About 35 years ago, the Denison Herald held a promotion asking readers to write, in their own words, what they remembered about Denison and its early days. Those selected as the top “I Remember When…” stories were published. For some reason, I kept some of the original entries and ran across them recently. I’m not sure which ones were the winners or if the authors still are living.
When I started reading, I thought readers might be interested in some of their remembrances, especially one by W.M. Bradburry of Platter, Oklahoma, which could possibly have been a winner.
Bradburry, I learned after the article was submitted, was 15 years old when he joined the Army, but told a fib and said he was 18. He spent two years in the Army, then was a civilian for one year before going back into the Marines. When he left the service he had been discharged twice before he was 18 years old.
He said he was in B. Troop of the 13th Cavalry during World War I and was stationed in McAllen. He said, “I was riding a horse every day. His name was Button and he was a good old horse. We were on patrol duty on the border, guarding the area. I used to raise horses and ride all the time and really wanted to get it on the Cavalry Ride to Austin.
“I was born in Leroy, TX and have been living in Platter since 1945 when I went to work for the Corp of Engineers. I got laid off on Sept. 20, 1945, from driving a tractor, mowing grass. That was the hottest day of the year. I got a job working for Jacques Power Saw and worked for them until they closed their shop. “
“In 1945 I was living in Platter and was working for the Corps of Engineers at The Denison Dam. I was driving a flat-bed truck, 40 foot long and every morning I went to the Prisoner of War Camp on the Texas side by the spillway at the Denison Dam. I picked up 40 prisoners and took them below the dam on the Texas side where the Engineers were located.
“The prisoners policed the area each day to give them something to do. The prisoners were nice people. Many couldn’t speak English, but interpreters were there so we could talk to them. Then after their day’s work I took them back to their compound. I didn’t get to know any of them personally, but they were really nice folks and had pictures of their families to show.”
Mrs. W.O. Weaver lived on Ambrose Road, east of Denison. She remembered going to town and traveling the Jefferson Highway, the road she said that now is known at Highway 1753 or Ambrose Road. It was the main road to Bells and on to Greenville she said and described it as “A narrow gravel road with deep ditches and if a car slid in the ditch, it had to be pulled out. The black lane was so muddy that people going to town had to go up the old sand hill road when it was wet weather. The sand hill road went west from the old South Gale School house to where the J.A. Foster family lived, then back north to the highway.
“There is a middle road north of the highway and we used to go to town by turning off on it and going to the corner where it turns east and we would go across the meadow and come out in front of the Horton house. Then we would continue around the old road to where Patti’s store is now, then into town on East Main Street. It was the 1920s when they decided to make an airport out of the meadow and changed the road along the fence on the south side. The airport was a busy place when someone would come there with a plane and give rides to people, mostly on Saturday and Sunday. The airport was named Gray’s Field.” The 100-acre Gray Field was named for R.M. “Dick” Gray, a reporter for The Denison Herald who also doubled as city fire marshal for many years, according to information in Jack Maguire’s “Katy’s Baby.” It was located two miles east of Denison.
Mrs. Weaver also remembered the bus service on the Ambrose Road in the 1920s. She said buses ran from Denison to Greenville on the hour, each way and would stop and pick up passengers all along the road going either direction. Since many people didn’t have cars they depended on the buses to go to town to shop. After the bus line stopped, her father-in-law started a milk route for Kraft Cheese and her husband, Woodrow Weaver, drove the truck for him part of the time. He would stop and pick up several people to ride to town with him on the milk truck.
Bessie Yowell of Denison remembered crossing Red River near where the Denison Dam was built. She said it could have been a little closer to the old bridge. She said her family would go to Tishomingo to visit relatives when crops were laid by.
She remembered when the first peanut thresher was brought to this area, saying her daddy raised a lot of peanuts and he thought the thresher was faster. “It was wonderful not to have to pull peanuts off stocks,” she said. “An old man from Bells used to come to our house to pull the peanuts off in the barn during the winter. He would come to the house and ask my mother for a baked sweet potato. He would take two or three to the barn and work all day,” she said.
“I remember when I talked on the first telephone. I was scared to death. I had to call my daddy in Bells, where he had gone with a load of pecans. He had told my mother to call him in Bells if the peanut thrasher was coming,” Ms. Yowell wrote.
She also remembered the train that ran from Ambrose to Denison. They lived in Ambrose and she rode the train to Denison many times, she said. She also remembered when the road from Dallas to Sherman was just graded and graveled in about 1926. Doctors were so excited about it, she said, adding that they said “We can take our wives to Dallas to dinner and a show and get back home before morning.”
R.E. Amis of Durant remembered when: “A snicker was something besides a candy bar and a refrigerator was something you kept food cold in instead of a ‘dadburn football player.’” He closed by saying, “You can eat this or kick it around, in that order.”
I did some checking to understand the football player comment. I learned that in the 1980s William Perry, a professional football player, was a defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears. He was a huge man and was tagged as “The Refrigerator”
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at email@example.com. She has been a longtime contributor to the Herald Democrat with her column. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.