Conducted by Logan Wilson
I’m Logan Wilson and I’m in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Louis York. The next voice you hear is going to be that of Mr. York.
Mr. York: Okay, I’m 82 years old yesterday. And today is the 29th of June. And I was born over across the Navasota River of what most people know it as Honest Ridge. That’s where I was born. And that’s where I lived until I--after I started to school. On the same farm. My daddy didn’t own a farm back then. We were poor people, but then about actually about a year or so after I was born, the depression started. And course my years was, I didn’t know we was in a depression, but they did. I started to school in 1934 over at Thelma, Texas. Some people may not even know when they get to Thelma now. Back then there was a big grocery store and a blacksmith shop and several dwellings and houses around close. And the school that was there was built just the year before I started to school. There was three other schools that consolidated together and made that one big school. It was Honest Ridge and Horn Hill and Willow Springs and they tore the school houses down at those places and used all the lumber that was usable and they built one big school and they started to school there in the first grade and they graduated them from there back then; they didn’t have to go nowhere, they graduated right there. Later on why they did, the numbers got small and they did start sending high school to Groesbeck. But at that time, they was graduating them cause there was a lot of people back in that country. And the school there at Honest Ridge, I know where the ground is where it stood and I can faintly remember, I couldn’t been not over three or four years old, but I faintly remember going to church there in the school building. They had church in the school building. And I never did ever remember any school going on there, though, but they tore that school house down the year before I started school. Now I remember my daddy going up there working and helping tear the building down; I remember that. Then we of course like I say, my daddy was renting farm land. That’s what he was, he was a farmer and we left there and we moved over in what they called the Cedar Island community. That’s about three or four miles right straight across here behind the State School, the Cedar Island community. And…
Mr. Wilson: It doesn’t exist now, does it?
Mr. York: No, there’s no school building there, the school burned years ago and most of the people are gone, most of the houses are gone. Course, I can still remember how it used to look, but I can’t hardly tell you to where you’ll know. See? I could try to tell people how it used to look, but it still don’t make a hold lot of sense. In fact, there’s a man this past winter a year ago, he was building a new house on what used to be the old school grounds and me and my wife was just driving around that day and I told her pull up there and its up a lane off the main road; I said pull up there I said maybe talk to whoever is building that. So we pulled up there and I went out there and I spoke to him and I told him who I was and why I was being nosey and that I went to school there. And he wanted to know what year and I told him. And he said well I want to set up a time with you and I want to talk to you some more because I know absolutely nothing…he said I bought land here joining the old school ground; in fact, he said he bought it too, you know. And but he said I know very little about the history of the school. Well, he called me here awhile back and he was supposed to already call me, but to set up a visit with him, but I hadn’t heard from him. I probably will, though. There’s even an old cemetery over there, up in a pasture that most people don’t even know exist, you know. And there’s….
Mr. Wilson: Do you remember the name of the cemetery?
Mr. York: No, I don’t. All I know is just Cedar Island Community, but it there’s a name of the cemetery I don’t know it. Now my daughter, she’s into this here research business pretty heavy, you know, with computers and she got a book somewhere that showed and told all about where Civil War veterans was buried and there was one that showed in there and it told what the name was and everything; there was one buried at Cedar Island Cemetery. So she was asking me for she knew I lived there when I was a kid…she wanted to know if I knowed anything about a cemetery and I said yeah I know where it’s at, it’s up in a pasture and she was showing me what it said. But I don’t even remember the name of the veteran that’s buried there, but I know it said there was one veteran buried up there.
Mr. Wilson: You mentioned the depression awhile ago; how did ya’ll get along?
Mr. York: Well, I’ll tell you the thing I can remember as a kid coming up I don’t ever remember us having no money, now we just didn’t have no money. Kids now days they blow more money every day that I did in two years. Really. But us living on the farm now I never remember us ever going hungry. We always had plenty of food, and we managed to have a couple pair of pants a piece, you know, I well remember that.
Mr. Wilson: So you grew most of your food, then.
Mr. York: Oh yeah, we had milk cows and we had meat hogs and we had laying hens on the yard, you know, for eggs, and we raised chickens for fryers and momma was an excellent gardener, and I like to take pride in saying that’s where I got my gardening skills from her.
Mr. Wilson: What all did ya’ll raise?
Mr. York: We raised everything in the world from lettuce to nibble on like a rabbit up to beans, peas, okra, squash, tomatoes, corn. You name it, we raised it. Turnips, turnip greens all that stuff, you know. And she, back then we had to can everything. Course now we freeze it, but I never remember us going hungry, but I seen and know some people that did suffer during the depression. They suffered for something to eat, you know, I mean it was bad. I don’t want no more of that if I can help it.
Mr. Wilson: It was bad times.
Mr. York: It sure was.
Mr. Wilson: What kept ya’ll going?
Mr. York: Well, course, you might say farming was sort about all my daddy knew so he just kept going. The one thing that made it hard on him since we didn’t own any land at that time, now he finally bought a farm in later years, but at that time we didn’t own it. What made it hard on him the government now was trying to help but at sometimes, you know, you trying to help one way you hurting some other way. You know they was paying a lot of the people that owned the land to kind of let it lay, you know, and not do anything with it. Not exactly a soil bank but it was…they could plant light cover crops so instead of renting it to people like my daddy that needed a farm to make a living on, where they could make more out of it by doing it and they would pay ‘em so much an acre, now know, that was some of the program going on and that made it hard on people like him that was trying to rent and that was one of the reasons I guess that caused us to maybe move around, you know, from farm to farm. We left over there, oh, I don’t know, I guess I was about ten years old and we lived a couple of years up above Coolidge. One year at Munger. And one year at a little place I got a picture I’m going to show you. Now this is something or other it would be hard for some people to believe and understand. This here is a little school it’s called Concord right out about two miles I guess you’d say north of Coolidge going, yeah, it would be pretty well north. But there’s an entire school group, teacher included. Six kids.
Mr. Wilson: Are you in this picture?
Mr. York: Yeah, that’s me way over here to the side. The sun was in my eyes. And this is my brother, that’s the one that passed away in February. And this boy here and this girl here was brothers and sisters. And this boy here and this boy here they were brothers. There was three families and six kids that went to that entire school. But now we had some good classes and we learned good; she was a good teacher.
Mr. Wilson: Bout what year was that?
Mr. York: In 19--, we moved up there in the fall of ’37, and we stayed there the year of ’38. I was about ten years old then.
Mr. Wilson: Does Concord still exist?
Mr. York: Uh, no not really as a community, it don’t. Even the road that goes by the school, they’ve cut another road that kind of straightened the curve out. Now you can still circle off and go by it all right, but the building’s gone. Now I was told now this is something I want you to be sure and understand this is not a fact that I know, but I was told that that little building really was not a school house. That it was a little Presbyterian church building. That a school house had earlier burned and they, the Presbyterian church had disbanded and they let ‘em use that little building to have school in. Now that’s what I was told. I don’t know that for a fact. But you can see what kind of clothes we was wearing and see this little girl, she’s even barefooted. Got black mud on her feet. She still lives out here at Forest Glade now.
Mr. Wilson: That’s where I live.
Mr. York: It is? That’s where she lives. You may even know her. She’s a Freeman. Her husband passed away a few years back. And but she…now when these pictures were took, this lady she brought camera out there and took the pictures and well she made several copies. I think they cost 25 cents a copy. Anyhow some of the kids didn’t get none because they didn’t have 25 cents. Now momma managed to get 25 cents and we got one. Well, I run into this little girl course she’s a grown woman now, but I run into her here two or three years ago up at Walmart. And I was asking here did she remember that. Oh, yeah, she said I remember. I said did you get a copy of that. No, she said, we never did get a copy of those pictures. And I said well would you like to have ‘em; she said I sure would. I said I got one and I’ll make you a copy and send it to you. So that’s what we done. My wife fixed it for her. But you know I showed that to my granddaughter here awhile back that just finished a college course, and she said you mean that was the whole school, pappaw, I said that was the whole school.
Mr. Wilson: Six students.
Mr. York: Six students.
Mr. Wilson: And they was all brothers and sisters.
Mr. York: Yeah, three families.
Mr. Wilson: Three families.
Mr. York: When time to go in to start studying we had law and order. I guarantee it. And we didn’t need no police to have it, to have law and order.
Mr. Wilson: Tell us what you know about that.
Mr. York: Well course the war started you know in ’41, but in 1937 now the depression was still going pretty good. The overpass up here in Mexia that they have just recently rebuilt, it was built along about 1937, ’38; and we was living back down in this no that was before we to Coolidge, we were living where my daddy was farming. He had a pair of mules and two or three milk cows, meat hogs what have you. So that summer between what he called “laying by time” gathering time, he told momma he was going up to see if he could get a few days work on that overpass. Well, of course, the WPA had already started up which was a good thing. So he had to buy gas for his car on the credit cause he didn’t even have money enough to buy any gas here at the store where he bought the gas. That’s a different pump; they put that in later. The pump he used back then was the old kind. Okay, he bought on the credit and he went up there to apply for the employment for a few days. And back then you make out a little application, well they give you a “yes” or “no” right then. It wasn’t go home and wait two or three weeks. When he got through, well they looked it over and they told him you don’t qualify. And he said well what seems to be the problem. Of course, my daddy was a pretty good worker, a pretty good man. They said you too well off. He come back home, he was just as mad as an old wet hen, I want never forget that. He told momma if that beat all I’ve ever seen. Telling me I was too well off for a job whenever I had to buy gas on the credit to go up there. But I can understand it now, Mr. Wilson, it was for them people that was actually going hungry. That’s what the work was for. See, we wasn’t going hungry. We had peas, a pea patch out there, all kinds of vegetables. And we had meat still in the smoke house. We had milk, butter; we wasn’t no where near going hungry.
Mr. Wilson: Ya’ll took care of yourselves.
Mr. York: Yeah, course he thought he get a few days work and give him just a few dollars cash money, you know, which he didn’t have. But we wasn’t going hungry. But that work was for people that didn’t, they was actually going hungry. I can well remember that.
Mr. Wilson: Things got better then. What indication did you have that things were getting better?
Mr. York: Well, one thing I remember that made we realize that things was getting a little better for us, we would generally make a cotton crop and our cotton crop consisted of anywhere from five to eight or nine bales of cotton a year. That’s about what we made. Well, we used to get anywhere from ten to twelve cents a pound for the cotton, you know, a bale of cotton. But after the war broke out, daddy started getting anywhere from eighteen to twenty-two cents a pound for cotton. So we almost doubled.
Mr. Wilson: Things did get better.
Mr. York: Yeah, and I may of got three pair of overalls that year, I don’t know. That was the indication there. And where we used to sell a yearling for fifteen or eighteen dollars for a yearling, we started getting thirty-five, forty dollars for a yearling.
Mr. Wilson: You think the war had a lot to do with that?
Mr. York: Yeah, I think so probably it did. The demand for things, you know, probably I think it did.
Mr. Wilson: I’ve been told Mr. York during the war there was a lot of commodities you couldn’t get.
Mr. York: Oh yes.
Mr. Wilson: Wouldn’t allowed to buy or in a short supply. Tell us what you know about that.
Mr. York: Well, the first thing I remember of ‘em rationing; see it was rationing, it was sugar. I don’t remember how much for each one, but I know that it was rationed and each member of the family would get a ration book. See? Depending on how many in the family you had. And it had stamps in it. The stamps they matured in a certain day, it told on there what day that it was good for. You couldn’t buy sugar today but you was supposed to use a month or two from now. You went by how many stamps you had. It was registered.
Mr. Wilson: They were invalid after awhile?
Mr. York: Well, I don’t know whether they played out or not, but what I saying is you couldn’t use stamps in the future. Like you had a stamp book and ya’ll got plenty of stamps but they had to be what was called matured. And then they rationed coffee; they rationed all kinds of shortening, lard, cooking oil; all that was rationed. And shoes was rationed. You couldn’t buy shoes just when you got ready. You bought shoes whenever your stamp was ready.
Mr. Wilson: What if you wore your shoes out?
Mr. York: I tell you what, that’s when the shoe repair man was doing big business. I know what I’m talking about. It’s a fact. And then they rationed gasoline. As well as I remember now, I think gasoline was the last thing they rationed and it was about middle ways of the war, the way I remember it. Each one was issued a sticker to put on your windshield. You didn’t pull into a station and say well I’m allowed so many gallons a week ‘cause you had your rationing book. You had a sticker on your windshield. It was an A sticker, a B sticker, A C sticker and a T, and well most everybody started out with an A. You know how much gas an A sticker would allow you to have? Four gallons a week. Four gallons a week; that’s it. Course the cars back then, they didn’t burn quite as much gas as they do now. But four gallons a week, that was it. But my daddy at that time, he had already begin in the dairy, and he was hauling in milk for sale. He was selling milk everyday. From cows. And they was urging people to produce all the food in any form they could during the war. Like the little victory gardens you remember hearing about, well they was urging people to do that, well of course my daddy running a dairy and selling milk every day, he met with the rationing board down there at Groesbeck, and they gave him a B sticker. I don’t remember now how many gallons a week that a B sticker gave you, I don’t remember. But I know he got as much gas as he needed; he never did run short on gas. He was driving every day, you know. Not just running up and down the road I mean for his business.
Mr. Wilson: So these stickers prioritized use and different stickers would result in a different amount of gas.
Mr. York: Yes, yes, it sure did. You know I don’t know why I did it, I didn’t but momma did, course when the war was over and the rationing stamps wasn’t no more good, she just throwed ‘em all away. I wish we had kept…I really do. But that was the way it was.
Mr. Wilson: Four gallons a week.
Mr. York: Started out with an A sticker, well I remember that—four gallons a week. Sure was.
Mr. Wilson: Well, you didn’t drive unless you had to.
Mr. York: Absolutely not. And didn’t drive very much even if you had to.
Mr. Wilson: How did the people get through the war. That must have been a terrible thing.
Mr. York: Well, you know, what I can remember, ‘course I was just a…well when the war broke out I must have been about thirteen, fourteen years old, and on into the war, what I remember about people, they pretty well cooperated, you know. People got in…they was running short of things, but they pretty well cooperated; they didn’t have too much…they got along okay. I don’t know, to me, in fact I even tell Virginia and my grandkids, President Roosevelt some way or another, he had a way of just asking people to do things. You know it seemed like to me, what I knew about, they just kinda fall in line and cooperate. Where now they don’t do nothing but fuss and fight and squabble and this group’s going to show the other group, but somehow or nother he could just request and ask people to do this or that. They seem to cooperate real good.
Mr. Wilson: There was a lot of patriotism; people pulled together.
Mr. York: Yes. But you talking about that rationing food, I want to tell you a little story that I still think about ever once in awhile. My grandpa on my momma’s side they was about twelve of them in the family. Course they was all married and grown and gone from home, you know, but they was still dotted around locally around the Groesbeck area a farming. Well, course whenever the war broke out a lot of big paying jobs opened up. Well, this one he broke loose and he went and got a job. And here went another one. And here went another and the first thing you know they was almost all gone. Now we never did ever go; my momma—naw, we was on the farm and we run and my daddy finally got into the dairy business. But my grandpa, we was down there one day and he was just mad, he was serious he was mad and disturbed. And he told my daddy, he says all my kids is just gone stark raving crazy. He said, they ever one got a pocket full of money and not a damn thing to eat. Cause they wasn’t raising nothing, you know, and everything was scarce, rationed. Couse he was like us, he was setting out there and he still had plenty to eat. And that’s the way he thought they ought to be. (Laughter) A pocket full of money and nothing to eat!! And he was badly disturbed about it.
Mr. Wilson: And he had very little money and a lot of stuff to eat.
Mr. York: Ah, he didn’t have no money atall.
Mr. Wilson: I’ll be doggone.
Mr. York: I won’t never forget that.
Mr. Wilson: That’s the way he looked at the world; the world was changing around him, wasn’t it.
Mr. York: Yeah, but he didn’t want to.
Mr. Wilson: What’s the biggest change you remember in your life? What caused it?
Mr. York: Well, I’m not so sure but what maybe the war. World War II might have been one of the biggest changes. I seen changes, but I’m talking about the biggest one; I’m not so sure but what that might be one of the biggest. And talking about my grandpa now, this here house here, picture of this house now that is out there where the prison is built. That’s where he was living when he died.
Mr. York told the story of how Honest Ridge got its name. Honest Ridge got its name before Mr. York was born. His uncle Abb told him the following story:
Originally, Honest Ridge was named Central Institute (a strange name for a small farming/ranching community). The story goes like this: There were some men playing dominos on the porch of a store when the county sheriff rode up with his posse. The sheriff described some men and their horses and asked the domino players if they had seen them. They said no they hadn’t. The sheriff said that he and the posse were after a bunch of horse thieves. He described them again and said they probably passed through the area. Again, the domino players said they hadn’t seen them. As the sheriff and his posse turned their horses and began to leave, one of the domino players stood up and shouted “Sheriff, you’ll find no horse thieves here. This is an honest ridge!” The sheriff, his posse and the domino players all laughed as the posse rode off, but you know what? The name stuck!