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The Gaston Years 1950 to 1960


I look back on my visits and stays with grandma and grandpa Gaston and Aunt Ola as the best days of my life. I didn’t really talk that much to Grandma, mostly just to Aunt Ola and Grandpa. I felt safe, loved and just enjoyed the excitement of being out in the country on the farm. Seemed there were interesting things to look for and explore. I remember those cold winter days and nights when Aunt Ola would build a fire in the wood stoves. She would put in a couple of large pieces of live oak firewood and some kindling, pour in about a cup  of kerosene, or “coal oil” as they called it, and light a sheet of newspaper and drop it into the stove. She’d open the flu and usually in no time there was a fire going in that old tin stove! I can almost smell the wood smoke smell of the burning Live Oak tree firewood! 


I also remember staying with Aunt Ola at night upstairs and it being bitterly cold in the wintertime. She would tell me betime stories and my favorite was the story of the Three Little Pigs.  I asked her nearly every time I spent the night to tell me that story. Oh how I wish I had her voice on tape telling that story and others.  She told me other fairy tales I guess but I don’t recall what they were. I think she told me about Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  I remember mostly about the Three Little Pigs and the big Bad Wolf.  I decided someday when I built a house, it would be all brick and it is!


I remember waking up on those cold winter mornings and dreading sticking even a toe out from under the covers! That upstairs room was like a walk in freezer, the old bare wood floor like ice!  That old house did not have a spec of insulation,  just outside wood siding and inside, beaded pine board walls.  The old single pain windows had caulk around the panes that had mostly dried and fallen out long ago. Some of the glass panes would click when the wind blew, letting air come through. You could hear the wind howl and whistle at times blowing through those old windowpanes. The windmill sometimes made creaking noises when the wind blew and you could hear it upstairs.


I liked to look out those old windows upstairs, mostly to the front toward the large live oak tree and on the west side toward the windmill.  The house seemed to be much older than it was for some reason.


 I would wake some mornings upstairs and hear Aunt Ola and grandma or grandpa, or my mother, if she was there, downstairs talking in the kitchen or the room adjacent to the kitchen.  There would usually be the smell of wood smoke, and breakfast, bacon or sausage and eggs cooking.  I’d hurry and go down stairs to the warmer room.  If it was early in the morning, grandpa might be eating breakfast or listening to the radio getting the livestock report.  I recall grandpa ate “mush” (grits) with a pat of butter.  He had that nearly every day for breakfast.  They had coffee and fresh cow milk.  If I woke up around 7:30am to 8 am, grandpa was usually already gone to the feed barn or somewhere working.  This was true in winter or summer, but in the summer, he sometimes was in the house during the hot part of the afternoon.  He loved to smoke a pipe.  He used Prince Albert tobacco in a large can.  He smoked that in his pipe and rolled his own cigarettes in that thin cigarette paper that came in a small pocket package.  He also bought the tobacco in the small shirt pocket pouches, like little tan cotton sacks, with a pull string tie.  I am not sure if that was Prince Albert or another brand of tobacco.  But I watched him roll many a cigarette and pull the tie string with his teeth and put the pouch back in his pocket.  He was good at rolling those cigarettes. I would get one of his pipes and pretend to be smoking it.  I also used to see him sharpen his pocketknife and his straight razor, on a sharpening stone.  He finished sharpening the straight razor on the long, wide thick leather razor strap. It always amazed me that you finish sharpening a razor against that leather! I don’t know what became of that razor strap or his straight razor. I had one of his pipes for years but not sure I still do. They stored flour and sugar in large cloth bags under the stairway in a sort of closet.  There was a narrow door to the closet under the stairs in the dining room just to the left of the hall door as you entered the room.  I can almost remember the unique smell under the staircase in the closet.  Between the door facing and that door, about 4 to 5 feet above the floor, on the wall, was the old crank telephone: a long wooden box with a black plastic piece for listening (earphone) and the microphone stuck out from the middle of the phone box.  I remember them cranking the phone to get an operator in Cranfills Gap and then give the operator the number or name to be connected.  Since they were on a party line, they had a certain ring, such as "2 longs and a short" ring to identify who the call was for.  The little .22 single-shot rifle hung in that closet. We loved to shoot it, but it had a 'hair' trigger.  Guns made my aunt Ola nervous and she didn’t like for us to shoot it. Hayden and I have always wondered what became of that little .22 rifle.

I think it was during the summer of 1957, I stayed a couple of weeks or so with Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt Ola.  Grandpa loved kids and he espescially loved it when I came to visit so he would have someone to play dominoes with.  That was his favorite pastime. He taught me how to play and we would play for hours sometime in the hot summer afternoon when it was too hot to be out.  I recall going with him and Uncle John into the Gap (Cranfills Gap, Texas) about 7 miles south of the farm to get some supplies such as parts or groceries, etc. Grandpa would usually go to the Pool-Domino hall and join in a serious game of dominoes. It seemed like he would play forever before we would leave to go back to the farm.
I would hang out at my Aunt Jewell's Cafe (Murphree's Cafe) and sometimes get a little drum of red peanuts and a Grapette soda.  I might also go over to my cousin's house, Tommy and Butch Gaston, if they were at home.  Just a couple of blocks away was my Aunt Ruby and Uncle Comer Tyler.
Since there was not a bathroom, I recall bathing during the summer, in a large, long wash tub.  In winter, I would take a "sponge bath" most of the time. Aunt ola would bring out hot water and pour in the tub and I would bathe behind the house. I hated using that Outhouse as it always seemed to be full of spiders and red wasps and smelled bad.  They got a TV in the mid 1950s I think, but there were not many stations available by antenna, maybe two or three at the most.  I seldom ever watched any TV out there. 
During my summer there, I recall seeing the sun come up in the morning and it would hot and I knew it would be even hotter very soon. At night the sky was full of stars and it was an incredible sight.  We would sometime sleep out on the front porch on a roll away bed. Grandma had "Four O'Clocks" and "Morning Glories" planted in the front porch flower beds and wires for the Morning Glories to climb on and there was a pleasant flower smell. I recall seeing Humming Birds and some kind of large moth that came to the flowers.  The farm house had a fence around the yard with three gates. The gate posts were boxed in with wood, and was a favorite nesting place for Red Wasps to build there nests. Many times you had to be careful going through the gates as Red Wasps would be ready to attack.  Sometimes I would see them on the posts and shoot them with Hayden's hand-me-down Red Rider BB Gun.  Also one had to watch out for the large Texas Red Ant as they would build large mounds and you could see their trails leading out from the ant hill. Sometimes the windmill would be pumping water into the concrete storage tank, and the overflow water ran in a samll stream from the windmill to the south. I used to dam up the flow and play in that little shallow stream.  I'd make some boats and play for hours.
As I said, Grandpa Gaston loved kids and he liked to get a child's hands in his hands and jig dance and hop around. He also loved to poke you in the stomach with his long finger and recite: "Ever see a opossum, climb up a Paw-Paw tree, picking off Paw-Paws and putting 'em his pocket?" and usually slobbering the whole time!  Grandpa Gaston was 75 years old when I was born in 1945, so he was pretty old when I was very young.
I recall Aunt Ola always preparing some incredible meals when family came to visit, especially holidays and Sundays, if there was a large family gathering.  She was always offering something to eat or drink any time we went for even a short visit.  I loved my grandparents and loved my Aunt Ola. She was super special and I will never forget any of them and the love and care I received from them.  They were very special folks as I am sure all those who knew them would agree!

Aunt Ola

Ola, Pauline Westley, Mattie and Ras Gaston

I only have three photographs of Aunt Ola: this one (left), one made with my grandmother Westley (below left), and one with Grandpa, Grandma and the other two Gaston children, made about 1900 to 1902 (below). 
Aunt Ola was a hard worker and took care of everyone and cared for her parents until their dying days. Aunt Ola was born Maggie Viola Gaston, January 21, 1894, and passed away June 4, 1967.



Ras Gaston playing dominoes


Ras Gaston in front of Gaston farm house