Lou Ann (eATHERLY) Crawley

……….Looking Back

I didn’t know when I was told we were moving to West Texas to be part of ‘something new’ that I would look back almost 75 years later to see that I really was going to be part of a pioneer movement where East meets West!

I had spent most of my young 12 years in the settled, beautiful and sophisticated town of Tyler nestled deep in the Piney Woods.  It was given the name of the “Rose Capital of the world” for a reason.  Although I had no ideas how this move was about to shape my life and the experiences I would have in this new adventure called “bringing the oil boom to the Plains” I was about to find out.

I remember my first day in school where I could hear the snickers behind me because I wore a dress!  It was a beautiful red corduroy jumper to be exact, and my schoolmates were in overalls and/or Levis.  I didn’t even know what Levi’s were!  I soon found out that Levis were standard attire for the farming and ranching community I was now a part of.  Although I wasn’t comfortable in them and felt they were hard and stiff and could stand up by themselves at night, I adjusted!

My first job was behind the counter as a “soda jerk” at Parson’s Drug.  I learned to make sodas, sundaes and ice cream with malt powder on the top!  I still love those and have missed having an old time soda fountain like we used to have.  Parson’s Drug was owned by David Parsons who was proud to talk about his Choctaw Indian heritage.  My mother was also Choctaw Indian and they had many long conversations about their heritage.  

There were four drug stores in that little town including Rexall Drug.  One was the Corner Drug Store, Upshaw Drug, where the kids hung out after school.  The juke box played the latest popular tunes.  Palace Drug was down the street and had a nice gift shop in the back where we bought presents for birthdays. 

There was a hotel with a small cafe where we went to eat when there was a break in the gas lines during a bitterly cold winter storm; we had no heat in our homes and no way to cook.  Cafes in town were rare and mainly frequented by travelers passing through town and staying at the hotel.  Eating out was a rare occasion for us.

Housing was limited, and my parents rented a house which was fully furnished and right across the street from Watson Grocery Store.  There were no credit cards and very little cash exchanged hands.  It was just standard that no one had any money until pay day which was every two weeks so everyone ‘charged’ groceries and everything else until the pay checks came in.  I don’t know how we paid for gasoline but do remember it being 27 Cents a gallon and the attendant checked your oil and washed the windshields!

We rented a house once which was built by a man well known for hammering tin cans flat and nailing them to the frame, then covering with stucco.  They looked good from outside and rentals were scarce, but boy, we nearly froze to death that winter.  That prompted my parents to build their first home on 10th Street which was built for a whopping $10,000.  Boy, were we ever so proud!

Our town square blossomed and there were several movies at the "Rose” and  “Wallace" Theatres. Tipp’s Men’s Store had the most beautiful clothes for men and soon Cobb’s department store came to town with lots of pretty shoes for the girls including yard goods which the women needed to keep their sewing clubs going.   

After graduation, I worked at the Levelland State Bank where I met my husband and together we raised our two sons.  I’ve seen the R.D. McDonald home & acreage become the Country Club & golf course.  I’ve seen the state bank become Chase and many new banks who came to town.  Our cotton fields are now dotted with pump jack’s pumping both oil and money into our community.  The manual labor brought in to pick the cotton has been replaced with green machines gathering cotton and setting them in perfect bales in the fields.  The gins still run but they don’t smoke like a chimney or spit debris into the air for us to breathe.  We can tell if the crops are good or bad by the new or old pick- ups that skirt around town or the smiles on the drivers faces.

I’ve seen our small town grow from having chickens, cows and pigs in the back yard to a city with a thriving college with a Dairy Queen, Pizza, barbeque and burgers to feed our drive thru appetites.

As I reminisce over almost 75 years of being a part of the changes in this town, I can see that the same pioneer spirit that was here in 1942 has survived and is still alive!  There still is an expectancy of a brighter tomorrow; a willingness to care for each other and to help where you can. 

Yes, I’m grateful that the West Texas Spirit has survived and so have I!   

Written by Lou Ann (Eatherly) Crawley - LHS, 1947


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