HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY: LEON SPRINGS
The Old Home Place
This is the story of my life, the best I know how to tell it. I’m gonna try my best. I was born March 26, 1931. Mama didn’t have a doctor. I was born at home with a midwife in attendance. I was named after Hugh Watson who worked with my daddy at Camp Stanley which was part of the San Antonio Arsenal. My daddy didn't particularly like the name Hugh, so I was always called by my nickname, Pete. We lived in Leon Springs, Texas, a small community on Highway 87 between San Antonio and Boerne. Mrs. Aue, the head coconut of the whole city lived on top of the hill in the big “casa”, the big one on top behind the town. Rudy’s dad had come over to Leon Springs from Germany and had bought and fenced the land as far as you could see. He owned every penny of it. He hired Mexican Americans to fence the land for him. He worked right along beside them, doing without food himself to get the work done. I hear he would take a can of sardines and a few crackers with him, but he never ate them. Everyday he would bring them home and put them back on the shelf of his store and sell them so that he would have enough money to fence the land. He had built a grocery store, a gas station, and a dance hall that his son, Rudy inherited when he died. Rudy ran the store and lived in one of four Aue houses across the railroad tracks along with his wife Julia and his two children. There was a schoolhouse and much later a church built across the highway from the store. Mr. Schaub, the neighborhood handy man, welding man, sort of a blacksmith lived in one of the houses along side the store. In one of the other houses, Mrs. Saley lived in a big two-story house; She was always out in her yard sweeping it clean when we passed by going to school. She lived to the 105 years old. She would tell us about the Indians. She said they would come at night and scare them. They would look in her windows and all kinds of stuff. She told us about the story of the Indians that came and captured Jeff and Clint Smith. The Indians came to the Smith home near the area where the remount at Camp Stanley is. The parents were having a dance or some kind of party one night and the Indians came and stole the two boys away. She said the Indians stuck a colt to make it bleed to make the family think that some animals killed the boys and took them off. The boys ended up riding with Geronimo, but finally were recaptured and taken back home.
My family lived in a house about a mile off the main highway on the Boerne Stage Road. The Old Chisholm Trail ran right in front of our house. The house next door to us, owned by Ernest Altgelt, was where the stagecoach stopped for the night on its way to Bandera. The stagecoach stop consisted of four buildings made of adobe, some kind of rock and log cabin like logs. I have a painted picture of them in my living room. We lived in a shotgun house, a long frame house with one room right after the other. My dad built the house and added on to it as needed. There were ten of us children, so he did a lot of additions, finally adding a second story.
There was no indoor plumbing; we used an outhouse. We had to pack water to the house. We washed our clothes in one of the nearby springs, heating the water on a wood fire, rubbing them on a rub board, and drying them on a fence. We used coal oil lamps for light and a wood burning stove for cooking. We eventually got a well, but it wasn’t until Archie and I came home from the navy that we had electricity, running water with a bathtub inside and that Daddy had put in a septic tank outside so that we could have an indoor commode. We had no heating in the house. My mom would heat bricks and put them in our beds on cold nights, and even then we would still be cold. In the mornings we would put our feet on warm bricks to warm up. At least two of us would sleep together and that helped keep us warm on cold nights. I always slept with my brother Archie and we were very close. We did almost everything together. We were inseparable. We played together and had the same friends, the Flores, the Pattons, the Neutzes, the Moreaus, and many more. We even went into the navy together. I miss him so much since his death in 1988.
My mom and dad would give us anything they had. They just didn’t have much. They worked very hard to just keep food on the table. There was never enough money or time. My mother didn’t have time to put us on her lap and give us the love and attention we would have liked. After all, there were ten of us kids. I was the fifth of five boys before any girls came along. We ate off the land; we had a garden, cows, and hogs. We killed deer and turkey all year long. There were big beautiful trees in our yard. There were live oaks out by the barn, but the elm trees were the most beautiful of all. We had two acres of land and one acre of it was a garden. My dad worked that garden everyday. It was really pretty. He had every kind of vegetable in the world.
Putting food on the table was a joint venture. Everyone worked together. We had two milk cows and every year or so there would be a calf. We’d raise the calf and we would kill it with the hogs in winter for food. We would build a big fire and fill tubs with water and put them on the fire to boil. We had a block and tackle on the big live oak tree in the back to pull the hogs up and dip them in the hot water. Then we would put the big animals on tables and scrape the hair off them until they were all pretty and white. After they were scraped clean, we helped my dad cut them all up. Mr. Schaub always helped us make the sausage. He always wanted to make some blood sausage but my mother would not let them because she said the Bible said we should not eat blood. My father and none of us would have anything to do with it, but Mr. Schaub would make some for himself anyway. He had to take it home because none of us would touch it. That was quite a job making all that sausage, and hanging and smoking all the hams and bacon. We made what we called cracklings. We took the pork fat and skin and boil it until it was all crisp and good. We didn’t have many things to snack on. I thought it was good eating.
We ate a lot of deer meat. We lived in the foothills of the Texas hill country right next to the Aue property. All us boys would go out and kill a deer every now and then. Bless Rudy Aue’s heart for letting us do that. Well, he didn’t really let us. We just did it! I know he knew we did it, but he never turned us in and he could have. He knew we were poor and that we were hungry. He looked after us and looked the other way. I’m sure that if his mother knew it she would have had a cow. But, she didn’t know it. God bless you, Rudy Aue. I’ll always respect him for looking after us.
We didn’t have any electricity or refrigeration so when we killed more deer than could be eaten in a day or two, my mother would fry up all the meat. She would put the fried meat in a jar and take hog grease that had been rendered from the hogs we killed and put that lard all around and all over the top of the meat. She would then take something, paraffin, and put on the top to seal the meat. We would have fresh meat whenever we needed it all year long.
My father was a very good father. I didn’t know how much I loved him or respected him until I was much older. Sometimes it takes a long time for us to realize the sacrifices our parents make for us. He worked so hard to take care of us, working at Camp Stanley, building and rebuilding our home, working a garden, killing hogs and turkeys, and more. One Saturday he was cutting wood for the stove and he accidentally cut all the fingers off his right hand. I don’t remember the whole story, but the family always told the story. We had an old Model T loaded with rocks that needed to be hauled off. My brothers had to remove enough of them to get my dad in and then they couldn’t crank up the car. They finally got it running and took my dad to the doctor in Boerne. Half of his thumb was also cut off, but the doctor was able to sew it back on. It might have been possible for the others to be sewn back on but they were left at the woodpile. This accident was a big let down for my dad. He had been hired as a carpenter at Camp Stanley, but with his hand missing, he was not allowed to go back to that job. He was given the job as janitor instead and he retired as janitor. I know that he regretted having to do that. He sacrificed himself to take care of us. It was great of him to do that for us. I wrote a letter to my dad, and to my mom, to apologize and to tell them how sorry I am that I was not always thankful for what they did for me. I do respect them and honor them as my parents.
My dad never drank. When someone offered him a beer, he would take it to be nice. Then he would drink it all up in one second. He would put the bottle down and that was it. He would not drink any more. His father drank too much; he was an alcoholic and I think that’s why my dad did not drink. I hate to say this, but it’s true. The first date I had with Rose Nell Feller was when my brother, Sid, had just returned home from the war. We were celebrating and I got drunk on wine. They had to pour water on me. I was about sixteen. I never drank any more wine. I hate wine. I could never touch it again. When we went to the dances at Three Way In, there was a man there who would buy us a some peach liquor, and we drank a little of that. We were bad boys once in a while. I remember once I told my mom that her pie made me sick. When I got home she emptied the whole thing on the floor. We tried to never let my dad know how bad we were. If he had caught us, it would have been over for us.
In the summer, all us boys would hire off to the farmers in the area. We shocked oats for Mr. Aue. We bailed hay and shocked oats for Mr. Shaw. We ran all his farm implements to take care of the baling and hauling the bales and everything that needed to be done. We worked with the two Elsworth girls. They shocked right along beside us in the fields. They were better than we were, man. We were kids and we wanted to play. We wanted to talk to them but they would not say anything to us. All the people wanted us to work for them, even after Archie and I came back from the navy. We worked hard and we sweated. We stayed from daylight until dark. They fed us a meal at noon, and then about three or four o’clock they fed us another meal. It was really nice. They treated us like we were their own when we were at their house. It was very good.
Later on, when I was a little older, I worked for Mr. Wood up there at his grocery store. I would pump gas, sack groceries, or do whatever needed doing. After I was there a few days, he told me I could eat anything I wanted. He knew he could trust me not to steal from him because my daddy always taught us not to steal. I could make sandwiches, open any box of cookies or anything I wanted and eat it. Delores, his daughter, and I would make me a big old job of ham and cheese with tomatoes and lettuce, and I’d be out there pumping gas, eating my sandwich. I didn’t loose any time. Mr. Wood would laugh and say, “Man, that boy can eat!” He knew that if he told us we could eat anything we wanted to eat, that in a couple of weeks we would be sick of it. And he was right! Then we started being picky. Delores would say, “Let’s open these, Pete,” and she’d open the package. She would eat one cookie and she’d give me one. Then she would take half of one and give me the rest and I had to eat the rest of the box. I was her slave, man! Mrs. Wood used to get on to her for being mean to me.
When I was seventeen, Archie and I joined the navy. That was the best thing that ever happened to me even though I almost got killed two or three times. When I came home from the navy, I got married. My two sisters, Lois and Barbara got married to Bobby Hay and Dale Keith. I had three wonderful children, Mike, Cindy, and Joanne. Life goes on!
And a Creek Ran Through It
There used to be nothing but water in Leon Springs. The creek was running swift in summer and winter. There was watercress all over the top of it. There were tadpoles, fish; there was bass in there a foot and a half long down in the swifter water. It was beautiful! But in the seasons of rain the creek would be on the rise a lot. It would come up to that little bridge where we lived and right up to our gate. One time it came up eighteen inches into Rudy Aue’s store.
The creek was very useful to us. We used it for work and for play. We didn’t have running water in our house. We had to pack water to the house for drinking, bathing and cleaning. There were ten of us kids and that meant there was a lot of washing to be done. We lived up in a house above the springs at Mr. Aue’s. Sometimes us kids had to stay home from school to help my mama. Archie and I, and Sid and Donald before us, would go down to that spring and cut wood to build a fire. Then we would fill big tubs of water to put on the fire to boil. We helped mama rub the clothes on a rub board until they were clean. After they were clean we would rinse them in another couple of tubs of clean water. We would ring as much water out of them as we could and hang them on that big high fence of Mr. Aue’s. When the clothes were dry, we’d take them off the fence and carry them up the hill home. I don’t know how old I was then. I don’t know the dates. I just know I was a very young child, big enough to wash clothes and stuff. But I wasn’t too old.
We swam in that creek all year around. We even swam in the cold winter, even in February. We would build a big fire and go jump in the water. We came out blue. We’d get by the fire until we were warm and then go jump in again.
When I was a little older and the creek was on a rise, a bunch of us boys would walk a mile or two up the road. We’d get a big old log and get in that swift running creek and ride it all the way down. It’s a wonder we didn’t get killed. But, we did it!
One summer, the wasp built a big old nest over the water. We’d take a slingshot and shoot the nest and dive into the water. When we came up the wasp would be in our hair. What!
Mr. Shaw who lived on the old Altgelt place where the stage coach stop was ran a pipe from the springs where we used to do the washing to a big pool that was nine feet deep in the middle. Water ran into the pool, overflowed it and ran across the highway. We swam in that pool, also. We worked for Mr. Shaw at times. He was a nice man.
The creek drew us to the water and caused us trouble with my dad. He was the law and order type dad. What ever he said you better get on it. You better hop to quick because if you didn’t, the next step was the razor strap. Archie knew how to get out of trouble pretty good, but I usually got it. I have scars on my back now where he whipped me. But, I deserved every one of those whippings. He would tell us, “Don’t go to the creek! As soon as he would leave for work, into the creek we would go, man. We’d stay at the creek all day long. Our eyes would be all red from swimming all day long. Our mama would say, “You boys are going to get a whipping when your daddy comes home!” I can hear her now! And, we got it. As soon as my daddy came home, he would say, “You boys been to that creek swimming?” and we’d say, “No sir!” Just lying to him, man. And he just went ahead and got the razor strap and we got it. It was worth it because we swam all day and did everything a child would want to do, man.
When we were teenagers and worked shocking oats and baling hay in that field between the Shaw’s pool and Aue’s store in the summer time, We would shock and bale all around that field. When we got to the side where the B29 Inn is, we’d crawl over the fence and get us a Pepsi Cola if we had the money, if they had paid us. We’d then work back to the other side where that pool of Mr. Shaw’s was and jump in and go swimming for a while. Then we’d go back to shocking oats. It was a fun time in summer, plus work.
Now the creek is dry because everyone has pumped the water from the Edward’s Aquifer. It’s dry except when it rains and flash flooding comes. And then it’s dry again.
Adventures of the Toms and Hucks of Leon Springs
Burr haircuts, short pants, bare footed, no shirts, we were like wild boys. That’s what Mr. Whitehead called us when he would see us. “There’s them wild boys!” That’s what he would say when he would see us at Leon Springs in the town. Children now a days just don’t know what it is to live like we lived when I was a kid. We did all kinds of crazy things, had all kinds of fun adventures, played all kinds of little tricks. Now a days, they just rob a bank!
My three older brothers and I learned very early about hunting and trapping. We were very poor and my daddy would shoot wild turkeys to help keep food on the table. We had an old two-story frame house and in our yard we kept some turkeys. Others turkeys would fly in to play with our turkeys, or talk to them, or whatever and Daddy would see them and he would shoot a turkey right out of the window. We’d hear that gun go off and we would be out of that house like a shot. We’d all run down to that bottom and we would be dragging that big old sucker home as fast as we could. Good eating was coming up!
Daddy never killed a deer I don’t think in his entire life. He just killed us turkeys. But, he taught all us boys to hunt, and we killed many a deer to put meat on the table. One time my friend Tunnie Flores and I were going to see our girlfriends. I was driving my dad’s 1934 or 35 Ford up the back roads toward Boerne. We saw two does in a field and we killed them and put them into the trunk of the car. When we got to my girlfriend’s house, blood started dripping out of the trunk onto the ground. Her daddy said, “ What you boys got in there?” We didn’t think the blood would leak out. We just said, “Aw! Nothing!” He knew what we had. We had to eat, man. We didn’t kill those does to be mean. We did it because we were hungry.
We used to go hunting with our dog, Collie at night. He was very obedient and very smart. He took care of everything. He watched everything. He didn’t bark on the trail. He’d go right up to a tree and go “burrr” That’s it! When he did that we knew we had something. He’d have a ring tail cornered in the tree. We see him in the moonlight and shoot him with a twenty-two. Pow! We took the furs from the animals we shot and sold them for money. We used that money to give to my mom to buy shoes, clothing, or whatever we needed. Whatever we made, we gave the money to my mother and she made do with whatever she had. She used it to get whatever she needed to take care of us.
I used to go hunting with my Uncle Doc. He drank a lot and would take a fifth of whisky, pour half of it out and fill the bottle with water and sugar in it to dilute it. He would take Archie and me and a couple of dogs, that old hound dog, Rufus, and another, I think his name was Blue across that track by Wood’s Store and into Mr. Pheiffer’s pasture. We would hunt from nine o’clock at night until two, three, or four in the morning. We’d come in at about daylight and have a whole pack of ‘coons and ringtails. We’d shoot them out of the trees in the moonlight. Sometimes we’d have to shake and shake the trees to get them out so the dogs could get them. We sold the furs for money to give to my mom.
Uncle Doc had some kind of car that had a rumble seat in it. Instead of a trunk that raised up, you pulled the trunk back and out. It made a rumble seat. He’d put those dogs of his in that seat and take us to see my grandma. She lived in a little old house with flowers all around it over by what we then called “Mexican town.” We’d go in to see my grandma and those old dogs would jump out of the rumble seat and start fighting. Boom! Boom! Boom!
Mr. Altgelt had a lot of white leghorn chickens. I hate to say it, but my friends and I would take some of his chickens. We would take a frying pan and some lard along with his chickens and take them up there in the woods where no one would see us. We were like wild people. We’d just skin those chickens. We would pull the skin and the feathers and everything off and fry ‘em up, right there. We were hungry, man. We wanted something to eat.
When we were younger, we used to set traps in that same area where we would later fry the chickens. We caught a bobcat one night. He wasn’t dead and we were teasing him, sticking him with a stick. When we went home to get the twenty-two to shoot him, we discovered that he was hanging on the trap with only a grizzle of one toe. We could have been killed, man.
There were bobcats, ‘coon, ringtails, everything out there in those woods. Sometimes I would go hunting out there all by myself. I’d take me a sausage or deer meat sandwich or something and put it in my pocket or under my shirt and a single shot twenty-two to kill a turkey or a deer during the daytime. I’d go from my house over the mountain, I mean the big one, and over a couple of others hills to what they called Cherry Springs in the Altgelt place. I’d lay by those springs for hours waiting for a turkey to come up. Sometimes I would wait two or three hours for them to come. Finally, I could smell them coming, I could smell them, man! They would come up with their old blue heads sticking up. You could only shoot one. You shoot once, and that’s it. They’re gone! That’s it! Sometimes, I could smell a deer coming.
Mr. Max Toepperwein was a crack-shot rifle shooter. He was one of the best rifle shots in the whole world. He had a rifle range over behind the school on top of that big hill. When he was shooting, sometimes the bullets would snap or whatever. He used every kind of bullet you would want to name. When they would snap or whatever he would drop them. We’d take a paper sack and pick them all up. We’d have a whole sack of bullets and no one knew we had them. When my family and Tunnie’s family made sausage, Tunnie and I would take five or six rings from my dad’s and four or five rings from Tunnie’s dad. We’d go get our friends and girl friends and take them out to the pasture at night in the moonlight and build a big fire. We’d have a big sausage roast and a lot of kissy-poo. We didn’t have any firecrackers or fire works and so we’d take that sack of bullets and throw the whole sack full in the fire. And the bullets would go off. Ping! Ping! Ping! It’s a wonder we didn’t get killed! We just didn’t think. We were young guys wanting to have fun. At the spur of the moment we just did it.
My dad had a lot of trouble with us boys. Right, next to our barn where daddy kept hay and all kinds of stuff, right outside the gate was a grave. We always wanted to dig that grave up, but my daddy wouldn’t let us. He told us that a long time ago there was a horse thief stealing everyone’s horses and someone shot him. My daddy didn’t shoot him. but someone did and buried him right there by our barn. We never did get to dig that grave up.
When Daddy would leave for work, all us kids would have a free for all in the house. We’d have at it, man. We’d lock my mama up in one room and go for it. Sometimes, we would move all the furniture out in the yard, we didn’t have a lot, but we’d move it and make a dancing room out of the living room. We’d go get Susie Flores, Helen Altgelt, and all them others that lived down there and we’d try to dance. We were practicing up for the Saturday night dance at Three Way Inn Dance Hall. It was a big old dance hall where they would pull a pick up truck to it and pull the top off on some kind of rail. There would be moonlight and dancing under the stars. Daddy wouldn’t let us go unless our grandma would agree to go with us as a chaperone. My grandma smoked cigars and dipped snuff, Garrett Snuff in a jar, a little brown looking jar. So, we’d talk her into going, but she wouldn’t get out of the car. She said she could see us well enough in the moonlight with the top off the dance hall. We’d buy her a soda water or something and take it out to her. She would just be sitting out there in the car.
After Daddy built a second floor to our house, us boys had to sleep upstairs. We didn’t have an indoor bathroom and we had to go out to the outhouse to go to the bathroom. It even had a crescent moon carved in it. It was pretty primitive. We always had a Sears Roebuck catalog to use to wipe our tails on. When we needed to use the restroom at three o’clock in the morning when it was cold, sometimes even sleeting, you had to go, honey. We didn’t want to go downstairs and all the way out to the privie, so we would just pee out the window. It would run down and you could see the pee on the screen in front of the house. We did it until our dad caught sight of it. He busted some butts. That was our life.
One time my daddy and mother went to visit my grandma and left us boys at home. Sid, and Donald and all them bigger boys down the road were there at our house riding their bicycles down the Boerne Stage Road. Sid was acting smart and he swerved at me and hit my leg. They had to take me to the Robert B. Green hospital to get me fixed up. Both bones were broken. It really hurt. I still remember screaming.
We used to take a purse, a pretty shiny lady’s purse. We would fill it up with that real green gooey cow manure. Then we’d snap it shut and wipe it all clean looking on the outside. We would take that purse down to that little bridge down the road and lay it down. Then we would get under the bridge and wait for a car to come by. A car would come by, stop, and get the purse. They would get back in the car and open the purse. How we would laugh when they would throw the purse out the window. That’s some of the things we did when we were children.
Mr. Durler had a ranch near us and he raised Shetland ponies. They were wild when he would get them and he would let us boys ride them to break them in. There were probably ten or fifteen of us, the Ashers, the Flores, the Nuetzes, the Pattons, the Lefrevres, the Moreaus, and others. He would give each of us a pony to ride. We’d take those ponies and ride everywhere. You could see all of us with the dust a flying behind us. There we were, each with our own pony, riding those poor devils. Shetlands are small, but here we’d come! Those were the fun times.
There are other times, quieter times I remember. I’ll remember them all my life. In the summer when it was hot, a lot of us boys would walk the roads of Leon Springs, down Boerne Stage Road, across to the Aue’s over the rail road tracks to the boys who lived in the houses over there, It was so hot our bare feet would burn on the bottom. We’d walk right through the grass with all the grass burrs. I remember walking through the sand. It was so soft and felt so good on my feet. It was so good to be walking in the summer time in the beautiful sun. In the evenings we heard the crickets and the whip-poor-wills. You could hear the crickets at night and see a lot of candle bugs light up at night. In the evenings, just at dark, a bird would come out. It would be a whip-poor-will and it would go “zip mad a widow, zip mad a widow, zip mad a widow!” At least that’s what we thought it was saying. But, he was really making that sound with his whistle. He was whistling. I’ll never forget those calls my whole life.
That Little Rock Schoolhouse
My name is Hugh Asher and I went to that little rock schoolhouse at Leon Springs in the late 1930’s and into the 1940’s. I was there during the entire WWII years. I remember we had three classrooms. The first, second, and third grade were in one room, the fourth, fifth, and sixth in one, and the seventh, eighth and ninth in still another. The principal of the school always taught the older children.
It was one mile from my house to the school and I always walked, usually with some of my brothers and sisters. It didn’t matter if it was hot, freezing, or raining, we walked to school; we didn’t miss many days. The only days we missed were when my daddy needed some help, or my mother needed help with the washing or something. There were ten of us kids and we had to help at home. Our biggest problem was getting everyone to school without one of us having to return home. We had a pet deer we had raised and it would sometimes follow us to school and sometimes our dog would follow us. The teachers always made one of us take our pets back home. They didn’t want our animals in the schoolyard.
In the mornings, we would line up in three rows. After we said the Pledge of Allegiance, we sang America and God Bless America. Then we would have the Lord’s Prayer. We did this every morning, either inside the building or outside by the flagpole. I don’t understand why our children can’t have that now. It is devastating to our country. America! We’ve forgotten what America is!
When I was a little older, my job before school was to take our two cows and our neighbor, Mr. Flores’ cows out to the pasture to eat oats during the day. Mr. Flores had an old dun mare named Dunnie and he would let me use that mare to herd the cows to the field. Then I would ride that horse on to school. On the way, I would always pass Mr. Flores’ youngest grandson who was still in diapers, and everyday he would say, “Where you going, Pete? You goin’ cool!”
After school, I would ride the horse back to my house and let her loose in the yard to eat. In the evenings, my little brothers and sisters always wanted to ride her. All I had to do was whistle, and she’d come up to the house and let those kids ride. She was so gentle that they could hang all over her, even hang on to her tail.
My favorite teacher was Mrs. Irma Van der Stratton. She came from Boerne to Leon Springs to teach us. I will never forget her. She was the most elegant lady. She had white hair that was sometimes kind of blue from some rinse she used in it. She was very well mannered and she taught me a lot of the manners I have carried with me all my life. She was very intelligent and I learned much from her. I wish I could thank her and tell her how wonderful, how beautiful, how beautiful a person she was, and how much she meant to me.
We were always playing games with her. There was a big pot bellied stove to heat the room with. Mrs. Van der Stratton would say, “Put some more wood on the fire, Mr. Asher.” I would put a lot of wood in the fire and the whole stove would get red. Then she would say, “I think it is getting hot in here!” and she would open up all the windows.
She would let us shoot rats in the attic with what we called our “nigger” shooters. Now they call them slingshots. We kept them in our pockets or hanging around out necks. She let us do that until one day Bobby Nuetze turned the light off the flashlight we were using and one of the boys fell through the two by fours. He was hanging right over her desk and that was the end of our shooting rats in the attic.
We used to take snakes and put them in her desk. We put red ants in a jar and then let them loose on the school floor. We did all kind of crazy things in school. We were allowed to go all the way down to Mr. Aue’s store at recess to buy candy for a nickel, or one or two pennies.
When I was a teenager, I would walk over all the land in between our house and school. I’d catch coons and ringtails. One morning, I caught a skunk. When I got to school, Mrs. Van der Stratton ran me off from school because I stunk. Phew! Yuck! She got me out of there and I had to go home. I didn’t mind. It was a joy, really. I didn’t much like school. I was a rebellious child. So were a lot of other boys in my class. I think it was because we didn’t have as much as everybody else. We kind of felt deprived, maybe.
At Halloween, there would be a play or something at the school. Some of us were never picked to play a part and we really rebelled. While everyone was in the school house, a lot of us boys would take a tow sack of corn cobs to stuff in car mufflers and a bar of P&G soap to soap every window in the whole place, except for Mr. Woods. He was the sheriff and when he would see us, he would say, “Hey boys! Come here! This is my car. Don’t touch it! And, we didn’t. But we got everyone else’s. We were like wild boys. When we got through, we would pull the master switch so all the lights would go out and we’d run for the mountains. It was rebellious, but we did it and we called it fun.
One time, we soaped all the windows of the school and we put sheep dip all over the boy’s restroom, the girl’s restroom, and all over the porch of the school. Sheep dip is just about the foulest and smelliest thing we could find. When the teachers arrived the next morning they had to let school out for the day. The smell was terrible, man! When they caught us they made us clean up the whole mess.
We had to work at school. There were no janitors. At about 2:30, the teacher would pick about two boys and two girls to go out and clean the rest rooms. They were not in the building in those days. They were in a little building outside the schoolhouse. The boys would clean the boys and the girls would clean the girls. Of course, there would always be a little kissy-poo in the middle of our time out there. There was also a little woodshed and we had to bring in the wood for the pot bellied wood stove. We also had to keep the grass cut out in front so that the teachers could get to their car.
It wasn’t all kissy-poo at the school. We had our fights, too. We used to play marbles and one boy would steal our marbles. We were always bare footed. He would put our marbles between his toes and walk away with them. I had a fight with him everyday, man! Boom! Boom! Right in the mouth! One day, Tunnie had a fight with him and Tunnie hit him about seven times on his head. That boy went home with a big old goose egg on his head. Too bad!
We were the poor people in that community. The Ashers, the Nuetzes, the LeFevres, we were the poor outcasts. We didn’t have nothing! We scratched the ground! There were a few, however, who had the money. Among those I went to school with were Gail McDonald, whose family started that big rock quarry out there close to where Fiesta Texas is now. Senator Franklin Spears was in my class at school. He used to trade sandwiches with me at noon. I always had deer meat sandwiches and he had big beautiful sandwiches of cheese, lettuce, and tomato. He didn’t like his and I didn’t like mine, so we switched. I have a lot of memories from that school.
I finished ninth grade out there at Leon Springs. There was no high school. I went to Tech High School in San Antonio for a while. There was no transportation and I had to hitch hike, so I quit and I went into the navy when I was seventeen.
Finally, the school district built John Marshall High School. It was too late for me. Mr. Hugh Watson, whom I’m named after, was one of the first members on the board. When his children got of age, he made sure they got one.
The old school is gone now. It has been replaced with a big school that doesn’t look like it belongs in Leon Springs. It looks like it belongs to the Dominion that has been built on the very same land I used to hunt and trap as a child.
Seeds of Life
Oats, vegetables, and the seeds of education were not the only seeds sown in that little town of Leon Springs. The people in the Leon Springs Presbyterian Church, the only church close by, planted seeds of eternal life in many a heart. Indeed, much mature fruit sown by that little church is still in a continual harvest in many congregations, in many different denominations, throughout the world.
Friends from my age group and I enjoyed many opportunities offered by that church. Ruby Lee and Betty Jean Johnson, Tommy Terrell, Roy Moreau, Dave Erfurt, Franky and Jimmy Nuetze, Floyd and Everett Patton, were some and there were many more that I have not named. I remember a young man coming from out of town with his wife to be our preacher. His name was Frank Walker. He had Hollywood mufflers on his car and we’d all be in the B29 Inn shooting pool and he would come in and shoot pool with us. He and his wife were very beautiful people and he was a good minister. He got all us young people involved in what they called the Christian Endeavor. They not only taught us about God, but they had all kinds of parties and stuff. Every Friday night we would all meet at the church, or at Mrs. Self’s house. Her sister, Miss Helen Leach, lived with her and taught us many things. They lived right across the street from Franklin Spear’s house, where the Dominion is now. It was a very good place to meet people and have fun as children. We always had a lot of snacks and good things to eat. The preacher got us involved in boxing and a man, Mr. Blount, came from San Antonio to teach us. We all bought boxing gloves, and man, you got your head knocked off up there. Someone would say something to Mr. Blount, and he’d say, “Come on!, Let’s go!” and Boom! You had it, man!
We had hayrides. We’d get Mr. Aue’s tractor and we’d pull a big old trailer loaded with hay. We’d all get out girlfriends, pile up on that hay and have a good old time. Those were the day, man.
We also learned much about the Bible from home. My mother always read the Bible to us. My daddy would make us all sit down in the living room, there were ten of us, and he held law and order while my mom read. He’d say, “Listen up!” and listen up we did. My daddy would kneel by the bed every night and then I thought he was foolish. But, he was asking God for sustenance and provision for all his children. And, God did it! God came in every manner and everyday.
When I came home from leave after I was in the navy, my sister Lois took me to Lock Hill School. I had gone to school there myself when I was in the first grade when we lived on the dairy farm with my Uncle George. I met Teresa there and I fell in love with her. I will never forget it! She came out to my car and we talked and talked. I tried to look her up the next day, but I missed her. I hear from my mom that she was pretty upset that I had missed her. But, we finally got together and she wrote me while I was in the navy. When I came home we married there in that little church.
The church was very instrumental in my life. Eventually, I became an elder there and I served on the board for thirteen years. While I was an elder, we put a cross up on the hill behind the church. We built a thirty-five foot cross with a fourteen foot cross member. We put lights on it, and built a road up to it. It was very beautiful. At night, or especially in foggy weather, that cross looked as if it was suspended from the sky with a string by God because at those times you couldn’t see the mountain behind it. We put it there so that the truckers and the people that passed by would know that Jesus Christ is the answer. Jesus is not on the cross; the cross is empty. We wanted them to know that Christ is still with us today.
I had started the project of putting that cross on the hill, and one day I was up there all alone. It was a very hot day in July or August and. I had been working all day long. I was just finishing up when I looked down to pick up a piece of brush and there was a big rattlesnake coiled up looking right at me. He had probably been there all day and I had been stepping over him; I just hadn’t seen him. I ran as fast as I could to the minister’s house, Mr. Schaeffer, to get a twenty-two to kill him with. When I got back he was gone. I guess he is still there, or his grandchildren. I didn’t learn until later when I started reading the Scriptures that God said he would put his angels in charge, and I know that the angels of heaven were holding that rattlesnake’s mouth so that he could not bite me. If he had of bitten me, he would have killed me.
The cross is gone now. I was really upset about that. Someone bought the property from Mr. Aue and took it down. There’s a house up there now.
My dad always prayed that one of his sons would give his time to the Lord. I know in my heart that I’m the one he picked. Maybe, not the one my dad picked, but the Lord picked me. As a young man I knew my calling was to work for the Lord. I knew it early in my life when I went to that Presbyterian Church. I knew it! Everything I did, the Lord blessed it, everything except my marriages. They were all failures, every one of them. I wish they were not but they were. I don’t have the answer, even now. I know that some of it had to do with my attitude, a lot of it. But the things I had learned from my father could not be accepted by my wives. I know that and I don’t blame them. But, that was all I knew. That was what I had learned. I had been toughened. I had to be tough. I thought the way my daddy made us behave was the way my children had to behave. I thought that was the way I had to run my life. I was cold. I’m older now and more seasoned and more loving. I had to go to a lot of counseling and had to get down on my knees in prayer to get where I am now. I thank God for his help. The seeds that were planted by my parents and nurtured by that little Presbyterian Church are still growing and producing fruit to this day.
When I worked for Mr. Wood, every once in a while he would take us to the movies in Boerne. It was really nice! I remember seeing the movie, How Green Was My Valley. It was very emotional and I remember how mean they were to that kid. My life was a lot like that. How green was my valley!
The old home place is still there. It looks pretty much the same, but they have prettied it up some. The garden is no longer planted. Sometimes, I pull my car up to the gate and big tears well up in my eyes as I remember all the things that went on in my life there. I recall the hogs hanging in the trees. I remember making the sausage and the day we shot the old hog, Roam. He was wounded and running all over the place with all of us kids chasing after him trying to stab him. I remember the day my daddy was coming home from work at Camp Stanley and the brakes on that old Ford didn’t work and he went through the brand new gate he had just built and it splattered all over the place, just like in the movies. He was so upset and so embarrassed. I remember taking my own children, Mike, Cindy, and Joanne over to the old home place to visit Grandpa and Grandma. We’d always have fried chicken on Sundays. Grandpa loved those kids so much and he missed them so much when they moved away. He’d come over to my house to do some work and Joanne would help him and he’d pay her a nickel. She thought that was so cool. Joanne would go out in the yard with Taipei, her cat and she’d say, “Oh God!” She would be talking to God with the cat on her shoulder. That cat was something else. I bought Mike a pigeon and was just warning him not to put it down or the cat would get it. Too late! The cat got it. I cherish all those memories.
There have been a lot of changes at Leon Springs. The Dominion, built for the wealthy, the Leon Springs School, rebuilt to look like it belongs in the Dominion, Mr. Schaub’s house turned into a gift shop, Mrs. Saley’s house into a restaurant, and Rudy’s Store into a big barbecue restaurant. Now, there’s a big dance hall, a lot of shops, restaurants, a bank, and a big HEB store. Leon Springs! It still looks good and it even smells good when I drive through there. Leon Springs! How Green Is My Valley!
Memories of the Leon Springs School
Lois Asher Widner
I went to the Leon Springs School for years starting when I was six. I loved the school and I met some nice friends like: Edna Blanchard Elsworth, with whom I have been friends with all these years, Carolyn Pheiffer, Harry Harris, Donny Gray, the Fator children, the Flores family, and the Neutze boys.
One time, Jimmy Neutze was in my class. When I was going to sit down, he pulled the chair out from under me and caused me to sit down hard on the floor. I didn’t care for him the rest of the school year. He teased me about wearing nail polish on my fingers. He said, “Why do you wear that? Are you trying to cover up the dirt under your nails?”
In the 1946-1947 school year, I did not miss any days and was not tardy for the entire year and was given a certificate.
We walked to school and back home again. Some days it would be raining and Mrs. Altgelt would come by and pick up her two girls but she wouldn’t let us get in her car. The paper man that delivered the San Antonio Light would always stop and pick us up if it were raining and take us home.
My teacher, Mrs. Fox, used to tell me that if she had a daughter, she would like her to be just like me.
Treasured Memories of Leon Springs School
Constance Flores Staggs
I went to Leon Springs School from the first grade in 1939, through the sixth grade in 1945. In seventh grade I went to The Little Flower Catholic school in San Antonio. The following year disaster struck our family. My father died and our house burned to the ground with no insurance. Then I went back to Leon Springs School and took the eight and ninth grade in the same year. After that I went back to Little Flower Catholic High School in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. Wow, I really had to study hard there.
I do have many memories of my years at Leon Springs School. I often think of how kind, caring, loving and dedicated teachers that Alma and Hulda Geiger were. They surely were called from above for their profession. We all loved them very much. Alma Geiger was my teacher. I was so shy and scared on my first day of school that I wouldn’t sit in a desk alone, so she put me in the desk with my brother, Tunnie, for about a week. That gave me comfort and made me feel very secure and special. Eventually, Nadine Taylor and I were in the top of the reading class. We were always competing, especially in reading and spelling. Miss Geiger took me home with them for a weekend, and took me to see the Brackenridge Park. I was so excited since that was the first time for me to visit the park and zoo.
I can still see the big racetrack by the school. One morning Franky Neutze rode his horse to school. Norma Lou Fator and I rode the horse around the racetrack. For some reason the horse spooked and kept running around and around the track. I was behind and holding on for dear life. The horse finally ran into the boys’ rest room. We jumped off scared to death.
Since first grade, I remember my best friends were Lois Asher, Nadine Taylor, LaVerne Wood, Edna Blanchard, Stella Valdez, Mollie Jo Crowell, and Norma Lou Fator. Since I am now seventy-two, I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone. Edna Blanchard had a diary that we all wrote in.
I remember Mr. Burrow and Mrs. Fox who were the principals, and how we used to say the pledge to the flag. Our teachers always taught us about being patriotic. During World War Two, the soldiers would have marching drills on the road in front of the school. The teachers let us all go out and watch them march by us. We would always give them a big cheer and wave to them. Some of them bought candy at Rudy Aue’s store and threw it to us.
On cold winter days, I can still see the big black wood stove in the corner of the room. It always felt so warm and cozy in our classroom. I also remember Miss Geiger’s handwritten ABC’s above the large blackboards.
My experiences in Leon Springs School and my many friends were a treasure that I will never forget. We were so fortunate to have had such dedicated teachers, who not only taught us, but also showed us so much love and care in so many ways. I shall always remember how happy and proud I was when I was chosen to be valedictorian for our eighth grade graduation.
When I think of how shy and insecure I was as a young child, I am so grateful to have had such caring and dedicated teachers at Leon Springs School who helped me to overcome my insecurities. I am enclosing a copy of my certificate for being neither absent nor tardy for the year of 1944.
The Way I Remember Leon Springs School
Mary Lou (Tinkie) Flores Wood
I remember Leon Springs School very well, at least in my mind this is the way it was. I remember the rock bathroom being around to the outside of the school building. I also remember the big stove in the room where the stage was and the cloakroom.
In the first, second, and third grade classroom there was a little room that connected to the stage. It was called the sick room and had a little bed in it.
I remember the Geiger sisters teaching us. Once when I was in the second or third grade they took me home with them for the weekend. They took me to the library. That was the first time I had ever been in the public library. I was in awe of it. Miss Geiger put me up on a big bear or lion, or some kind of statue of that kind that was at the bottom of the wide steps going up into the library.
I remember having a lunchroom later, but I don’t remember eating in it. Perhaps we took our trays into the classroom to eat.
The Christmas play was a big event there. I remember all of us making paper chains to decorate the tree.
Barbara Asher was my best friend, cousin, and playmate. Glen Feller was the one I had a mad crush on. I thought he was the cutest thing on earth.
I left Leon Springs when I went to Catholic School in the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth grades. I went to North Side High School, now John Marshall High School, in the eleventh grade. Then I got married.
As for the Leon Springs community, I remember the gas station there run by Robert Pittman, my sister Ruby’s husband. I also remember Rudy Aue’s Store. We would go by there after school. Once in a while, not often, we would get candy. Later, when I was a teenager, I remember the B29 Inn Dance Hall. It seemed so large. Paul Petch, the father of Betty and Joyce Ann Petch owned it. My sister, Connie still writes to Betty, who now lives in West Virginia.
Memories of Leon Spring School
Dorothy Hill Hoy
I started first grade at Leon Springs School in 1935. Miss Viola George Wilson was our teacher. The last I heard she was still living in a nursing home in Boerne. Sarah Altgelt, Archie Asher, Emmeline Klar, Jane Moreau, and I believe Bobby Neutze all started first grade with me.
Most of us will agree we have “Happy Memories”. I wonder if the young people of today can share good times and good memories with people they went to grammar school with.
There were no school buses and apparently no child labor laws. Our principal at that time was Elsie Pickett Sommers and she had us pick up rocks at recess time and make flower beds. Rocks multiply, you know!
We did win the blue ribbon several years for our beautiful school grounds. I can remember how excited we all were when the Bookmobile came. We were all good readers—that was our entertainment.
Many long lasting friendships were made in that three room school house.
Polly Anna Patton
I was in the second grade at the Leon Springs School when my little brother, Doug, Jr. was about to be born. Daddy called the school to notify me and they pulled me into the first grade room to give me the news. I was so excited that they had let me know that he was going to be born. I had a name all picked out for Dougie. He was going to be John Anthony. If the baby was going to be a girl, she was going to be Melanie Kay. But, that didn’t work out. He became Doug, Jr. What was so ironic about the situation was that everyone felt so sorry for me. Uncle “Moine” had a pig, so he named the pig Melanie Kay Pig. And then, about the same time, Melanie Feller was born and Glenn and Jaunell chose to name her Melanie Kay Feller. .
One time when I was in 2nd grade all the second grade girls and some of the third grade girls were in a lot of trouble. I think it was Brenda Flores who brought a bottle of perfume to school. At recess we all put it on and Mrs. Iris Hawkins wouldn’t let us back in the classroom. She made us all sit outside instead of attending class for the rest of the day.
One of my fondest memories of school happened at recess when I was in the first grade. We had a wooden swing on the playground and I was sitting on the swing, swinging away when the bell rang that it was time to go in, I heard an airplane and as I looked up, it was going right over my head. I thought at the time, “Oh, I wish I could fly away, just fly away like that plane.” I think to this day that that is the reason I joined the Confederate Airforce with my interest in aviation. The Confederate Airforce is a volunteer group for the preservation of WWII History of Aviation.
MEMORIES FROM THE 1920s AND THE 1930s
One of the games we played at Leon Springs School was “marbles.” We would play marbles at any opportune time; like before school took up; at recess; or at lunch. I think we had kind of a “marble season”; or maybe we just tapered off playing as the days passed; or when we just got tired of the game.
Playing “for keeps” was strictly forbidden – so I don’t think there was much of that.
The hard dry ground on the school ground made a good place to play marbles. We would clear off the rocks and sticks from a flat area, and then make an oval shaped ring in which to place the marbles. To make the ring, we would take a stick and scribe an arc in the dirt. Then we would get on the opposite side of that arc and scribe another arc – like so .
Then each person playing would contribute a marble for the ring – and the marbles would be lined up in a straight line in the ring. Then we scribed a straight “starting” line in the dirt, about eight feet from the ring. Shooting order was determined by tossing our “shooter” marbles at the starting line. The person whose marble landed closest to the line was first to start, next closest was second, etc.
The first shooter would then get behind the line – on his knees – knuckles down – and shoot his marble as close to the ring as possible. Then the rest of the players would take their turn. The object was to knock the marbles out of the ring – and sometimes it took two or three shoots in successive turns to get close enough to accurately hit the marbles and knock them out. The person who knocked out the most marbles won the game. Also, if I remember correctly, each player could kill off the other players by shooting at and hitting their “shooter” marbles. Each player hit like this was knocked out of the game.
The Small Choir
I think it was Miss Palmie who started out small choir at the Leon Springs School. I can’t remember how many students we had in the choir – maybe as high as twelve. We had no uniforms like all groups have today. That would have been too expensive for that day and time. Times were hard! Miss Palmie did make up a bunch of identical paper patterns for capes, and had each of us take a pattern home to our moms and have our moms make red capes. Of course, as they turned out, we had red capes – but each seemed to be a different shade of red. I think my mom got red dye and dyed white cloth.
I liked to sing and knew most all the words to many of the popular songs of the day. I was real bashful though – and being in the front row, I didn’t have any place to hide. When the choir was first started, I was real self-conscious. In one of the early practice sessions, my eyes really started watering. Miss Palmie saw this and said: “Maurice, What are you crying about?” And I quickly said: “I am not crying!” “This singing just hurts my eyes!”
As I remember, our choir used to sing in some of our own school programs; and also at Lock Hill and Leon Valley, during “County Meets” for sports and recitations. I can’t remember if the choirs were judged or not.
One of our fun games at Leon Springs School was “Top” spinning. This wasn’t just a quiet game of gently spinning the tops. It was a tough, dangerous game not meant for “sissies.” We would first have to modify and beef up any newly acquired tops. We would remove the short dull spinner from the top, and then replace that spinner with an 8- penny nail-driven tightly into the top. Then we would cut off the nail, leaving an extra long spinner. Then with a file, we would sharpen the point. Then we would “notch” the new spinner so as to hold the string in place as we tightly wrapped the string on the top.
We prepared the “game place” by scribing a 3- foot circle on the ground with a stick. The object was to spin your top in the circle and hope it would travel on out of the circle. If it didn’t come out of the circle; or if the top failed to spin, you had to leave your top in the circle for everyone else to “shoot at” with their tops. If someone knocked your top out of the ring, you could spin it again.
Throwing your top at the ring and at the other tops was not a gentle sissy thing. With the string tied to the base of your middle finger, you would first wrap the string “super tight” around the top. Then you would place the top securely in your throwing hand, with the spinner up! The top was grasped tightly between the first two fingers and the thumb with the point slanted slightly back and left of vertical (throwing with the right hand). Then you would throw the top, over-handed, as hard as you could. The top would land point down on your target (maybe another top), ‘singing” real loud because of the high rate of spin. The more your own top was scarred up with dimples and holes from being hit in the ring, the more it would sing!
I don’t remember anyone getting injured from being hit with those sharp tops. The high potential for accidents was certainly there. I guess we learned quickly to keep out of the line of fire.
It was the last day of school, and I was just completing my seventh year at Leon Springs School. Old Leon Creek, close by, had just been on a tare from recent rains, and the creek was still “up” real good.
Lots of us kids arrived at school early, as usual, before the teachers; and the temptation to go down to the creek was just too much for a lot of us boys. So, we left the schoolyard to look at the creek. Most of the boys then went swimming. After all, there really wasn’t much going on at school on the last day!
Well, the teacher (Principal, I guess) finally got to school and found the boys gone. So, the teacher, feeling responsible, came looking for us. We were all scattered up and down the creek, and it wasn’t obvious as to exactly where we were.
I don’t know where the teacher looked first, but when she drove across the railroad track at the old school crossing, she broke her car. It was a pretty rough crossing and I think she must have broken a spring on that car.
Well, that up-set her terribly and that started a chain of events that cost her job and reputation; and cost us boys a severe beating! I didn’t even go swimming, but that didn’t get me a lesser sentence. Each of us had to find and cut our own switch or stick, which the teacher was to use to punish us (and we couldn’t fudge and pick small switches).
I must have gotten at least 10 lashes, maybe more – across my back. Before the teacher gave me my lashes, she said it was going to hurt her more than it hurt me. I do think that ordeal was really hurting her – and I felt she was truly sorry she had started the punishment.
I never told Mom and Dad about the beating because I was told that if I ever got a whipping at school, I would get another at home! The other kids did tell their parents though, and there was a big-to-do about it all, and the teacher was summarily fired!
If you ever noticed in movies, where guys were given “40 lashes”, “tied to the mast” – and their backs showed all those bloody stripes -; well that’s how my back looked – and I had a hard time hiding my wounds from my parents. It was painful to wear clothes.
Misunderstood Class Assignment
Our teachers at Leon Springs School were all great! They must have been great because I learned very much in those eight grades. I always strived to make good grades on all assignments. And usually made good grades because of my efforts. But you know, there was one assignment which I will never forget, that I was given an undeserved grade of “D”. If I had been grading my own work, I would truly have given myself an “A” on that assignment. I never did discuss the grade with Miss Palmie, the teacher, so I never knew the reason for the low grade. The only reason I could think of was, surely, I had misunderstood the teacher.
The geography assignment by Miss Palmie as I heard it was, (quote); “Next week, I am going to have you: (1) draw a map of the United States, (2) draw in all the 48 states, and (3) write in the capitols of each of the 48 states, all from memory. I am telling you this now so that you will study and be prepared to do this”. (End quote)
As I listened attentively to the teacher, I understood the assignment to be: “study and prepare to do all the above, from memory. I.e. – accurately draw the U.S. maps draw in and properly place all the states, and write in all the state capitols”.
So I studied and worked hard, committing to memory – all the sizes, shapes, locations, proportions of all the states, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, special features, etc.; so that I could in fact, from memory, without any visual reference to a map, or any other aid, draw a good map of the United States, with all 48 states and their capitols identified. That took a week and many practice sessions of drawing maps from memory. All that study paid off and I was ready on test day!
When I was graded “D” on my map, I was real disappointed. I don’t think I ever checked to see what the other kids done, and being a subservient young lad, I am sure I did not ask the teacher “Why”. So, I never knew why.
Maybe Miss Palmie meant that we just memorize the capitols, and trace the United States and state maps – who knows!
No matter how I was judged on this, I feel that my feat was remarkable! How many people in the whole world could ever have done such a task? Think about it! – Drawing a map of the United States - from memory! Wow!
Sports and the County Meet
I can’t remember how many different schools were a part of our school district in the mid 1930’s, but we did play competitive sports with other schools. The school where we held the sports competition (the county meet) was the Leon Valley School. We competed in such things as: “chinning”, high jump, broad jump, 100 yard dash, 400 yard relays, etc. We seldom, if ever, won anything, but we tried hard and practiced pretty hard. I can’t remember getting much training guidance from anyone, but it was fun for us. I think we were mostly a strong and healthy bunch of “ole” country boys who got strength from good food and lots of work doing chores at home.
The 400-yard relay was fun. We definitely were not championship material, but we did have one boy who could run like a deer. His name is Heber Moore and he could make the rest of us look like we were standing still; so we just put him in the ANCHOR position (the final man to get the baton). In the races we ran, we seemed to get more and more behind in each of the first three legs. Then after HEBER got the baton, he always made up a lot of the lost time.
The Stage Plays
As part of our “lifes’” training – to learn some of the “Arts”, we would occasionally put on little stage plays at Leon Springs School. We had a nicely designed school, just made for such purposes. We had a nice little stage with rope-controlled curtains and a flexible partition between the two main rooms adjacent to the stage. This partition could be folded back to form one large room for the audience.
I know the three teachers we had, had done the best they could with the work to put these plays on. (That work all in addition to their hard work of each teaching three grades in each room, and each teaching at least five subjects to each grade); but we sure needed more help and guidance on how to make the plays more realistic. For example, it seemed that no one ever took care of providing “props” for the plays.
I remember one play where I had the “opening lines.” I was to walk over to what was suggested to be a pot plant on a table, and “finger” the plant and say, “My how this creeper has crept!” but we had no table and No plant! I didn’t even know what a “creeper” was!
I often think longingly of those days, long ago, at Leon Springs School. There are so many pictures in my “Mind’s Eye” which flash up on that private screen inside me. From time to time, I see the two water fountains with the string of fountains on each, and their rock structures; I see the rough – rocky ground where we played softball, and the graded oblong “running” track around the entire playground; I see MIKE COPENHAVER’S horse which was his “transportation” to school from five miles away, tied up at the far end of the track; I can see our “soft” softball which got that way from being hit so much; I hear the gunfire from Ad Toepperwein’s rifle and shotgun target shooting nearby; I see the teachers ringing the hand held bell, signaling us that its time to line up and go back to classes; I see the crowds of people attending our BUNCO parties and school plays; I see all the family donated cakes and pies lined up for sale at five cents per slice during inter-missions at bunco parties and plays; I see the big black space heating stoves; I see the stage curtain, printed with the names of all the “contributors” who bought the curtain for us; I see the faces of my classmates, especially the girls I liked so much; and hundreds of other visions of people, things, and “happenings.”
Oh how I wish I could go back there-somehow-for just an hour, or just a day-to revisit those times; and sadly too, I remember that many have already left us-and I feel so bad that I didn’t even get a chance to say good-bye.
When I Attended Leon Springs School
Jo Ann Toepperwein Harris
I attended Leon Springs School from September 1944 until 1949. My teachers were:
1944-1945 1st grade, Miss Geiger; 1945-1946 2nd grade Mrs. Flathouse
1946-1947 3rd grade, Miss Adams; 1947-1948 4th grade Mr. Klier
1948-1949 5th grade Mrs. Taylor; 1949-1950 6th grade Mrs. Fox
We moved to Helotes in January 1950 after my grandfather sold the ranch, which is now the Dominion. Three of my younger brothers also attended Leon Springs School, Max A., Charles, and William.
School started each day with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer.
We did not know what a dress code was, but girls did not wear shorts, jeans, or pants of any kind, even on cold days. Girls did not wear flip-flops or tennis shoes. We wore starched, ironed dresses, even if they were hand made out of feed sacks. We wore socks and oxfords. One year I got some brown and white saddle oxfords. I wanted some penny loafers, but my parents said they wouldn’t last all year.
Boys wore starched, ironed shirts with blue jeans and a belt. They wore boots, high top tennis shoes or work boots, polished. Their hair was cut short.
We had no cafeteria until I was in the 5th or 6th grade, but we never got to buy our lunch because it was too expensive.
In the first and second grade we took music and were in the rhythm band. We played sticks and tambourines. We would perform for the PTA.
The school had a Christmas play every year. One year I was a fairy and one year an angel. After the plays, Santa came and passed out fruit and candy. One year we had a minstrel. It was so much fun because we got to blacken our faces and arms. We had to wrap a turban around my blond hair.
Occasionally, we would have a special program and we would get out of class. I don’t remember if we had to pay or if the PTA sponsored it. I remember a magic show and a marimba player, and Charlie Moss from Helotes who had a horse that did tricks.
I remember my mother telling about a play put on about 1938 or 1939. It was a womanless wedding. My daddy was a bridesmaid, and I believe Milton Kraut was the bride.
The PTA had fundraisers once or twice a year with a dinner, fishponds, a cakewalk, and other activities. When Mr. Biggus, the superintendent, came to visit we would have to be on our best behavior. One time he brought a movie. We expected a cartoon or a child’s movie and we were all so excited. We gathered together in one room, moving all the desks out of the way. After several starts on the projector he found he had brought the wrong film. It was so disgusting I could hardly watch. It was the development of a baby chick inside of the egg. In the 3rd and 4th grade a member of the Gideons came and gave out New Testaments to all the students. That could never happen today.
When I was in the second grade I got sick one day. I threw up all over the classroom. Mrs. Fox said I had a fever and needed to go home, but neither the school nor anyone had a phone, so Archie Asher, an upperclassman took me home (about two miles) on the back of his horse. I must have just had an upset stomach because I was fine by the time I got home. The public health nurse came every year and gave us our diphtheria and small pox vaccinations. She also came and checked our hair for lice (pedulosis). One time I, the only blond Anglo in my grade, had lice. The nurse sent a note home with instructions and the name of the medication to treat it, but the medication had to be purchased at a pharmacy in San Antonio, 25- 30 miles away. My grandmother looked in one of her medical books and soaked my head in kerosene. It did the trick, but it sure did burn. They had to shampoo my head multiple times to get the petroleum odor out.
In the 4th grade the PTA had a May Fest with a May Pole and a queen contest. The whole school got to vote for May Day Queen. I had the measles and was out of school for 2 weeds so I didn’t think I had a chance to win, but my brothers got all their friends to vote for me. I beat all the upper class girls. My aunt made me a long white dress so I thought I was pretty important.
The school was the center of the community. During the war, I remember attending a shooting exhibition by Adolph and Plinky Toepperwein to raise money for war bonds. They shot cigarettes out of each other’s mouths and did all kinds of tricks.
Margie’s Story of Leon Springs
Margie Wood Mooney
My story is just memories, not history. The first thing I remember in my life is when we moved to Leon Springs. I woke up one morning, I was in the back of our car and when I got out Mother was moving stuff into a little house in the Aue Addition. Daddy had gone to Camp Stanley and had gotten a job there that day. I don’t remember how long we stayed there, but then we moved across the creek down the Scenic Loop Road about a mile from Rudy’s store. It wasn’t long before we bought the house my sister, LaVerne, and I grew up in. It was close to the railroad tracks that went into Camp Stanley. They were just building highway 87 when we moved in. I remember standing in the window and watching the trucks and men working to build the highway. When we bought the house it had been the old PX building for Camp Bullis. There were no glass windows. Instead sections of the wall had hinges at the top and had to be raised open from outside the house. After raising up the windows, you had to prop them open with a board. Daddy and my Uncle Frank remodeled the house enough for us to live in. We had an outdoor toilet about a hundred yards (it seemed a hundred miles) behind the house. There were “zillions” of bottle caps scattered all around on the ground by the house and we even found a hand grenade. My sister and I used the pineapple for years as a pineapple for our playhouse. My sister, our cousin Dorothy, and I made dozens of mud pies and we always served pineapple because we thought the hand grenade looked like one. We didn’t know what it was and we were always trying to get that little metal pin off our pineapple because it was in our way. We had been playing with that “pineapple” for years before our mother saw what we were playing with and she about fainted. She took it away from us and we never saw it again. I don’t know what she did with it.
When we lived in the house by the creek, the creek would come up when it rained a lot and you couldn’t get in or out. Everything was flooded. Daddy must have walked through the pasture to get to work. You had to haul the water you used and Daddy hauled the water from the creek for Mother to do the washing, which she had to do on a rub board. (I still have that rub board.) I remember when my cousin, Dorothy, her mother, Aunt France, and Aunt Lillian, Pete, and Denna Mae coming to see us, we would go down to the creek with a bar of soap and take a bath. We’d take a towel and I can remember particularly Aunt Lillian washing her hair with a bar of “Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap”. We used the creek for drinking, washing, bathing, washing cars and everything else.
When we moved over to the house by the railroad track we had to haul our water. We hauled it from the spring, which was back behind the big swimming pool on the Altgelt place. Daddy had a great big old wooden barrel on a trailer and he would dip the water with a bucket to fill the big barrel and haul it back to the house. That was our drinking water. We had an old cistern and we got water from it to wash our clothes. We finally got electricity in about 1935 or 1936 and in about 1938 we had a well drilled and we had our own water and Daddy didn’t have to haul it anymore. Daddy then started remodeling the house again and put rock on it. I remember Stella Valdez’ daddy putting the rock on the house. Bill Moreau helped Daddy put in the electric wires and do the building on the house. Then we had indoor plumbing and that was wonderful.
I started school in 1934 in the little rock school. I remember people talking about the old school burning and wondering if some of those mean boys in the neighborhood had started that fire. I feel sure that my cousins, L.B. and Elton Hill were in that old school that burned. When the school burned, they had school at Mrs. Saley’s house. Mrs. Saley lived in a great big two story house behind Aue’s store. We always loved to stop and say hello to Mrs. Saley. She was always out raking her yard. She always kept her yard absolutely spotless. I’m sure the inside of her house was the same.
I remember the school had two little rock water fountains and each one had three or four water facets. Those were our drinking fountains. They had one for the boys and one for the girls. We used to have Mexican Suppers out in the school yard and Mother always helped and that was good eating and the kids always had a lot of fun. Rudy’s store was right where Rudy’s Place still is; he had a grocery store and a gas station. We used to go in the store before school and we couldn’t afford the good pencils and we had to buy cedar pencils. I think they were two for a nickel, maybe cheaper than that. We had to have Big Chief tablets and we hated the pencils and the tablets because they were hard to write pretty, or scribble pretty, or to draw pretty on.
The school had big old stoves in each room. There was a wood shed in the back of the school and the boys would have to bring the wood in and keep the fires going. There were cloakrooms between the classrooms and they were open at the top. Sometimes the kids would climb over the walls and go into the other classrooms. Of course, we weren’t supposed to do that, but sometimes we did. ]
One time, a bunch of the kids slipped back into the cloakroom and Walter was kissing Delores and he was going to show Daniel how to kiss me. Of course we were pretty young and the kiss was just a little peck. There were only about fifteen kids in the class and about eight of us were in the cloakroom. That was the majority of the class and of course we were missed by Mrs. Sommers, our teacher. She knew we were in the cloakroom because she could hear us. When she tried to open the door, the boys leaned on the door so she couldn’t get in. We didn’t want her to know what we were doing and Walter tells her, “You can’t come in here; we don’t have no clothes on.” She really got frantic then trying to get that door open. She finally got in and she questioned us one at a time for days at recess, before school, and whenever she could trying to find out what was going on in that cloak room. She wanted to know if we really had our clothes off. Of course, we didn’t have our clothes off, but that was the only thing Walter could think of to say to keep her from coming in there and finding out how many of us were in there.
Mrs. Sommers was one of our teachers for several years and was greatly loved. Other teachers I remember are Alma Geiger, Hulda Geiger, Mrs. Tessman, Wayman Coleman, Martin Budrow, and Irene Dunn. I remember Mrs. Sommers always working the violets around the edges of the flowerbeds. She worked those violets every recess and every lunch hour. She kept our flowerbeds so beautiful all the time. When the crepe myrtles were in bloom and the sage bushes blooming at sometimes of the year, and the violets blooming it was so beautiful that for years we won first place for being the most beautiful school in the state of Texas. I was so proud of that plaque. I hope that plaque is around where they can have it in the museum display.
Every year we had what they called the Interscholastic School Meet we competed against each other with the other rural schools for different things, writing stories, quoting poetry, and we had choirs and we sang. One year Mother and primarily Aunt France who was Dorothy’s mother made us little green striped pinafores and white blouses and they were so pretty. Our mothers worked hard to sew those for us and I think we placed in the meeting that year, we might have even been in first place. I remember Helen Altgelt being in first place in reciting poetry. Her poem, if I remember right, was Trees by Joyce Kilmer.
From time to time, fairly frequently, we had baseball games where we competed with other schools. Lock Hill, Kirby, or Selma would come to our school or else we would go to their school to play baseball. In particular, there was a pitcher on the Kirby team and she was a fast pitcher and no one wanted to bat against her but we had too. I guess that’s where we all learned to be good losers because I don’t think we ever beat Kirby. I’m not even sure we ever beat Lock Hill or Selma or any or the others either but we did learn to be good losers. I think we all turned out pretty good. It was a lot of fun playing with the other schools.
One thing they had at the school was “The Old Maid’s Convention”. The people enjoyed that so much that the men decided to put on a program too. The men wore the dresses and bonnets their wives had worn in the play. That was a real big hit.
About 1939, Dr. A.V. Boand, a pastor, started that little church at Leon Springs. They had church in the schoolhouse until the building was built. I thought Catherine Jean was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen in my life, next to Margarite Schultize. I thought she was a very beautiful girl. Mrs. Self, Miss Helen, and also Mrs. Kraut figured a lot in our young days. They were always willing to do anything to help the young people have dinners and get togethers at their homes. They were always cooking such delicious foods for us to eat. Mrs. Kraut made some kind of yeast bread that was just heavenly. It was so good.
Then the war came and lots and lots of cars were coming in and out of Camp Stanley everyday. We would have black out drills at night, sometimes it would just be at dark and the sirens would go off. We never knew if they were for real or if they were just for practice black out, but it didn’t matter, I remember maybe rolling my hair or shampooing my hair, but we turned out the lights instantly when the sirens went off. It was frightening because we didn’t know if it was for real or not. But, being only about 300 yards from Stanley that if it were for real that we were gone. It was a scary time. We were very secretive about telling any outsiders, or anyone, anything we knew about Camp Stanley. I remember being on the Greyhound bus going to Boerne High School and many people asking a lot of questions about Camp
Stanley, and I would never ever tell them anything. One time I remember someone asking me if there were many people working at Camp Stanley and I told them that there were probably two or three people working there. In fact, it took about an hour and a half for all the cars to clear out when quitting time came in the evening. I was always taught to keep anything about Stanley to myself. I felt like my life could be in danger. Probably most of the people that asked those questions were very innocent about asking, but I never knew, so I never told them anything.
I remember the rail road track that we kept hot, it was hot in the summertime and we kept it hot walking it all the time. We loved going down to that train depot and we would sit down there in the shade and play and talk sometimes. Also in that old train depot someone would come and hold a revival. That was before we had a church. Sometimes they would have revivals in the schoolhouse. A lot of times Pete, Donald, Sidney, and Lois’ dad would have church in their yard. I remember going and singing a lot of those good old songs. I don’t recall that we had any music, we might have. Someone might have played the guitar. I know Sydney was a very good guitar player. We would have church in their yard and that was some of the good times. I don’t know if Sydney played the guitar or not but I always
wanted to play the guitar and Mother paid him to teach me to play. I thought he was so handsome and was such a guitar player that for years he was my secret love. Of course, I was only six or seven years old and I think he was a teenager. Pete had the most contagious laugh. He was the most likable person and the cutest, most handsome little guy I had ever seen. Everybody loved Pete.
I remember when we first lived in that rock house that down that little road past the railroad tracks and went by Dorothy’s house, the road by the mailbox the Garza’s had a grocery store and a gas station. I remember walking over there with Mother to get something or just to visit with Mrs. Garza. They were really sweet people. They were highly respected and thought a lot of by everyone. I guess they must not have been there too long because we then went to Rudy’s store before Uncle Doc came and opened up his store. In Rudy’s store when we bought groceries there, you just paid once a month. When you paid your bill he would give us candy. Sometimes if we had a nickel we could buy candy, two pieces for a penny, and boy, we got ten pieces for that nickel and we thought we were really living then.
I remember Mr. Rogers when Daddy worked at Camp Stanley. He was the main boss and then there was Hugh Watson and he was Daddy’s boss for a long time. I remember Daddy was sick one time and Mr. Rogers always went to see about any employee who was sick. I remember he came and taught me to sing that little ABC song. You would sing them forward and then you would sing them backwards. I just thought that was great when he taught me the ABC’s.
We had an old cellar and when it would start thundering and lightning many a time we would have to get up and go to that old cellar. We weren’t too happy about that.
Daddy was a deer hunter and I remember one day a deer came into our yard. Daddy worked nights and I went in and woke him up and told him a deer was in our yard. I woke him up and he went and shot the deer. Back in those days everybody didn’t have meat very often. They had no refrigeration and no way to keep fresh meat. So whenever Daddy butchered a deer, a cow, or a hog he would take what we could use and then he would share the rest of it. He would put the meat in pans and lay it on a big white sheet in the back of the car. Then he’d go all over the neighborhood, especially to the area where there was a little Mexican settlement, and give people whatever they
could use of the meat before it would spoil.
We rode our bicycles a lot. We rode all over the country on our bicycles exploring. One time our teacher took us on a hike up on the hill across from the school. It’s now in the Dominion. She took us all, three grades of us on a hike up that hill one time. That was real special and it was a lot of fun. There were other hills that when we were riding our bikes we would explore. In particular, there was one hill off the Scenic Loop Road where we would go up, and while I am not sure, I think there was an old Indian burial ground there. There was a cross up there and I remember we were very reverent and we didn’t hang around too long. We thought it was sacred ground.
I also remember that at the school Ad Toepperwein had a house right behind the school and he and his wife, Mamie, would practice their shooting out there. I remember Mrs. Toepperwein had a hand mirror and she used it to shoot behind her back and shoot a cigarette or a piece of chalk out of a man’s mouth. He stood there and let her do that. It was awesome! She was so accurate, but they had to trust her to be accurate to stand there and let her use a hand mirror and shoot something out of their mouth. That was something to watch.
When I heard about Pete turning out the lights out at the school, I wanted to tell him he wasn’t the only one who turned out the lights when they were having something doing there. I remember turning them out one night. No one ever knew who did it. No telling who they blamed it on and I always wondered who else turned out the lights besides Pete and me. Surely Pete Nuetze or Johnny Flores would not have done such a thing. Everyone who knows them will know why I say that. They were really mischievous.
On July 26, 1947 I was married to Clarence Leroy Mooney at the Leon Springs Presbyterian Church and so that place, of course, always has special memories for me. But I have lots of other good memories and a lot of good things that happened with the young people and with the preachers we had there. It was a lot of fun for us.
One last thing, I remember one year we used Mr. Pheiffer’s big old truck that he hauled milk into town with all the time. We used chicken wire and built a wire frame all around the truck. All the ladies made paper flowers out of crepe paper and attached them to the wire framing around the truck. We were in the Battle of Flowers Parade and that was something really special for us. We represented the wild birds and the trees of Texas. I was a meadowlark and I was standing under a red bud tree. I thought the float was
so beautiful. I wonder if anyone has a picture of it that we could include in our museum display. I thought it was so special to have that float. The only thing was, I was scared to death. I thought I wasn’t supposed to move. I stood as still as I could on that truck on the whole route of that parade. It was so hot that day and it seemed to take forever. I was so glad when it was over and I could move.
MY HOME AT LEON SPRINGS
Lois LaVerne Wood Meyer
Driving north on Fredericksburg Road, about one mile past that little rock schoolhouse at Leon Springs, and at the crossroad going into Camp Stanley, our house and the field that surrounded it came into view. It was a grand beautiful big rock house surrounded with huge live oak trees, one of which no man could reach his arms around. At least, this is what I thought. The live oak trees were truthfully there, but the house was not really grand or beautiful. It was not true at the time my childish mind thought it was, nor had it ever been in the past and neither would it ever be in the future. It was big and grand and beautiful to me because I felt the love that was in this house and the love that went into building this house.
The kitchen was the very center of our family’s life. There was nothing pretty, sunny, or cozy about my mother’s kitchen. With the exceptions of curtains made from white feed sacks trimmed with printed feed sack borders hanging on the windows and covering the unpainted shelves which held whatever dishes, pots, pans and other utensils my mother had, her kitchen could only be called utilitarian. Her cooking ware was very basic. One skillet was used for almost everything. In the mornings, it served to cook the bacon, sausage, eggs, and milk gravy to put on the biscuits. If a cake was baked during the day, the same skillet was used to make 7-minute icing. Later, it would be used to fry chicken or perhaps round steak and sometimes even the vegetables such as okra and tomatoes or squash for supper. There was one butcher knife with a big wooden handle and a large pressure cooker for canning, but was also used for cooking anything that required a large pot, such as soup or chicken and dumplings, or, for heating water.
A big black wood stove that served many purposes other than cooking the food for the family meals dominated the west wall. It heated water for baths or washing dishes before running water was installed. It was also used to heat the irons used to iron the clothes, and in the winter as a source of warmth. The kitchen also served as our bathroom. Baths were not a daily occurrence. Between tub baths, we would have what we called spit baths. This was just a washing of face, hands, and feet using water from the wash basin. Mother would bring in the big tin wash tub when she felt a full bath was needed. I can still remember the clean smell of Life Buoy soap being lathered on a rag my mother used to wash me with. I can also remember the nice fresh smell of the line-dried clothes Mother had laid out for me to put on after my bath.
The east wall contained a long shelf used for preparing food, a place to set the two dish pans (one for washing and the other for rinsing), the family wash pan, and the family water pail with one dipper which was used by all, family, friends, and relatives. Before the well was drilled, water was drawn by the bucketful from a big concrete cistern right outside the kitchen door. Water entered the cistern as rainwater fell from the roof of the house into a gutter and through a charcoal filter. I distinctly remember the wet pungent odor associated with the drawing of water from this cistern. For years, a grape soda called Grapette would bring back to my mind the smell I experienced as a young child helping to draw water for the family use. The cistern and the Grapette are long gone, but the memories of them will linger forever in my mind.
Instead of a trashcan, a slop bucket was placed under the shelf All left over foods were collected in the slop bucket to be given to the chickens or the pigs. My sister often reminds me of the time my mother had brought in the wash tub to get my sister and I cleaned up for a special trip into town. She washed my hair, rolled it up and let it sun dry. When it was time to go, she stood me on a chair to comb my hair so that I would look nice, or perhaps so she could be proud of me, and whoops!, I fell into the slop bucket. She had to start all over, but this time I went without the curls. There was little waste in our kitchen. Most food was fresh or home canned. Very few cans, bottles, or jars needed any disposal. However, we did use paper to help start the wood fire in the kitchen stove. Since there was no electricity, a kerosene lamp was carried from room to room at nighttime to light our way.
In a corner of the kitchen beside the back door was an old ice box, which held large blocks of ice to keep our food cool. A pan under the icebox had to be kept emptied or water would overflow onto the kitchen floor. Several times a week an iceman would come to replace the melted ice. As soon as my sister and I heard his truck coming up the drive, we would rush out to be rewarded with large chunks of ice to suck on. The iceman would then take his huge black tongs, pick up a big block from the many blocks of ice that he kept covered with a canvas tarpaulin, and carry it into the kitchen. Old habits die slowly. After all the many years that have passed since we had an actual ice box, my family still refers to the refrigerator as the ice box.
No matching china, table service, or other adornments graced the family table, but never the less; mealtime is one of my most treasured memories. As I look back, it is with amazing wonder at the abundance of pleasures provided by the limited supplies that passed through this kitchen. Very little of our food was bought from a store. We had a cow that provided us with milk and cream. The milk was strained before cooling and after cooling had taken place, the cream was separated from the milk. The cream was used for cooking, in coffee, on top of desserts, or, was churned into butter. Some of the milk was used to make cottage cheese, some, which had soured and was called clabber, was eaten with leftover cornbread crumbled in as a before bedtime snack. Nothing was wasted. Any extra milk was sold, given to nearby neighbors, or else fed to the pigs. Pigs were slaughtered in the wintertime and after the hides were scraped, the meat was cut and most of it made into sausage. There were many chickens to be fed and eggs to be gathered. If a chicken dinner was to be had, the chicken first had to be caught and have its head chopped off. The chicken was then dipped into boiling water to loosen the feathers to make plucking easier. After the feathers were removed, the chicken would be dressed (or undressed, depending on how you looked at it) by gutting and cleaning it. It might also need to be cut into pieces, depending on how you planned to cook it.
Mother and Daddy both liked to hunt and in hunting season (and sometimes out of season) we had fresh deer meat. Mother would can many jars of deer chili, which we would eat year round. The preparations for canning the chili and any other food we canned were an ordeal in themselves. The jars, which had sat in the storage shed until needed, were covered in dust and grime and had to be washed. We would build a fire under the big black wash pot filled with water in the backyard. When the water was nearly boiling, we would fill a wash tub with hot soapy water and place as many jars as possible into the tub to soak and to scrub. This was a job neither my sister nor I enjoyed. The strong lye soap that Mother had made was hard on our hands. By the time we had finished washing the jars, our hands would be chapped, red, and sore. In addition, we usually had cuts on our hands and fingers from pieces of glass from jars that had accidentally gotten broken in the process.
Mother and Daddy also liked to fish and we often went on camping trips to the river. Since we had no refrigeration, most of the fish were eaten as soon as they were caught and cleaned. Mother always coated the fish with cornmeal and fried them in hot lard. More delicious fish were never eaten than those prepared by my mother. Since our parents fished all night, the fish were usually eaten for breakfast. My sister will never forget the time mother brought some fish home and fried them up for supper. My sister had a friend over and was embarrassed to death that Mother would serve breakfast food at suppertime.
Bread was made fresh daily. We never knew about toast. Biscuits were made every morning and often for supper. Corn bread was made several times a week. The biggest treat, however, was homemade yeast bread. I still remember the wonderful smell of this fresh bread coming out of the oven just about the time my sister and I returned home from school. No one ever told us this delicious bread smothered with homemade butter might not be very healthy. Few bought loaves of bread ever entered our house in those early days of my life. My dad liked to crumble left over bread into tall glasses of buttermilk on churning days. Mother often made delicious bread pudding with any bread that was left over; or else, she fed it to the pigs or chickens. I have been teased for years because I would always want a left over biscuit for a snack. I always said, “I want some bread and syrup, and put a lid on it.” I meant that I wanted the whole biscuit, the top and the bottom. If my sister was asked to fix my biscuit, she would have herself a little fun in the process. She would take an old jar lid and put it on top of the bottom half of my biscuit and hand it to me. She knew she would get a good rise out of me. I would start crying because she did not fix it right. Then Mother would have to intervene and demand that Margie remove the jar lid and replace it with the top half of my biscuit. We did not often have jelly, but we usually had syrup. It often came in big buckets. One time, it came in a can shaped like a house. The opening was the chimney, and not too large of an opening at that. When all the syrup was gone, my sister wanted the can for our playhouse. In an effort to wash it, she slid her hand down into the chimney with little difficulty. However, she was unable to extract her hand from it. Daddy had to cut the pretty little house off her hand with a pair of pliers. What a disappointment!
Most of our vegetables were grown in the garden. Potatoes, corn, tomatoes, okra, green beans, and squash were some of the vegetables planted to be eaten fresh and much of it canned for later use. Planting vegetables took much planning and hard work to get good results. Ground had to be prepared. The corn and potato field needed plowing. The hardest part was keeping it watered. There were no hydrants, hoses, or sprinklers. We never had any grass and we could not use our precious drinking and cleaning water for plants, but we could use left over bath water and the water we had rinsed the clothes in for this purpose. Therefore, we carried the rinse water by buckets to water our plants. Later when running water was installed, my dad prepared the pipes so that all the bath water emptied onto the garden rather than be wasted.
Daddy liked any kind of dessert, but he especially liked pie. In the spring, we would pick dewberries from all over the countryside and Mother would jar them so that we could enjoy dewberry cobblers all year long. We also had a peach tree and Mother would make peach butter as well as peach cobblers. My sister said we would have had a lot more peaches if Mother had cut so many switches off to use on us. We were not always as obedient as Mother would have liked. I personally tested her many times. For some reason, I just could not resist disobeying her when she scrubbed the floors. Mother would always say to me, “Do not walk on the floor until it is dry”. I would almost always dip my feet into the mop water and put my feet on the very edge of the floor, never going any further. I almost always received a switching. You would think I would learn. I would always retort, ”I’m going to tell my daddy on you”. And I am sure I did but it never helped me out. All my Daddy had to do was to give me a certain disappointing look and I would feel very remorseful and go hide and cry to myself. But, if Mother were disappointed in my behavior, I would just test her further. Daddy did have his own way of correcting us if we were willfully stubborn. Remember the water bucket with the dipper? One day at supper I announced that I wanted a glass of water. My dad told me to get up and get myself a glass of water. I said, ‘No, I want someone to go get me a glass of water.” This kept on for a little while until I knew no one was going to get up and get me a glass of water, I went and picked up the big five gallon bucket of water and dragged it to the table, got a glass and set it on the table and said, ”Now!, I want someone to give me a glass of water.” I got the water all right. My daddy picked up that water bucket and poured the entire contents over my head.
Daddy especially liked lemon pie. There was one lemon pie filling mix called My T Fine. You just had to add eggs and water to the mix and boil it until a little tablet or capsule dissolved. A yummy lemon pie filling was created in just a few minutes. Mother also made the best pineapple dessert I have ever eaten. It was made with several rolls of crust wrapped around and covered with the most delicious pineapple filling. My sister and I both regret that we did not get her recipe before she died. She did not have it written down so she must have made it from memory. We have never been able to duplicate it with satisfaction. The My T Fine mix, pineapple, as well as coconut were some of the few items that did have to be purchased from the store. Coconut cake was one of Mother’s specialties. There was no such thing as boxed cake mixes, and there were no electric mixers to beat eggs or batter. Dried fruit was available and must have been reasonably priced for dried apples, peaches, prunes, and apricots were often cooked for breakfast. She also made some special cookies called Date Surprises that we really liked. She would cut out two sugar cookies, put a dollop of finely cut cooked date filling between the two cookies, close the edges with a fork, and bake.
Much hard work had to take place before my mother could even start preparations for a meal. She could not just go into the kitchen, turn on an oven or the burners and remove food from the icebox. After the food supplies were gathered, wood had be cut, hauled into the kitchen and a fire started and given time to heat before actual cooking took place. The end results were almost always successful. However, it is not just the memories of the provision and the preparation of the food that leaves me such happy memories. An overwhelming feeling of nostalgia and warmth wells up inside me at the very word “Leon Springs.” The time I spent in Leon Springs was the only time in my life where I felt complete unity; unity in the home, in the family, in the neighborhood, and in the country. I never heard people fussing and fighting amongst themselves. Everyone seemed to be working together toward making a better life for all.
I know now that it was not out of necessity alone that caused my parents to provide for us in such an unforgettable way. I knew many families who existed on beans and cornbread (one of my favorite meals, I might say), and were fortunate to have been fed at all. It was out of love for the family that my mother and father worked so hard to provide for us with such a bountiful table.
Hard Times for Many
Lois LaVerne Wood Meyer
The gathering at mealtime often included more than the four of our immediate family to receive the nourishing food my parents provided. Because of the hard times, it was rare that we did not have a family or two living with us. My mother and father always believed in sharing with others whatever God in His mercy had given us and I relish the memories of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and others sharing our plentiful table.
The Great Depression was still in progress and many people suffered unexpected hardships. Some had lost their jobs and had to make drastic economic changes in their lives. New jobs were scarce or even unattainable. Many lost their homes. Few had little, if any cash available to help them through this crisis in life. Many were unable to help themselves in any way. Others if they had even the smallest resources available survived by the sweat of hard work.
Some men and women were able to get jobs at Camp Stanley but unable to find housing. Not only did we help with food, but families were now found establishing homes in our wash house and parked in small trailer homes in our large back yard. Many relatives moved into our home sharing our space as well as our food. When one family got on its feet, another soon seemed to take their place. Many homeless men, we called tramps, stopped at our house when passing down the highway. Some of them must have had a regular route, as we became familiar with some that came time after time. I remember one man who had dozens of dogs pulling a wagon for him. I now wonder how he fed those dogs when he had no way of feeding himself. No questions were asked of these men and nothing was required of them. Mother may have been somewhat apprehensive about them, but she never said anything to us. She always fed them but was probably relieved to see them go on their way.
My father was one of the lucky ones and thankfully, we were among the survivors. Several years earlier, my father and mother had made their living picking cotton in West Texas. My dad said that my mother was the best cotton picker he had ever seen. Since they were paid for the amount of cotton they picked, she was paid more than most pickers. This did not always help for when there was no cotton to be picked; they did the best they could by hiring themselves out to other farmers with other crops. Neither was educated. Mother could read pretty well and she loved to read. I never brought a book home from school without my mother reading it from cover to cover. Daddy could read enough to manage his affairs and read his Bible. There was little time for school. They had to work in the fields to help support their families. If there were no crops to pick, they were then allowed to go to school. After they got married, they worked in any county where work could be found. In the beginning years of the depression they had one child to care for and had lost another at birth. Things did not look good for them. In the early thirties, they were living in Ballinger, Texas when Mother read in the newspaper that some new jobs were going to open at Camp Stanley near Leon Springs, Texas. She talked Daddy into packing their few belongings into an old Model T Ford and driving to Leon Springs where I was later born. They stayed temporarily in a little house the Aue family owned. Mother washed and ironed the best clothes Daddy owned and he went off to see about getting himself hired. A little later that day, the officer in charge came out to visit our family and to tell my father he had himself a job. His job was as a guardsman and he walked the fences of the camp to make sure no unauthorized person entered. He walked all night long, no matter what the weather. Even though he made minimum salary, and in reality, we were very poor, we never felt poor. Indeed, we did not even know we were.
As I think back, the reason we did not feel deprived was due to the attitude, the planning, and the hard work of our parents. Not only did they never complain about the situation they were in, but also they were honestly thankful for what we had. They used every available resource to better our life. They found a little piece of land near Camp Stanley that had once served as a commissary around the First World War. It had a little gray weather-beaten shack on it that had never seen a coat of paint. On one side, the walls could be lifted up sort of like windows so that the soldiers could stand outside to buy the items carried in the commissary. On two of the other sides, there was a high- railed covered porch where the men could sit and relax. A kitchen was on the backside of the house with the cistern just outside. A gravel driveway curved around to the back of the house. A big red ant bed was in the middle of the driveway by the kitchen. We were never able to get rid of those ants. Daddy tried everything. He used boiling water, kerosene, and even tried filling the bed with gasoline and setting fire to it. The ants stayed. We learned that if we left them alone, they would leave us alone. I can’t remember a sting and they were fun to watch. I guess they did no harm. Another gray weather beaten storage shed that we used as a wash house and a garage that had the damp earthy smell of a dirt floor were in the back. There was no running water and there was no indoor toilet. An outhouse sat way to the back of the property where the Sears Roebuck catalog was read over and over again until there were no pages left to read. The slick pages were the last to go. There was an acre and a half of land, so there was plenty of room for planting a garden, building a barn and a cowshed. These were among the first things Daddy built along with a chicken house. The first things Daddy bought were a cow and some white leghorn chickens. He added a big brooder so that we would always have a new brood of chickens to keep the chicken flock from diminishing. Along with the land, these were our best resources.
The cow provided us not only with all the milk we needed, but with enough extra milk for Mother to sell at a nickel a jar to help pay for the cow feed. The cow feed came in printed cotton sacks closed with string stitching. The string was carefully removed and Mother spent many happy hours adding crocheted edging to curtains or dresser scarves which she made from the sacks. She also crocheted many lace doilies using patterns printed in the farm magazine that came free each month. The sacks provided us with sheets, pillow cases, dish towels, curtains, tablecloths and much of our clothing. Mother would try to save enough sacks of the same print in order to make dresses, skirts and blouses. Of course, the sacks also came in solid white, which she used for the linens. I never minded wearing feed sack dresses which often had matching bloomers, but there were times I remember being embarrassed about my white feed sack underwear. I felt better when my Aunt Laura started sewing eyelet embroidery around the edges of the legs.
Mother made all her clothes as well as my sister’s and my clothes except for sweaters and coats. While most were made from feed sacks, she did order some material from the Sears catalogue from time to time. My clothes were often made from the left over scraps. I was so proud when she made me a blue skirt and a red and white striped blouse just like one she made for herself. We would wear them at the same time. I liked being like my mother. Mother was also good at using the out grown clothing of others. A neighbor, Jane Moreau, had given me a beautiful green velveteen dress that looked like a skirt and a bolero. The blouse part was completely worn out. Mother ordered some pretty striped silk to remake the blouse. It was a very attractive new dress for me. She was not only good at sewing, she was fast. We were not allowed to wear pants to school in those days, so we seldom had any. Our part of Texas has very few exceptionally cold days and we seldom see snow. It did snow a couple of times in my memory. When it did, however, school was usually cancelled. One time when it snowed, I couldn’t wait to go outside to play in it, but I had nothing to keep my legs warm. Mother took an old pair of my dad’s pants and in just a few minutes at her old treadle sewing machine; I had a pair of long pants to wear. What fun it was to play in the snow. We threw snowballs and built a snowman. Mother gave us an extra treat by making snow ice cream. She mixed up clean snow, cream, sugar, and vanilla and made the best ice cream we had ever had. Ice cream was always a real treat. No one had freezers in their homes and few grocery stores had ice cream. It was available at the drug store in Boerne, but we seldom bought any. When we went into San Antonio, we would pass Knowlton’s Dairy right at the foot of a steep hill. We always watched for the hill so that we could remind our parents of its presence before they passed it up. If we were good, and if my parents had the money, they would sometimes stop and let us get some delicious vanilla ice cream. We sat at cute little round tables with prettily sculpted metal chairs to enjoy our special treat. With ice cream being so readily available now, I doubt any children today can imagine what a special privilege it was to have a bowl of ice cream.
Although having a cow added greatly to our needs, it did have some drawbacks. The cow had to be milked twice a day so it was often hard to be gone for very long periods of time. Sometimes the cow would have a calf and all the milk then went to the calf and we didn’t get any. The good thing was that Daddy would sell the calf and we would have a little extra money. Daddy got pretty good at judging the weight of a calf or a cow and good at picking good and healthy cows from a herd. When he went to the auctions to sell our calves, he got the idea that he could make extra money selling calves. Most of the farmers had no scales to weigh their calves and didn’t know exactly how much they weighed. They also did not want to take their calves to the market themselves. They were glad for someone to buy their calves. Daddy built a trailer and we went on many happy trips on unpaved roads and across pastures looking for calves to buy. There were few cattle guards but many gates. I thought the best fun in the world was opening the gates for my dad, swinging on them as they opened, and then dutifully closing them again. Daddy would pick the best calves of the bunch and we would haul them off to the cattle auctions in San Antonio. Once we were out too late to drive back home and we spent the night in a little country hotel which was probably not more than thirty miles from home. This was the only time until after World War II that I had ever spent the night in a hotel. After a few years of buying and selling calves, most of the farmers had by then bought scales and demanded market price for the calves. Since there was no longer any profit to be made, Daddy’s little business adventure came to an end.
Besides having cows and chickens, we always had a dog and many cats. We never seemed to be able to control the cat population and I, for one, did not want to. I loved my cats, but I am not so sure they loved me. I was always accused of torturing them by dressing them up in doll clothes and carrying them around wherever I went. Mother was always trying to give some away. One day, she really got upset with me. Some of our more unfortunate neighbors came to get some milk. They saw the cute little kittens and really wanted one. Mother was so happy; she thought she was going to have one less cat. Then, I piped up, “Yes, you can have a kitten. I’ll sold you one.” The neighbors wouldn’t take the cat because they thought they were going to have to pay for it and they did not have any money for cats.
Building a Better Home
Lois LaVerne Wood Meyer
Across the highway from us was a huge two story white house. Oh, how my sister and I longed to live in that house! It had big porches with high white rails going all the way around the house, both upstairs and down. There were neat barns and cattle troughs that we could play in. It was for sale and Daddy tried to buy the house, but the owner wanted more money than we would ever have. Money was not as tight as before so instead of buying another house, Daddy decided he would spend a little money to fix up the house we already owned. Looking for calves may have given Daddy the idea of how he could improve our home. The land in South Central Texas is mostly made up of clay and rock. Huge flat slabs of natural rock lay everywhere as we crossed farmers’ pastures. No one realized how valuable this rock would one day be. It was plentiful and no one, that we knew of thought of selling it. It was there for the taking for anyone who had the owner’s permission and the muscle power to carry it off. Daddy worked mostly at night and many days he would take me with him and we would go and load up as many of those huge rocks as possible. It was not long before we had two huge rock piles in our yard, more than we would ever need to rock our house We had an old panel truck and we would shuttle up and down and across pastures searching for good rock to add to our pile. I again got to ride the gates, swinging them open wide for Daddy to drive through. These were such good times for me. Feeling completely loved and accepted made me feel like the happiest person in the world. Daddy never seemed to tire of my continual jawing at the mouth and was always trying to get me to do something stupid. One time he dared me to chase a rabbit up a pretty steep hillside, and off I took thinking I would catch that rabbit. If he saw a cow patty, he would try to catch me off guard, tell me to follow him and step where he stepped so that I would be tricked into stepping in it. Sounds dumb, but so much fun then. Both my parents were fun loving and caring. We never experienced harsh, critical attitudes that some children live with.
After Daddy felt he had enough rock to rock the outside of our house, the remodeling work began in earnest. He started going into town to buy the supplies he would need. On one of these trips, that l was allowed to go along with him, he gave me a quarter, a whole quarter, and stopped at the dime store and said I could buy anything I wanted. I went in and looked and looked. Finally, I came out with a pair of yellow socks. When we got home, my mother wanted to know why I had chosen yellow socks. She reminded me I had nothing yellow to wear them with. I told her, ”Exactly!” Now I need a yellow dress. It was not long before I had a yellow dress. It was princess style that buttoned down the front and had a white collar. I knew how to take advantage of some of the extra money we had. Not long after this, with the help of a neighbor, Bill Moreau, the walls in the house were wired for electricity and pipes for running water were laid. Gradually, electricity started changing our lives. An electric refrigerator replaced the old icebox. We bought a radio and started listening to some radio programs. We did not become addicted to the radio as most of us are of television today. At the end of some days and sometimes on Sunday, we would sit down as a family and enjoy such programs as Fibber McGee and Molly, Amos and Andy, One Man’s Family, Baby Dumpling, or President Franklin Roosevelt in one of his fireside speeches. Of course, television was not even thought of at this time, at least, as far as we knew.
Daddy had been trying to dig a well by himself. He had a pretty deep hole dug when he finally decided that he would rather pay someone with good equipment rather than hand dig a well. As I noted before, the ground was almost solid rock. It wasn’t long before a man arrived with a gas-powered machine to drill our well. I’ll never forget the day the water came in. It was as muddy as it could be and tasted absolutely terrible. It didn’t take long to clear up, but it took a long time getting used to the taste. We wanted our rainwater from the cistern back. The cistern water was certainly nicer on our hair. The well water seemed to leave out hair rough and full of tangles. Mother would add some vinegar to the rinse water so we could comb it easier. What a difference this running water made in our living conditions, however. After digging a cesspool, Daddy installed a bathroom. Yea! No more Sears Roebuck catalogs for us. This was also the time he installed a water tank behind the kitchen stove with the water pipe running through the firebox. We just had to remember to take our baths while the water was still hot from the fire that was used to cook our meals. Now, we had hot and cold running water in the kitchen and bath. The kerosene lamps were replaced by naked light bulbs hanging by electrical cords from the ceiling rafters. Water and electricity would take some getting use to. I would get one of the biggest frights of my life from electricity. My sister and I always washed the dishes after supper. We always seemed to manage to slop more water onto our clothes and onto the floor than on the dishes. I had just finished my job of washing up and had dragged a chair under the light to pull the attached string to turn the light off. Somehow, I came into contact with 110 volts of electricity. What a shock I got! Not only was I shocked, but I couldn’t turn loose of the electric cord. It held me tight. I somehow fell off the chair and as I fell, all the wiring came down with me. Thankfully, the line was broken and I was able to free myself. I thought my daddy might kill me, but after seeing I was not hurt, he just set about repairing the damage. Daddy and Mother did not do a lot of yelling or screaming when we made mistakes. They never made us feel we were good for nothing human beings. I had made a mistake and believe me they knew I had learned a valuable lesson on the power of electricity.
We still had to heat the washing water on the big black pot in the back yard, but because of the electricity, we now had an electric washing machine. Wash day was a major event. You could not just gather up a batch of clothing and throw them in the washer any time you chose. It was a once a week affair. Mother would gather up every single item that needed washing including the clothes we had on. We would have to put on an old pair of overalls saved just for wash day and sort all the clothes into great piles. This in itself served as another kind of entertainment for us. We would jump and roll in these piles until Mother put a stop to it by having us help with the washing. Mother would fill the machine with almost boiling hot water and add the lye soap she had made. She would put two tubs of rinsing water on a bench beside the machine. In the last rinse water, she would add some of MRS. STEWART’S bluing to help keep the white clothes white and the colored clothes bright. After the clothes had washed, Mother would reach in the very hot water with a stick and bring out a piece of clothing and put it through the wringer of the machine. That piece would fall in the first tub of rinse water (Mother always said “wrench” water and I was grown before I knew the word was rinse water). We would then put the piece through the wringer again and into the other cleaner rinse water. Finally, it went through the wringer for the third time before the clothes were ready to hang on the line. Yippee! No more wringing out sheets and towels by hand. How great could life get? We would use the hot soapy water to scrub the floors, the porch, and the wash house. Water and soap could not be wasted. After the clothes were dry, we had another electric gadget to use, an electric iron. Those irons barely resembled the electric irons of today. It was on if you plugged it in and off if, you unplugged it. The cord had a striped cloth-like cover and slipped in and out of the back of the iron. One time I saw what I thought was the cord to the iron on the wash bench outside and started to pick it up and put it away when I discovered it was not the cord at all but a big chicken snake. Talk about being scared! Chicken snakes were not too infrequent visitors, but the few rattlesnakes that came our way were really unwelcome. Once, I was playing right beside the house and riding my tricycle when I almost stepped off onto a rattler. Thank goodness my mother saw it and told me to stay real still until it moved off. Mother didn’t worry about endangered species. She got the hoe and killed that rattler and any other snake she ever found.
The outside of the house was nearly finished being rocked and the inside was coming along pretty good, but the situation in the world was not doing so well. WWII invaded the peace of our lives and things began to change. Daddy was putting more and more time into the war effort, supplies were hard to get, or unavailable. The house never got finished. Walls were covered with unfinished plywood, baseboards were never installed, and the hardwood floors were laid but never varnished or shellacked. Finishing touches never were done Nothing was painted and the electric fixtures were never put in. The naked light bulbs still dangled from electric cords hanging from the ceilings. We did get a great rock fireplace that we all really enjoyed. We would sit by this fire on cold days and evenings just enjoying life. Often times we would bake sweet potatoes in the hot ashes. The rest of the house had no heating, so we went in the bedrooms only to go to bed. We would snuggle under lots of homemade quilts. One cold morning, thinking I would surprise everyone before they got up, I decided to build a nice warm fire. If my uncle had not come at he moment he did, I would probably have set the house on fire. A rug not far from the hearth was already smoldering when Uncle Doc arrived. I had let some small coals roll out of the fireplace and onto the floor. This was enough to keep me out of the fire building department. I had earlier witnessed a fire one Christmas day destroy the home of two of my best friends. I loved my home too much to take such a chance again.
The Wood Family Grows in Numbers
Lois LaVerne Wood Meyer
After my mother and my father moved to the Leon Springs area, other relatives moved there also. Most came for the job opportunities offered at Camp Stanley. My cousin, Dorothy, did not live far from us. We spent most days and many nights together. Her mother and my mother would get together and sew or make quilts. Dorothy was closer in age to my sister than to me. I was usually considered the little tag along. I loved Dorothy more than anyone outside my own immediate family and would do most anything to be with her and my sister. Everyone loved Dorothy. She had that special personality that attracted people to her like bees to honey. She had a knack for making other people feel very special and she always had time for them. She always thought of interesting things to do and was so much fun to be with. She was very pretty, petite, and had beautiful dark hair that always looked so lovely. I loved to go to her house. She didn’t have electricity in the early years either, but her mother had a gasoline-powered washing machine. It made enough noise to wake up the dead. I was really impressed with it. Dorothy had two much older brothers, L.B. and Elton, that were always tinkering around with things. I think they rigged that washing machine up from an old car engine, but I’ll never know. I just knew I had never seen anything so powerful and noisy before. Once, not very long ago I had a MRI on my neck. The whole time I was under that noisy machine, all I could think of was Aunt France and that loud washing machine.
Aunt France’s kitchen always fascinated me. There was always a bottle of pickled peppers on the table. I don’t think Uncle George ever ate anything without his peppers. I thought it funny when he put them in this spinach or other greens. I have always loved pretty dishes and Aunt France had a lot of pretty pink and blue glassware. I especially liked a blue Shirley Temple glass she had. One of my most precious treasures is a pink depression glass bowl that belonged to Aunt France that Dorothy gave to me in memory of her mother.
I do not remember if Dorothy’s dad had a car or not. I know Aunt France did go to the store, to town, to the schoolhouse and to the church, but I do not know how she got there. Perhaps Dorothy’s older brothers took her. I do remember seeing Uncle George galloping everywhere on his horse. He was more at home on that horse than he ever was in a car. He had ridden horses all his life. Once, when he was young, he helped take a whole shipload of horses to Cuba. He liked to tell of his horse adventures. He would sit down in his old rocking chair, take out his bag of Bull Durham tobacco and his cigarette papers, roll out a cigarette, and start telling of us his adventures. Dorothy has a big painting of him on his horse over her fireplace and that is how we all best remember him.
For what reason I do not know, but there was a large, deep pit in Dorothy’s back yard. We would climb down into that pit and pretend it was our house. We would play grown-up by the hour. The only accessory we had, other than our imagination, was an old purse Dorothy had. How I loved that purse. It was an envelope type with no handle and had a snap closure. She always pretended she was Vivian Autry, the wife of Gene Autry (our idol). I can’t remember who my sister was, but I, being the youngest, was always the maid. I didn’t get to choose. If I wanted to play, that was who I would be. Every time my sister or Dorothy got mad at me, or just tired of me, they would threaten to fire me. I would start bawling as loud as I could because I thought they were going to burn me up. They never explained to me about what firing a maid meant. They would laugh and get a real bang out of getting me all upset. Sometimes when they got tired of me, they would say, “Let’s go tell ghost stories.” We would go into the house into a quiet room that they did not want to play in and start telling stories. After only a few minutes, they could count on me falling fast asleep. Then they would leave me to nap while they returned to whatever they wanted to do without the crybaby in tow. Although Dorothy was almost always very good to me, these were some of the times I was considered a pest.
Another reason I liked to go to Dorothy’s house was that her family, like ours, had taken in families that could not find housing when they came to work at Camp Stanley. Several even built little temporary houses in her yard. Most of these people were young and fun to be around. Sometimes I would spend the night with her when relatives of Uncle George would come and spend a few days. Dorothy’s mother was my grandfather’s sister so I was not related to Uncle George’s family. Once, right after the war started with Germany, one of her aunts told me I had slept with a German (Kraut is the actual word she used). I was horrified. No way would I sleep with a German. They were our enemies. She insisted that I had indeed slept with one for she said she was a German. After that I would not sleep at Dorothy’s if she was there. Dorothy had another aunt, Aunt Dena that I loved as much as my own aunts.
We lived by the railroad tracks. The main line ran in front of our house. A branch line veered off toward Camp Stanley so that the engine could switch over and deliver or pick up supplies. This branch ran beside our house and right behind Dorothy’s house. We could get to her house by walking these tracks, walking or riding our bikes down the road to her house, or we could walk the trail we had cut in the pasture that was behind our house and that led us to her house. We used all three routes, and we used them often. On many days, we were kept busy going back and forth. There is no telling how many miles my sister; Margie, Dorothy and I walked these railroad tracks. Many days we walked the rails to and from school. We were all very good and could even run on the rails without falling off very often. We would often have races to see who could go the farthest without falling off. Of course, we had a lot of practice. The bottom of our feet must have been as tough as cowhide after walking these rails barefoot in the hot Texas heat all summer long. Agarita berry bushes grew wild along the tracks, and when they were ripe, we would break off branches and munch on these berries while we walked the rails. After a good rain, it was fun to walk down the tracks to the railroad bridge and watch the water carrying little bits of things along with its flow. Sometimes, we could see grasshoppers being carried along to a new home some where in the distance.
I loved to play paper dolls. Every once in a while I was given a dime to buy a new book of dolls. I would spend hours cutting out their beautiful clothing, and hours playing with them. Margie and Dorothy would play with me sometimes. Dorothy had a very special collection. They cost more than a dime and were not available at the stores we used. I don’t know where she got them, but I really would have liked to have been able to buy a book of those dolls for myself. They were Gone With the Wind paper dolls and they were beautiful. The clothes were the most elegant things I had ever seen. I had not seen the movie, nor did I know anything about it. I just knew I loved those paper dolls. Every time I went to her house I wanted to play with those dolls We didn’t get presents on our birthdays. I had never even had a birthday party, but I’ll never forget one fantastic birthday when I did get a really great gift. I was walking down the pasture trail going to Dorothy’s house when I met her and her dad on their way to my house. I was excited to see them just because it was my birthday. I did not expect a present, but Dorothy held out a big paper bag to me. I didn’t have any idea what could be in the bag, or if it even was for me. I took the bag and she told me to open it. Guess what! Inside that bag was the Gone With the Wind Paper Dolls. I was the happiest person in the world at that moment. Those dolls were my most treasured possession for many years.
Mother usually ordered what we needed from the Sears & Roebuck catalog. It truly was our wish book. We would look at all the shoes and decide which pair we wanted. We would look at all the different fabric shown and decide which ones we would like to have for special dresses. I remember how excited we would be when a brown paper wrapped package from Sears would be delivered by Miss Tillie, our post lady, to our mailbox. We would hurry home for Mother to unwrap it so that we could see what all we had ordered. We also wanted to see what the fabric we had ordered really looked like. We had only seen a picture of it in the catalog. I remember ordering white sandals with flower cut outs in the leather almost every summer.
My grandparents and many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins lived with us at one time or another. They all came during the end of the depression years and at the beginning of WWII to get jobs at Camp Stanley. My Uncle Bill Joe even went to the Leon Springs School for a while. He was treated a s a son by my father and mother. He joined the army before the war actually started. After they got on their feet, my grandparents moved to a house a mile or two up the highway from us. They lived there until their deaths. They both dipped snuff and I always thought that was a disgusting habit. Their teeth were always stained brown and they always had a tin can to spit in at their side. They did not have a car, but regularly caught the bus that came right in front of their house, and went in to Boerne to buy what they needed or to go to the picture show. I went with them many times.
My grandfather’s brother, Doc Wood and his wife Aunt Lillie moved into the area some years after Daddy and Mother. They opened a store and a gasoline station a mile or so from us. They had three children. W. D., Delores, and LeMoine. Delores was a little older than my sister Margie, and they were good friends and did many things together. LeMoine was a little younger than I, but we played together many times. He was my only boy cousin that I knew very well. We played cowboys and Indians for hours and hours. Although I always thought they were rich, and they were in comparison to us, LeMoine didn’t have a lot of toys either. We rode stick horses and shot stick guns. We rode the trails in back of the store and climbed in the store storage area. LeMoine and I would go swimming in a big round metal tank that was kept filled with water for the cows and horses. The water was not clear and you could not see anything in the water. One day we were having the best time playing in the water when LeMoine bumped into a big sheet of metal. It cut a huge gash in his leg. Blood was flowing every where. He had to be rushed into Boerne to have his leg sewed up. We never got to play in the cattle tank again.
I loved to clean the store candy case. There were all kinds of penny candy. Aunt Lillie would always let me have a piece after I straightened the case. I have a feeling that the case did not need cleaning, but she let me do it anyway. They did have electricity, but the soda water and beer were kept in a long container filled with water and ice. To find which drink you were looking for; you had to fish around until you brought up the right drink. I was also allowed to get a soda water at times and my hands would be frozen by the time I decided which one I wanted.
We bought our gas and whatever groceries we needed from Aunt Lillie. The gas pump had a glass tank. To get gasoline into the tank, you had to hand pump it full of gasoline. The gallons were marked on the side of the tank. I think it held ten gallons. You would put as much gasoline as desired in the car or into a container. When you finished the sale, you again had to hand pump gasoline into the tank to be ready for the next customer. I don’t know what Uncle Doc did, for I only remember Aunt Lillie working the store. For many years, she had a boy named Charlie working for her. When my sister was a teenager, she thought she was in love with Charlie. This was a help to me in some ways. There was a movie theatre in Boerne that was about ten miles away. The movie changed three times a week. On Friday and Saturday, there would be a western movie, often with Gene Autry or Roy Rogers. Gene Autry was my favorite and Daddy would usually take us on Saturday nights. On Wednesday nights, another show, not a western, but also not one of the top films would be featured. Sometimes, Daddy would take us to the Wednesday show as well, especially if Ida Lupino was starring. He loved Ida Lupino. On Sunday the big hit of the week came. This would be one that had played not too long ago in the big movie theatres in San Antonio. Because Uncle Doc had two teenagers and their friends, plus Charlie, wanting to go to the movies, there were usually two cars being driven from the store to Boerne three times a week. Because Margie wanted to be with Charlie, she would go with them. In addition, because she was my sister, I usually got to go along as well. However, I didn’t get to go very often on Sundays because we went to church. Uncle Doc would often take Aunt Lillie and my cousins to eat at the café across the street from the picture show. I never had the money to eat out, but I enjoyed walking up and down Main Street looking in the store windows or going into the drug store to look at the paper dolls that were available to buy. LeMoine was always given a dime to buy a comic book. When the picture show started, he would lay down in the aisle under one of the little lights that guided people to their seats and read his book. Sometimes I got to read his books when he was through with them. Friends we knew would often come to the show also and we would all sit together on the front row. I made friends with a little boy, named Dean, that lived in Boerne and he would always come sit by me.
Lois LaVerne Wood Meyer
I don’t remember families at Leon Springs going on vacations like people do today. We made short weekend trips and sometimes at Christmas or Easter to see my mother's relatives. My grandparents on my mother’s side lived in many different places. I remember them best after they moved to Oak Park that is a little subdivision just outside Kerville. We also got to visit my Aunt Laura and her husband, Uncle Marvin. He worked at the VA Hospital in Legion, Texas. The farthest we ever traveled was to see my mother’s sister in Bradshaw, Texas, a little town close to Abilene about two hundred miles away. We sometimes didn’t have enough money for the gasoline to go that far and Daddy would drive into San Antonio to an agency across the street from the bus station that helped people that did not have money for bus fare get a ride in exchange for gasoline money.
When any of our relatives came to visit us we would usually go to a place on the Guadalupe River called Edge Falls and go fishing. Going there is one of the highlights of my memory. Sometimes we went just with our immediate family. We would stay two or three nights. Mother and Daddy would sleep out under the trees on folding cots. My sister and I slept in the car. The grown ups fished almost all night long and we would have a wonderful fish fry for breakfast. We did not take a lot of food but we always took plenty of bread and we always had plenty of canned pork and beans. If they caught no fish, we ate pork and beans right out of the can. That is still my favorite way to eat pork and beans, cold right out of the can. Sometimes my parents would tie a coop of chickens to the back of the car and we would have fried chicken. There was a shallow area in the river close to the bank, but the water got deeper as you moved out toward the middle of the river. We would always wade in the shallow part while the adults swam in the deeper water. There were always a lot of minnows and my parents would catch them in a seine and use them for bait .We would gather up the fresh water mussel shells to play with. Sometimes we would see slimy looking leeches that liked to attach themselves to whoever was in the water. We made sure they didn’t get on us. In some places, especially in places with tree branches growing close to the water, we would see water moccasins. I never knew anyone being bitten, however. Sometimes the adults would take a boat and oar themselves down the river to fish. I didn’t get to go in the boat very often. I was too noisy and the fish wouldn’t bite. Mulberry trees grew along the river and if the berries were ripe, I would climb the trees and gather mulberries to mash into my own mulberry jam. I had a smashing good time, but the jam left a lot to be desired.
Water flowed down out of one tall rocky bank of the river that was as high as a hill. This was natural spring water and was very cold. We would often put a watermelon to cool in this nice clear cool water. There was a tall waterfall that fell from the river above us into a deep pool below. It was rumored that no one had ever been able to reach the bottom of this pool. Huge boulders lay across the entire river at the edge of the pool. The force from the waterfalls caused the water that ran over the boulders to be extremely swift and dangerous. When I was a little older, I was able to cross over the boulders, find a nice niche in the rocks and sit and enjoy the swift water running over my body while listening to the peaceful sound of the falls. However, the noise heard when walking on the narrow ledge next to the high steep break in the river behind the falls was not peaceful sounding, but was somewhat terrifying.
Happy Times at Leon Springs
Lois LaVerne Wood Meyer
I do not remember ever being bored as a child. We did not have a lot of money to spend on entertainment but we always managed to entertain ourselves. We had huge live oak trees in our yard and it was a neighborhood legend that I could climb trees before I could walk. If anyone came by our house, they would usually find me swinging in the trees. Daddy had hung rope swings with sawed off boards for seats and we would spend many hours swinging as high as we could go. In the pasture behind us there were little groves of many trees, bushes, and vines all clumped together and in the center of some of these clusters, I would often find a clearing where I could hide away secretly. I loved to be there in seclusion all by myself swinging on the vines and dreaming of far away places and of living a different life or at a different time. There was also a large clay pit, we called the dobie pit, where we constructed yards and yards of roads, bridges, and even caves. We had no toy cars or trucks, nor did we think we needed any. We were just as happy scooting old blocks of wood over these roads and bridges. We out-lined rooms with rocks. We left an open space for the doorways and were always careful to enter and exit through these doorways. We would not have considered stepping over the walls. Our houses were very real to us. We did not have play dishes. We used tin cans, jars, or whatever we could scrounge up for our utensils. We always had a tin can of flowers or whatever weeds were in bloom to decorate our houses. We cut up plants for our onions and vegetables. We made mud pies by the dozen. We decorated these pies with pretty bits of rock, acorns, leaves, and flowers and dried them in the hot Texas sun. We don’t think mother ever knew how many eggs we took from the chicken coop or how much milk we poured into our pies. We would have had a few more switchings if she would have known. She did catch us with our one big prize that we were so proud of. She nearly had a heart attack when she caught us with it. We had found an old hand grenade (our house was on what used to be army training grounds) and it was grooved to resemble what we thought was a pineapple and we used it for just that. A pineapple! We were sure sorry to have our great prize confiscated.
Beside the rail road tracks by our house was a little yellow and brown depot building where we would play while waiting for the daily train to arrive. There were two benches inside for passengers to sit on and wait for the train. However to my knowledge, there was never any passenger that waited for the train, or was there ever an attendant at the depot. The passenger cars that came by were always empty. They, along with some boxcars and the caboose would always wait at the little depot while the boxcars for Camp Stanley and the engine would switch over from the main track and onto the branch tracks to back down into camp. The conductor would always let us play in the empty passenger cars while he waited for the engine to return. He often would invite us to ride the train in the morning and said that he would drop us off again when the train returned at the end of the day. Naturally, Mother never allowed us to go with him. We did, however get to ride a train once. It wasn’t the one that ran by our house. The school was taking my sister’s class on a trip to Austin to visit the capitol. The principal of the school was our personal friend. He had bought the big white house my sister and I had always wanted before Daddy improved our house. My parents often played cards with him and his wife. He let me go along even though the other kids in my class did not get to go. I was so small I couldn’t keep up so two big boys in my sister’s class each took one of my arms and pulled me along with them. My feet never touched the ground as we hurried up and down the capitol steps. Later, we had a great picnic at Lake Travis. This is a day I will never forget. I am sure my sister was not too happy that I was following her around. On the train ride home she kept going from car to car trying to get away from me and I was rushing after her as fast as I could go. Mother had bought me a new blue coat, probably the only new coat I had ever owned. I was so proud of this coat. When I was running after her, the pocket of my coat caught on the handle of one of the seats and ripped. Even though I was absolutely heart broken about my new coat, I never said a word until the minute I saw my daddy when he picked us up from the station. I broke into tears. I was crying so hard that I could not tell him what had happened. At first, he thought my sister had been mean to me. When he found out it was my fault, he tried to console me but he did not punish me. He knew I had already been punished enough by the sorrow I felt over my new torn coat. The next day was Sunday and Mother took the coat and mended it so that I could wear it to Sunday School. She did such a good job that you could hardly see where it had been torn. Nevertheless, I knew and felt so badly that I had ruined my new coat. I never had another new coat until I was old enough to have a job and buy one for myself.
You would think I would learn my lesson about following my sister around everywhere she went. However, I wasn’t cured. I kept on being the onerous person that I was. One night after a youth group meeting, (called Christian Endeavor), my sister was planning to go to the home of one of the kids in the group. A friend, a teenager, was bringing us home, or I should say, taking me home. When we got to our house, I wouldn’t get out of the car without my sister. I wanted to go wherever she went. This was one time when Margie was not going to give in to me. Since I would not get out of the car, she did. She pretended to be going to the house. Naturally, I jumped out of the car to follow her. When we got almost to the door, she ran back and jumped into the car and they all drove off leaving me behind. I was so mad! I decided to get even with her. I sneaked into the house as quiet as a mouse. I went into the room I shared with my sister and crawled up into the very top of our closet where there was a large storage area. I just wanted to see what would happen when my sister came home without me. But, before I knew what happened, I fell fast asleep. When my sister came home, my parents wanted to know where I was. She explained the whole story. They all started searching every where for me. They were beginning to be really worried. They were going all over the place calling and calling my name. Finally, I woke up and heard them. Needless to say, they were all pretty disappointed in me. I am sure I was punished in some way. I can’t remember the punishment, but I do remember the disappointment, and the disappointment hurt more than any punishment they could have given me. I wish I could say that I learned my lesson this time, but truthfully, I’m afraid I remained a pesky little kid.
Every spring I go through great nostalgia when the flowers are in bloom. I am reminded of the many beautiful flowers that grew along the rail road tracks, along the roads, and in the fields near our house. Every inch of the field across from our house would be covered with bluebonnets. Indian blankets, wine cups, Mexican hats, purple verbena, wild morning glories, Indian paintbrush, thistles, sunflowers, primroses, and many others could be found. The greatest wonder of all, however, was the buttercup. It seemed this buttery yellow flower wanted to hide its beauty from the world. It was a big surprise when we would find one behind the barn or the cowshed. When it was found, we knew that spring was well on the way. Later in the summer, some flowers I think were wild cosmos, but I’m not sure, took over and covered the fields in bright yellow. I never thought these flowers were very pretty when I was a child, but now that I am an adult, I thoroughly enjoy seeing these yellow fields. Perhaps it was my mother’s love of flowers that made me so appreciative of watching them grow and picking them at will. It was not until later that the wild flowers started being protected so that all could enjoy them. Mother would often go for long walks along the gravel road going even further along out into the country and I would almost always walk along with her. She always had a little notebook that she was busy writing in and didn’t do much talking. It must have been her attitude that let me know how much she enjoyed the beautiful outdoors. It was not until I was grown that I found out what she was so busy writing. She was writing poetry, mostly about her love of God. The love of the flowers carried over into our yard. She always had flowers growing even though she had a hard time keeping them watered. She had iris, which we called flags which looked liked orchids to us. I do not think we had ever seen a real orchid, just pictures. Along with the flags, larkspurs grew down both sides of the walk in front of the house. She had several rose bushes, my favorite of which was a little pink sweetheart rose that climbed the fence in front of the house and Mother’s favorite, a white rose that grew under a hackberry tree. One side of the house was almost always ablaze with color from whatever flower was in season. White daisies in the spring, big beautiful zinnias in the summer, but best of all, the bright yellow of chrysanthemums that covered the side of the house in the fall.
Since our house used wood for cooking and for heating, there was always a big woodpile in the back of the house. When a new cord or two of wood was delivered, we would build wood forts to play in near the pile. We were always sorry to see the pile gradually diminishing This was one of my favorite places to play because Daddy had to spend a lot of time cutting the wood in the sizes needed to fit in the stove. I would sit and chatter away and tell him everything I knew to tell. I did not mind helping to bring in the wood because he always listened to whatever I had to say.
As with most all children, we looked forward to Christmas. It was a far cry from Christmases that are celebrated in most homes today. Weeks before Christmas we would start looking for the best tree as we were out in the pasture, rounding up the cow, walking the trail to Dorothy’s house, or just playing. It couldn’t be too tall or it wouldn’t fit in the house, but we did want it to have nice full branches. When it was time to put the tree up, having already locating the one we wanted, all we had to do was to take the ax, go out, cut it down, and bring it home. Daddy would make a stand by nailing two boards together in a cross shape. He would then nail the tree to the stand and place it in a corner of the living room. Cedar trees are not as easily decorated as are most spruces or firs. It took real creative art to get them attractively decorated, but boy, did they smell good. They smelled just like Christmas ought to smell. We didn’t have a lot of bought ornaments, but we had one great string of lights. All the bulbs were shaped and painted like fruit. Perhaps, they were meant to be fruits of the spirit. After that string of lights burnt out, we still used the bulbs as ornaments by tying them onto the tree with colored string.
We always made one shopping trip to the Sears, Roebuck store in town. This was always a very exciting time. We would see a Santa and he would give us a coloring book or a storybook. We did not sit on his lap and request presents, however. We did not expect to get anything other than the usual doll and we were really looking forward to that doll. One time, however, I did get a pretty little China tea set decorated with pretty pink flowers. Even though I would get a new doll, I never got rid of any of the other dolls I had. No matter how old or decrepit they became, they were all family to me. Since we did not have a lot of money, Mother would usually order undressed dolls from the catalog. She and Aunt France would spend hours making clothes for them. Sometimes she even made us rag dolls. I can no longer remember all the names I gave to my dolls, but I do remember a Barbara, a Sue, a Peggy, and a Carol. One time my sister was mad at me and was chasing me around the house. She jumped across the bed and accidentally stepped on Carol’s leg. Although I did have a rubber doll, most of my dolls were made out of some kind of composition sort of like sawdust that had been pressed into a shape and then painted. These dolls broke very easy. Sometimes, big chips would break off their heads, faces, arms, or legs. I didn’t have a doll with hair or blinking eyes until I was almost too old to want a doll. My dolls had painted on eyes and hair. When Carol’s leg was broken, I was heart broken. She was irreplaceable in my mind even if we could have afforded to buy another doll. My mother made Carol a cloth leg and I loved her even more after nearly losing her.
One Christmas Mother had made my new doll a beautiful blue organdy dress with a matching cap. I decided to take my dolls on an outing into the pasture. I was going to give my new doll a nap, so I took off her beautiful dress to put on a pair of pajamas. I started walking her around trying to get her to go to sleep. When I looked up, there was Old Pet, our cow, happily chewing up my new doll dress.
My last doll was also an undressed doll ordered from the catalog. But, this doll was special. She had pretty blond curls of real hair, and she had beautiful blinking blue eyes. Mother had taken some elegant scraps of wine colored velvet that had been left over from a recital dress of my sister’s and made the most beautiful dress any of my dolls had ever had. It had long puffy sleeves that narrowed at the wrists, and a long gathered skirt with a pretty bow in the back. She wore pretty white imitation leather shoes. I did not think I would ever part with this doll. I saved her for years. When my daughters were small, I took her out to show them, and one of the girls fell and broke her. She, also, had been made of this sawdust-like composition. For some reason, I did not keep her after she was broken. I am sorry now that I did not. However, I do have the memory of her and memories are easier to keep than stuff. At least, I used to think they were. Now I am beginning to see that you can also lose your memories.
When we were shopping at Sears, we usually got a new pair of pajamas and a plaid flannel robe. The robe was usually needed to wear in the Christmas program at church or at school. There would not be many presents bought, but there would be something for everyone.
One year when Sgt. and Mrs. Moore lived in a trailer house in our yard, I had a very special shopping trip without my family. Mrs. Moore had two small children and I would watch them for her when she needed some help. I loved helping her and she was so good to me. I was first introduced to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at her house. She would have me make them for her daughter, June. Dale was too young to eat sandwiches. Of course, I got to eat these sandwiches also. They were absolutely delicious. Every time I helped her she put a few coins in a jar for me. Near Christmas time, she gave me all the money in the jar and took me on a shopping trip to town. This was the first time I ever had more than a quarter to spend in my life. I felt so special being able to buy my entire family gifts. Heart charm bracelets were very popular and there were dozens to pick from. The store would even engrave a name, or a message, on the heart when you bought one. I picked Margie a beautiful silver heart to put on her bracelet. I bought my daddy a black leather belt that came in a pretty black box with a gold horse on it. I bought my mother a pretty string of imitation pearls. I even bought myself a present. I bought a round black leather purse with drawstrings. It had black leather fringe hanging down around the outer edge of the flat bottom of the purse.
Mrs. Moore took me to lunch and this was the first time I ever had turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce. We usually had chicken at Christmas, usually with dumplings. She also bought me my very first real books. We did not have many books to read at home. Mother got a farm and ranch magazine that always had a children’s story in it that she would read to us and we would check out books when the mobile library came to the school. Our small country school had few books for us to take home and read. The books Mrs. Moore bought me were from a series of books about a female aviatrix, Linda Carlton.
Usually, some relatives would come on Christmas Eve. When we spent time with any relatives, we kids always had to eat last. The adults would eat all they wanted and we got the leftovers. We didn’t always get the piece of chicken we desired, but we had a great time. It was not until I was grown that I understood the reason we had to eat last. None of us had enough dishes to feed us everyone. Dishes would need to be washed before the second group could eat.
My cousins, my sister, and I would sleep on the floor on pallets. Even though we did not expect many gifts, we would be so excited that we would have a very hard time getting to sleep. There always seemed to be something special, or even magical, about Christmas. Even after I knew the real meaning of Christmas, I was guilty of trying to enlarge on the special feelings that came about at this time of year. I tried to recapture memories and even make them better by indulging myself with materialistic gifts that can never replace the love that was shared by my family, friends, and relatives. I still have a hard time not overbuying at Christmas, but I now recognize that I cannot recreate a time from my own memories and place them in the hearts of my loved ones. Their memories will be from their own interpretation of life. My memories may not be exactly as what was in reality, but they are my memories. If my sister reads what I have written, I know that my memories will not be the same memories as hers. They may be similar and they may remind her of certain events, but she will not have the exact same feelings about the events that I have stored in my memory.
When the war started, gas was rationed and tires were very hard to get. No new cars were even made. Daddy bought us all second-hand bicycles and we rode everywhere on those bikes. We went to school, to friends, to the store, and to church. Mother and Daddy went with us to night events at school and to church, and sometimes at night, we rode our bicycles to neighbor’s houses where Mother and Daddy played cards.
Many Saturday nights, we went as a family to country-dances. Dance halls such as Three Way Inn, The B29 Inn, and some in neighboring communities with names I no longer remember. There was always a country band with a lot of guitar and fiddle playing. Sometimes we had Adolph Hoffner, or one of the other popular bands around San Antonio. Sometimes we had local bands and we liked them just as much. They would play all the popular country western songs and everyone danced. Those were really fun times. We kids, too young to have boy friends danced with each other or by ourselves. We just had a great time. Every once in a while, the band would play “Ten Pretty Girls” and long groups of people would get in a line to dance. They would play polkas, Put Your Little Foot, The Cotton Eyed Joe, and the schottische. We were never allowed to go outside, so I don’t know what went on out there, but I have a feeling the older kids thought they were having more fun than the rest of us. Daddy always gave me a nickel and I would go up to the bar where they served drinks and sandwiches. I used to long to be able to buy one of those sandwiches. They were wrapped up in the nicest white paper and looked so delicious. But, I never had enough money to buy a sandwich. I paid my nickel for a cold drink and it had to last the entire night. During the war, servicemen home for leave would be there in their uniforms with their best girls and they looked so handsome and we were so proud of them. We thought their girls were the luckiest people on earth to be dancing with such heroes. We had reason to be proud of those men like my dad who stayed behind to help the war effort at Camp Stanley and the many relatives and friends who had to go do the actual fighting. At least four of my father’s brothers, both of Dorothy’s brothers, several cousins, and many of our friends and neighbors became what Tom Brokaw calls The Greatest Generation. Most of them returned after the war. Some like John Altgelt, the son of one of my teachers and the brother of two of my classmates did not. He was just one of the many young men who never had the chance to live life.
Leon Springs School
Lois LaVerne Wood Meyer
We lived about a mile from Leon Springs School. The school was a
pretty natural rock structure with three classrooms. Each room had a blackboard along one wall with the opposite wall being completely lined
with windows. There were no fans or air conditioning and windows were a necessity in our Texas climate. There was a big pot bellied wood burning stove in one corner of each of these rooms. There were no janitors and the teachers and the children kept the rooms cleaned and the fires burning when a fire was required. The children that arrived early would go out to the wood shed in back and carry in enough wood to last for a day or two. When it was very cold, we would all huddle as close as possible to the fire. I remember one particularly cold day when one of my classmates spread her coat over the outside of the stove to warm it up. To all our surprise, the brand name of the stove and all the writing on the front of the stove was permanently engraved to the lining of her coat. The restrooms were outside in another small rock building. Unlike in most of the students’ homes, there were two flush toilets in each of the girls and boys restrooms along with one sink with a small mirror hanging over the sink. We used to think we were really pulling the wool over our teacher’s eyes when we would offer to go out and clean the rest rooms. A friend would get to go with us, so we had a good time away from the classroom. I imagine that if we had not have cleaned the restroom that this job would have fallen to the teacher. No wonder she was always willing to let us go. To clean the wooden floors of the school, we would scatter some stuff sort of like oily sawdust on the floor and then sweep it all up. This was great fun. Some of us would get to dust the erasers or clean the blackboards. The desks were in sections of two or three fastened together on wooden slats. The rows could be as long or short as needed. The wooden desktops had a carved out pencil shaped slot at the top to keep our pencils from rolling off and a circular hole on one side to hold our ink. Two of the rooms had a partition between them and could be opened up to make one big room for special school events such as plays, meetings, or carnivals.
Every Halloween we would have something like a carnival. We had never even heard of “Trick or Treat” where kids go house to house expecting candy treats. Perhaps it was because the houses were too far apart, or perhaps these traditions had not even started. At least it wasn’t a tradition where we lived. There were little booths set up. There was always a fishpond where we got candy, whistles, or little tin crickets that made a lot of noise. I remember one booth that would be unacceptable today. It had a sign that said, “See the White Monkey”. All that was inside was a mirror. We had a spook house that supposedly had the parts of a dead body inside. Peeled grapes were used for the eye balls, soft spaghetti for the intestines, and other disgusting things you had to feel around for in the dark while spooks jumped out to scare us. We did not dress up in costumes. Of coarse, there were always a lot of refreshments.
Sometimes we had a variety show, sort of like a talent show. Adults in the community, as well as students, took part. I think it odd that out of the many activities that took place, only a few stands out in my mind. One of our neighbors, Hortense Pheiffer, could really sing. I remember her singing a song called, “Oh! Johnny”. Some of the words were, Ma, he’s making eyes at me. Ma, he’s kissing me. Etc. One time a friend and I sang, “Don’t Fence Me In”. Since I can’t sing at all, I bet that was a dud. Another time I played a black Nanny in a play, but I can’t remember the details.
The principal’s room, which was also the seventh and eighth grade classroom (the principal always taught the older children), had a stage in front. The stage had a door that led to a little room with a bed in it for children who became ill. This little room had another door that led to the first, second, and third grade classroom. When we were supposed to be ill and were permitted to go and lie down, we would go up on the stage and peer out from behind the curtains at the seventh and eighth grade students trying not to get caught. It was great fun to say you were sick for one of our friends would just happen to be ill at the same time. There was no nurse, so we were on our own for a little while. It was a rare occasion that anyone ever went to see a doctor. We took most illnesses in stride. Colds, flu, and communicable diseases such as measles, chicken pox, whooping cough, and mumps were tolerated until they ran their course. My parents did take me to see old Dr. Noah several times about my ear that was continually infected. He had his office in a big white house on Main Street in Boerne. He would clean my ear and say my tonsils were bad and that if I had my tonsils out the ear would probably heal. There were no miracle drugs such as penicillin in those days. It was not until WWII that penicillin was invented. The ear never stopped draining, so it was decided to go ahead and remove my tonsils. I was taken, not to a hospital, but to Dr. Noah’s office and put on a table to be prepared for the procedure. A horrible, scary black mask was placed over my face engulfing me in the unfamiliar and unpleasant smell of ether until I fell asleep. It seemed to take forever. When I woke up, I had a sore throat in the place of my two tonsils. I was immediately taken home, where the only thing I was given to eat was Jell-O. It was a long time after this before I ever wanted to eat Jell-O again.
I was taken to the doctor on only two other occasions. Once a dog that belonged to a friend of ours was at the school. It was recess time and for some reason I do not know, the dog bit me on the hand. I was taken to the county hospital in San Antonio for a doctor to examine. The sad thing about this, was not the severity of the bite, which was minimal, but by law, the dog’s head had to be sent to Austin to make sure it did not have rabies. Evidently, they did not quarantine dogs in those days. So, my friends lost their family pet. The other visit came about because of an accident that also happened at school. My class was playing ball at recess and I accidentally fell and broke my arm. My mother was at work and the school was only able to find my cousin, Elton, to take me into Boerne to have it x-rayed. Dr. Noah put it in a cast and sent me on my way. Elton took me to Aunt Lillie’s at the store. She used a blue dishtowel to make a sling for me.
There was a very small lunchroom at one end of the covered porch that ran along the entire front of the school building. Hot vegetable soup and grits are all I can remember being served. Flat pieces of cabbage seemed to dominate the vegetables used. Little clear droplets of grease floated on top of the tomato based broth. For some reason, the lunchroom was not always open. Most of us took our lunches. Some of the richer kids brought really delicious looking sandwiches. The crusts would be trimmed and we could see fancy looking filling between the bread. They also had pretty little lunch boxes and a napkin. The rest of us used paper sacks. The really poor kids had the best lunches of all. These were the Mexican American kids, we just called Mexicans in those days. They had cold flour tortillas filled with refried beans. This was in the days before this dish was ever served in a restaurant. It was brought because they had nothing else to bring. I usually had a choice of pressed ham or cheese to put on store sliced bread bought just for our lunches. If we had no fruit or cookies to put in our lunch, we sometimes were given a nickel to buy something at the Aue store on the way to school. We could buy an orange, an apple, or a banana for the five cents, or we could choose from several varieties of little boxes of cookies. There were vanilla or chocolate cookies with marshmallow filling, and there were also gingersnaps. A variety of penny candy or a pack of five pieces of not so great gum could be bought for a penny. Chocolate candy, Coke, and real gum were seldom available during the war years. These were sent to our service men. There was one kind of cola that was called “Party Pac.” It came in a large bottle and rather than being drunk from the bottle, it was poured into glasses. I always liked the fizz that bubbled up and misted up onto my face as I drank. Mr. Aue also carried school supplies in his store. Mostly we used Big Chief tablets. Rubber was also not available, so cedar pencils with a very tiny ineffective eraser on them were often the only pencils available. It was not often that I had a new box of crayons. One time, Daddy had given me his old watch to wear. I traded it to a big boy at school for a new box of crayons. I never was too smart about money.
Once a year, all the kids at school were marched down the road to Mr. Aue’s store where he would weigh us on the feed scales. The San Antonio health department would come out and we would all line up for whatever shots they decided we should have. No one thought about asking permission to give the kids shots in those days. I remember crying that I didn’t want a diphtheria shot and my teacher explaining the horrible death her father had died from this disease. I got the shot. I probably would have gotten it anyway. I doubt we had a real choice.
We usually walked or rode our bicycles to school. On bad days, Mother would drive us. I still associate the smell of gasoline fumes with Mother backing out of the garage to take us to school. She loved to sing. Not only could she not, nor could I, ever carry a tune, but she, like I, never knew all the words. She would sing the same refrains over and over again. The one I remember best is, “Washed in the Blood”, and she would sing at the top of her lungs,” Are you washed in the blood, In the soul cleansing blood of the lamb? Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?” Once in a while, Mr. Pheiffer, who owned a dairy down the road from us, would give us a ride to school on his way delivering his milk into town. His truck always had a funny smell. I think it was probably fertilizer, but I thought it smelled just like the taste of olives to me. I never eat an olive without thinking of Mr. Pheiffer and his truck.
Some of the other kids also walked or rode their bicycles to school. A few even rode their horses. One boy less than fourteen years of age drove himself, and his brother and sister to school in an old black two-seated car. One rich boy, who at times came to our school and at other times went to a private school, was driven to school by his maid. He later became a Texas State Senator.
On the way home from school, we could always hear the noisy gasoline motor of Mr. Schaub’s blacksmith shop. We would pass the large forbidden looking house of Mrs. Saley. She had a large fenced in yard with a lot of trees. But, you never saw a leaf on the ground. There was no grass or any kind of debris in her yard. Everyday, she would be outside with her broom sweeping the black earth of her yard until it was smooth as glass. If we had started out with any money, we no longer had any for we would have spent it on the way to school. There would be very few customers at the B29 Inn. Most everyone worked in the daytime. Later, some customers would arrive to play pool and to drink beer. Mr. Swartz would often be out fixing a flat at the gasoline station on the corner. We would cross over and walk the rails home.
The playground at school was very large. There were many trees where the girls used to build playhouses under at recess. There were swings and seesaws. We used one large field to play baseball. There were several large trees here that we thought far enough away from the teachers to exchange whatever discoveries we had made about the world in private. When we were a little older, we exchanged our knowledge behind the woodpile. We were never brave enough as the children of today are of writing any ugly words on the buildings, fences, or anywhere else that was likely to be seen by the adults. There were two long rock structures that held water fountains for us to quench our thirst after a hard play at recess. A cattle guard was constructed across the driveway to keep out any neighborhood cattle. A high curved wall was on either side of the drive. The older children would gather there in the morning and sit on the wall until the bell rang. The younger children could not jump that high. I suppose that is why the older children always sat there. The crunching sound of the gravel that covered the front of the schoolyard could be heard as car tires rolled over it. The principal had a big brass bell with a wooden handle and would ring it when it was time for school to start. We would all line up in front of the school and say the pledge to the flag before we entered the classrooms.
I always wanted to go to school because my sister went. She was four and one half years older than I. Everyday I would try to follow her to school and my mother would have to chase me down. I can still remember my first day to finally get to go myself. There was a little boy in my class that wore a big red bow on his white shirt. I had never seen a boy with a bow before and I thought he was the most elegant person I had ever seen. I remember him being amazed at the smallness of my feet. He would hold his foot up beside mine and want to know what size could I possible wear. At recess, he would get on one end of the seesaw and I would get on the other end and we would seesaw until the teacher rang the bell for us to come inside. We did not have all the printed work sheets that children have today. On special occasions our teacher would copy a picture with some kind of special purple ink and put it on a waxy gelatin like roll and make us copies. If there were notices to be sent home, she would make copies in the same way. It was all done by hand and time consuming. But we loved the pictures she made which we spent so much effort to color. We did not have the massive amounts of paper available to us and seldom did we get a coloring book. These were real treats. We learned to read by the look and say method. The teacher would hold up a card with a word on it. She would say, ‘This is the word “like”, and then she would say, “What is this word”? And we would all repeat the word. After a few practices she would put the word above the black board, we would read our story that contained the words we practiced, and then she would again review the words with us. I always loved the word umbrella. I had never seen a real umbrella, but I thought it a beautiful word. Everyday we had new words and were expected to remember the words we had already practiced. I do not remember having any problems reading the words we had in our books. I do not remember grades. I do not know if they were ever stressed at all. It did not seem to matter how much we learned. We went, we did whatever the teacher asked and my parents were happy. Perhaps, because they themselves were not all that knowledgeable, they did not know what more we needed to know.
The only report card grade I can remember was when I was in the seventh grade. By then, the war was on. Cars, gasoline and tires were all hard to come by. Since our school was considered far out into the country, not many teachers from the city wanted to drive that far, or did not have the tires or the gasoline needed. It seems at this particular time, the teachers kept changing and did not stay long, One teacher had a hard time keeping up with teaching different grades all at one time. She would always forget what lesson we were on. One day when none of us had prepared for the spelling test, we decided to tell her we were on the last week’s list. She didn’t seem to know the difference, but later something must have jogged her memory and she realized what we had done. She did not give us a zero, however. She decided to lower our entire six-week grade down a notch. Even this would not have bothered me if she had not brought it to my attention by deciding to go back and change our grades back to what they would have been. I do not remember what we studied in geography, but I loved having geography. We did not have enough books and we got to sit with a friend and read our lesson. I do not remember taking tests other than spelling tests, but surely, we must have.
One of my favorite memories is of modeling clay. I can still smell this clean clay smell as the teacher would place a large dollop of this gray wet substance from a huge round can she stored in the closet. First she had us place a desk size piece of red, blue, green, or yellow oilcloth down to keep our desks clean. None of us had any substance like this in our homes. We would roll and pound this clay to our hearts content. I cannot remember what we finally formed with the clay. I just remember the experience and the smell. At Christmas, I remember Miss Alma Geiger hanging little toy cars, trucks, and airplanes on the Christmas tree in our room. Again, the only cars we had were just blocks of wood. We did not have any toys like those she hung up. Perhaps that is why we liked to read. We read of children playing with blocks, cars, trains, teddy bears, and fancy dolls we did not have. Every once in a while, a kid would get something the other kids did not have. I remember one girl who got one of the newest kinds of rubber dolls. It wasn’t really rubber .It was called a magic skin doll. The skin was almost like real skin, soft and pliable. It wore a little pair of panties that covered the cutest little plump rump. The only problem was that the magic skin tore very easily and every tear was covered with a band-aid. I sure liked that doll, band-aids and all. I never expected to ever have such a doll myself, and I never did.
I liked reading about the animals that walked and talked. At times, the teacher would put records of songs about animals on a phonograph she brought from home. All these were experiences we did not have. I loved those songs about elephants, tigers, camels, hippos and many others. Every year my fourth, fifth, and sixth grade teacher, Miss Hulda Geiger, would go to the dime store in the city and buy dozens of penny valentines and let us choose and buy these from her to give to our friends. If she had not done this, very few of us would have ever had a bought valentine. It was so much fun sorting through them finding just the right ones for our friends.
I was a great storyteller. I would get up in front of the class and tell stories that I had read, or had been read to me, almost word for word. As long as I was in a friendly environment and felt loved and accepted, I was the best storyteller in our school. The principal would often have me come in his class to tell my stories. Every year the school participated in the County Meet. The older kids were entering some contests and the school decided to enter me into story telling. My sister and a friend were doing something together and my mother made them matching white sailor dresses trimmed with red braid with stars on the collar corners and an anchor in front. She had enough white material to make me a dress as well. She trimmed mine in blue braid. I was so proud and so confident to be entered into a contest. I knew I would do well. We drove to Lockhill School just outside San Antonio. We signed in and were taken to our various events. I was taken behind the auditorium of the school, but I did not see the actual auditorium. All of us involved were read a story. We then had to go one by one onto the stage and tell the story that had been read to us. I remember walking out onto that stage. I had never seen that many people at one time in my life. I had practiced my story while waiting my turn to tell it. I had the skills to perform well. But I allowed a great fear to take hold of me and conquer my confidence. I didn’t say one word. I turned around and walked off the stage. That was the end of my great story telling career. .
The Leon Springs Presbyterian Church
Lois LaVerne Wood Meyer
We had a school, but no church. The Beacon Hill Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, with the support of Presbytery, took an active interest in establishing a church in our community. Along with a small group of dedicated Christians, Dr. Arthur Boand started having church services on Sunday evenings at the Leon Springs School. I was too young to know all the details, but I definitely remember sitting in folding chairs on the gravel area in front of the school and singing hymns from a hymnbook. I remember a young man, Daniel Baker, canvassing the entire community for potential members. Since there were no other church opportunities available at this time, most members of all denominations other than Catholic, were delighted to have a protestant church in the neighborhood.
It was not long before a little picturesque rock church was built next to the Leon Springs School. Although the church was now provided with its own pastor, Dr. Boand and the original little band of members from the Beacon Hill Church continued to come and support us for many years. Mrs. Boand was one of my first Sunday School teachers. I loved her and liked having her for my teacher. She was always dressed so elegantly. I was most impressed with her mesh stockings and beautiful shoes. I also remember having other loving and caring Sunday School teachers like Mrs. Julia Aue and Miss Helen Leach.
Each Sunday we would be given a leaflet that had a beautiful picture on the cover with a Bible story inside. We were given a brown tag board loose-leaf folder to keep our leaflets in. I carried mine with me every Sunday in order to add my new story to my collection. One Sunday, I accidentally left it in a neighbor’s car when I was driven home from church. It somehow was misplaced and I was heartbroken to have lost all my stories. When I was a little older, I was given a little pink catechism. The only question I can now remember from that catechism is the question, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer was, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”
Two of my sister’s friend usually played the piano at church. One was a beautiful blond named Margarite Schultize, and the other was Elizabeth Neitze, the older sister of one of my friends, Sophie. The church service always started with hymn singing and the congregation was asked for requests. Every Sunday my hand would go up and I would request God Will Take Care of Me. I also liked singing What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Onward Christians Soldiers, Follow the Gleam, The Old Rugged Cross, In the Garden, Wonderful Words of Life, Trust and Obey, and Jesus Lover of my Soul. I also liked to sing Jesus Loves Me, Praise Him, Praise Him, and Fairest Lord Jesus in our Sunday School Class.
The church offered many activities. I enjoyed doing arts and crafts at Bible School. One time we decorated a jar with many colors of paint. Several colors of paint were poured on top of a bucket of water. The jar was dipped into the bucket of water. When it was removed, paint covered the entire outside of the jar. It turned out to be a beautiful multi-colored vase. Sadly, my jar was later broken. All was not lost, however, for I still have the memory of making that jar.
Early Easter Sunday mornings, we would all climb the hill behind the church for Easter Sunrise services. On Sunday evenings, we would have Christian Endeavor. The youth would meet and we did many fun things. In the summer, we would have weenie roasts and swimming parties. One of our neighbors had a large round cattle tank that we swam in. Sometimes, we went on over-night camping trips to the river or the lake. We had picnics and church dinners. Sometimes, we even had hayrides on a neighbor’s farm. The church also sponsored Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. I remember Mrs. White working with us in scouts. Our friends were mostly from church and scouts, but they also all went to school with us as well. We had a lot of parties and it seemed to me that no one was excluded. Some of my friends had horses and I would get to go horseback riding with them. One family had a great barn. Many bales of hay were stored in the hayloft above the barn. We would spend hours building mazes, hiding from each other, and scooting through the mazes looking for one another. It was dark in the loft, and it was sort of scary, but we had great fun.
The church became a major force in bringing and holding the community together. The influence the church had on me has stayed with me my entire life. It is here that I first heard the call of my Lord, Jesus Christ. It is through these dedicated, caring and loving Christians that the seeds of truth were planted in my heart. These are the Christians that watered and nurtured these seeds until I childishly made the decision to leave the church community at Leon Springs because of a personal hurt. The seeds, however, were not planted in vain. They merely lay dormant inside my heart until I again listened to the continual call of the Lord to return to the Christian fold.
I feel nothing but love and gratitude for all these people who have been such important influences in my life. I hold these people in a very special place in my heart. Because of them, I know the love of God. I will never be alone. No matter where I go, the body of Christ, the church, the community of believers will always accept me and love me as part of that body.
Lois LaVerne Wood Meyer
The war changed us in many ways. It brought prosperity to most Americans. There were plenty of jobs and opportunities to better the lives of most anyone willing to make the effort. It brought out the best in us. We were willing to walk, to share rides, to use bicycles, and to stay at home in order to save gasoline, rubber, and metal for the war effort. We weren’t afraid to pick up hitchhikers. Many servicemen would not have gotten home for leave if people had not have given them rides. We were proud of the men in uniform and we showed it. We supported America 100%.
We did without meat, sugar, shoes, gasoline, tires, and silk stockings. Nylons were not invented yet. Women used leg make-up so they would appear to have on hose. We planted victory gardens to help provide food. Even children used their dimes to buy saving stamps for the war effort. When a book was filled up, it was traded in for a savings bond.
But the war impoverished us in other ways. Families were separated and scattered. Women left the home and the care of children to others so that they could go to work. They did their duty to the country by filling the jobs that had to be done to keep our nation going. My mother went to work at Camp Stanley. We had more money but less Mother. She bought a piano and my sister and I took piano lessons. My sister really did well and I love to hear her play. My short stubby fingers would never reach an octave and I did not practice like I should have. I never progressed past the beginner’s book.
My parents never argued or fussed with each other. At least, they never did where my sister and I ever heard. I had never heard a cross word between them. You cannot imagine my surprise when one day Daddy started backing his old black Model T Ford down the gravel driveway and my mother picked up a rock and threw it at him. I could not believe my eyes. That was the day she told us he had a girlfriend and was going to leave us
My teacher at Leon Springs, Miss Hulda Geiger, lived in San Antonio and drove back and forth each day with her sister, Miss Alma Geiger; these dear teachers tried their best to help me through this rough period. They did not want me to have to change schools. They would come pick me up each morning from our room and bring me back each evening. They had no heater in their car and they would always bring a quilt for me to wrap up in so that I would not be cold. I think they thought that Daddy and Mother would work things out. Daddy and Mother were highly respected persons in the community. Daddy was a trustee for the school and took care of many things. He went into town every week to buy and deliver the food for the little lunchroom. At Christmas, he and Mother would buy huge cans of candy, nuts, and fruit and fill red mesh stockings for all the kids at school. They helped in all the school activities, worked our carnivals, led the boy and girl scouts, took the kids on camping trips and could be counted to do anything needed for the school. I was always so proud of them and I loved to bring my friends home with me. Daddy was especially friendly and well liked.
I am so sorry that I do not know what happened to these two teachers. I never really thanked them for all they did for me, but I will forever be grateful to them. They went way beyond the duty owed to students. They even took me into their home for visits and tried to help me learn the piano better. Once, they even took me down to the Municipal Auditorium to hear Jose Iturbe, a famous Cuban piano player. This was my very first concert.
The community of Leon Springs was all I knew before my mother, my sister and moved to the big city of San Antonio. I was loved, nourished, and taught by the people who lived and worshipped here. Here were the people who had shaped my life. I have nothing but feelings of love and thankfulness for them. I may have physically left the community of Leon Springs when I was about twelve years old, but I will always be a part of the community of Leon Springs in my heart. I will always be a member of the community of believers in Jesus Christ. Thanks be for Leon Springs. Thanks be to God!
My Experiences at Leon Springs School
During World War II I lived on the old Camp Bullis Road on the North face of a hill that had a place called “Mountain Top” on the high point of this hill. I attended Leon Springs School for one year around 1943.
The school, an L shaped building, was built of native rock, wood floors, with three classrooms and with two or three classes per room.
No air conditioning and heated with pot bellied wood stoves; rest rooms were outside in a native rock building with no heat.
There were approximately fifteen acres of grounds that were fenced with a cattle guard main entrance.
There was no cafeteria and you brought your lunch or went across Highway 87 to the Rudy Aue Grocery Store where you could buy a homemade sandwich with homemade bread. The sandwich was 10 cents and a soft drink was 10 cents.
I lived three miles from school and I rode my horse to school, or my bicycle, and when my Dad was in town I rode to school in his company truck. Sometimes I hitchhiked.
I remember stopping at the Huermann Store and drinking Grapette sodas.
Some names I remember of classmates are: J.E. Madely, Roy Moreau, Jane Moreau, Pete and Bobby Nuetze, Charles (Tunnie) Flores, and the Asher kids. I don’t know their addresses or if they are living. I visited with Pete Nuetze several years back and he said I was the rich kid because my sandwiches were made with store bought bread. Bobby Nuetze and I were buddies and always rode horses. J.E. Madely was also a cowboy buddy and we worked sheep and goats at the Aue ranch (west of Leon Springs). This is now Cross Mountain Subdivision.
J.E. and I would bring our 22 caliber rifles to school and store them in the closet on the stage and then after school go hunting for rabbits and squirrels. The teacher would always say, “Be sure the guns are unloaded.” During the war ammunition was scarce, and Adolph Toepperwein, who lived behind the school, would give us guys a handful of 22 bullets after we cleaned and mowed his yard.
Ad Toepperwein was a world champion and represented the Winchester Fire Arms Company. One Sunday afternoon he put on an exhibition in the school and the local farmers and ranchers and folks came for this free show. He shot clay targets while he stood on his head and shot the outlines of photos drawn on metal sheets of Indian heads and Uncle Sam. He used a 22 automatic to make these outlines.
The 22 Bullets he gave me I kept in a Bull Durham tobacco bag and every night I counted them to see how many were left. No plinkings, shoot to kill game only.
Everyday the San Antonio Pacific steam engine and train would come by in the morning going to Kerville and back to San Antonio in afternoon.
There was nearly no traffic on Hwy 87 and on several occasions army troops would move on the road all day long.
It was a fun part of my life, but the year I went to the Leon Springs School cost me dearly. When I started high school at Thomas Jefferson High School I was poorly prepared and it was really hard to play catch up.
Delores Wood Patton Remembers Leon Springs
Delores Wood Patton
I moved to Leon Springs and started school at the Leon Springs School when I was eleven or twelve years old. I always looked forward to recess because I had made a lot of friends and that was the only time we could get together and talk and find out what was going on in each other’s lives. We went to all the movies that showed in Boerne and we talked about our favorite actors and actresses and the movies we looked forward to seeing. And, of course, we talked about who we wanted to be caught in the ‘kissing closet” with. The girls would go into the cloak closet and take their time hanging up their coats and putting their things away and the boys would watch to see who was going in the closet so they could just happen to find an excuse to visit the closet as well. Mrs. Sommers had a hard time teaching three grades and keeping her eye on what was going on in the closet.
In those days many people still did not have refrigeration and it was important to teach us good health habits. The agriculture department would come out to see and one time we went into San Antonio to learn how milk and dairy products were graded. Everyone was to bring in some milk or cheese from home to be tested. Although almost everyone had a cow, my family did not. I did not want to be the only one that did not have a sample to take so my friend Jane Moreau brought me a jar of milk from her family’s cow. That cow got her milk graded twice. It was a lot of fun. Mr. Paul Pheiffer took his own milk down town every morning and that morning he piled us all in his car and took us down to if I remember right, the Knowlton’s Dairy for our milk testing.
People often ask me why I am a Presbyterian. There is a very simple answer. It was the only protestant church available for us to attend. Not many of us had the means to drive into Boerne or San Antonio to attend church. However, the Catholics did drive into Boerne when they went to church. It was because of my teacher, Mrs. Elsie Sommers, that the Presbyterian Church came into being. She was concerned that there was no church or Sunday school for the children in Leon Springs and she encouraged the Beacon Hill Presbyterian Church Pastor and members to start having church services on Sundays. They started meeting in the late 1930’s at the school until a little rock church building was built in the early 1940’s. I still attend that church these sixty plus years later. My children also grew up in that church. The church and the school have held the community together.
Runaway Horses at Leon Springs School
We lived several miles from the Leon Springs School. My daddy would often pick up most of the kids that lived close by and take us to school. Many days, however, My friend Glenn Feller and I would ride my horse, “Pole Cat” to school. As soon as we got to school I would let my horse loose to graze while I was in class. Some days, could it have been accidental, the gate got left often and Pole Cat and the other horses that had been ridden to school by other students walked out the gate and went grazing on the side of the highway. Of course, we pretended to be worried about the horses, and the teacher would let us out of class to go hunt down our horses. Since Pole Cat would actually come as soon as I whistled, it always took longer than needed to bring him back into the school yard. I would much rather be out side with the horse than in class. I didn’t care much about any of the class work.
I remember our parents having “Bunco” parties many evenings. All my friends and I would run all over the schoolyard chasing each other and playing “Hide and Seek.” That was a lot of fun, being free.
In the seventh grade I had to take the Kerville Bus to Boerne to go to school and when I was a Sophomore I went to school to the North Side High School. The School District had a bus by the time I was in the eighth grade. I still have my 1955 annual. I’ve heard that there are not many of them still around.
Jimmy Bowman’s Leon Springs Story
I started school at Ben Franklin Elementary School in San Antonio. When my mother died in 1936 my sister, Mildred and I came to live with our maternal grandparents, Paul and Pauline Pheiffer. Miss Griswald taught the earlier grades and I had Jewel Heidemann for at least one grade. Mrs. Sommers taught me in the seventh and eight grades. I had Mr. Raymond Coleman in the ninth grade. He kept a tight reign on us and many of us got a good whipping. A lot of construction workers were hired to put in many of the buildings at Camp Stanley. They brought their families with them and those kids had been around more than those of us who lived in the area all our lives. Some of them were really mean and their parents were not happy with Mr. Coleman when he spanked them for their misbehavior.
I was always good in mathematics and I liked history. Mrs. Sommers pushed English down our throats and I didn’t like that very much. We also had classes in the Spanish language. Mrs. Sommers also liked to direct plays which we had to participate in several times a year. She loved decorating the school with natural greenery, wild flowers, colored leaves, and mistletoe in season. My friends and I didn’t mind this because she would us send us out into the fields behind the school looking for things for her to decorate with. As long as we filled up her tow sacks with nature she didn’t seem to mind, or perhaps did not know, that Pete Neutze, Johnny Flores, and I would have spent most of our time out of class looking for the spent lead bullets that had been dropped by Adolph Toepperwein during the time he spent practicing the sharp shooting he was famous for.
While my memory fails me in many areas, I know Mrs. Sommers worked very hard keeping our school beautiful. She is responsible for keeping the flower beds around the school blooming with violets, Texas sage bushes, and crepe myrtles and other plants whenever possible. We even won first place as the most beautiful school in the state of Texas.
The boys and girls at school liked to play soft ball. Some times we would get to go and play against other schools like Locke Hill, Selma, and Kirby and sometimes these schools would come to Leon Springs to play against us. Sometimes we went to Lion’s Field on Broadway in San Antonio and played ball there. I never will forget the time when I was the catcher and Georgia Moreau accidentally hit me across the nose with a bat. My nose is still crooked because of that incidence.
We sometimes made trips to other schools for county meets. I remember some literary contest at the Hot Wells School way across San Antonio on the south side of town. My friend Helen Altgelt won first place in reciting poetry one year.
My sister and I rode our bicycles to school most of the time. While my grandfather would take us once in a while I can still remember putting on my slicker and riding home in the rain with the strong north wind hitting us in the face. That was hard peddling.
I can’t remember all the details, but one year Grandpa let us use his big old truck that he hauled milk to San Antonio in to decorate as a float for the Battle of Flowers Parade. Using chicken wire we built a wire frame all around the truck. Grandma and many of the mothers made paper flowers out of crepe paper and attached them to the wiring. Our float was to represent the wild birds and trees of Texas. I can’t remember who all rode on the float but my friend Margie Wood reminded me that she had been a meadowlark standing under a red bud tree. She was so proud, but a little disappointed that she couldn’t be a prettier bird like a cardinal.
When my mother was alive, she would take us to the parades. Grandma or Aunt Ruthie saw to it that we got to go most years after that.
When we finished the ninth grade at Leon Springs we had to find own transportation to go to high school. Grandpa furnished a car the first year I went to Jefferson High School in San Antonio. James Moore drove a bunch of us, me, Mildred, Helen Altgelt,, and Magaret Schultize to school. The next year, Doc Wood furnished a car and his daughter Delores would drive by my house, pick me up and I would go pick up Margie Wood, Susie Flores, Helen and Sarah Altgelt and all the others and I would drive us all to school
Later, when we had no car furnished I tried to continue school. Grandpa would drop me off when he took the milk into town, but I had to thumb my way back home. Many nights I wouldn’t get home until eight or nine o’clock at night. When this got too hard, I told the school I would just have to drop out. I went to work on the dairy for $5.00 a week and room and board. My wage finally went up to $10.00 and then $15.00. In those days we didn’t have heat all over the house. I slept in a room by the kitchen with my Uncle Paul Jr. My Grandma would bring her plants in for the winter and put some of them in our room. Many a morning we would find the plants all frozen, right there in the room.
My great grandfather was a cantankerous man of German descent. He had a dairy farm near the Steves and Hackberry Streets in San Antonio. He had four sons and a daughter who spent their lives working for him. Instead of being grateful for these faithful children he gave every cent he had, the dairy and all, to the St. John’s Lutheran Church when he died. Dairying was all the sons knew and now penniless wondered what on earth they were going to do to provide for themselves and their families.
The Godly minister, Reverend Wolfe, from St. John’s came to the aid of the four sons. While acknowledging that it was a good thing for a man to want to give good gifts to the church in honor of God, he did not think that it was right for the church to take the livelihood of the children of the dead man away from them. The church would not accept the inheritance and instead divided the more than 4,000 acres equally among the four sons. Since the daughter was left out, the sons gave their sister, Tillie, what would have been her share in cash.
Paul Pheiffer, my grandfather, inherited the dairy that we lived on in the Leon Springs area in 1922. Dairying is a full time job of hard work. Besides the care of the cows, milking, feeding, and pasturing they had to plow, seed, fertilize with cow manure, and harvest 300 acres of hay and oats to feed the hungry animals. Later, we built three high silos to store the grain. We then planted corn and cane which after harvesting had to be chopped, watered down and packed down by our feet in the big silos.
Grandma didn’t have it easy living and caring for the family. She had to have breakfast from 6:30 in the morning until about 9 o’clock because getting all the work of caring for, feeding, and milking the cows, we had to eat in shifts. We didn’t have much time for playing or visiting our relatives, and every Sunday Grandma cooked huge amounts of food and many of aunts, uncles, and cousins came for dinner.
When I was seventeen, World War II was in full swing. I didn’t want to wait to get drafted because I wanted to pick the service I wanted to join. I joined the Navy and went to San Diego for my training. I got out of boot camp August 17, 1945, just two days after the war was officially over. We were put on a ship and sent to Guam anyway. We sat out in the harbor for three weeks and were finally taken to an evacuated hospital where we lived in tents for another three weeks. The military didn’t know what to do with us and asked us what job we would like to have. Several positions were offered and I decided dispersing clerk would suit me just fine.
Many Guam inhabitants were still on the island. They were some of the nicest people you will ever want to meet. My boss was one of them. He would do any thing he could to help you out. Because he was so good to us, I would baby sit his children when he and his wife had functions to attend. His father had been the governor before the war and had been given special privileges from the Japanese. He was the chief person over the stores of the camp. About twenty-one Japanese had been left behind and were hiding in some caves. They would sneak in steal food from the food stores. It was some time later before they were found. There was even a woman with them.
When I got out of the service I wanted a high school diploma. I took the GED test and graduated with the Jefferson class of 1947. I had taken a lot of book keeping and mechanical drawing classes and I had also been in the ROTC at Jefferson. I hadn’t taken all the college credits I needed in high school to attend college, but I did so well on that test GED test that I received some college credits for my scores.
That same year I met Billie at a dance at the Mansfield Dance Hall in Bandera. We were married in 1948. At first we lived at that big old house on the ranch near Bergheim. When the wind blew the wall paper would rattle and dance all over the wall. When our first baby, Nancy, was born we kept the wood stove so hot to keep her warm that Billie and I would only use a sheet to cover with even though it was freezing outside.
Grandpa and Grandma felt we were too far away and insisted to move closer. We moved into the old Moreau house down the road from them. A few years later we built our first house on the land Mildred and I had inherited. We didn’t have much money and all our family and friends pitched in to help get the house built. When we started to dig the foundation, one family member asked where the blueprints were. I told him they were all in my head. Billie and I had picked out a picture of the house we wanted from a farm and ranch magazine and that was all we had to go on. We put stakes in the ground for the size and went on from there. We built our own forms and mixed the cement from scratch. Billie’s uncle did all the electrical work. The only things we had to hire done were the plumbing, the roof, and the rock work done by the Valdez family. We did all the rest ourselves with free help, of course, My dad was a big help. He did all the finishing and plastering of the walls. The entire house with a well, electricity, a butane tank was only $4,800.00. We had 1200 spare feet, three bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and a garage. The next year we made a dining room out of the garage.
Memories of Doris Asher Blair
Well, I actually went to school before I was old enough to start school. When my sister started, she was afraid to go by herself and I had to go with her part of the day. I saw the slide out there, but I never did get to play on it. So, when I started, I couldn’t wait to get on that slide. But, I only slid down one time. I burned my leg and my bottom good. My mother always made our short little dresses. We didn’t know what long pants were. I remember Miss Geiger and Mrs. Fox. When our house burned down we were having the Christmas play that night and they were so good to us. I always enjoyed going to school with my cousins as there were so many Ashers and Flores. I especially remember Constance (Connie) and Mary Lou (Tinkey) as we all had nick names. All the kids heard my sister Vernelle call me Sister and so did everyone else. I don’t think they knew my real name and to this day Juanell Feller still calls me Sister. It was fun having my Aunt Tennie Asher driving the school bus and my Uncle Doss Asher and my mother working in the school lunch room. I think those were the good old days. We just didn’t know it. Things have changed so much since we were that age.
Patricia (Patsy) Buser Jennings
Some of my best memories of Leon Springs School was playing on the merry go around and swings behind the old school house.
Each morning, all the classes would go outside to the flag pole and give the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, say the Lord’s Prayer, and sing “Onward Christian Soldiers”, “God Bless America”, or the “Star Spangled Banner.”
At Halloween, there was a carnival on the stage, there was a spook house, and there were booths, fish pond, and Bingo. One year I won a candy dish at Bingo, which I still have. Christmas was also a favorite. We had a Christmas play on the stage. Santa would come, and each child got a stocking, with an apple, an orange, and a candy cane.
One Christmas, one teacher and 4 or 5 children went up on Toepperwein Hill behind the school and cut our Christmas tree for the school. I was one of the lucky ones that got to go. We had three classrooms. Each classroom had two grades. In my first grade class, there were five girls named “Patsy.” That was an interesting year for our teacher, Mrs. Jackson.
Back then, I lived off Camp Stanley Rd. on the old Fredericksburg Road. Almost everyday I walked to and from school.
Leon Springs School holds a lot of special memories for me. There was also a Rudy’s Store. I loved to go there for a soft drink and to look at all the metal pictures of Indians that were made by Mr. Toepperwein’s shooting marksmanship.
Johnny Moreau’s Story
1927–1930 First through Third Grade and 1934–1935 Eighth Grade
I started school in the old wooden school house that was across the road from where the Leon Springs School now sits. There were two rooms and two teachers. First, second, and third grades were in a little room and the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh were in the big room. There were folding doors about four feet wide between the rooms. They could be folded back to make one big room for meetings, plays, or programs. On top of the black boards the alphabet was displayed. There was a capital print A, then a small print a, and after that a script capital A, a small script a, and so on through the whole alphabet. We didn’t learn the sounds the letters make. We were given first grade readers to take home for our parents to help us. We were good at learning to memorize. The teacher would line us to read our story. We didn’t know how to read. We could have closed our books but we recited the story by memory. I still remember my first reader. “Baby Ray had a dog. The dog was little. Baby Ray loved his dog. The dog loved Baby Ray”. Then we had a book with two kittens, then three rabbits, and then four ducks and so on. We never did learn to read.
Mathematics came easy for me. My sister helped me learn to count before I started school. The artillery at Camp Stanley came down the big hill where the big house still is today. Some were on horses and some marched along. We would run down near the road and I would count all the horses and my sister would count all the men. She also helped me learn to do addition and subtraction problems.
I knew my first grade teacher a long time before I ever went to school. She was Olga Toepperwein and she was like a mama to me. In those days the boy’s pants bottoms buttoned up to the top of the pants at the waistline in the back. When I had to go potty I could get the pants down but I couldn’t button them back up so Mrs. Toepperwein would button them up for me. I really enjoyed her being my teacher.
We played marbles for keep at recess. I would always end up going home with empty pockets. We also played baseball (softball).
My sister always got me in trouble. We had an uncle that worked at Rudy Aue’s store. We would take him milk in a jar on our way to school. One day after we took him the milk, my sister said, “Let’s not go to school!” So we played hooky. We went out to the pasture behind a neighbor’s house, the Klabundes. It was the day they would be delivering all their milk, butter, eggs and whatever all day long. We tied our donkeys to a tree and just played around.
Another neighbor had to go to our house and he asked our dad, “Where’s Elsie and Johnny?” My dad said, “They are at school”. He said, “No, they are not, I passed them coming toward home about nine o’clock. Dad suspicioned where we had gone. He got in his delivery wagon and stopped at the gate going into the pasture. He saw the donkey tracks and followed them and called out, “Elsie! John!” We knew better than to answer. He said, “Come here!” so we ran down to where he was and left the donkeys tied behind. He really warmed up our seats and said, “You go get those donkeys and you get right to school and you tell the teacher where you have been. And Elsie, you bring a note home from the teacher so that I know for sure you got there”. We got to school right after the last recess. Elsie always got me in trouble. That was one of only two paddlings I ever got.
When I was in the second grade I had to have a tonsil operation and I got very behind in school and frankly never got caught up. Mrs. Palme was my teacher and she was the only teacher in my entire school life that ever struck me. I don’t remember what I did and I know it could not have been very much but she slapped my hand with a ruler.
After the third grade I wasn’t allowed to go back to the Leon Springs School because Van Raub needed students. I went to Van Raub School from the fourth through the seventh grade. There was only one teacher there that I did not get along with, but a good memory about Van Raub was that once a month on a Friday, Mr. Pheiffer would bring a big black pot filled with beans and we always had a bean party.
My sister, Elsie, and I rode donkeys to school every day except for one year. We lived north of Camp Stanley and there was a school bus that circled around and picked up the kids that lived in Camp Stanley and took them to school. That one year we got picked up and rode to school but after that there were too many kids in Camp Stanley and there was not room, so back to the donkeys we went. There was a fenced in field behind the school and we let the donkeys loose there. At about ten minutes till four the teacher would let us go round up our donkeys. Quite a few kids rode either donkeys or horses. One kid, called Beans, rode a mule to school.
When I was in the eighth grade I had to go back to the Leon Springs School. We lived in what is now Fair Oaks Ranch. It was seven and two tenths miles to school and I rode a donkey one day and a horse the next day. I alternated between them because it was such a long distance for them to go every day. I did not miss a day of school. I went rain or shine. It snowed once and I went anyway. Clifton Patton lived pretty close to me and we went to school together. He had a donkey also. If I rode my donkey, he rode his donkey. But, on the days I rode my horse, he rode his bicycle along with me. By then my sisters were mostly out of school.
My favorite class after algebra was geography. We also studied Spanish. I didn’t do well in that class and didn’t pass the first half. There was no one to reteach the first half so I had to take the second half without having passed the first half. I didn’t pass the second half either. I lost two credits because of Spanish. One thing that was taught I never thought needed to be taught in the first place, Ancient History! In my opinion what on earth do we need to know what happened millions of years ago. I never could remember dates in history, but I can tell you the birthday, day and year, of everyone I know.
I lucked out one day when all the boys got their hineys whipped. We were supposed to be practicing for a school play and almost the whole school skipped out and went down to the creek. When the teacher found out she went to her car and was going to drive down to the creek to get the kids. I thought I would be smart and take a short cut through the brush to warn them, but when I got almost there I changed my mind and went back to the school. When the teacher crossed the railroad tracks the axle in her car broke. That really set her fire off! Almost everyone got a good whipping.
My problem was that I was raised in the country and I liked the country life. I looked forward to the weekends and summers where I could spend all my time doing whatever my daddy did. My daddy did all kinds of things that I liked to help with. We had livestock, we butchered our own meat, made our own sausage, sold milk, butter and eggs, and grew oats, corn, and wheat. He broke horses and mules for other people and I started helping break horses to the saddle when I was about eleven years old. I dreamed of riding horses and being a cowboy without any money. That’s where my mind was, not in school.
After I finished eighth grade at Leon Springs I moved to San Antonio and lived with some cousins so that I could go to high school. It took me four years to finish what should have taken three years to graduate from Edison High School in 1939. I had trouble with reading but was still very good at math. Just for the fun of it I took a commercial math course in my last year with the brightest and best freshmen that had come over from Ben Franklin. I was at the head of the class.
Leon Springs Elementary School
Elaine Patton Raymond
I went to school there from 1953-1959. I began in 2nd grade with Mrs. Lambert. We had two grades in one classroom. The school went through sixth grade. My memory of Mrs. Lambert was that she was hard of hearing and she would walk up and down the rows of desks carrying a ruler in her hand. If she caught you not listening to her or talking with your neighbor she would whack you on the shoulder or your hand.
Mr. Simms was the principal. If you were real bad, you got sent to him for discipline. He taught the 5th and 6th grades. I only got in trouble one time. I was I think in the 3rd grade. We were out at recess. We usually played house out by this big tree behind the school by the water tank. It was kind of private. We were out playing one day and the bell rang to go back into class. My little group did not hear the bell so Mr. Simms had to come out and take us back into class. Well, we got called into his office one by one and each of us got a swat with the paddle. After that I was always careful to listen for the bell.
I recall we had the best cook at Leon Springs. Wednesday was the best day. Mrs. Cook made the best enchiladas. She also made homemade yeast rolls. The 5th and 6th graders would rotate being helpers in the kitchen. Leon Springs was a very small school. I think we had about 100 students in the 1st through 6th grades. We had delicious home cooked meals each day for 25 cents, milk was 2 cents. Those were the days!!!
Elementary was a great preparation for Junior High. You don’t realize how good you have it until you grow up and get out on your own, and then you wish for the good old days back again.
Barbara Pheiffer Marquodt
My memories as a student at Leon Springs Elementary School are of a classroom with two grades per room. There was a large round wood stove for heat. The large room which was divided 3rd and 4th grade and 5th and 6th grade that was divided with a wall that folded up so when it was a large room it was an auditorium for our Christmas plays There were blackboards on that folding wall.
On rainy days we would play records and dance in the big room. This was always a treat. There was a coat closet on one side of the big room. There was always a lot of giggles when someone, or two, were in there.
I also remember baseball games with Locke Hill, Helotes, and Leon Valley Schools.
We had a school nurse who came by and gave shots to everyone who needed them.
Also, the bookmobile came every few weeks and it was fun because we got out of class and we got to check out several books to read them and give them back the next time it came. It really worked great.
Mrs. Gott was my 3rd and 4th grade teacher and she was my favorite. She was a beautiful lady and a good teacher. I remember studying Mexico and Mountain Popocatepel!
Another thing was going to Rudy Aue’s Store and buying the little round cartons of peanuts with coins in some of them, and Lik Um Aid.
Life was simple and we didn’t have to worry about evil persons like we do today. What a great childhood!