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Earl Johnson's History, Page 2

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Wes Tom & Nell Johnson
Earl Johnson's History
Earl Johnson's History, Page 2

 

As I said earlier, Everett and Naomi Cain (Aunt Mutt and Uncle Happy) lived just across the field from us. They had a third child, a girl and they named her Elvena. One day we looked toward their house and saw it was on fire. Daddy jumped in the car and drove speedily there to make sure all of them got out safely. He saw Aunt Mutt, Uncle Happy, James Wesley and Aaron but he did not see the baby, Elvena. Several people were there helping carry things out of the burning house and he asked them about the baby but no one knew where she was. He smelled burning flesh and thought for sure it was Elvena, but he soon found out that one of the neighbors had taken her to their house and she was safe. The burning flesh he smelled was meat from the adjoining smokehouse.

When I was seventeen years old Daddy overhauled the tractor and bought some new farming equipment. He needed it for he had rented fifty acres of land from Thomas B. Wilson (Granny's brother) that was just down the road from Winnie and Pat's house (the old Wilson home). Daddy called him Uncle Tom but I do not remember ever seeing him for he lived somewhere else. I am pretty sure Tom inherited the land from his parents, John and Sarah Wilson. We still worked our land and the land we rented from Granny also, and we needed help working that much land. There was an old house on the land and Daddy hired a family to help with the crop and let them live in the old house. I can't remember their names but the man's first name was Winston. That was the first time we had hired any help for the farm.

Earl's first car, a 1938 Ford.

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The entire fifty acres of the Wilson land were suitable for growing cotton, except for about five acres of scrubby land on the back side of the field. It had not been worked in several years and was on a hillside and much of the topsoil had given way to erosion and it was covered with grass, weeds and sprouts. Daddy left it as it was not worth the trouble.

By now I was old enough to drive and sometime Daddy would let me drive his pick up, but I wanted my own car. I asked him to buy me one but he said that he could not afford it because he had spent so much money on the tractor and equipment. I asked him if I could clear the five acres of the Wilson land that he left and plant me some cotton and buy a car, but he said it would take too much of my time and he need me to work for him. When I told him I would only work my patch in my spare time, he agreed. He also said that I could use the tractor if he was not using it.

Daddy always let us off work on Saturdays and Sundays. Saturdays we always went to Cooper to sell our weeks supply of cream, eggs and usually a few chickens. We looked forward to this fun-filled day, topped off by going to a movie at the Sparks Theater. I told Daddy I would work my cotton crop on Saturdays and Sundays. He allowed me to work it on Saturdays but Sunday was the Lord's day (however, we never went to church). So I worked it on Saturdays and in the late afternoons after we quit Daddy's work for the day. I could usually get in an hour or so before dark. That crop turned out to be the worst looking you ever saw but I did manage to make one bale of cotton on the whole five acres. It sold for $300. and that was enough to buy a car. I bought a 1938 Ford, one of the ugliest cars ever made, but I thought it was beautiful.

The gin manager at the Lake Creek gin was named Earl Chaney and Daddy had been working for him several years. Mr. Chaney got an offer to manage a gin in Calvert, Texas and all the gin hands was sorry to see him go. That summer Daddy got a letter from Mr. Chaney asking him if he would like to come to Calvert to work and offered him a nice amount of money. They were remodeling the gin with new modern machinery and diesel engines like they did at the Lake Creek gin, and he needed his help to complete it before the fall ginning season. Daddy ask us if we could manage to finish the crop; we told him we could since we had Winston.

He also hired a neighbor named Cilvester 'Cil' Watkins to help and said he could stay at our house since he lived about three miles away and did not have a car at this time. Cil was about twenty two years old at the time. He had lived in our community for several years and he and his family were friends of ours. Daddy also said that I could use his pick up and the tractor.

After the gin was rebuilt Mr. Chaney offered Daddy the job as ginner and said he could hire his own crew. He offered him top pay and said that the gin would pay his room and board. We got a letter from him asking us if we could handle the cotton harvest by hiring people to pull bolls, and we told him we could since we had Winston and Cil. Daddy wrote letters to the Lake Creek gin crew offering them a good paying job if they would go to Calvert, and they all went. My cousins Aaron Cain and Walter Johnson went also. After a time Uncle Jim went too.

My older cousins, Walter Johnson and James Wesley Cain, already had cars and on Saturday nights we would tare up the dirt roads from Lake Creek to Cooper. Sometimes we would go to Paris. I soon started dating a girl from Paris named Mary Ann Gordon.

About this time my parents, Wes Tom and Nell, separated and filed for a divorce and our family was devastated. Mama took the twins, Dale and Gale and moved to Dallas and got a job. Daddy, Kerry, Jerry, Kenneth and I still lived in our house. That fall Daddy went back to Calvert to work at the gin again, and said that we kids could stay at Granny's house until he retuned. After he left we loaded some of our furniture in the pickup and took it to Granny's. She did not have an electric refrigerator so we took ours. Little by little we kept moving stuff and when Daddy came back we had moved just about everything. He said, ‘Just leave it here and I will move in too.’

A short time later, February 14, 1953, Mary Ann and I got married and moved to Dallas. Everyone said it wouldn't last a year because we were so young. I was nineteen and she was fourteen. But we celebrated our 50th. wedding anniversary February 14, 2003.

At this time Granny and two of her sisters, Ida (Wilson) Stegall and Winnie (Wilson) Ayles and one brother, Thomas Wilson that were still living. I called Ida and Winnie, Aunt Ida and Aunt Winnie although they were my great aunts, Daddy's aunts. There were two more Wilson children living at this time, William Allen Wilson [died 1/6/1956] and Susan Eller (Wilson) Craig, [died 7/14/1959] but I never met them. I don't know why I never met Susan Eller for her house was in Paco, just about a mile east of Aunt Winnie and Uncle Pat's house. Susan Ellers husband, Henry Craig, died January 28, 1917.

When Henry died Susan was left with nine small children. Two years later in 1919, Susan Eller met and married Luco Walker. On November 5, 1920 a daughter was born to them and they named her Susie after her mother. When Susie was one month old her daddy, Luco, left and she never saw him. Susan still lived in the same house in Paco and raised the ten children. (There would have been eleven but Mattie Lee Craig died at one year old).

Susie Eller (Wilson) Craig's home in Paco, east of Lake Creek, Texas.

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Susie told me a few stories about growing up in that house, half-sister to the other siblings. She remembers walking with her mother, Susan, to Sarah Wilson's house. All the children called her Grandma Wilson. Once, on June 8, they went to Grandma Wilson's birthday party. Her Uncle Tom and Aunt Lucy were there, also Aunt Kate came with two of her grandchildren, Vivian and Mary Louise Edgar. Of course Pat and Winnie and their daughter Virginia, lived there. The children had a good time playing and eating birthday cake and homemade ice cream.

When Susie grew up she fell in love with Millard Nabors. They were married December 17, 1938. They had five children: James, Bonnie, David, Sarah Ann and Mark. Millard died August 24, 1976. Susie now lives with Mark, her son, in Charleston Texas. We had the pleasure of meeting Susie, her son Mark, and her daughter, Sarah Ann (Nabors) Packwood for the first time at our 2001 reunion. Susie is a gracious lady, and our whole family just love her.

When I was growing up in Lake Creek I knew some of Susan Eller (Wilson) Craig's children and grandchildren that lived near us. Abby had two sons, Jessie Don and Denny Frank Cothran that I remember. We were close enough in age to run around together when we were teenagers. Dow married Jake Maze, and they were our neighbors. (We met their son Johnny Maze at our 2000 reunion). Ervin 'Pus' was our iceman and delivered ice to our house and put it in a wooden icebox, before we got electricity. He delivered it to our log house and our other house when we moved.

After Mary Ann and I had been married a short while Kerry, my sister, started dating Bill Jenkins, Mary Ann’s uncle. Soon Bill asked Daddy if he would give his permission for them to be married. He agreed, and soon they were married.

They moved Kerry out of Granny’s house and Jerry and Kenneth stayed with Daddy and Granny. Mama now lived in Dallas with the twins, Dale and Gale.

By now my old Ford was not running too well and I was afraid to take it to Dallas, so I left it with Daddy. I rode a streetcar from our apartment to my work at Firestone. After a time I got laid off work so we moved in with Mary Ann's parents in Paris. Her Parents were Mack and Mary Gordon. She had three little sisters, Joan, Peggy and Janice Jan. Jan was about the same age as the twins and kind of took their place. Joan and Peggy kind of took the place of my other brothers and sisters. Mack gave me a job in his service station.

While we lived there our first child was born, a girl and we named her Deborah 'Debbie' Annette Johnson. About this time Mama and Daddy's divorce was final. Soon after that Mama remarried; she married Cilvester 'Cil' Watkins.

Daddy's health begin to fail, and he was never the same after that. It seemed as though he lost interest in the things that used to mean so much to him. That next fall he was getting ready to go back to Calvert to work at the gin and asked me if I wanted to go and work there also. We loaded what we could in our old car and went. Aaron Cain came about a week later. Mary Ann, Debbie and I stayed in the same boarding house with Daddy and Aaron. Daddy was not outwardly a religious man and never went to church, but we could hear him praying in his room at night that was just down the hall. Looking back, I believe he knew he did not have long to live and was making peace with God.

      Debbie, age 2.

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The gin at Calvert was much bigger than the gin in Lake Creek. There were seven diesel engines in the engine room, and I could not believe it. The people brought their cotton to the gin in trailers that would hold five bales of cotton, and pull four or five of those big trailers at a time behind a big tractor. Quite a difference from the single one-bale trailers and wagons at Lake Creek. It was hard work and long hours, but I was making more money than I ever made before.

We stayed at Calvert until the ginning season was over. While we were there Debbie had her second birthday, November 4, 1955. We bought her a new tricycle and Aaron taught her how to ride it. He would put his knees on the back of it and peddle with his hands, acting like a kid himself as he played with her.

After the ginning season was over we moved back to Dallas and I got a good job. (We lived there for the next twenty two years). The following summer July 12, 1956 Daddy died. Mama took Jerry and Kenneth to her home in Dallas and raised them and the twins, Dale and Gale, until they were all grown and married.

After Daddy died Granny's health begin to fail and she did not live very long. She moved in with Neomi and Everett Cain until she died in 1957. She was buried beside Daddy in the Lake Creek Cemetery.

My brother Jerry Johnson, died 10/18/1980. He was cremated and has a marker in the Lake Creek Cemetery. My mother, Opal Nell Watkins, died January 3, 2003. Cilvester 'Cil' Watkins died about three month later. Nell and Cilvester are buried in the Lake Creek Cemetery. Nell and Cil never had any children of their own, although they raised some of Cil’s sister’s children.

When Mary Ann, Debbie and I moved to Dallas, I got a job at the Dallas Transit Company driving a city bus. I worked there for ten years and then worked for B. & B. Vending for about ten years. In all we lived in Dallas for twenty two years and two more of our children, Patti and Rocky, were born there. They still think of our little house on Wofford Street as home.

We moved to Edom, Texas in 1975 and then to Lamar county in 1977. We have lived in Powderly, Texas since 1979. Shannon, our last child, was born in 1980.  

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