Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Two Stories by Charles W. McCarroll, Jr.

A few weeks ago, I went to Dallas to celebrate my dad's 90th birthday. He remembers and tells many stories from his childhood and through World War II, and with the help of his son (my brother), he has written and collected over fifty reminiscent memories, written in two volumes.

Here is one of his stories about a watch that his father (born before 1890) owned before 1930:


Prior to the 1940’s, the men wore suits with matching coats and vests to church and any social function. The heads of a business might take the coat off but the vest would remain buttoned. They wore felt hats in winter or a flat brim flat top ‘Straw Katy’ for the summer.

A man was not properly dressed until the watch and chain were attached. The watch was put in a vest pocket and the chain across the body and hooked to a buttonhole. Some watches were worn in a watch pocket in the trousers with a watch fob or a chain.

The quality of the timepiece and chains was important. The chain was adorned with medallions, such as a lodge insignia. An engraved gold pocket watch with a gold chain was stylish.

Our Dad had an adorned gold watch made in Illinois. He obtained as a settlement of a debt. He would tell about the debt and say “All I got was this watch”. Years later, there was a robbery with jewelry taken from our house in Junction. Dad thought the pocket watch was lost and he started wearing a wristwatch to replace the pocket watch.

Texas Ranger Captain Gully Cowsert a friend of Dad’s came to see him. He told of a robber in custody near Abilene. The peace officers were viewing the evidence from the suspect when Captain Cowsert said “That watch belongs to Charley McCarroll”. He asked Dad if he could keep it for a few days to show it off and tell the story.

I have the watch that is still a handsome piece of jewelry.

And here is another of Dad's stories about...


Junction, Texas is between San Angelo and San Antonio in the hill country of west Texas. The climate and the rivers and make it a pleasant place to live and visit and many people retire in this area.

The city was established and grew after the 1880’s. The city lots were large enough for a residence, a barn for the horses and cows and room for a garden. A canal passed through the upper city. The railroad was 38 miles away. The Old Spanish Trail, the highway between the east and west coast, passed down the main street. The gas stations and garages catered to the tourist while two hotels and a tourist camp served the visitors. A general store, three drug stores, two meat markets and two grocery stores thrived in 1928. Mr. H. E. Butts ran a grocery. A wagon yard was east of the courthouse. A bank, wool warehouse and a small lumberyard were on Main Street.

Three barbershops were in town. Business was good on Saturday when the ranchers came to town to have a shave, haircut and a bath in the back room. Cowboys would bring clean clothes for the evening and many would leave the working things for the barber to give away.

There were barber chairs that could be raised and lowered and the back could be folded down for a comfortable shave. A sink, shelf and a mirror were behind each chair. A haircut cost 35 cents. Chairs were along the wall to make the waiting comfortable. The visitors told stories and traded gossip. Ladies seldom entered a barbershop, as they were patrons of the beauty shops.

When a man sat in the barber chair the first thing that barber wanted to know was how you wanted to look. Do you want a regular cut, a flat top, long on the sideburns or just a trim? The barber would trim the longer hair by using his comb to pull the hair out and use the scissors to clip the ends of the hair with a fast clip–clip sound. He would use his shears to start trimming the top. These manual clippers operated by squeezing the handles and made a clip-clop sound. He would then stir up the lather in a cup and then brush the foam on the sideburns and the back of the neck. The thing that I feared was the razor. The razor was a six-inch thin blade that folded out of the jeweled handle. The barber would unfold the blade, pull the leather strop that was tied to the chair and pull the blade back and forth very fast over the strop to sharpen the razor. This process made such a loud noise. He would then shave the sideburns and the back of the neck and seldom cut the skin.

Wilson Buster owned Busters Barber Shop, that had four chairs, but only one was in use most of the time. Ranchers that were also barbers appeared on Saturdays. A shoeshine schoolboy would shine the shoes for a dime, but boots cost more.

The Junction Barber Shop was owned by Agnes Jordan. O.Z. Jones was the main barber and Reverend did the shoeshines. Reverend was the only black person in Junction. He was a fun man enjoyed by the citizens.

The Burt Shop was on the west side of the square. Baldy Burt had his clients that included the men from the courthouse. He usually had the best shine boy and had some kind of a better shoe polish.

You can tell by these stories that Dad was already a blogger way before his time, eh? He only recently retired from teaching a writing class at the Plano Senior Recreation Center in Plano, Texas.

(Charles W. McCarroll at his 90th birthday party)

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