Chapter 4 Back Out to West Texas Đ Sweetwater, Texas
My father received a call in the about February of 1951 to become the Pastor of
the First Presbyterian Church of Sweetwater, Texas, the county seat of Nolan County. The church was in downtown Sweetwater, a block from the town square, and across the street from the City Fire Station. Because of the difficulty and expense of air conditioning, the sanctuary was cooled only in the hottest of summer months. Otherwise, the large church windows were open during many of the services, which proved exciting and distracting when the fire engines departed on calls, and a few of the volunteer firemen seated in the congregation would jump up and run out to attend dealing with old flames!
I found a picture post card image showing churches of Sweetwater from back in that era. The First Presbyterian Church is the one in the lower left corner. In later years, the church relocated toward the suburbs where it is today in a modern structure.
Sweetwater was a smaller population than our previous Houston home. Notice the rattlesnake draped on the sign, a symbol of Sweetwater hosting the claimed largest annual rattlesnake roundup in the world (they a native only to North America!)
A close-up of one of the tens of thousands of rattlesnakes captured in the Sweetwater Jaycees WorldŐs Largest Rattlesnake Roundup, held in mid-March annually.
Our home was 601 Josephine Street, at the corner of Crane Street.
The home still has its basic shape today as when we lived there 1951-54. My bedroom was that addition off to the rear of the house, and the structure at the lotŐs back was the 1 car garage, with a storage & work room area behind it.
In Sweetwater, I was introduced to hunting by Mr. Johnson, a member at the First Presbyterian Church where my Dad was Pastor. We hunted mainly rabbit, but the outings were such fun. I bought my first firearm, a single-shot breach loading 20-gauge shotgun, from another man in our church, a Mr. Jennings.
The city square was the location of the Nolan County Courthouse and County Government. It was at the intersection of Broadway (Bus I-20) and Locust Streets. The first Presbyterian Church was in the second block north of the Courthouse, on Locust Street, at the intersection of 3rd Street. The Central Fire Station was on Locust Street, across 3rd Street from the Church.
I do not know the function today of what formerly was the First Presbyterian Church, since it moved out to the edge of town. This is a 2016 photograph of what was the church and the first station across the street.
Across Locust Street from the Church was the CityŐs Municipal Auditorium, a civil place at which many community events and activities took place. This is a 2016 photo of that old building, which possibly is no longer functioning in that role.
I played junior high football. Though I was slight of height and weight, compared to the older boy who played this same defensive end position most of the time, I did play on the winning team of the 1951 Pee Wee Bowl of Colorado City, Texas, a competition among the top four teams of west Texas. My one star play for this short-lived football career was to block a punt in that championship game. Coach Savage was our coach.
One team player, Donald Lee Bigbee, tracked down as many of the original 1951 Pee Wee Bowl players from Sweetwater that he could locate, at least for an electronic reunion. He reached me in 2012, and we connected electronically. He and his wife, Joan, resided in Round Rock, Texas. Don died February 26, 2013, but Joan kept up with me via e-mail. Like me at the time, they were in their mid 70Ős, age wise.
Sweetwater High School was just about four blocks from my home. It was the home of much of the social life of Sweetwater. We were the Sweetwater Mustangs, and played football games in the sunken stadium behind the high school.
The center of cinema display was the Texas Theater downtown on the County Courthouse Square. Our family viewed most all of the Hollywood movies produced in the 1950Ős at that theater. I especially liked the musicals, like ŇSinging in the Rain.Ó
The Nolan County Courthouse appeared this way during our rears of residency. ItŐs been replaced now with a more modern structure.
My father, as an aspect of participating in community leadership, was a member of that International Fellowship of Professional and Business People known as Rotary Club, International! ItŐs luncheon meetings each week were in the penthouse of the Blue Bonnet Hotel downtown, pictured here on the left.
He would take me as a young guest occasionally, which was good occasion for me to interface with leading citizens of Sweetwater and people whose names youŐd see in the newspaper, the Sweetwater Reporter. Where ever we lived, there always was a newspaper subscription delivered to our home.
There was a grocery store and bakery business in Sweetwater called Sunbeam Grocery & Bakery. It was started in the 1930Ős by a family named Glass, and it was owned and managed by Mr. Sam Leland Glass in the 1950Ős when our family lived there. The Glass family were members of First Presbyterian Church, so my father was their Pastor. Mr. Glass was an Elder in our Church. He had a son who was a classmate of mine.
At age 12, I wanted to acquire a part time job to begin earning money. My father took me to meet Mr. Glass at the Sunbeam Store. He interviewed, then hired me to begin as a bag boy (sacking groceries for customers) and as a stocker boy in the store, working on Friday afternoons and on Saturdays. That was 1951, and Child Labor Laws had not yet been developed. My pay was 25 cents per hour.
Work was about 12 hours per weekend, earning $3.00. Deductions were made for Social Security and withholding Federal Income Tax. I learned that filing a Federal Income Tax Return after the end of each year could result in a refund for the Federal Income Tax portion of the deductions. So, that was my introduction to learning to file my own Tax Return! I have done so since then for my entire life! Those early years gave me a year-end refund of something like $10 or $12!
Though, my working had many positive elements in the experience, what I did learn is that my life-time profession probably would not seek to be in the grocery industry!
Reagan Junior High School was the 7th Đ 9th grade school in Sweetwater. It was a long bicycle ride from our home to there, but such was the usual transportation. Occasionally a parental ride in the family automobile was provided during inclement weather, etc.
My freshman year at the Sweetwater High School was 1953-54. In Sweetwater, all four high school years were in the High School. The first year in high school is an ego-booster for boys at that age, so I felt important, to say the least!
A hobby interest that developed in our Sweetwater years as model railroading! A young boy about three years my senior was an avid model railroader. Robert Hudspeth was an O gage Lionel Lines hobbyist with a large layout heŐd constructed in his familyŐs basement. His family were members of our church, and he was the delivery boy of The Sweetwater Reporter, our local newspaper! My hobby interest began with the smaller HO gage trains, purchasing model kits to assemble the rolling stock. Here I am diligently getting into good Ňtraining!Ó
Another hobby interest of sorts developed in my junior high days. An elderly gentleman, a member of our church, was named Mr. Jenkins. He, along with a friend of his were hunters. Mostly small game, such as cottontail rabbits, squirrels, etc. He invited me to join them in some hunts. He introduced me to a breach-loading, 20-gage single barrel shotgun, which he enabled me to purchase for the princely sum of $20! That was my first firearm. An occasional cotton-tail rabbit was bagged with that firearm, and my mother cooked the hunterŐs spoils with favors that made them attractive dining.
The First Presbyterian Church moved out to the edge of town shortly following our move to Dallas. My father received a call to become the Pastor of the John Knox Presbyterian Church in Dallas Texas in the spring of 1954, 2/3Ős of the way through my 9th grade as a Freshman in Sweetwater High School.