school. My brother graduated here too. He went on to college and graduated from Texas University.
Mr. Wilson: So a hand shake was all that was needed?
Mrs. Jackson: That was all that was needed. Then in 1949, when we married, my husband moved back from the Houston area, working at whatever he could do, but he worked for the railroad, and that was a blessing, because he could ride the train for free and come visit on the weekend with me. But anyway that’s beside the point. After we married, we didn’t worry about it until after we married that we didn’t have much, we rented a house for a year and a man’s wife had died, and we rented the house and what furniture he didn’t want. And starting out, we raised turkeys, we’ve raised just about anything you could raise to sell. But we had 500 turkeys on 3 acres of land in Thornton, I mean in town, we had a rented place that had 3 acres behind it.
Mr. Wilson: Full of turkeys?
Mrs. Jackson: Yeah, and it rained, and that was not good that year. I used to laugh and say we made our profit selling the feed sacks. We had cloth feed sacks from feeding those turkeys, and I would wash them and sell them to the colored people. And mother even made all of my brother’s underwear out of those feed sacks when he went to college, and he wasn’t a bit ashamed of it. And she made me a dress one time, and I was so proud of it, because I didn’t have a lot of extras, and one of my friends made fun of it.
Mr. Wilson: Where did y’all sell your turkeys? Did you sell them to the stores or individuals?
Mrs. Jackson: Oh no, we had a place that sold them, before we bought them, before we started. But it rained so much that a lot of them died. Right after we got them, we had a barn type thing where we put them at first, but it rained and rained, and we spent a weekend inside that room with these turkeys and you can imagine how upset I got, because I didn’t know nothing about a turkey-nothing. But anyway, my husband accused me of trying to kill him because I bucked him against a wall with a nail in it and I told him I was fed up with those turkeys. But anyway, that’s the way it goes. We raised hogs, and he farmed down where his daddy lived, about 13 or 14 miles from here in the Seale community and he would go early in the morning and farm and then come in. Well, we had hogs, one day The sow ate the pigs, and that was all my fault, and I didn’t know a thing in the world to do about it and I never visited on a farm, never visited, until we married.
Mr. Wilson: How was that your fault?
Mrs. Jackson: I don’t know, I was supposed to do something.
Mr. Wilson: But you got the blame for it anyway.
Mrs. Jackson: Well usually, it was really good back then, anything I did, well that would be alright, we’ll work it out. I decided one day, he would come home, and milk the cow when he got home, and I decided I was going to surprise him, so I went out to milk the cow a little before it was time for him to come home and I was just sitting there squalling when he got in, I could never get a drop of milk. But I learned how to milk a cow, and believe it or not, after that I raised chickens every year. We didn’t raise anymore turkeys. His family had raised turkeys, but they were in the country and they let them loose, but we had to keep them pinned on this 3 acres.
Mr. Wilson: How did they die in the rain?
Mrs. Jackson: They would just drown. They would stack just like chickens do. You didn’t know that? When it rains, they’ll just stand there and hold their head up and drown.
Mr. Wilson: Really?
Mrs. Jackson: Yeah, that’s why we had to keep them in that building until it quit raining and then they would stack in there if you didn’t keep them moving. Chickens will do that too. My mother came to visit one day and I had chickens in the bathtub in the house and she liked to had a heart attack. I said well we’ve got to save these chickens and that was the only place I could find to put them.
Mr. Wilson: You couldn’t just let them run loose in the house could you?
Mrs. Jackson: No, and if I left them in the rain, they were gonna drown.
Mr. Wilson: I did not know that.
Mrs. Jackson: Well I’m glad I taught you something.
Mr. Wilson: They’re not too terribly smart are they?
Mrs. Jackson: No they’re not. But I raised chickens for years, and would kill fryers, sometimes 25 in a day. But like I said, I had to learn everything. When we rented this house and got this furniture, it had a ringer type washing machine, well I didn’t have a clue how to use that, but I learned.
Mr. Wilson: Well you learned a lot of things in a short period of time, didn’t you?
Mrs. Jackson: Well I had to because I ran off and got married, and my mother was not happy with me. She didn’t want me to marry a farmer. Her family had been farmers, and they didn’t have anything. And she didn’t want me to grow up like that, so she wanted me to go to college. Well, my husbands’ folks wanted him to go to college, and he wouldn’t go either, he went and took Draughon’s Business Course for one year, he got a degree in banking, and I guess that helped in the later years, but it sure didn’t help then. But anyway, since I ran off and got married, I had to have a quick learning experience because I had to learn how to cook, we lived his parents about from September until Thanksgiving, and his mother taught me how to make biscuits and cornbread and how to cut up a chicken. Well it made my mother unhappy because I never cut up a chicken the way she did, and I said well you didn’t teach me. And Mrs. Jackson was the sweetest thing in the world to me, she loved to quilt, and she would go in there and get to working on a quilt and tell me what we had to fix for lunch and she would tell me to go in there and do it. And whatever I did, she bragged on me. And I learned to cook. And back then, we had breakfast, we had sausage or bacon and eggs and biscuits. Well, my husband liked biscuits that were mostly crust, so I had to learn to make them thin, now other people would think they were flops, but that’s what he wanted, and I learned to do it. I learned to make jellies out of the berries and we used everything we had, and that’s the way country people did then, and I learned a lot from them. We killed our own hogs and we didn’t kill our cattle. We sent them to the market because we needed that.
Mr. Wilson: Traded them for cash.
Mrs. Jackson: Yes, in fact, he bought my wedding ring when we sold a calf and bought it from Sears and Roebuck. But anyway, then after we married, we started out with a piece of land here on highway 14, I don’t remember just how many we started out with, but we had about 13 cows for a good while, and of course, they had calves and a bull. We would usually use one of his daddy’s bulls, we shared. I think the land was his daddy’s, and he worked odd jobs, whatever he could get in the winter time. James helped build roads around here, he just did anything, and even in the spring time and all, he would work cattle for 5 dollars a day, and you had to doctor screw worms in them. Do you know about that? It’s awful, if you didn’t find them in time, they died. And he would hire out for 5 dollars a day to do that.
Mr. Wilson: And that’s what they call heal flies get into them and develops into a worm?
Mrs. Jackson: Yeah, I did know a man that found himself eating up with that, and he lived.
Mr. Wilson: What percentage of the food y’all ate did y’all actually grow yourselves?
Mrs. Jackson: Just about all of it. I had an uncle that had a grocery store here in town, and oh they had the best meat. They killed their own meat and butchered it and sold it in the store. In fact, I didn’t know until after he went out of business, how to buy meat by the pound, I would just show him what I wanted and tell him how many I was going to have and he would fix it for me. But we didn’t have beef. One time when I was pregnant, I was pregnant several times-had bad luck with that. But one time when I was pregnant, I told somebody one day that I would give anything for some fried steak and my mother-in-law heard me and she and her husband made James go buy me some steak, and we had fried steak, and he thought I was craving a steak and I said man I would have used that earlier if I would have known that. But older people believed in that cravings thing, that was the only thing that I really craved that I remember, and that was sure good. Because my mother and daddy had things from the grocery store and I was raised on steak, but I didn’t have it after I got married, and until we got way on up there and began to kill some for ourselves. We kept a deep freeze full of meat. I had a son born in ’51 and I didn’t get a driver licenses until he was 2 years old, and when we married, my husband taught me to drive a tractor before I learned how to drive a car. My daddy, like I said, was a mechanic and he carried me out one day and sat me under the wheel and told me to drive, well I didn’t know what a thing in the world about driving, and he got so worried with me and said well you’ve seen me drive all this time, you outta know how. Well, I didn’t. But he didn’t have the patience to teach me and I’m surprised because he thought I couldn’t do any wrong, and my husband taught me to drive a tractor, then I drove a pickup, and a lot of things before I ever drove a car, and I had to borrow a car to go take my test because we had an old pickup.
Mr. Wilson: So you knew how to drive a tractor before you knew how to drive a car?
Mrs. Jackson: Yeah. It was corn gathering time and I had to drive the tractor for him and his daddy to gather the corn. Mr. Jackson used to laugh at me. I had time to think while I was on that tractor and I said do you think we’ll starve to death? I said it’s bad that I didn’t think about all this ahead of time but I really worried about that I couldn’t cook. But you know, when you realize you have to, it makes a difference, and I said there’s some things that I would change, but that I wouldn’t. The only thing I hated was I hurt my folks by running off and getting married, but we asked permission and my mother was emphatic “NO” and we never discussed it again, we just went right on with our plans. When I graduated in May, we were secretly married in June, and we wouldn’t tell it until September. Because I already had that room paid for at college in Denton and I was going and one of the girls that graduated with me was going to be my roommate. But anyway, I didn’t want to have to go back home, so I knew I had to learn to do these things and like I say, James was wonderful then because he had been on his own in Houston, he’d eat many a poor meal. He used to talk about eating horse meat hamburgers, of course, they were cheaper, and how many crackers he ate, cause they’d give you crackers sometimes, or you could get them cheap with the meal. But anyway, he made tents, that was the first job he got down there. But he would work at whatever he could get. But anyway, then soon after we married, and were in this house by ourselves, his mother had surgery and came and stayed with me. Of course, they didn’t want anybody that was fresh out of the hospital to go out that far on those bad roads, so I had to cook and do for them. That was a learning experience too, but like I said, she was a lot of help, she would tell me what to do, and I could do it. But we worked good together.
Mr. Wilson: So it sounds like you and your mother-in-law were buddies.
Mrs. Jackson: My father-in-law too, they treated me special. They told me before they died that I was just like one of their kids.
Mr. Wilson: Well that’s good, that’s good.
Mrs. Jackson: Anyway, we took care of both of them. By the time she got cancer, we had a handicapped child and we would go down there and stay and help take care of her during the week and their daughter would come from Pasadena on the weekend. So it got complicated, but she didn’t live but about 3 years, I think. She had cancer of blood and the bone, I forgot the names for it.
Mr. Wilson: Leukemia? No.
Mrs. Jackson: Cancer, something about melanoma too. I don’t remember how it was. But anyway, she was bad before we knew it and that was back in the day when you went to a local doctor. She was one of the most faithful people I ever knew to go to the doctor. And they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her because she would be hurting one place one time and she would go and then she would be hurting in another place. Then, when we found out what was wrong with her, she’d been to Groesbeck and to Marlin, and wound up in Waco, and they did a bone marrow test and found out she had it in the bone and the blood both and they didn’t give us about 18 months. Then we went to M.D Anderson and Mr. Jackson stayed with her down there, and we would go back and forth some, but then she came home. But anyway, she didn’t last too long. But we did a lot of things together. James had one sister and she had two boys, and one was a week older than my son, so they were more like brothers. And what those three could dream up you couldn’t imagine.
Mr. Wilson: Sounds like you had a very eventful, good life. I don’t think you would change much of it would you?
Mrs. Jackson: No. I learned a lot, in fact, I worried about all the business James left me with was pretty big, but I knew more than I thought I did, and I had kept records all that time. In fact, the first time we was checked by the Internal Revenue it was scary. A man came and stayed for a week going through books and we had tractor mowing jobs for the highway department. My daddy had retired by then, and he and James, there was nothing they couldn’t fix at night. Whatever they broke down, my daddy and James fixed it that night and we had a good man to be in charge, but people liked to work then. And he was really good, he was a good friend and he was a farmer, and he had lost interest in that, in fact, he was a share cropper but then he helped with the mowing business.
Mr. Wilson: I always ask the same question, and we’ve talked about it, and you’ve had time to think about it. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what you’re going to say, but I want to hear you say it. Mrs. Jackson, if you had one bit of advice that you could give the young people today, tell us, what would it be?
Mrs. Jackson: I would say trust in the Lord and respect your family and work together, and teach your children to do that.
Mr. Wilson: And that’s what you and your husband did.
Mrs. Jackson: Yes.
Mr. Wilson: Bless your heart. Well I thank you so much. See, you did know a lot.
Mrs. Jackson: Well I struggled with what we’ve been through, but anyway our handicapped child lived to be 13, I learned a lot then. Carol lived at Mexia State School the last 5 years of her life.
Mr. Wilson: I know. There’s a lot of good and a lot of sorrow as well.
Mrs. Jackson: I cared for her. That’s one reason I had to learn to drive. Bill was 9 when she was born and I started carrying her to Waco for therapy when she was 8 months old. We didn’t know until then what was wrong with her. She had Cerebral Palsy, because before she was born, our blood was incompatible and she was our 5th child, I had lost all but my first one.
Mr. Wilson: Your son?
Mrs. Jackson: Yes, and he didn’t want to go to college either. He has been in the cattle business here in Limestone County all of his adult life. He turned 60 last year.
Mr. Wilson: Where does he live?
Mrs. Jackson: Right here, about 2.5 miles.
Mr. Wilson: Well good. That’s good.
Mrs. Jackson: One granddaughter, and 2 great grandchildren.
Mr. Wilson: How about that.
Mrs. Jackson: They live in Stephenville. The boys are 15 and 12 now, Aaron will be 13 this year.
Mr. Wilson: Is it these 2 young men?
Mrs. Jackson: And they are athletes.
Mr. Wilson: That’s some good looking kids.
Mrs. Jackson: Both of them went before Christmas to play on an All-American team to play in Phoenix, Arizona. And they played on different teams. Then Brennan, last year, played on a team in a different place in Arizona. That’s why they moved to Stephenville, because of football. I couldn’t believe it, they were living in San Angelo. But Brennan has been doing some outstanding things as a quarterback. He can pass a ball further than anybody his age so far and it go where it is supposed to go.
Mr. Wilson: Those grandkids are special aren’t they?
Mrs. Jackson: Yes they are. And then Bill is married again and I have a step-granddaughter, she is special, too.
Mr. Wilson: Yeah. Well I thank you so much, I appreciate that.
Mrs. Jackson: Well, I’m sorry, I might not have got in enough of what you wanted.
Mr. Wilson: You did, you certainly did.