Museum Musings: Remembering the good ol’ days


I enjoy hearing from readers, but I worry I might forget or lose things they shared.  Recently I received a gem from Clifford Barnett, who worked at Vick Lumber from 1981-2011. He stated, "I'm not good at remembering stories, just the characters that created them! Dunk Stewart (pulling up on his tractor), Lugene Spurlock (chewing on his ‘ceegar’), Jimmy Levels, J. R. Parten (in his purple tennis shoes), Jim Baker, Wallace Osborne and more. When I first went to work there, there was never any cussin' at the front counter when Mrs. (Gladys) Vick (1903-1998) was present, and most men removed their caps or hats when they entered the sales area. Those more ‘genteel’ days are long gone now.”

Recently I read a line that explains a lot about why I enjoy writing these Musings.  In the January issue of Texas Co-Op Power Magazine, Cindy Irvine’s piece entitled The New London School Explosion, contained “There is an old saying … No one is ever dead, truly dead, until no one remembers them and no one speaks their name.”  I cannot begin to explain how that hit me. 

In not too many days, I officially become old, and I reminisce more lately. Recently I got to thinking of the milestone of learning to drive, and I visited with quite a few others about early driving experiences. I studied drivers’ education under Coach Hoskins, and driving made me very nervous  Hoskins had my group drive to San Augustine one day to pick up meat that he’d had butchered there.  That was 114 miles one way and much better than driving the same old routes around here.

Pam Hunt.  When I was young, we lived on Pee Dee Road.  My mother, Dorothy Dean Poe (1923-1993) tried her best to learn to drive then.  In the summer, that road was knee deep in sand and in the winter, it was covered with mud and sometimes snow and ice. Mother would get in the car and make it about 200 yards before someone would come down the road.  Mother would get stuck, we would walk home, and soon someone would come along and pull the car out. Mother never learned to drive and never got more than a mile from home.

Frances Hooper.  My husband, Ford Hooper, started driving when he was 6 years old (about 1940).  He would drive his dad's pick-up from their store in Mecca into Normangee to meet the grocery truck. He had to grab the steering wheel and jump off the seat to change gears.

Steve Andrews.  Daddy had a 60-something model Chevrolet truck with the spare tire attached to the side of the bed. I was driving in the pasture and Billy Holcomb was riding on the tire when I turn too sharp and he fell off and broke his arm. That was the end of my driving for a while.

Laura Lewis.  The first thing I learned to drive was a tractor pulling a hay baler, all over Madison County.

Martha White.  I took drivers ed in 1953, my sophomore year, under Mrs. Bertha Rumfield.  I was the only one who could drive in our class because I was raised on a farm and learned to drive tractors. Every time we got our Drivers Ed car from Boney Bass, we went by the station to fill up. Mrs. Rumfield made me drive up to the gas pumps to fill the car up with gas.  It scared me to death to do it but I had no problems.

Toni Hardy.  I got to practice driving in pastures while my parents, Gus and Thyra Morgan (1920-1983 and 1922-2003), checked cows on weekends. When I finally got to move out onto the dirt back roads, I brilliantly thought I could cross my legs (as if watching a movie) and drive. That got me put back in the back seat for many moons!

Duane Standley. Years ago, my dad, Darrell Standley (1932-1985), let brother Jim and I drive in an old green pick-up with a gear shift on the column, going to and from a pasture at Greenbrier.  In the beginning, Dad held me in his lap to drive. At a later date, he was sitting in the middle and Jim by the door, when I straightened out a curve near Jimmy Dutton’s house. Dad and I wound up on top of Jim, and I didn’t get to drive for a while after that!

Harvey Cannon.  Daddy (Harvey Sr., 1919-1989), tried to teach me to drive-once in the pasture at the Company Place. He told me to stop and I nearly threw us through the windshield. I had only stopped mules so I stood down on that brake like you do a tough-mouthed team of mules.  I was taught to drive by my sister, Lana, and by Jimmy Bay.

Kristi Rhodes.  One of my first memories of driving was Papa (Parmer Donaho, 1932-2010) pulling Grandmas little Volkswagen single cab pickup by a tractor on the back pasture. I felt so grown turning on the blinkers and honking the horn. I even had to sit on my knees to see over the steering wheel. Not sure why he was pulling it with the tractor, guess it broke down ...

Wyona Donaho Ballard. I was 9 years old when I drove solo for the first time in a 1939 Ford that didn't have a reverse gear. I drove two miles down the road to great-great Aunt Pearl (1886-1976) Donaho's house. I had to park where I didn't have to back up!

Paula Kelton Byrd.  In my era, we took Drivers Education in the summer after 8th grade!  A coach taught it and always had a thermos of "water" with him in the car. I can appreciate now how he needed that water teaching 14-year-olds how to drive a standard shift car.

Keith Sandles.  I learned to drive in a 69 Chevy truck belonging to my dad (Darnell Sandles, 1938-2005). He had me drive both the dirt roads in both the High Prairie and Hopewell communities, the latter in Grimes/ Walker counties. The truck was light blue, a four-speed with standard on the tree, and I was excited!

Laci James Delesandri.  Before I could even reach the pedals, my dad would put his truck in the lowest gear, jump out, and run back to the long flatbed trailer he was pulling to load hay. Meanwhile, I was left weaving like a snake through all the hay bale rows. I think I only ran over a couple.

Janet Standley Andrews.  I learned to drive in my Dad's Corral Cafe truck, at a pasture belonging to my grandparents, J.D. Spillars, Sr. (1900-1961) and Sudie Spillars (1895-1964), of the Concord Community. The truck was a standard shift because that is what you had to drive in drivers Ed. 

Later I graduated to my Mom's automatic Dodge Red Lancer and could drive by myself to Grannies’ the back way on the gravel roads by myself. I soon began to think I was "Queen of the Road " and that I was good and could go fast down that road! Then all of a sudden one day I hit a hole in the road, the car started spinning around, and I found myself in a ditch. I learned a valuable lesson that day – You don't drive fast down a red rock road. And I never told anyone this until now!  My son, Dink Andrews, was 6 or 7 when he learned to drive in the pasture at Brushy, driving tractors and trucks belonging to his Papaw, Dick Andrews (1929-1991).  My husband, Tommy, was a DPS trooper, and we had no knowledge of those driving lessons. One day Papaw let Dink Drive from Brushy to our house on Viser Street, with Dink looking between the dash and the steering wheel. Papaw said he looked down and he was going 80, so he made him slow it down! When Tommy found this out, they both got in trouble! 

Wayne Morgan. Daddy, Vivian Morgan (1909-1987), taught me how to drive on old county roads. He would make me drive over Iron Creek bridge down from our old place, and that was always spooky for me. Later he would have me drive the hearse in Houston and Dallas, though never with a body in it. (Vivian was a long-time employee of Day Funeral Home.) Wayne’s nephews, Ben and Greg Hinds, did not grow up locally but learned the basics of driving from Vivian too, on that same country road.  Greg learned the hard way of how to make a truck stop, by hitting a cow. That ended their driving lesson. 

Claudia Jordy. I grew up in Deer Park, but my grandfather, Mart Jordy (1882-1979), lived in Midway on 247. He had a really neat old pick-up truck that Daddy and Mother would let me drive or should I say would teach me to drive on the dirt roads around Midway. I remember them saying "think of the letter H to shift to first, second, third, and then reverse. It was a thrill! Little did I know that years later I would become a certified teacher of Drivers Education and teach numerous others to drive!

Carroll Bradbury Fox. I learned to drive at the auction barn when I was probably 9 or 10. I would circle and circle, and I would go almost to the cattle guard, right before Highway 90. By age 11, I told my parents that I wanted to own the first cab company in Madisonville because I love to drive and my initials spell CAB!

Carrie Elizabeth Holly McMahan. Heath Baker had just learned to drive and my son, Johnnie McMahan V “Beau,” was eight months old. Heath couldn't wait to show me how he could drive. He was probably 8. We took off across this pasture and it was fun. Then he decided to stop. He was so short that he just stood up on the brake!  My baby and I wound up in the floor trying to figure out what happened.

Lana Cannon Wells.  Bill Cannon, my cousin, mainly taught me, in Daddy's old standard shift truck (starter on the floor). Thank God we had a pasture. We mostly practiced in the area where Mama’s and Daddy's graves are now. The clutch was a challenge to me. We would mainly go around and around, and every time I changed gears I'd pop the clutch. The truck would die or we'd lurch across the pasture.  I was about 10, Bill 12. I thought he knew everything. He did know quite a bit – he taught me to drive!

Karla Plotts Clark. My daddy taught me to drive when I was about ten. By the time I was 13, I had a VW bug and would drive it up to the school and drive with Jim Vinson (1945-2012) during driver's education. We had a student in our group who'd never been behind the wheel before at all. After we had several incidents Mr. Vinson told the girl to go home and let her daddy teach her to drive, and she did that. Her driving was scary!

See, lots of those folks aren’t dead, not really dead, yet! They are alive in our memories and conversations! You’ll see more driving memories and names of beloved folks in two weeks! 

Madison County Museum, at 201 N. Madison St., Madisonville, TX, is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Museum Curator Jane Day Reynolds will welcome your visit. The cookbooks have been selling well and we will probably reorder soon. If you’d like to share a story, call the Museum, 936-348-5230.  If the answering machine picks up, leave your name, number, and message, and someone will call you back.