ELEMENTARY SCHOOL REMEMBRANCES
Columns about small mom and pop stores near two elementary schools in Denison in the 1950s dredged up memories of other elementary schools and places that attracted the students too.
It seems like every elementary school had a nearby place where children could buy snacks, candy, and gum and their parents could make purchases without going downtown to the grocery stores of the day.
Jack Burrows, who with his wife Tess, a former Denison teacher, now lives in Gainesville, said he thought all elementary schools were called ward schools 50 to 60 years ago.
Central seems to be the only one to retain the ward designation. Jack said everyone referred to the schools as Lamar Ward, Raynal Ward, Sam Houston Ward, Peabody Ward. They were known as "ward" schools instead of "elementary" schools and he always assumed that each represented an old city political division – wards.
Jack remembers that Peabody and Lamar also had little stores nearby the schools. Most schools if not all had cafeterias at the time, but not the type school cafeteria we have today. I can remember eating at the cafeteria at Central Ward in the lower grades during the early 1940s and the menu choices were somewhat limited.
When I ate at the cafeteria in those early school days I remember ordering the same thing every day – meatloaf, potatoes and beans. I think the ladies cooked a big pot of beans every day and mashed a bunch of potatoes to go with the huge meatloaves they baked. There may have been one other choice in meat and another choice vegetable, but as a shy first or second grader, once I learned to order my usual fare, I didn’t change.
Jack remembers that Lamar started what he called a "crude" cafeteria around 1940 when he was a student there. At Lamar there was the A.E. Cross store for hamburgers and soda pop and Peabody had a little store about a half block north of the school, (the name escapes me). During the year and a half that I attended Peabody in the fourth and fifth grade, I can remember going to the store during recess for a snack.
Jake Blankenship, who we remember as our Denison Herald newspaper carrier during school days and later married classmate Helen McDonald, wrote about the Wiest Grocery article. Jacob Wiest was his grandfather, who he said he lovingly called "Papa."
Jake said "Papa" was truly an immigrant success story. He said his mother, Christine Wiest Blankenship told him if anyone asked who he was, to tell them that he was Jacob Wiest’s grandson.
It worked. When he was 17 and in high school he applied for a position at the State National Bank in Denison and was being interviewed by W.L. Peterson, President; Ralph Porter, Executive Vice President, and Jack Berry, vice president. Mr. Peterson told him to tell them about himself - "who are you?". He said he proudly said "I am Jacob Wiest’s grandson." He replied, "Oh, we know Jacob Wiest." Jake was hired and spent three years working full time at the bank while he attended college at night.
Jake said that Papa was a Lay Elder in the Methodist Church and served the bread during communion. He remembers receiving "first communion" as a seven-year-old boy at his hands. This has become a pleasant memory, he said.
While working at the bank, Jake said he also has pleasant memories of Loi-Mac Pharmacy, the downtown drug store at 200 West Main, operated by my father. He said he occasionally ate lunch on paydays when the bank wanted employees to take only a 30-minute lunch break. He said he remembers the good soups and the pimiento cheese sandwiches. I can still almost taste the pimiento cheese sandwiches when I think about it.
We write a lot about memories and Jake pretty well put that in perspective when he said "Memories are like trophies that we put on the mantle – occasionally taking them down, polishing them and reminiscing, and then putting them back up to await their awakening on another day when we once again take them down and relive our past."
I must apologize to Dossie Vick down in Irving. Being a former student at Layne Elementary, Dossie wanted us to tell some things about his school. He said he doesn’t remember much about it except that it had a wood stove that had to be fed all day in cold weather. The school Dossie attended was a little white wood one-room schoolhouse outside Denison’s city limits.
Dossie is just about the biggest Texas Longhorn fan in the state and sports is always uppermost in his mind. He commented that a lot of good athletes came from Layne – and they did too.
His wife, Elayne, said she was four years old in 1944 when the schoolhouse was used as a voting place. She said her mother took her along when she voted the last time for Franklin Delano Roosevelt for president. Elayne still remembers it well.
Incidentally, Dossie said that the nearest store to Layne School was Hatfield Grocery that was owned by Owen Hatfield. It was located several blocks away, but was a real institution in the west end of town.
I will tell Dossie and anyone else interested to be sure and read the Denison Alumni Association newsletter, "Traditions," which should go into the mail before December 1. There is a lengthy article in it by Editor Ruby Moran about Layne School. The article includes several pictures of students through the years.
Anyone who is not a member of the Alumni Association who wants a copy of the newsletter can join for a mere $10 a year and receive each issue of "Traditions." - Donna Hunt