I was born October 15, 1908, in the Millerville Community of Erath County, Texas. I remember very little about my birth place because I was only three and a half years old when we moved away from there. I can recall a few things about the house we lived in, for example, our front door had a pretty beveled glass inset with a floral design etched in it. I think the one reason that I remembered that was because Dad always cautioned us not to slam the door for fear that we might break the glass. We had an ell gallery that extended across the front and one side of the house. I remember playing with our Hukel cousins in the old lane ditch where we had a playhouse. And I can recall a few things about our move to Kent County which I have recorded in the Ed and Minnie Beaver chapter.
I started to school at Girard in 1914, and graduated in 1926. Mrs. Ruby Cooper was my first teacher. She is still living, at this time, in Spur, Texas, a lovely lady to be sure. I was valedictorian of my graduating class, which was nothing to brag about. Our grandson, Ricky, was looking at my scrapbook, when he was eight or nine years old. He saw my class record, and with a surprised look on his face said, ’’Nana, were you valedictorian of your class?” When I replied yes, he asked, “How many were in your class?” I said, “Only seven,” “Oh”, he said, and immediately turned the page. See what I mean, nothing to brag about.
In the fall of 1926 Mama arranged to board a school teacher at Girard, who was from Denton, provided that her mother would board me so that I could go to North Texas State Teachers’ College. Lee Ella had boarded with Mrs. Dittrich the year be fore while she was in Denton in school. Lee had signed a contract to teach at Bloomfield, in Cook County. So, Hub took us to Denton where I enrolled in college, and Lee Ella to Pilot Point to start her first year of teaching school.
My roommate was Pheriaba Shields, from Coleman, Texas. We had, neither of us, been away from home before, we were timid and scared, and it was nearly two weeks before we introduced ourselves to each other. We then became the best of friends, and I will always love her dearly, for she introduced me to my Buddy (John Holman Smith). The Smith and Shields families were neighbors in the White Chapel Community in Coleman County, and she and his twin sister, Mary Lou, were close friends.
Buddy was in school at Texas A&M at this time, and Pheriaba corresponded with him occasionally. One night as she was writing to him, she paused and said, “Lois, I have just now described you to Buddy, and I want you to add a note to this letter.” I did, and received an answer from him. This was, I guess you would say, the beginning of a relationship that has lasted fifty-six and a half years. And I will add, gets sweeter every day.
When the spring semester was over in 1927, Lee Ella and I decided to go on through the first semester of summer school. We did light housekeeping with several other girls, one of which was cousin Jewell Giesecke. During that time I was hired to teach school at a one teacher school. Oak Hill, in Cook County for the fall of 1927. Lee Ella had signed a contract to teach at Bloomfield again, and Pheriaba was hired to teach at a school in Coleman County, and Buddy was back at Texas A&M.
In August of 1928, Pheriaba invited me to visit her at Coleman. She introduced me to Buddy. The attraction was instantaneous, and we dated often during the month I was there. I had signed a contract to teach primary students at Clairemont, eighteen miles from Girard, beginning in September.
Buddy came to see me at Clairemont on my twentieth birthday; then I went to Coleman for Thanksgiving. By that time we were mutually expressing a desire to spend the rest of our lives together. We corresponded daily, and that Christmas he sent my engagement ring.
The last day of my school at Clairemont, May 24, 1929, Dad came to Clairemont and moved me and my trunk home. Buddy came in on the 6:00 p.m. bus. Clay picked him up and brought the preacher and his wife (George and Lucy Pucker) over, and we had a home wedding. Mama and Sam had cooked up a big wedding supper, after which we all went to Clairemont for my closing-of-school program that night.
Four days later we left for Denton, where we enrolled in summer school at N.T.S.T.C. Buddy had decided to change his major from engineering to math, and to teach school with me. He had to take courses in Education and teaching methods that summer in order to acquire a teaching certificate. We were too late to get a teaching job together that fall, so we lived in Coleman and he worked at a filling station.
In the fall of 1930, we began teaching at a three-teacher rural school in Coleman County, New Central, and we bought our first car, a Model T green sedan. We had three happy years there and had some of the greatest friends ever. We were asked to stay longer, but I was homesick to get closer to Mama and Dad, so we moved to Girard in August 1933 and taught in a two-teacher school west of Girard, Lost Lake. In the fall of 1934 Buddy and his pupils were transferred to Girard. We bought a three-room house in town. Buddy drove the school bus, and I rode out to Lost Lake every morning, taught my pupils, and rode back into town with Buddy, after he delivered the kids on his bus route. Having to be janitor, warm up the school room each morning, then go home to a cold house just about turned me off of school teaching.
We had traded the Model T sedan in on a new Chevrolet convertible in 1931. Every summer from 1929 until 1936, we went to summer school. Lee Ella always went too, and we would rent a two-bedroom apartment, and the three of us stay in Denton during the week, then go to Bloomfield for the weekends with Brother. We four had lots of good times together. I remember the year of the Texas Centennial, 1936. We four went over to Dallas about every week-end until we saw it all.
Buddy got his B.S. degree in August 1936. Two years of college work all done in the summer schools took about six years to complete. He was made principal of Girard High School that year, and I started our family. After eight and a half years of married life, Robert Don was born November 27, 1937. There was great rejoicing at that event all over the little town. Friends and family had worried we would go through life childless. He was such a pretty little blond, blue-eyed “spittin”’ image of his daddy, and we were so proud of him that we were plain silly. We named him after Buddy’s favorite cousin, Robert Smith, and Lee Ella’s husband, Don Ray Jones. Lee Ella came and stayed two weeks to help take care of him. We called him Bobby Don when he was little, then Bobby until he was nearly grown, then, at his request, he became Bob.
Two years and three months later, our little brown-eyed, dark haired Danny (Daniel Polk) was born in Dr. Bob Alexander’s hospital in Spur, on February 21, 1940. I thought he was going to be born on Washington’s birthday, but he got impatient and arrived a day earlier. So, to make up for that we named him after President James K. Polk. No, we named him for his great grandmother Ann Polk Smith who was a second cousin to President Polk. Before he was born, Buddy’s aunt asked us to name the baby Polk, be it boy or girl. Dan, too, outgrew the name Danny as he got into Junior High.
Buddy was principal of GHS until March of 1941 when he was offered a government job with the Army Corps of Engineers at Victoria, Texas. He refused to accept the job until he could meet with the board of trustees and ask for a release from his teaching contract. They graciously consented, agreeing that teachers were grossly underpaid, and they bid him Godspeed.
We moved to Victoria in March of 1941 and Buddy became chief of a survey party, laying out plans for runways at an airbase in preparation for training airmen for the approaching, inevitable World War II. We were there when the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor, and the actual declaration of war by President Roosevelt.
In 1942 Dan became ill with what we thought was pneumonia. After seeing two doctors, it was determined that he had asthma. The humidity and dense vegetation aggravated his ailment to the extent that Buddy asked for a transfer to west Texas. He soon learned that we could move to Midland, where more survey was being done on runways. After six months there we found that the west Texas sandstorms were worse for him than the humidity had been, and we transferred to Brownsville, Texas, Buddy still working as chief of a survey party. We stayed in Brownsville until Christmas of 1944. The New Orleans office of the Corps was needing employees and asked for help from the Galveston District. Buddy was loaned on a temporary basis and he went from Girard to New Orleans soon after Christmas, 1944. The boys and I stayed with Mama and Dad for six weeks, waiting for a place to live in New Orleans. Bob started to school there, after having gone three months in Brownsville. Finally, about the middle of February 1945, Buddy found an apartment for us, and I drove with the boys to Pilot Point. Buddy came there on the bus and drove us back to New Orleans with him. Bob entered Ella Dolhonde public school in Jefferson Parish. Our apartment was on Central Avenue just off of the Airline Highway. We hadn’t been there long when the word came that President Roosevelt had died.
We moved to a duplex in the Metairie addition in April of 1945 and Bob started to school there, making four schools he had attended in the first grade. He came home the first day of his school in Metairie and asked me what catechism meant. The teacher had asked him if he was Catholic, and when he said that he wasn’t, she said for him to remain in his seat. She then called, “Catechism class”, and everyone rose and left the room except Bob and one other little boy. I grew up in a small west Texas town where Catholics were unheard of, and I must have thought they were heathens, for I was horrified to think that all of my little boy’s playmates except one were Catholic, and in a public school, no less.
Four events made history while we lived in New Orleans: 1. President Roosevelt’s death; 2. Germany’s unconditional surrender, (VE Day); 3. The atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, then another on Nagasaki; 4. Japan’s surrender (VJ Day) ending World War II. Those were exciting times for the whole world, the most memorable of my lifetime.
We moved back to the Galveston District in late September 1945, and settled in Port Lavaca, Texas, located on the Lavaca Bay. We were thrilled and excited to be living in sight of the water. We enjoyed taking one of the Engineer’s skiffs and going out fishing, or just boating on Saturdays. There was an oyster reef not far from the shore where the guys used to take tow sacks and picks and go out and bring back gobs of oysters. We enjoyed seeing the shrimp boats come in, and we usually could buy all we wanted very reasonably. The fathers of several of my pupils operated shrimp boats and the children were always bringing me gifts from the ocean. I still have a sea horse that one of my little Mexican boys brought me when I taught in the Mexican school. He taught me how to make a costume pin of it. I painted it with gold paint, put a ruby stone in its eye, glued a safety catch pin on the back and wore it on my suits and coats. He would always smile big when he would see me wearing it.
Dan started to school in September 1946 in Port Lavaca. After the first month of school his teacher resigned because of poor health, and I accepted the position as his first grade teacher. The next year I taught 4th grade in the Mexican school. A sweeter group of children I have never seen. They had unusual names, such as Incarnacion, Angel (pronounced Anhel), and Jesus (pronounced Hesus). Not a John Smith in the crowd. I loved them.
We were all happy in Port Lavaca, we loved the people, some of whom we still keep in touch. The schools were good, we enjoyed the church. Buddy became an elder in the church, and I continued to teach when emergencies arose.
In the summer of 1949 Dan came down with a bad attack of asthma and the doctor suggested that we make a change again. Clay and Bernice invited us to come to Abilene for awhile. So, Dan and I went by bus to Abilene and Buddy and Bob stayed in Port Lavaca. As he had done so many times when we first made a change of climate with him, he improved immediately and he started to school with Gail and Dennis. Then in October Dad became very ill and was taken to the hospital in Rotan, and I went to stay with him. Dan got sick with asthma, and I put him in the hospital with Dad. They both were transferred to a hospital in Abilene. The doctor recommended that we take Dan to a high, dry climate, so I called Buddy. He and Bob loaded our winter clothes in our car and came to Abilene. We left the next day; destination: wherever Dan began breathing with less labor.
When we arrived at Sis and Joe’s in Ft. Sumner, they had a message that Dad was very low, and that we should go no further. We stayed there from Sunday until Tuesday night, and then received a call that Dad rallied and was somewhat improved. We started early Wednesday morning, arriving in Albuquerque about noon, October 25, 1949, and rented a motel. The next morning Buddy went to the District office of the Corps of Engineers and applied for a transfer. The boys started to school, and Buddy got a temporary job with a contractor while we waited for his transfer to be completed. Two weeks later they called to tell us his job was ready for him, and they gave him leave for us to go to sell our place and move. We were at Port Lavaca two weeks before we sold our house, and Dad passed away during that time. We took part of the money from the sale of the house and bought a new DeSoto, the first car we had with automatic transmission.
We left Port Lavaca late in the afternoon and drove all night, getting to Jayton in time for breakfast, Thanksgiving morning, November 24, 1949. Dad’s funeral was held that afternoon in the Girard school auditorium. Our cousin, G. W. McCollum assisted with the funeral service.
We came back to Albuquerque, and to the same motel. The boys started to school on the west mesa; Buddy started his job in the Construction Division of the Corps, and I started with a realtor looking for a house to buy. Albuquerque had less than 50,000 population at that time, and houses were not plentiful. We all disliked it here. Our faces, hands, and lips chapped and cracked because of the dryness of the air, after being used to the coastal air of the Gulf. I believe all or most of our sentences were prefaced with, “When we go back to Port Lavaca.”
We finally settled a deal on a house at 1108 Vassar SE, and moved in Christmas Eve, 1949. That night I answered the doorbell, and there stood our realtor with a Christmas tree, beautifully decorated, lights and all. He said, “We’re leaving town for Christmas, and I want your boys to have our tree.” We set it in front of the picture window, plugged in the lights, and all rejoiced that our first Christmas in our new house, in this strange town, wouldn’t be as bleak as we’d feared. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,” said the Apostle Paul. Do we believe that, sincerely?
In August 1956, Mama came to stay a while with us, and we soon realized that we needed a larger house. I was working for the government, and it was necessary for me to hire a live-in woman to take care of Mama. So we bought a house in the northeast section of town, 2834 Cuervo, and moved in September of 1956, where we still live at this writing. This will be our 36th Christmas in Albuquerque. We have deep roots here, a host of precious friends, and we plan for Albuquerque to be our final resting place.
After the boys were in high school I started working for Uncle Sam. I worked nine months for the Soil Conservation Service in the Cartographic Division. In May of 1956, I was transferred to the Real Estate Division of the Corps of Engineers. We bought and sold property for the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Atomic Energy Commission, and I was in charge of the reporting section.
The highlight, or perhaps I should say the outstanding event, of our careers with the Corps of Engineers was in late December of 1964, when the San Francisco District had emergency need for help from other districts because of a disastrous flood in northwestern California. An avalanche of rain, extreme high tides, and gale force winds combined to turn rivers into leaping furies. Melting snow caused land slides that covered roads, swept bridges away, destroyed homes, and even buried some small towns. It could only happen once in a thousand years, so the meteorologist said. Estimated damage was $500,000,000.
Buddy and I, along with ten other employees from the Albuquerque District, were sent to answer the call for help. We flew to San Francisco and were assigned to the town of Yreka. The highways were out; there was no bus service, and they flew us from Hamilton Air Force Base in a transport plane to Yreka. They set up an office for us, eight of us, plus ten or twelve men working out of the office. Our first job was a contract to bury dead animals. We stayed six weeks in Yreka, a small town near the foot of Mt Shasta, and though we worked long hours, we had some wonderful times with friends we met at church there. We got home February 21, 1965 and went to Ft. Sumner to the funeral of our sister, Elizabeth, on the 27th. She was ill when we left for California, and I was fearful that we might not be back when the end came for her.
In 1966, Buddy and I had a wonderful six-week trip to Europe with an American Express tour. We were in eleven countries, and our trip was climaxed by our crossing the Atlantic home on the luxurious steamship FRANCE.
I retired in 1970, and Buddy retired in January 1971. We had our Avion trailer that we had some nice trips with until we reached the age where it was more trouble than fun, and we sold it. Bob and Barbara have moved so many times that we have seen a lot of the U.S. from visiting them. We enjoyed Maryland when they lived at Potomac, Tennessee when they lived in Chattanooga, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Connecticut where they live at this writing. We enjoyed a trip on Amtrak to New York in 1981, to visit them.
Our trip of a lifetime was in 1972, when we went with a group of Christians to the Greek Islands and the Bible lands. We toured Athens, Corinth, Philippi, Smyrna, Tarsus, Antioch, Ephesus, Rhodes, Mykonos, Isle of Patmos, Cypress, Beirut, Damascus, Haifa, Capernaum, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Bethany, Emmaus, Tel Aviv, Joppa and Caesarea. It was a most memorable trip.
We had some nice trips to visit Dan when he worked in Derby, Kansas, and then again in St. Louis. Now, we have reached the age of enjoying staying at home. We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in May, 1979, with many relatives and friends to help us. We have no family living in Albuquerque, and we get lonesome to see our wonderful sons and their families. Friends are great, but not as dear as family. We do get to go out to Tucson about once a year to see Dan and Barbara and our precious little granddaughter, Cara Janelle Smith. We were so happy to have a Smith granddaughter, since we had no girls, Bob had no girls, and our only great grandchild was a boy. But we are blessed with three wonderful step granddaughters and three step-great-grandsons, none of which we get to see, since they all live on the east coast. Bob will relate their happenings in his chapter.
Our worst worry happened in April of 1985 when Buddy was taken to the hospital with severe chest pains. He was in and out of the hospital three times before he could decide to have the necessary angiogram. After having all the tests, he was diagnosed as having blockage that warranted a quintuple by-pass operation—pretty drastic surgery for a seventy-eight-year-old. But, tough little guy that he is, he came through with flying colors (mostly red! Pardon the pun).
Today is December 11, 1985 with Christmas right on us. I had hoped to finish the book before the end of the year, but some of the chapters were too late getting here for me to get them typed, the book printed, and bound. Look for it in January 1986.