Archive for family history

My Fair Share of Scares

What was the scariest moment you recall?

 

Hard question to answer, because a number of things come mind:

#1. When your mom and I watched that medical helicopter take off from the Huntsville airport with our daughter on board–not knowing whether she would live or lose her leg–was probably the most frightening and helpless feeling I’ve ever had.

#2. Very similar was the feeling I had just a few months after your Mom and I had married, and she developed a paralysis on one side of her body that Doctor Heath was afraid might be polio. As I stood there watching that Day Funeral Home ambulance drive off with Betty on board, I had that same scared, helpless feeling I described above.

#3. Ben gave me a couple of those scary times with his car wrecks.

#4.  Once, when flying with your Uncle Eldred in his Piper Tri-Pacer, when we had the Lubbock Airport in sight, all of a sudden the cockpit filled with smoke. The radio caught on fire (electrical fire), and we couldn’t communicate with the airport for landing instructions. Eldred started waggling the wings to let them know something was wrong. They were flashing a red light to say WAIT…we had to circle a while and wait for a green light…talk about scared–horrified was the word!  But that still didn’t came to the same level as if it were your wife…or your kids!

The Speller’s the Feller

What was your first memory from elementary school?

 

That’s easy…and once again, it comes back to the teacher.  

I was blessed that the lady who had taught RJ and (I think) Bubba when the family lived in Beasley had moved to Freeport and was also my first grade teacher. Her name was Ms. Elizabeth Bailey.

Coming from a family of three older brothers who were constantly competing with one another, I developed a very competitive nature! THUS, my fondest memories from elementary school were the ‘spelling bees,’ because I was so competitive and a darn good speller!

 I hate these iPhones which do your spellllling for you!   :-)!

The Empty Nest

Today is Jon’s birthday. What is your favorite memory of Jon as a kid?

 
There are so many memories I have of all you kids that it’s hard to say ‘this is my favorite’. With Jon, it happened when he was about to go to Abilene to college, but he really didn’t want to leave home.     Every time one of you kids went off to school, your mom would grieve for several days, almost as if you were ‘gone’. Busy as I was working, we always had the next young’un still at home, and I just didn’t experience that maternal separation each time like she did. We always still had kids in the nest.

I used to stop at our house every day (Route 2 Box 129) to eat a little lunch.  (By this time, mom had finished and excelled in her education. She had bachelors and masters degrees from Sam Houston   and was in demand as an English teacher in both Normangee and Madisonville.) This day I walked in to eat lunch, and there was a note on the end of the bar which said, “Bye, y’all. I’ll miss ya….and if I get homesick, I’m comin’ home!” (I still have the note in my little brown shaving kit in my closet)

Anyway, I knew how badly Jon didn’t want to go to Abilene…and college. He had been a genius as a builder, even as a little boy!   When I read that note, I looked outside. His pickup was gone, his trailer was gone, and his horse was gone!   I cried all during my lunch and, when it was time for me to head back out on the mail route, I thought I’d better go into my lavatory to wash the tears from my face.

When I went to the lavatory, I was in for another surprise! (When Jon  graduated, he received a bottle of Kuros, very expensive and good-smelling cologne. I would sneak into his bathroom and borrow a little Kuros.  The aroma was so distinct, that it had become a game with us–Jon would holler, “Get outta my cologne!”) When I got to my lavatory to wash my face, to my surprise there sat that little bottle of cologne with this note underneath. “Dad, this isn’t much, but maybe it’ll let you know how much I love you!”  Well, I really started bawling then.  I couldn’t stop crying for a full 6 hours! I still have that note (and the cologne) on my lavatory!:))

My baby boy was gone! Also his horse, his truck and trailer. I just wasn’t ready for that ’empty’ feeling…and the ‘nest’ was empty!

BUT…leave it to Jon. He called me in October with these words, “Dad, you’ve gotta help me with Momma. I can’t stand it out here…I’ve gotta come home!”    I said to him, “Now Jon, you know Mom’s not gonna stand for you dropping out of school.” He replied with a typical ‘Jon’ism, “Well Dad, I can flunk out a whole lot cheaper at Sam Houston than doing another semester here at ACU.”   His heart just wasn’t in it, but Betty and I have just thrilled to watch him blossom and grow since!

Before Norwegian Cruise Lines, there was Art and Jan…

What was the first vacation you ever took with Mom, and where did you go?

 
The first one that made me realize what an awesome woman I had married was a mission trip when we went to Huron, South Dakota. We traveled up through Oklahoma, Kansas, and then in to South Dakota. This was when we lived in Quitman. We did a great deal of sightseeing both up and back home.  If memory serves me right, we came back down through Missouri and Arkansas.

 
The folks in Huron (a very small church) had been door knocking, and the folks we stayed with were a couple (I think they were Lutherans) named Art and Jan Andersen. Jan was studying the Bible correspondence course and had opened her home to us. This was my first experience with a purebred Norwegian family. They were definitely steeped in the traditions of their culture!  Quite an experience for a couple of kids from Texas!

I had a Fiat over this Italian Girl…

What is the first family vacation you remember?

 

All the ‘vacations’ we went on with mom and dad were generally in connection with gospel meetings or singing schools. One such trip was to Poughkeepsie, New York for a singing school and gospel meeting at the church where Brother ‘Shack’ Hartsell’s daughter lived. They lived out in the country on a polled Hereford ranch called “Clove Creek Farm”. The family stayed in town, but I got a job working out on the ranch which was owned by Franklin Roosevelt, Jr., son of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt the president who preceded Truman.

Roosevelt was the U.S. representative for the Italian Fiat Motor Company. There were 2 other college students there, also.The other boys were Ivy League–one attended Cornell University, and the other went to Princeton. One highlight I remember from that vacation was when we helped Mr. Roosevelt plan a picnic for some guests he was entertaining from Italy. The man was a ‘bigwig’ owner of the Fiat company coming to visit, and he wanted to see ‘Clove Creek’. His name was Gerabaldi…a famous Italian! The reason he wanted us to help him with the picnic was that Mister Gerabaldi was bringing his 16 year-old daughter with him, and Mr. ‘R’ thought we could help entertain her! This was the summer before my senior year in high school, and it is so hard to describe the anticipation we three boys had all that week. Wow! An Italian girl! We could just see a Gina Lollibrigida (Jimmy Durante used to call her Gina Lolibrigidigger) or a Sophia Loren! Both girls were Italian actresses (and luscious pin- up girls)! Remember, we were 17 and 18 year-old boys….anyway, after a week of anticipation, the day came, and their beautiful, long, luxurious limousine came rolling up to the farmhouse, and out stepped Mr Gerabaldi and our dream girl! She was a little, short, fat, Italian….the farthest from what we’d been expecting! I can’t tell you how fast those boys retreated and let me be the host for Miss Gerabaldi! We rode horses through the pasture, all the way up to the highest spot on Clove Creek, which was a beautiful view of the whole place. We (us boys) had gone up there earlier in the week and mowed out a spot for us to spread this very romantic picnic lunch! And here I am, with this little fat Italian girl whose feet don’t reach the stirrups, who’d never ridden a horse before. Can you imagine what I’m feeling? Disappointment is an understatement!

I’ve never been the greatest horseman myself, but that was a ride I’ll never forget. Mr Roosevelt was a giant man (about 6’7″ tall), and when he and Mr Gerabaldi came driving up to the picnic spot in his pickup, he had changed clothes and had on khaki pants and shirt. When he squatted down to where we had the checkered tablecloth spread for the beautiful picnic, his pants split, and one long, bony knee protruded, and the whole crowd was petrified…except Lanier…I fell out laughing! And guess what? Mr. Roosevelt did, too. He and I just ‘connected.’ I had no idea, really, what an important man he was, even though he was the son of a president, an international businessman, an influential politician in his own right…and me, a little nobody from Louisiana, sitting there laughing together about his split britches! He talked with me about my future, dad’s singing schools, and even had me sing some Southern Gospel music for him. The Italians and the other boys all were the audience for these two ‘new friends’! I suppose that’s why this vacation is one of my most memorable early vacations. Clove Creek was built by some movie actress from the early 1930s, and our ‘barn’ was originally a movie theatre with little twinkling lights in the oval ceiling (which also was painted to look like a night sky). Mr. R. told me that the actress who lived there hosted her Hollywood buddies there back in the ’30s. I checked the Internet, and Clove Creek still exists. I’m gonna have to do a little more research.

Anyway, also a part of that trip was a visit to Hyde Park (FDR’s residence), and I even got to see West Point. More importantly, our trip took us back through Kentucky and my mother’s birthplace…even the old single-walled house where MaMaw was born, up in the mountains near Nicholasville, Kentucky. We also visited the cemetery where both her parents (my maternal grandparents) are buried. We even got to visit with her Aunt Susan, who lived on a tobacco farm near the banks of the Kentucky River in one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen. Aunt Susan lived down in the river bottom, and mother’s family lived way up the mountain. I Also got to meet MaMaw’s double first cousin (brothers married sisters–a typical hillbilly practice). His name was Homer Benton. I had never been inside a tobacco barn until that day at Aunt Susan’s. I had seen pictures of them, but it’s a totally different experience to see how it’s cured and the smell…I’ll never forget! Even tried chewing tobacco after that trip!

I Brought Home Bacon from the Piggly Wiggly

What was your very first job?

 

Dad had an interesting and very Biblical concept with regard to jobs! “As long as you’re putting your feet under my table, you have a job–because,if any won’t work, neither shall he eat!” There was  a certain amount of job security in that….cows to be fed and milked, chickens to be fed, eggs gathered, and the yard mowed.

When I first talked dad into letting me work away from home, it was a stocking job at a Perry’s Five & Dime store in Orange, Texas.  I wàs in the sixth grade I think…

#2  Gas station attendant
In high school, I worked for Brother Kendrick, one of the elders in Haynesville, La., pumping gas at his Esso gas station.  I remember gasoline cost 10 to 17 cents a gallon back then (1956).

#3  Dry goods stocker & Clerk
Next job was working for Mr. Nobel Shaw in Nacogdoches the summer of 1959 as a freshman in college. Got my first car that year also, a 1950 model flat head 8 cylinder engine.  All that freshman year, I had a job leading singing at the Mound & Starr Church of Christ.  They paid me! 🙂

#4  Grocery clerk
In 1960, my brother Eldred prevailed upon me to move to Fort Worth, live with them, attend TCU in the fall, and lead singing at the Southside Church. To help make ends meet, Eldred got me a job working for a friend of his, Jack Moulton, who was the manager of one of the Buddies Supermarkets, a grocery chain in Fort Worth.

#5  Piggly Wiggly assistant manager
In the Fall of 1960, after the Fort Worth plans didn’t work out, I found myself moving home to Dad’s in San Antonio to attend San Antonio Jr. College.   He told me that, no matter what, my bedroom was always mine; but after age 18, living at home I had to pay a boarding fee (help with the groceries I consumed). I went to the Piggly Wiggly store down the street from the folks lived and applied for a job. My experience with Buddies payed off. Before long, I’m the assistant manager in that store…which payed off for me the next year, when I moved to Madisonville in 1961 and got my job with Mr. John Dean Carter.

(A LITTLE SIDE NOTE)
Just up the street from the PW Store in San Antonio was the Jefferson Church of Christ where Uncle Paul, Aunt Eunice, and my cousin Mike attended church. Their preacher (who I met frequently in the store) was named Frank Dunn, who often had his cute little teenage daughter shopping with him.  Mike worked with me and introduced me several times.   I encountered the name Frank Dunn again in 1967, when Clyde Thompson (EX 83) told me the story of his life.  When Clyde was in prison, he was baptized by Frank Dunn, who was the preacher for the Huntsville Church of Christ.   He also married Clyde and Julia,and–to top it all off–that little girl following him in the grocery store was named Holly…the same girl who wrote ‘Daddy’s Hands’ while she was a student at ACU. Pretty cool…don’t you think?

I Made a Lotta “Do” (Re, Mi) as a Kid

How did you learn to lead singing? Were you taught by someone?

 

My daddy, M. Roy Stevens, was widely known in the Churches of Christ for his voice, song leading, and his ability to teach others how to read music (do re mi fa sol la ti do).  We had a poster board with those shapes on them near our kitchen table. He would make Nancy and I sing the scale and intervals, with his idea that the scale is to music like the alphabet is to language.  I can still hear him saying, “Now remember, Do is shaped like a housetop, Re a bowl, Mi a baseball diamond, Fa a flag (or a pennant) Sol an egg, La a rectangle, Ti an ice cream cone…and then you’re all the way back to Do!”…..and then he’d make us sing it….over and over. We were being trained to sing when we were little, even though we didn’t appreciate until much later.

Brother Roy was in demand all over our brotherhood to teach singing schools, and his little son was right there with him, soaking it up by osmosis!   One of his famous quotes that was indelibly imprinted on my young brain was, “There’s nothing better than good acapella singing, and nothing worse than bad acapella singing!”.

The seventh grade was probably one of the most important years in my musical development. At 13 years old, my voice started changing and getting much deeper after I passed the squeaky stage.  Dad had an 8:00 Sunday morning “remote” radio broadcast from one of the classrooms at the 9th & Elm Church of Christ in Orange, Texas, and he needed help in the bass section of his live chorus.  Guess who? I felt pretty important!   Nancy, too…she was singing alto!  The older folks were amazed how these two ‘kids’ could read music They just didn’t  know how much of himself he had poured into us.

Another thing about the 7th grade was that I joined the junior high band, because I wanted to play the trombone like my hero brother, R J. He could literally make a trombone sing. Our band director (a legend in his own right) was a curly-headed Italian musician named Cermenaro. Everyone called him Mister C.! I never heard what his first name was…..but he was a great teacher! The first thing that each section had to do was to learn to play ‘scales’ on their instrument…. And, you guessed it….a light bulb went off in my young brain!  ‘This is just what my dad had been teaching me…Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do… “The alphabet of music…a language all its own!”

I can only imagine how thrilled Dad must have been when his young son came home from school that day so excited, because everything he’d been teaching me finally made sense. From that day till this, I’ve loved to sing, to lead singing, to write music. I like to think that, in all that, I’ve made a difference in lots if lives, just as dad did, RJ did…and now Tim, RJ’s son, is teaching singing schools and preaching in gospel meetings ‘full-time,’ just like his dad did until his death in 2012.

Probably one of my proudest moments as a dad was when our kids “Concord Road”, recorded those two CDs for our 66th birthdays! I hope I live long enough to see someone in our offspring put together a recording of Concord Road, their mother, their spouses, and all their children singing together…. Wow!, I’d even volunteer to lead singing one more time just to hear that group sing!  …..and, I have a feeling that the man who taught me to lead singing just might be ‘smiling’ down from Heaven.

The Christmas Angel

Karen, I just had a memory flashback of Mama telling me about her first Christmas living with her sister Sallie when she came to Texas after her mom’s death when mom was just four. There were 9 Benton boys and 3 girls (First girl named Sallie, the second one named Hallie, and then the last two, Tamar and Bill). Mom said that first Christmas, Uncle Henry and Aunt Sallie were so poor that, with one eye open at night, she saw Sallie tiptoeing toward their beds with an apple and an orange for each kid. Sallie told them the next morning that Santa had brought them the night before. Mom said that, as she grew older, she often looked back on that so fondly–that Aunt Sallie had opened her home to take care of her three younger siblings after their parents died. Mom often told her memories of the train ride to take her daddy’s body back to Kentucky to be buried by his beloved Mary.

Follow-up: …On Randolphs and Clarks

You know, those names like Randolph and Clark were so interesting to me. All the Clark family that I’ve known were natural musicians–Jughead, Johnny, Mike, Matt are all descendants of the Clarks who founded TCU.

You’re familiar with the Randolph name–all of the above were also families very involved with churches of Christ in Madison County. Up until the early 1900s, the church in both Midway and Madisonville was simply called Christian church because ‘the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch’.

Midway got its name after Midway, Kentucky, where Barton Stone’s Cane Ridge Revival took place. The settlers who came to Texas from Kentucky named it after their old Kentucky home. It tickled me when I found that out from Dr. Bill Humble, when he brought some folks from Abilene to Midway (a place significant in the Restoration movement).

Mamaw’s family also came from that area of Kentucky. ;))

That Ol’ Time Preachin’ Man

Since you knew your grandmother Nancy, what stories did she tell or make sure you knew regarding your grandfather, Texas Hulan Stevens?

 

My granny’s stories about my grandfather were basically the same ones I had heard from my father, his brothers, and his sisters.

He had the pioneer man’s work ethic to provide for his family, whom he loved deeply.  He referred to his wife as Nan, and he was known for his hard work as a farmer to provide for Nan and the kids. They had five kids: Hugh, Laura, Roy, Paul, and Myrtle.  Granddad’s father was named Sam Stevens.  Sam also was a farmer/preacher who was known for his booming voice. Through him, we also trace our ancestry to those early pioneers who came to Texas and that part of the new state (namely DeWitt and Lavaca Counties).

Many of them were Baptists, but they began to embrace the pleas of Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone, who were pleading with the pioneers that, rather than being divided into all different denominations, the cause of Christ would be better served if they adopted their plea to just call themselves disciples or Christians and to drop all (what they called) sectarian names. 

Eventually, toward the close of the 1800s, the ‘issues’ of instrumental music and whether churches could support the missionary society produced a division in the Stone / Campbell movement that resulted in some calling themselves The Christian Church and others Churches of Christ.

Grandad was so persuaded over those issues that, in 1916, he sent his 17 year-old son Roy to a college called Thorpe Springs Christian College.  It was founded by a man named Joseph Clark (ancestor of Madisonviile’s Clarks) to train young men to preach.

When home from school, Roy would travel via train (the old Rock Island Line) with his dad to lead singing for his preaching appointments up and down that line, and it was at Beasley, Texas that a beautiful young 14 year-old girl named Hallie Benton caught his eye. Within a year they were married. He was 20, and she was 15.

An interesting side-note:  Joseph Clark’s sons, Addison & Randolph Clark, brought a harpsichord into one of the worship services (against their father’s wishes). Joseph Clark got up and walked out. The brothers continued the school known as Add/Ran college, which eventually became TCU, identified with what we know as the Christian Church (which, back in the 1960s, added this to their name: Christian Church – Disciples of Christ).

Enough of that–added just so you’d know what drove my dad and his dad to be so committed to what they viewed as  ‘non-denominational’ preaching. Grandad was known for his love for God’s Word, his booming voice, and his conservative preaching.

When I traveled with the Sounds of Glory quartet, I can’t tell you how many people came up to me saying, “You know, Brother Tex baptized me,” or “Brother Roy baptized me.”. That was pretty cool!