Hood County Texas Genealogical Society
by Christopher C. Evans
Old pals, from left, Dillard Crook, Junior Masterson and Kenneth Teich
The old schoolhouse was alive with laughter, a-waft with the essences of home-style pot-luck cuisine and a-gleam with light shot down from windows high above. The "crowd"¾50 people, more or less¾was fair to marginal, numbers-wise.
But as always, memories were king at Cresson Homecoming 2001, this year’s version of the annual rite of return and remember Oct. 14 at the historic Cresson School.
Maurine Dunivant McBroom came via motorhome all the way from Fort Myers, Fla. T.H. Gunn motored over from Arlington. Anne Sadler-Godwin drove up from San Antonio. R.I. Collinsworth came from Acton. Claudie Fae "Snookie" Teich had a short ride in from the Teich farms with her daughter, Carolyn Richbourg.
Shirley R. Smith, Cresson historian and the only impresario this particular homecoming observance has ever had, held forth as always by welcoming those in attendance and noting the passing of many of those not. "We’ve lost so many and so many have gone into nursing homes," Smith said tearfully before reading off a list of Cresson folk who have died in the past year and moving on to happier recollections.
Smith yielded the floor to Cresson Community Organization President Helen Long, who gave a progress report on the ongoing restoration of the school, and to Cresson Cemetery Board President Mildred Milburn, who updated cemetery affairs.
Septuagenarian Smith reminded Gunn, an Army Air Corps captain and highly decorated fighter pilot in World War II, that the latter "attended one of my first birthday parties, when I was about seven and you were about 4."
At one point in his brief address, Smith apologized to the crowd. "I don’t know why I’m getting off on history," he said. "I guess it’s because I love history."
As Smith glanced to those within his view, certain faces wrought big memories. "Anne Sadler-Godwin’s people ran a cafe in one end of the Slocum Brothers (Fidler’s Store) Building," he recalled. "Her grandfather had a blacksmith shop right next door to the building I’m talking about."
Smith also recalled how Sadler-Godwin’s grandfather would deliver the newspaper to the Smith home. "He’d yell, `Here’s your paper, here`s your paper,’," Smith said, mimicking the high pitch of the man’s voice. "And he didn’t throw the paper in the yard, either. He put the paper on the gate or on the door."
Sadler-Godwin related a story about Calvin and Herschel M. "Pat" Fidler, brother-proprietors of Fidler’s Store, and an insect-control method they used at times. "When I was growing up in `downtown’ Cresson in the ‘40s...ice cream was five cents a dip," she said. "If we downtown kids would bring in 10 dead flies in the summer, we got a dip of ice cream."
Notably missing at homecoming were a couple dozen reasonably able-bodied people who shall remain nameless but should have attended but might have been hard of hearing or otherwise "providentially hindered," as they used to say.
For me personally there were umpteen other high spots. Meeting T.H. Gunn, whom I hope to interview in the near future and who had a family heirloom¾a most unusual walking stick passed down by his predecessors via a bull¾was one. Seeing Claudie Fae Teich’s ever-present smile was another. Having my son Luc and his girlfriend Julia both in attendance¾they are in college in Florida¾was another.
Perhaps my biggest smile was for Junior and Lula Masterson, who made the drive from Lake Worth and who have been my friends for less than a year.
Junior, whose mobility these days is hampered by a stroke that did nothing to affect his quick mind, adroit computer skills or sense of humor, lived in Cresson for a relatively short period in the ‘30s but still considers this his home.
Shirley Smith recalled that the Junior Masterson he knew, who was not and still is not a large man, was the best pugilist around. "Junior wasn’t real big but he was skilled as a boxer, and he was tough," Smith said.
"Well, we had a boy out here, Jiggs Swinney, who was about 6-2 or 6-3 when he was 12 or 13 years old," Smith continued. "By the time he was high school age he was 6-5, so big that in basketball we’d just feed the ball to him and he’d score.
"Well, I didn’t box because I didn’t like to box," Smith said. "Jiggs, though, he thought he was a boxer and so he challenged Junior. Well, ol’ Jiggs, he had these long arms and every time he’d throw a long punch ol’ Junior would hit him with a short punch inside.
"It didn’t last too long."
Masterson, who left Cresson for Mineral Wells some time later, continued boxing in Palo Pinto County and eventually won his way to the Golden Gloves in Fort Worth. "Right before I went out to fight I looked down and there were Buster Putteet, Jeff Slocum and Calvin Fidler, standing there by ringside," he said. "We shook hands and they told me they were pulling for me. That pumped me up, seeing those Cresson boys out there. I knocked that guy out in about 15 seconds."
If there was anything unsettling about this particular Cresson Homecoming, it was that there seem to be few younger folk in attendance, people who might carry on once us all of us geezers and wheezers are gone.
Little Natalie Collins, however, was in attendance. And as the storytelling and memory-sharing went on not far away, Natalie, daughter of Johnny and Kristi Collins, mounted the stage, grabbed a dead microphone and sang her little heart out.
SIDETRACKS: Lest ye forget, the Cresson Fall Festival begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Cresson School and runs all day. Admission is free. The annual live auction, featuring auctioneer/Tarrant County Fire Marshall Larry Ingram and some pricey items that will go on the block, begins at 1 p.m. in the auditorium. The festival also includes a Country General Store, crafts and children’s activities, including a kid’s auction and a "temporary" tattoo parlor. For the budget-minded there will also be a flea market. Flea market items for sale include a nice baby bed, an entertainment center, two bicycles and, uh, two kitchen sinks. All money raised goes to continuing restoration of the old school...Lest ye forget II: The all-important Cresson incorporation referendum election is Nov. 6 and those are some snazzy-looking blue-and-white "Vote Yes" yard signs popping up around Scenic Ridge, Clearview Hills, Bluebonnet Hills and Cresson. Regarding the proposal to incorporate, nobody hates politics more than I; but this vote is not about politics. It is about survival as a community with an identity, and maintaining local control of our future. If you opt to vote against incorporation, remember that a "no" vote is a vote for more local taxes, higher rents and for giving control of our communities to an existing municipality in which we do not live. Please go to the Cresson School and vote. If you have questions, feel free to call me at (817) 396-4811...Interesting, but the "Proposition 13" on the Nov. 6 ballot that includes the Cresson Incorporation referendum has a sort-of connection to communities like ours. What it would do, if passed, is save some old rural schoolhouses throughout Texas. How? By allowing school districts via school board actions to donate "surplus properties of historical significance" for community and historical purposes. The importance of Proposition 13 was brought to my attention by Bluff Dale resident Cathey Sims, who teaches in Acton and has friends in Fredericksburg, where the proposition derived and where the futures of a dozen historic rural schools are at stake. The historic Cresson School, of course, exists largely because of the efforts of one person, Helen Long, and the U.S. Postal Service, which leases it to the community for a nominal fee. Long, before the Postal Service acquired the property, fought to save the building when potential buyers wanted to raze it and put in a restaurant or lumberyard. After the Postal Service bought the property with the intention of putting the new Cresson Post Office on it, the current lease agreement was worked out.
2001 HOOD COUNTY TEXAS GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY
[HOMECOMING PHOTOS w/CUTLINE INFO]
PHOTO 1: Shirley Smith, left, and T.H. Gunn recall a birthday party when Smith was 7 and Gunn was 4.
PHOTO 2: Claudie Fae Teich (headshot)
PHOTO 4: Maurine Dunivant McBroom and T.H. Gunn recall old Cresson times.
PHOTO 5: Natalie Collins onstage.