Conducted by Mr. Logan Wilson
May 2, 2012
Mr. Wilson: The date is May 2, 2012. I am in the home of Mrs. June Archer, our contributor to the oral history. The next voice you hear will be that of Mrs. Archer.
Mrs. Archer: My name is June Archer and I was born August the 27th, 1927 and I lived in this area most of my early life. I lived in Waco for about 30 years, but I have come back to where my roots are. I was born in Prairie Hill, just right outside of Prairie Hill. The house is no longer there where I was born. My grandparents moved here from Hubbard with their family and where I live today, is where my grandparents lived, and their family, my dad’s people. I lived here, not in this same house, but in this area where they lived. Both my parents and my grandparents, of course, are deceased today. They left a legacy; it’s not monetary, but it’s a good understanding that lots of people don’t have today. My dad was R.Q. Ashcraft and my mother was Miss Nellie Ruth Allen-Ashcraft, of course. They were Christians, outstanding people, hard workers. I lived here until I graduated from high school, and then later I married. My husband, Edward G. Archer went to the service. He was in the army and served in the European Theater and also in Japan. When he came home, we married and then we lived our early married life in Waco. Due to circumstances of my family, we had to move back out here and my husband has passed away now, and I’m still living here. It’s a good place to be, people are concerned about each other and you appreciate that. Early in my parents married life, it was hard because that was during depression, and it was hard, but we didn’t know any different, so we were happy. But it was difficult, and especially with those who had large families, it was difficult. Of course, I was the only child, so it was not as bad for us as it was for other people. We worked hard. One thing that you might recall was during WWII, German prisoners were brought over here and stationed at Mexia. I don’t know what they called the camp.
Mr. Wilson: The POW isn’t it?
Mrs. Archer: POW, yes. My dad contracted to have some of those prisoners help him gather corn and I drove the tractor. Of course, they had a guard between me, and they wouldn’t even let them speak to me, of course. But that’s something I remember.
Mr. Wilson: Were they good hands?
Mrs. Archer: Yes. That was something unique, I thought. They were glad to do that, some of them were. It gave them relief of being in prison, and people were nice to them, you know, even though there was a hatred for them, naturally there would be, because a lot of them had lost loved ones in the war. My husband had an uncle who died in the war, he was in the Army, but he was on a ship as a radio operator, and he was the last one on the ship and he went down with the ship. He was an Archer. There was several of the Archer men in the service, and he was the only one who died.
Mr. Wilson: They would bring these POWs out to yall’s place?
Mrs. Archer: Yes.
Mr. Wilson: And they would just take them back in the evenings? And yall would use them as needed when the crops came in?
Mrs. Archer: Yes, that’s the only time that my dad had them was when they were gathering corn. I don’t remember them gathering cotton. There was nobody left here to help, you know? My husband drove a school bus when he was 16 and you know, you couldn’t get a license at 16. He and Billy Waldrop together, drove the school bus. My husband drove and Billy worked the foot pedal. The bus was in such bad shape, and you couldn’t get parts or tires. But anyway, they got the kids to school. We all 3 graduated from high school here.
Mr. Wilson: There was a community, people have told me, up here by the name of Cedar Island. I never knew about it. Now, I don’t think it exists now. Do you know anything about that?
Mrs. Archer: No.
Mr. Wilson: Very few people do. I don’t have any idea where it was either. It was around in this area somewhere.
Mrs. Archer: Well, there’s several communities that have ceased.
Mr. Wilson: Do you remember the ration cards?
Mrs. Archer: Oh yes.
Mr. Wilson: On gasoline and tires?
Mrs. Archer: Yes, sugar, shoes.
Mr. Wilson: It wouldn’t matter if you had enough money.
Mrs. Archer: Coffee
Mr. Wilson: Coffee, yes. You could only have so much right?
Mrs. Archer: Yes.
Mr. Wilson: Did you go to school here locally?
Mrs. Archer: Yes, I graduated when there was a school here.
Mr. Wilson: I don’t know when they closed that down, do you know-the school?
Mrs. Archer: I don’t know what year it was. I was already gone.
Mr. Wilson: Do the kids go to Mexia now?
Mrs. Archer: Well some of them go to Mart.
Mr. Wilson: Oh they do?
Mrs. Archer: Some of them go to, I don’t know that any of them go to Mexia now, they go to Coolidge. At one time, there were some, I know Mrs. Russell’s son went to Mexia, but I don’t know what year that was. He graduated from Mexia.
Mr. Wilson: That’s right, you’re right; Coolidge would be the closest school to Prairie Hill now, wouldn’t it?
Mrs. Archer: Yes.
Mr. Wilson: That’s right, it wouldn’t be Mexia.
Mrs. Archer: He went to Mexia, I guess, I don’t know, maybe they had an option to go to Coolidge or Mexia. I don’t know, I wasn’t here during that time.
Mr. Wilson: Did yall farm this place here?
Mrs. Archer: Yes, and the highway, Highway 84 was built during the World War II, to supply the route for the soldiers to go to Louisiana, and this highway was built in about 1941 or 1942, and it bisected our property and we owned that property across the street over there, some of it.
Mr. Wilson: I never knew that. Did they just enlarge an existing road, or was it brand new?
Mrs. Archer: It was brand new. The old Highway 84 is where the store is. There’s a road past it that goes back and across the Christmas Creek; that’s the old 84. And it goes over to Watt or somewhere in there, it crosses over.
Mr. Wilson: So the Highway 84 that we know today was built as part of the war effort in 1941 or there about?
Mrs. Archer: Yes, that’s right.
Mr. Wilson: I didn’t know that.
Mrs. Archer: I have a picture somewhere of a bunch of kids down there on that bridge.
Mr. Wilson: Really?
Mrs. Archer: Yes. You know how kids are.
Mr. Wilson: Our chairman might be interested in some of those pictures; we’re putting together a picture book too. It’s not my part, but they’re doing a real good job of it too.
Mrs. Archer: Well I have put a bunch of things up there in the community center, some stuff that I had and some stuff that other people had given me. It’s kind of a history book of this community.
Mr. Wilson: What community center did that go to?
Mrs. Archer: Do you know where the Masonic Lodge is? You know where the church is?
Mr. Wilson: In Prairie Hill?
Mrs. Archer: Yes.
Mr. Wilson: No, but I’m going to find it. You think they might loan us some of those pictures?
Mrs. Archer: Well they’re mine. I can. However, I have given them to the community, but we can get them if you want.
Mr. Wilson: I am going to ask about that to the commission. We would borrow them and make copies of them to put in these books and then bring the picture back. Okay good, I was not aware of that, I’m glad you said something about that. I will look into it.
Mrs. Archer: I know I have a picture of the old school building. You’ll just have to go up there and see it. There’s the church and the old school building was right there by the church, and the Church of Christ and the Masonic Lodge. They built that church together, and the Masonic Lodge is on the upper part of the building, and the community center, today, is the lower floor.
Mr. Wilson: Is that right on Highway 84?
Mrs. Archer: No, it is off of 84, I think it’s on 339.
Mr. Wilson: Bruce Jordan lives up here.
Mrs. Archer: Yes he does.
Mr. Wilson: He knows all about it, I’m sure. I’m surprised he hasn’t said something about it in a meeting.
Mrs. Archer: Well that was way before he came.
Mr. Wilson: He may not know they have those pictures.
Mrs. Archer: Yes, he does. Yes, Linda had said we need to film them, but we never have done it, you know?
Mr. Wilson: Well maybe we’ll do that, maybe we will. That would be a good thing to do.
Mrs. Archer: She’s mentioned that because I tried to keep just a year for some time, and then my husband got sick and I just lost interest, you know, there for a year or so. I was looking back through some of it, and one or two pictures was gone, and I know somebody thought “oh I’d like to have that”, and took it, so that’s the only thing I hate; that people will not leave stuff alone. But people are people, they will be people.
Mr. Wilson: Yeah, well I don’t want to wear you out, but as I said, I would like to ask you one question that I ask everybody, and that is, Mrs. Archer, if you had one bit of advice for the young people of today, what would it be? What would you tell them?
Mrs. Archer: Well, I would tell them to adhere to the lessons in the Bible, and to their parents; of course, some of the parents today are not worthy. That’s the problem.
Mr. Wilson: Break down of the family units.
Mrs. Archer: Yes, that’s right.
Mr. Wilson: I agree, and I don’t know how we fix that. Well, I appreciate your time and efforts on doing this, and if you haven’t got anything else, we’ll call it an end now, okay?
Mrs. Archer: Okay.
Mr. Wilson: Okay, and I thank you, thank you very much for your contribution and we’ll make good use of it.