Limestone County Historical Commission
Limestone County Historical Commission

Sara Sims

Conducted by Logan Wilson

May 7, 2012

 

Mr. Wilson: It is May the 7th, I am in Mrs. Sara Sims home for the purposes of taking her oral history. The next voice you hear will be that of Mrs. Sims.

Mrs. Sims: Thank you Logan. It is a pleasure to have you here today and I am so glad to do this for you. When you first contacted me and I told you I didn’t really grow up in Limestone County, that might have been a little bit wrong, because I was actually born here in the old Brown Hospital on Ross Avenue. And the day I was born, a young man named Jimmy Eller was born. His father had a jewelry store here in town and the nurse put us both in the same baby bed. And from then on, I was known as the first girl that Jimmy Eller slept with. And until I was grown and his mother was older, she always introduced me as that. And I even have a picture of Jimmy and me together. But my home really was in Wortham. That’s where I went to school. I was born on June 18, 1932. And I never really realized anything about the depression because we lived in town. My father came from a family of bankers and ranchers. My grandfather had been the president of 2 of the different banks there in Wortham. And my father had worked at one of the banks, and then later he was a rancher. That’s what he was doing when he married my mother. So that’s really where I got my start. But we knew very little about how badly the depression was you know, right there in the little town of Wortham. My mother was from a long line of newspaper people. She grew up in Fairfield, she had a degree from the University of Missouri in journalism. And she was sent down to Wortham by the Dallas Morning News to do a feature article on my grandfather. So 2 weeks later, she met my father while she was doing these articles, and she married my father after 2 weeks. And she never liked for me to tell anybody that, and I was just like but mother it lasted you know, you stayed with him. Here we are we’re grown now. But we had a very, very, beautiful, wonderful life. The movie To Kill a Mockingbird, and the book, that’s the way my brother and I grew up. I had one brother, John and he was a Huckleberry Finn and we were of that generation that we could play until dark and yet we knew when dark came that our parents were gonna call us home. We also knew that other parents were able to discipline us just like our parents could. You know, if I misbehaved, Mrs. Johnson down the street was gonna call my mother and tell me and I had to mind her as well. So that was the generation that we grew up in. You know, we didn’t lock our door. In fact, we didn’t even have a key to our house, never, in all the years, we never had a key to the house. You left your keys in the car, and one day my mother went downtown, we had an A&P on the corner and she came home and she was in the kitchen frying chicken and there was a knock at the back door, and it was Mr. Mala, the milk man, because you know, our milk was delivered in big glass bottles. And Mr. Mala said “Mrs. Stubbs, I think you have my car.” And mother and Mr. Mala had cars exactly alike. Well mother got in Mr. Mala’s car and drove it home you know. And if she had looked in the backseat and seen all the empty milk bottles and she would have known she had the wrong car. You know, nobody bothered about locking your cars or your houses and that’s just the way we grew up. On Saturday night, you went downtown and you parked your cars on the main street of Wortham, there was only one street. The men got out and stood in front of the cars and leaned up against the fenders and they talked. The women stayed inside. They would get together in one car and we ran up and down the street, that was our Saturday night entertainment. The other entertainment was to go to the cotton gin because there were 3 cotton gins in Wortham at that time. And my daddy would take us down there, we would see the big wagon come in and this big metal tube that would come down and would suck up that cotton, and we would watch the cotton until it turned into a bail. So that was our Saturday night entertainment, no t.v, no cell phone, nothing that these kids have today. But we were perfectly happy, because that’s what we did. Sunday night, you sat in front of the radio and listened to all the programs you know, Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy, The Lone Ranger, some of these things the kids like today, but that was our entertainment.

Mr. Wilson: Did you ever hear of Amos and Andy?

Mrs. Sims: Oh yes, and Fibber McGee and His Closet? Yes, and when the closet door opens all the stuff comes falling out. School was a wonderful thing. In the first grade, we had 42 kids in the first grade. But one teacher could handle it and we had to put desks together to make double desks because we had such a big class. Wonderful, wonderful school, wonderful teachers, Laura Gandy. The only entertainment we had at night, we all had to walk places because nobody had a car. So when we got into high school, we would walk to my house, to the next persons house, to the next persons house, and to show you how ??? Logan, the only thing we knew to do is to go get, you remember Dads Root Beer, it came in little bottles, like regular beer bottles? We got that and made people think we had real beer. That was the only wild thing we knew to do. We couldn’t become juvenile delinquents because we couldn’t go anywhere you know, that was all we could do. But that was what I remember about growing up until I got to high school. At the age of 16, Westminster College at Tehuacana, it was a big, big school right after the war and the veterans came back on the GI Bill. Now this was, I don’t know what year this was, ’47 I guess, and my mother was the English teacher out there. And I would go out there with her, and that is where I met my husband R.Q, he was one of the veterans and he was in school. Of course, I was just a junior in high school and I would come home crying because he hadn’t spoken to me. And my daddy said I want you to realize that that man is a college student and he’s a veteran and he doesn’t have time to fool with a  little high school girl. And I would just bawl and squall. Well the basketball team at Tehuacana, R. Q was a real good basketball player, in fact, he was the high point man for the whole state in junior colleges, they had to come to Wortham to practice, because the old gym at Tehuacana was just no good by then. So every afternoon when they would come to practice at Wortham, I made a point of going up there you know, and seeing him. So Westminister had a banquet, and my mother came in and she said “Well everybody is wondering who R.Q is going to take to the banquet, but I may be the only person that knows.” And I said who and she said “He wants to take you.” Oh, I was just overcome but my mother had to take us because R.Q didn’t have a car. Anyway, I was 15 at the time. Next year, at the age of 16, I graduated at 16 because then, you know, we only went 11 grades. Back then, when I started school, we had 1st grade through 11th grade. When I was in the third grade, they added that 12th grade, and everybody in school skipped a year. So I finished at 16, of course, the very next month in June, I was 17. So I married in June on my 17th birthday. And everybody in Wortham was horrified because my mother had studied in Missouri, she had studied in New York, she had traveled, and they thought that’s the way I was going to be. But I wanted to get married, and I remember one of my cousins said “but living with your mother is a college education.” And I guess it was. But we lived there, and R.Q went on to Stephen F. Austin on a football scholarship and had never played with a game of football in his life, but they said he was so big. So we went over there and lived a year, came back, lived in Wortham a year, he taught school in Wortham after he graduated and then we moved to Mexia in 1963 I guess or ‘64. After I had all 3 of my children, I decided to go to college, so I always said that my younger son and I started together. He started the 1st grade up here and I started as a freshman at Navarro. And back then, you may remember this, they had school busses that ran from all these little towns, remember that?

Mr. Wilson: Yeah, yeah I do. In fact, I drove the school busses.

Mrs. Sims: Did you really? Well I rode with Groesbeck and the reason I rode with Groesbeck is because they went an hour later. But R.Q had to carry me out to this beer joint on the highway. And he would get out with me because there were already men in there drinking early in the morning and he would make a real big to-do that I was his wife and I was going to college you know. And then, let’s see, who drove our bus? Danny Hewitt drove our bus and I forgot who the other guy was, but there were 2 busses that went. But I got my first 2 years at Navarro. Tuition was $42 a semester. But the bad thing was, all the other kids on the bus would try to make the bus late, to catch the train, and I wanted to get there and go to school. Well the first afternoon that I came home, we got home from Navarro in Mexia, in about less than 30 minutes. R.Q was fit to be tied. He said “how in the world did you get home so fast?” And they put governors on the bus I guess, those kids learned how to fix that bus where they could drive as fast as they wanted to. And he said “Don’t they know that you’ve got a family and you can’t afford to ride a bus like that?” and I said “Now R.Q, those kids are good to me. I’m the only older person on it and I’m not about to say anything to make them think that I’m gonna turn them in or anything.” So I didn’t, and we never had a wreck, and I’m here to tell that I survived.

Mr. Wilson: But you got home quick.

Mrs. Sims: I got home quick, yeah. But you know, my kids tell me now that was one of the best things that happened to them because they all had to learn to wash clothes and dry clothes and do ironing you know. Because I was in school, then I was a full time mom, I quit talking about going to school. And when my son got to SMU, he said “Mother, I had to show every other boy in the dorm how to use a washing machine because I was the only one that knew how.” Then I went the last 2 years to Baylor and got my degree over there and graduated in 1965. And that was hard, like you said, I’ve gotten up many of mornings at 4:00 and studied and driven over there because we had people that were driving with me you know, and we all commuted.  And then in ’65, I had the distinction of having the president of the United States as our speaker, Lyndon Johnson. He was president, and we had it out at the old coliseum. And I remember that the secret service were everywhere and he did not come in until just time for his speech and he said his speech and then he left. But we were so excited to know that we had the president and he actually was the president at that time.

Mr. Wilson: And a fellow Texan.

Mrs. Sims: Yeah, and a fellow Texan, that’s right. And we had some wonderful football players, that was when Don Shula and I forgot who the other players were that were such great football players at Baylor, and of course, my kids just thought they were rock stars though, because I had to get autographs you know, that kind of thing. But they would not let a principal, by then my husband was a principal at the Elementary School, and they would not let an administrator’s wife teach in the system with her husband because they had had some problems. So I had to Forest Glade and teach and I thought why do I wanna go to Forest Glade? But Logan, that was the most wonderful teaching I ever did in my life. I loved it out there!

Mr. Wilson: Did you know Benny Lucas?

Mrs. Sims: I taught with Benny Lucas. Yes, when I got there, you know, they had 8 grades, and we had 2 grades in a room. Mrs. Fowler had 1st and 2nd, Merle Shivers had 3rd and 4th, I had 5th and 6th, and Benny had 7th and 8th.

Mr. Wilson: I just took his interview.

Mrs. Sims: Oh, you got another good interview there with Benny. But I’ll tell you what Benny Lucas would do to us, he would come over and teach my 5th and 6th grade math, and I would go over and teach the 7th and 8th grade English. He would grade my kids papers and write all these crazy things on them, he would get my lesson plan book and change my lesson plans. So one day Merle Shivers had a test, you know, we had those duplicating machines, he found her test, she hadn’t run it off yet, and he got it, and on the bottom of it, he wrote “When you finish this test, take it to Mrs. Shivers and she will jump out the window.” But Merle didn’t catch it, so she ran the tests off and she said those kids would look at her and look at that paper and look at her, and about that time, I heard her coming down that hall, “Benny Lucas, what have you done to me?” but that was the most ideal teaching. Every child could read. When I taught 5th and 6th grade, I taught them together because they all could do the same thing. And after lunch, the teachers played the 8th graders in volleyball, but we had 5 teachers, so we had to have one 8th grader play with us. Nobody really misbehaved, you know, they might do a little mischievous stuff, but that was ideal teaching, and I wish that teachers today could know what it’s like, because those days are gone. You know, we weren’t pressured on these harder tests they have to take today, we had all the support of the families. All you had to do was call a mother, and she’d be right up there, and you had her support. One day, we had some money stolen out of the office, and I felt like it was a boy in my classroom that took it, so this shows you how you can work with kids then, so I got in my classroom and I said “Now we’ve had some money stolen in the office, and I’m not accusing anybody, but if everybody in here can go home tonight and sleep with a good conscience and not feel guilty about anything, that’s wonderful, but if you can’t, I think you need to do something about it in the morning when you come to school.” And bright and early the next morning, here came this little boy that I thought had done it and Mrs. Shivers said “Well how come you decided to confess?” and he said “Oh, well after Mrs. Sims said what she did about if I could go to sleep without a guilty conscience…” but he had the money, you know. But you know, you could do those things and the kids responded, ideal teaching.

Mr. Wilson: You wouldn’t be allowed to do that today.

Mrs. Sims: Oh no! And that was a big old building, but the rooms were big and airy you know.

Mr. Wilson: Old red brick building.

Mrs. Sims: Oh yeah, big old building. I saw they had to tear it down. Yeah, I taught with Benny and Jack Sheffield. Of course, he’s dead now, he was the principal out there, and his son is our pastor here at the church.

Mr. Wilson: We live about 400 yards north of where the old school was.

Mrs. Sims: I have lots and lots of good memories out there at that school, and that community too, wonderful community.

Mr. Wilson: It is, still is.

Mrs. Sims: Yeah, it still is a good community. But anyway, after R.Q became superintendent or assistant superintendent, some way or another I got back here in this system, well I got to the junior high. They asked me to come teach English at the 6th grade level. I came here to the junior high and I guess they had dropped that policy then about the wife. They still had it for the superintendent’s wife, but R.Q wasn’t superintendent then. So I taught English up here for several years and loved it because I’m like you, I love literature and I loved English, and I loved 6th graders. Some people said they were silly and I said that’s why I like them, because they are silly. So then, when R.Q became superintendent, I had to quit teaching here, and I went to Wortham, which was my home anyway. And that’s when R.Q got sick, about the 3rd year that I had been up there, that was in 1979 I guess, I was in Wortham teaching, taught 4th grade. And he got sick in January of ’84, and died in May of ’84. So I taught another 2 years up there, and then they called me to come back here because R.Q had gone. And they said “It’s time you came home.” And the people at Wortham said “Well she was home, Wortham is her home.” And I loved it up there, I have 4 kids that still come by you know, and Logan, one thing, you talk about remembering things that I’ve already talked about, on Friday that was story telling time and my mother was a professional book reviewer. There was a big store in Ft. Worth called W.C Strickland, kind of like Dillard’s and those stores are, and they had a huge auditorium in the store, and every Wednesday, my mother reviewed a different book. And there were standing only. I have pictures of her in the newspaper and she reviewed a different book every Wednesday. She’d have to go get the book and work up notes and sometimes, she would let me go, because to me, I didn’t know she was anybody special, and I would get up there sometimes on Wednesday, she’d take me out of school, and she had a little bitty platform that she stood on with all these women around her and she’d say “Now Sara, there’s not a seat for you, but you just sit here at my feet while I’m up here doing my program.” And you know Logan, I would sit there and color and I didn’t know what she was really up to, but this went on for several years. So, I inherited, I guess that’s where I get my story-telling ability. So when I was in the 4th or 5th grade in Wortham, I would tell all the little girls in the classroom, if they would come to my house after school, I would do them a book review. So the parents would call and say “Sadie, is Sara gonna have a program this afternoon?” and my mother would say “Well, I didn’t know about it, but it’s okay.” So I would do the program you know, and after that, when I taught school, every Friday was story telling day in my classroom. I have a huge notebook now that’s full of stories, some of them I’ve gotten out of paperback, but I ripped them out, some of them are in my mothers’ original hand writing, some of them are stories my mother wrote, because mother worked on the Dallas News, the Ft. Worth paper, the Houston Chronicle, she did fisher articles for several magazines, you know, back then. So I inherited all these things from her. So what’s kind of interesting about my story telling, I have all these grown-ups now that come to see me “Mrs. Sims, you remember that story you told us in 6th grade.” “Mrs. Sims, you remember that story…” and I think “Y’all don’t remember one thing I taught you about English, but you remember the stories.” So I had a young man that came to see me a few years ago, and he said “Mrs. Sims, will you go up to this elementary school and tell my little boy those stories you told us?” and I said “Well what do you want me to tell?” “Oh tell those horrible Edgar Allan Poe stories.” I said “Well what grade is your little boy in?” “He’s in the 1st grade.” I said “Do you think I’m crazy? They will kick me out of those schools if I go up there and tell those stories to first graders.” But isn’t that interesting that they still remember those stories? I have a young woman today that works at the state school and she can even quote lines like I said. Well after I would tell those stories and I would tell those kids “when y’all get to high school, you’re gonna read these things.” I would tell them about the famous authors. So they would go in the library and get those books and those stories, and they would come back and they would say “Mrs. Sims, that story’s not a thing like you told us!” I said “well I make it up like I want it to be.” If these people were alive today, I’d probably be in trouble. But I guess that’s where I got my love of story-telling and that fact that my grandfather, as you said, the Irish heritage that my mother had you know. And my grandfather that had the newspaper in Fairfield only went to the 8th grade Logan. But yet, he was the editor of the newspaper. His wife taught him multiplication tables, she helped him learn it. And my mother said that he came in one day with this beautifully bound book all in leather, and you know back then this was so fancy, and my mother said to him “Papa, is that a bible?” and he said “No Sadie, that’s Shakespeare.” And grew up in that line too, all being part of. And like I said, he ran that newspaper until he died. He was sitting at his desk in that Fairfield Recorder and he died of a brain hemorrhage right there. And my uncles all worked there, they ran that old line of type. And I watched my twin aunts back there where they would do the folding, they would fold the papers and you had to have bars, you know, the lead came in bars, and they had to melt the lead and I have seen one of my uncles take that big dipper to that lead. And that’s the way they made their type. And then one uncle would sit there and do the line of type and if you typed too hard, you would come out with 2 letters, so you had to type very, very slowly. Uncle Jo Lee would be over here doing the printing press, by the way, he lost his big toe doing that printing press. And that’s where I feel like I got a lot of my ability to tell stories. Now, I never have written like my mother. My mother was such a writer, but I’ve never had that desire to write. And like you said, the poetry. So anyway, that’s what I did and how I taught. I retired from teaching  in ’90 and my principal said “why are you retiring?” I said “Because it’s not fun anymore, there’s too much testing going on, the children don’t want to be held accountable like they once did, nothing is never their fault, and it’s just not the fun that it used to be.” So that just about ended it.

Mr. Wilson: Probably worse now.

Mrs. Sims: Oh yeah, and I have grandchildren in the teaching profession. I have a grandson that teaches and coaches at Teague, I have a granddaughter that teaches at Coolidge, my daughter’s a teacher, I have a granddaughter that teaches out in Lubbock. So we have a lot of teachers in the family, but you know, it’s just not fun for me. But, I’ve gone on to do a lot of other things too. I’m gonna revert back now, we were talking about World War II, I was 9 years old when WWII broke out. I was sitting in the theatre in Fairfield, it was a Sunday afternoon and my aunt touched me on the shoulder and she said “Sara, the Japanese have just bombed Pearl Harbor.” Well I didn’t know what that meant, you know, I didn’t even know what Pearl Harbor was, and I didn’t understand the significance of it. But it didn’t take us long to realize that it was putting us into a war, you know, that we’d be going to war. And there were young men in Wortham that I realized went off to war, some of them didn’t come back. But we had a victory garden, you know, everybody had a victory garden, you were very patriotic in those days Logan and I don’t think people have that patriotism like we did.

Mr. Wilson: I’m afraid not.

Mrs. Sims: R.Q was 17 when he went into the Navy. He had to get his mother to sign for him. But he said “But we all wanted to fight, we wanted to be a part of something big.” So we had the victory garden, my mother and I went up to the high school and we folded bandages with the Red Cross and I can remember folding that gauze and we had a tongue depressor, we had certain ways that we had to fold it, so we did that. You had ration books, you could only buy so much sugar because the sugar was coming from where the Japanese were, so we had a ration book that had stamps in it, ration stamps. You learned to use honey, you had ration cards for gasoline, so a lot of times, if you wanted to go out of town, you rode the bus. I know when I had braces on my teeth, we rode the bus to Corsicana because you couldn’t buy tires for your car then but they were all rubber. You had a ration to get shoes and I can remember we wore a lot of canvas shoes because you could have canvas but you couldn’t have leather. But I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that. I don’t know what my mother and them thought about all the things that we did, but we didn’t really feel like we were deprived, we thought we were all doing our part for the war. My mother’s twin sisters, I told you she had twins, Joy and Joyce, Joy was married to Felton Lancaster, who the Lancaster VFW Post is named for. Felton was a captain, he was a commercial flyer before the war and then he went into the air force, Captain Felton D. Lancaster. And he was a pilot, and he had the privilege of flying Madam Chang Chi Check out of China. But his main route was usually along the Gold Coast of Africa. And I know when Felton would come home, every boyfriend those twin aunts had were my boyfriends. I was in love with Felton. And oh my goodness, he was good looking. He had been a college football player, but I would write him letters, you know, they had to censor the letters, so you didn’t write on the back because they could cut out what they didn’t want you to read. And we had that onion skin paper, that was the airmail paper. But one day, we got word that Felton was missing, and I didn’t know what that meant, I thought they were gonna find him somewhere. And my aunt, his wife, was living in Fairfield with her mother at that time and I remember going over there and you know, he was never found. But they found the life raft from his plane and in that life raft were dog tags, one body, and they always said the pilot had to be the last one to leave the plane, and they think maybe that he missed a place where they would get refueled. So his dog tags were in that life raft, and they knew he was probably dead, because she remarried a captain that was out here at the prisoner of war camp, and they were Catholic and they wouldn’t remarry unless they knew for sure he was dead. But anyway, I loved Felton, and like I said, I think he graduated from Teague but his father had the Gulf Company here in Mexia and that’s where she grew up and she met Felton and so then I had uncles that were in the prisoner war camp. I remember exactly the day that those prisoners came in to Mexia to be out here at the prisoner war camp. They lined American soldiers all up over that overpass and we parked our car down there as close as they would let us get, and we watched those trains come in, and these were Rommel’s troops from North Africa and they were the most handsome young men, and even I was overcome with them because we were in the 8th grade, and they were good looking. And my mother let us go take the American soldiers candy bars, I don’t imagine they were supposed to have them, but what was interesting about those prisoners, the German officers got to ride, the enlisted men had to walk out there to the camp. But my twin aunts met 2 captains that were in charge of a lot of the prisoners, and this was Joy’s 2nd husband. And so we spent lots and lots of time down there at that prisoner war camp because a lot of the local people worked out there, you know, and you’ve probably interviewed some of them. And they had wonderful parties at night at the officer’s club. I think the only building that may be left out there now is where the officer’s club was, because they built this beautiful fire place. And I wouldn’t get to go out there because I couldn’t go to the dances, mother said I wasn’t old enough. But we could go out and see the prisoners and everything.

Mr. Wilson: And some of the POW’s were allowed to work here in town.

Mrs. Sims: Yeah, and they were allowed to work on the farm. A lot of people in this area had them working on their farms. And when some of the prisoners realized that Tom and Joy, that was my Uncle Tom, that they were having a baby, they took the basinet and it was the basinet that I was born in, I still have it here, Joy and Tom took it out there, they wanted prisoners to repaint it and they painted the wheels red, white, and blue. They said they were sure the prisoners thought they were being patriotic you know. But they built them a chest of drawer, they built other things, because the prisoners were also talented, you know, those prisoners, they were very, very artistic people, a lot of them. One of them even hanged himself, I know Tom was so upset. But he had gotten word that some of his family was gone, and he hanged himself right there. They also let those prisoners order flowers from the florist here in town. Mrs. Jenkins, her shop is right over there on ??? Street. But they made the most beautiful furniture that you ever saw. In fact, when the prisoner of war camp closed, Tom and them, I guess they did a lottery or something to see what they wanted, and Tom and Joy got all the patio furniture, round tables, benches, and it stayed on my mothers’ front porch for years until Tom and Joy had a house of their own. But those prisoners, they were highly thought of. I don’t think any of them ever thought about going away because they had it good out here, you know, they were highly, highly treated. So a few years ago, the other uncle, not Tom, Tom had already passed away, came back out here and we took him back out there, but of course by then, there was very little to show. Then, I also remember that during the war, the 36th Division camped over here on the other side of Fairfield at a place called Reds Lake. They camped out there. And my mother would take us out and let us see that they all had their little pup tents. So then that night, my mother let my brother and me go to the movie theatre and Logan, it was wall to wall soldiers and I’m just overcome, you know. Even though I’m not but 10 or 11 years old, but yeah, they camped out there for a long, long time.

Mr. Wilson: I did not know that.

Mrs. Sims: Yeah, I don’t know where they were going.

Mr. Wilson: Italy I guess.

Mrs. Sims: There, yeah I guess that’s where they were going. But yeah, that’s where they went from there. But that’s what I remember about World War II, I remember one day one mother came in and she said “France has fallen.” And I started crying and I had no idea what it meant, you know, that didn’t mean anything to me. I knew it was bad. I was listening to the radio one afternoon, and I was doing my homework, my mother and daddy had gone down to the A&P, and I heard on the news that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt has just died. Now see, I didn’t know what that meant, but the minute my mother and daddy came in they said “Are you sure?” and I could tell they were very, very upset, although they knew he was in bad health.

Mr. Wilson: You told them?

Mrs. Sims: I told them, I told my parents, yeah, they were downtown. And I said “Yes mother, it said that the president died.” And you know, like I said, I knew he was the president, but when you’re that young.

Mr. Wilson: But you know, there’s incidents that’s happened, that people remember, albeit many years ago, where they were going and what they were doing when certain things happened. And everybody remembers that.

Mrs. Sims: Yeah! Isn’t that interesting? Well that’s like, I remember the day that Kennedy died. I know exactly where I was when Kennedy was shot. I was sitting in a class at Baylor, Friday afternoon. And I had to come back to Mexia that afternoon and do a book review, a program for the Friday Club. Well I cried, everybody was crying. I cried all the way home and I called my mother and I said “Mother, how am I going to do a program at the Friday Club? Maybe they’ll call it off.” And she said “No, they’re not gonna call it off, but I’m gonna write you a little speech to say before you do your book review.” That would kind of set the stage, I don’t even remember what it was, but it was appropriate, very appropriate and I was so glad she did that because yeah, you remember exactly where you were. And I knew the significance of that, because we all loved Kennedy. And you remember Logan, that was the first time that television had really played a major part. With the funeral, you know, we all sat and watched the funeral and cried and cried and cried.

Mr. Wilson: And the shooting too.

Mrs. Sims: Oh my goodness, and then Sunday morning we were in church and our pastor made the announcement that the guy that shot him, what was his name? Oswald, that he had been shot. Jack Ruby shot him. And it was just like a continuation of things you know. Now also, this is really jumping ahead, but I’ll go back, and I’m sure everybody that talks to you know exactly where they were and what time it was when the towers fell in New York City.

Mr. Wilson: Yeah, I was in Pennsylvania when that happened, 20 miles from where that plane went down.

Mrs. Sims: Really? That plane that went into the ground. I was on my way to Waco. I had gone to Waco to get my hair done. And you know, the first plane, they thought was an accident. And then, I’m sitting in the beauty shop and women start saying “Oh!” and we were even scared in Waco, because by then you’ve heard about the second plane, and we don’t know what’s gonna happen next, when will it end you know? So like you said, everybody remembers exactly where they were, and their feelings on those most particular days, those are the important days. I do not remember the day that Ronald Reagan died. I watched his funeral, but I do not remember that. Do you remember that? You know he came to Mexia one time? Have they told you that story? He spoke down here at the civic center, yeah!

Mr. Wilson: Yeah, somebody did mention that.

Mrs. Sims: Yeah, somebody’s told you that! We came out.

Mr. Wilson: Were you there?

Mrs. Sims: Yeah, because when he walked out, he had these real rosy cheeks. And of course, back then, I didn’t even know if he was governor, or what his position was. There was a man here named Hank Shulte that was highly thought of, he had a horse ranch out here, and he also had a furniture business here. And I think Hank Shulte brought him to Mexia for that meeting. But I just remember, we were impressed you know. Because this old building down here had theatre seats in it, now they have all been taken out of it, it’s just a convention place. But it was a theatre then. But anyway, my growing up years, my brother and I, like I said, we were like Huckleberry Finn. We had black ladies that stayed with us during the day because my mother was always off making speeches and we loved those women. We had Inel, we called her Inie, we had Willie Anne that taught me to spit, and I thought my mother was gonna have a fit when she got home, we had Gladys that could make the best buttermilk pies in the world. But you know, we loved them. It’s just like that movie, you know, The Help, except we loved our black people that took care of us. But boy, they made us mind, we knew we had to mind them you know. John and I both, we loved them. But barefooted all the time, you know, no air conditioning, we didn’t know anything about air conditioning. We grew up in a huge screened in porch there in Wortham. In fact, if you drive into Wortham, you’ll see a parking lot where there’s some church busses, and right behind that parking lot is the big house where I grew up. I think it’s painted brown now, I’m not sure. But anyway, the Baptist church is here, and catty-corner is the great big house. Back then, mother had it screened in in the front. It was “L” shaped, and at this end we all had our beds, and at the other end, we had our living area. And at night, you know, we were hot, but we didn’t know what you did to cool off, we didn’t know anything about that. I spent lots and lots of time in Fairfield growing up. My mother would bring me to Mexia with a little, tiny suitcase and it had my name on it, “Sara Stubbs” and that I was going to Fairfield, because they didn’t have those farm to market roads then. And she would tell the bus driver that I was going to Fairfield and he knew me, and so I would go to Fairfield. I got off the bus one day, and there was nobody there to meet me, and I’m very, very shy, and I start walking downtown Fairfield and Payton Brothers Store, the guy that was running Payton Brothers sees me, and he knows me, and he says “I will take you to your grandmother’s house.” And Logan, I remember getting in that car with him, and I never opened my mouth. But he knew right where I was going, you know, you did back in those days, you didn’t worry. So the highlight of being in Fairfield as a child, when all my aunts and uncles would come in from that newspaper, they came in for lunch at my grandmother’s, we would walk to the cemetery, which was only about 2 blocks away. I loved cemeteries. You like cemeteries?

Mr. Wilson: We do a lot of genealogy, in fact, I’m building a fence for one now.

Mrs. Sims: Oh, I love to go to cemeteries. And you know, you learn so much about people in cemeteries. So we would go visit our own relatives, because my mother was a Kirgan, and my grandmother was a Child, and those are both very familiar names in Fairfield. Then, on down further, if you go to that Fairfield cemetery, Logan, there is a grave that has a statue of a little stone girl, she’s asleep, her name is Sue Bertie and has on little high button shoes, and she was one of those who died in the flu of 1918. So, when my mother was at the University of Missouri, the first story she wrote for one of her journalism classes, was called “The Little Stone Girl”. I have copies of it today, I have pictures of my mother sitting by the little stone girl, I have pictures of me and the little stone girl, I have pictures of my grandchildren with the little stone girl. So we got to where we learned to put flowers in the little stone girl’s hands. So Betsy Keller that lives in Fairfield, Dr. Keller’s wife, and I grew up together, so one day I went to see Betsy, and she said “Sara, we went out to that cemetery, and would you believe that little stone girl is holding flowers?” I said “Well Betsy we put them there.” But my mother had such a magical way about telling things and she passed that on to us. Now years later, I came home one day, Logan, and there is a statue of a little girl in my backyard, and she’s holding flowers. She wasn’t there when I went to school. Later on, I find a poem that my mother, my mother was like you, and the stone girl had been put there by my mother, and she had put the flowers, because at Baylor, when I went to Baylor, Robert Browning that had the poem about Pippa Passes, you know, he said “The year’s at the spring, the day’s at the morn, morning’s at seven, the hillside’s dew-pearled, the lark’s on the wing, the snail’s on the thorn, God’s in his Heaven, all’s right with the world.” There was a statue of Pippa out in front of that library, and I have my Pippa out here.

Mr. Wilson: Did you know the Bonners from Fairfield?

Mrs. Sims: Yes.

Mr. Wilson: I married a Bonner!

Mrs. Sims: Oh you did? Which one did you marry?

Mr. Wilson: Mary Anne

Mrs. Sims: My gosh, I would go over there and spend the weekend. Who was the Bonner boy that would come over to play with us? Was there a Bobby Bonner? Yeah there was, and of course, Dr. Bonner was the old timer doctor there in town.

Mr. Wilson: Dr. Bonner brought both of my children into the world.

Mrs. Sims: Really? I would rather be in Fairfield than be in New York City.

Mr. Wilson: One of my children birth expenses, I remember was $70.

Mrs. Sims: Well in my baby book, I had the price of how much it cost me to be born. It was $50. I was a cheap little girl. But anyway, I have my little stone girl, and I love to tell the children about my little stone girl and why she’s out there. So then, when I would teach school, the kids would say “Mrs. Sims, does she really have flowers in her hand?” I said “Yes!” and so when my grandchildren would come, they would say “Gram, I’m almost scared to go out there.” They were afaid she’s alive and I would say “Well I think she’s alive, I think she comes alive at night.” You know, but that’s the way that I grew up. But Logan, you know, as I said, I had a magical childhood and then when my children came along, of course, I grew up with them. By the time I was 23 I had 3 children, you know, so I was young, and we just did so many things together. So when I retired from teaching, somebody asked me “So what are you going to do when you retire? Because there’s only so much golf you can play.” Of course, I didn’t play golf then, “Only so much bridge you can play.” Well I don’t play bridge, “So much traveling you could do.” Well at that time, I didn’t really wanna travel, but I knew what I was gonna do. So that’s when I got involved at hospice because R.Q had died, you know what hospice is, taking care of people who are terminally ill. So I helped bring the local hospice to Mexia. There was a Presbyterian minister here named Tom Prentiss, a registered nurse Barbara Johnson and myself. We sat around this table week after week after week, planning to bring hospice to Mexia. We had meeting over here of people, you know, what could hospice have done for you, how would it work? So finally, in 1990, we realized bringing a hospice to Mexia. And then we covered Freestone, Limestone, Navarro, Hill, all those counties. So now, we are part of a bigger hospice called Community Hospice of Texas out of Ft. Worth. I was the coordinator for the hospice, then I became the volunteer coordinator, and I gave that up about 5 years ago when I found a girl that I could, you know, you’re so possessive of something that you feel like is your will, but I knew she could do the job, and so now I go up there and just do, once we have our patient, after the patient dies, we stay in touch with the family for a year, and that’s what I do, I stay in touch with the families, I make phone calls and things. So hospice, that’s one of the table that my kids are going to have at my party, they’re gonna have a hospice table. So I have all the hospice stuff, all the certificates, all that. So I’m still involved with hospice, not to the extent that I was, but I am involved. Then, I’m real, real, heavily involved in my church. I’ve taught the same Sunday school class for 45 years, now that really makes me seem old doesn’t it? 45 years, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go from that class. I have the children’s sermon on Sunday morning…..

 

 

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