The life and Times of Dillard Stephens Written in the words of Steve himself
I was born 25 July, 1916 in Dennison, Texas I was the fifth child of Hermie Olivia and Emerson Joshua Stephens the children were all sons and Iwas a twin. My father died one month and one day before I was born I know very little about my father. My mother told me that he was a hard working Farmer who loved her and the children dearly and I know my mother was just as fond of him because she often spoke of him to me and I will always remember the beautiful expression of love and tenderness shown in her face whenever she answered the many questions Willard (my twin) and I asked her about our father.
I cannot recall, as I write this, exactly how he was when he died but I do know he was only in his early forties. Mama told me as a young child, that he died of acute indigestion. As I grew older I surmised that he had heart trouble. And I never pressed my mother for any other information or details because I knew it would sadden her. And it was more fun to have her tell me of all the happy times that she and my older brothers shared with him
Mama took us to Whitesboro, Texas where we all lived with her father and mother, Pa and Ma Crump,as we called them. They reared Ten children all of whom were grown and away on there own. A year later their eldest son’s wife died in childbirth and Ma took the baby boy to care for.His name was Otis jr. he grew up with all of us boys and of course he seemed like a brother rather than a cousin. His father did marry again later and had other children and thought Jr. went to visit often with his dad in Arkansas, he would always return to Ma and Pa. He loved his dad but not his stepmother. Anyway, I was glad to see him comeback because we were good buddies and he had a special “in”way to curry favors from Ma that none of the rest of us seemed to have it didn’t take me long to know that if I was right by Jr. Ma seemed to find it just as easy to pass out 2 favors as one.
Ma and Pa lived in large house that they ran as a hotel. There was also a smaller house a few feet away that was called ” the annex”. There was a total of near 20 rooms to let and the train station was only a vacant lot away. Pa would meet all the trains and drum up the Hotel business to Travelers in need of a place to sleep while waiting for various trains. Whitsboro was a junction point for Two railroad lines providing service in all four directions.
Mama was kept very busy with doing the laundry (by hand) every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and the ironing Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday plus cleaning the house. Of course Pa was up all hours to meet trains. He would sleep anytime he could find the time to do so. Ma did most of the cooking and supervised all the operations very sternly. Must say she did her job better than anyone. Looking back to those days I am now shamed to at the times when I thought what an “old Blister” she was. But I know that I have always realized that she was truly a remarkable woman and that I was fortunate indeed that she was my grandmother. She was a great influence to my Formative years as a youth.
For instance, through her influence, I learned to build and keep the fire going under two big iron pots that Mama boiled for clothing and bed linens in,to wind the hand wringer for Mama when she put the washing through five tubs of water and scrub the floors and to bring the was in after it was dry so mama could sort it all out to iron. Ma’s influence also taught me how to make the beds, sweep the floors and tidy up all the rooms – of which, at the time. I was sure were at least a hundred- especially when my friends were waiting for me to participate in a scheduled game of baseball or a trek to big elm creek for a swim with them.I’ve gotten a little ahead of time because the baseball and swimming came a little later.
it was just before the “crash of 29”when the Annex burned. Our neighbor, Mr. sealy, had built, and operating a store which was on the property line and too close to the Annex. Pa had protested the construction to no avail and as a result the relationship between Mr. Sealy and Pa was not good, to say the least. One cold winter night or early morning the store caught fire and in turn set the Annex to burning. The volunteer fire department cam and only because of their good work the big house did not burn down too.
It was so bad that they had us evacuated. I remember all of us standing out in the cold in our night clothes and ma running around hollering and screaming because it was a situation she could not control, and telling the firemen she didn’t know if everyone was out of the Annex. Pa had personally gotten out the last occupant but to his chagrin Ma wasn’t sure of that, no matter how many times he told her.
It was pa and ma’s belief that Mr. sealy had set fire to his cracker box store for the insurance and after that I remember it was no longer “Mr. Sealy” – but old man Sealy to us kids, and we gave him a wide berth as some sort of an ogre.