INTERVIEW WITH EDITH DEERMAN
& Memories of
On my birth certificate
it just says "Anderson County" - it doesn't show the town name of
Percilla like Zona's does. Even though we didn't live that
close to Percilla, that's where the Post Office was, and the postman
would make all the country roads in that area, and that was the
Percilla Route. Percilla is down pretty close to Grapeland,
not too far out of Grapeland. As you come north from
Grapeland, on your right is a road with a sign that says
Percilla. I'll bet you didn't even see it. It
is just a very small place - in fact, there's not even a Post Office
there anymore. The people that live there are on the Grapeland
We were at this little country school, and we had 2
teachers, a man and his wife, and they were our teachers until we went
to Slocum High School. The teacher's name was Mr.
Norton and he is in that picture with Zona. In the little
grade school, there wasn't but about 7 or 8 students to each class, and
we just knew everybody. Mrs. Norton taught the lower
grades, and Mr. Norton taught the higher grades. We went
through 7th grade in that little school. There were 2
separate rooms, but the teachers would go from room to room, and we
would study while the teacher was in the other room. I
don't know how we learned anything, but I guess we did - we made it
If the road was measured in blocks, Zona lived about 4
or 5 blocks from the school. She lived a little bit closer to the
school than we did. At that time, it was about a mile to
walk to school. Later we built a house over closer to the
One time we were going to have pictures made at the
school. There was this big barrel of water outside with a faucets
on it for drinking water - can you imagine how hot that water
got? But anyway, Mr. Norton said, "You all go down there
and dampen your hair and get ready for the picture." So we
went down there and turned those faucets on and stuck our heads under
that faucet and got our hair wet, and then we combed it down and put
one of those little hair bands over it, and then had our picture
made. I think we tore those up, because I don't remember seeing
them! They were the worst-looking pictures I ever saw
in my life! (Laughs)
I remember every morning before our classes started, we
had to say a memory verse. He would go down each row of seats,
and everybody had to say a memory verse. I remember I would
try to find a new one in the Bible the night before, so it wouldn't be
the same one that we had been saying. That's what we did
every morning. But of course they don't do that now.
Then we had the flag at school, and he would have us
rotate on who was going to raise the flag in the
morning. We thought it was just grand when it was our
morning to put the flag up. He would maybe let 2 of us go
at a time.
Living out in the country, everybody had to raise what
they ate. It was during the Depression, and you had to can
food. Our mothers would can like 400 or 500 jars of stuff
in the springtime when we raised it, and that's what we ate during the
winter. They were purple hull peas and cream peas, and people
would can them in quart jars. Everybody around there found out
that Zona and I didn't mind shelling peas, so we were the Pea
Shellers! When somebody needed us they would let us know, and we
would go and shell peas nearly all day long. We would start early
in the morning. But we always made sure they had a radio, and we
would turn the radio on and listen to all the programs and music that
was on the radio. But it helped the person that was canning,
because they kept canning while we shelled. We counted up the
number of bushels we shelled one year, and I don't remember exactly,
but the total was unreal - we could not believe it!
(Laughs) But that's what we did in the summer was shell
peas. We didn't want any of the peas! We just did it
to help the people. In the country like that, everybody
just helps everybody else. We didn't get paid for it - if we did,
we'd still be rich! (Laughs) We enjoyed it - it gave us
something to do.
On the radio, usually it was comedies and continuing
stories during the day. Some of the radio shows we listened
to were Lum and Abner, and two ladies that were real comical. And
then every Saturday night the Grand Old Opry would come on from
Tennessee. Several neighbors would get together and we would make
home-made ice cream, and we would eat ice cream and listen to the Grand
Old Opry. We loved that, it was fun. People would get
together at night, and we all had front porches, and people would just
visit more than they do now. Maybe 3 or 4 families would
get together, and we would sit out on the front porch, and the dads and
grandads would tell some old tales about when they were boys and things
Each family owned their own land and raised their own
food. Sugar cane, peanuts, corn, cotton, peas,
tomatoes. That was their way of making a
living. Every year, people would have to pick their
tomatoes while they were green and take them to the tomato shed in
Jacksonville, and they would cull them and sell them for you.
Those tomatoes were shipped all over the place.
Everybody raised a lot of cattle and chickens. We
always had maybe 4 or 5 horses. We had to milk cows and feed
chickens and all that sort of thing! (Laughs) You've
probably seen old movies with people picking up eggs and feeding the
chickens - that's just the way we looked!
Albert Rich worked for the Forest Service.
There was a tall tower not too far from where they lived.
In the springtime of the year, when there were fires, he would go up on
that tower, and you could see everywhere up there. If he
saw smoke, he would call somebody to go check it out. He did that
for a long, long time. Zona and I used to go and climb the fire
tower. We loved the view from up there.
Mr. Jesse Rich was Zona's granddaddy, and he lived in a
little house right close to their house. He drove a horse and
buggy. We didn't have paved roads, they were just deep sand
roads, and the ruts were pretty deep. If you were in a car
and got behind a buggy like that, you couldn't pass, because if you
did, you would have gotten stuck in the sand. And so Mr. Jesse
would sit up there driving that horse in that little buggy, and maybe a
car would get behind him and honk, and Mr. Jesse would say "I pay as
much taxes as they do. They can just stay behind
me. I'm not pulling out of these ruts." So he would
just go along at his speed, and that car might have to follow him for a
mile or so until they could pull out and get around him. And it
did not bother him one bit in the world. (Laughs) But I can just
still see him doing that. He was real old-fashioned, and he
thought the young girls should wear their dresses down to their ankles,
you know, because in his young days, that's what they did.
So he told Zona's mother one day "Now I'll buy plenty of material to
make Zona some dresses, if you'll make 'em long enough!"
(Laughs) Of course, Miss Clara said alright, so he bought all
this material for Zona's dresses. Miss Clara was a good
seamstress - she sewed beautifully. So she made those dresses,
and she didn't put the hem in them. She let Zona put those
dresses on, and she would go down and show him one of those dresses,
and he would say "That's fine, that's just fine". Then
after she would get back, Miss Clara would put the hem in them and make
them shorter! (Laughs) But I think he kind of caught on,
because he mentioned to her one time that her dress was longer when he
saw it the last time. Zona told him "Well, when it got
washed, it just drew up." (Laughs)
He was so funny - he was the last one in that whole
community to have a horse and buggy - he kept his a long, long
time. I don't remember seeing anyone else in a horse and buggy
except him. They always said he had the best wife of anybody in
the world. His wife's name was Susan, and that's who Hazel named
Susan after. They called her Aunt Susan Rich.
I don't know where Zona got her name from. I
knew Miss Clara's mother, Zona's grandmother. She used to come
and stay with them a lot. She was a very quiet
person. She didn't have much to say, but she was real
sweet. I remember what she did all the time was to work
crossword puzzles - that was just her thing. And she
would come and stay with them for several days at a time, and then
would go back to her home, which was over around Alto.
And then we went on to Slocum and we thought we were
really in the city! Slocum High School was 8th through 12th
grade. There were 27 in the graduating class.
We had a 50th high school reunion, and several of the class had passed
away, but the rest of the ones that were living were there.
We really had a lot of fun - some of them we hadn't seen since we
graduated. The reunion was at the school.
Ben went to Slocum High School the first 2 years, and
then went to Palestine High School the last 2 years. He
knew so many of the people that went to school at Slocum. They
have a reunion every year that benefits the Fire
Department. Ben came to some of the reunions in later
years, after Zona passed away. He was a real good friend of
Randall Gilmore, and they would come, and Randall still comes every
year and he loves it. I saw him last year. Randall is doing
great, but his wife passed away about 4 or 5 years ago.
After high school, Zona went to Nixon Business College
and also started working at the Royall National Bank. At
that time, I went to Dallas and worked at Sanger-Harris for a while;
but that just wasn't my thing. I didn't care much for
living in Dallas - I was too much of a country girl to live in Dallas,
I guess! I talked to Zona, and she said there was an
opening at the bank, and she said "Why don't you come on back, I think
you can get a job here", so I decided to come back, and in about a week
I had a job at the bank too. And it worked out real well.
When we started working at the bank, we really thought
we were something! At that time we were bookkeepers.
I think we started off with maybe $50 a month - maybe not that
much. But anyway, we thought we were rich and really making a lot
of money. But we made it, and we really had a good time
working together. Later on we got promotions.
Then the war came along (World War II), and all the guys
that we knew were in the service. There was a group
of us that were working that were about the same age, and we had a real
good time together. We would have meals
together. It was all ladies that worked at the bank - if
there was a guy there, you knew he was getting pretty old, or he would
have been in the service.
We would save our money, and when we would get a
holiday, we would go shopping. We would get on the train that
went through Palestine to Houston, and we would go down there and spend
all day in Houston and then come back on the train in the
afternoon. There were about 8 of us girls, all about the
same age. But what was so funny was that we had such a
little bit of money to shop with, we would save our money from one time
until the next. The train depot was right by a great big
Woolworth's store, and we would go in that Woolworth's store and eat
our lunch. Hamburgers and hot dogs were a nickel, and the drink
would be a nickel, so lunch would cost a dime, and then we would have
the rest of our money to shop with. And we would just do
things like that all the time, and whatever we did, we always had a
good time together. We loved going to Houston on the train.
We would go home every weekend. There was a
little bus that would go Palestine through to Alto, or maybe to Rusk;
anyway, it went by our house on the way, and we would get on that
little bus every Friday afternoon and go home and spend the weekend.
Then we would ride back to Palestine on the little bus on Sunday.
We didn't have a car - when we would get back we would walk home to the
We would always go to church on Sunday. Even when
we would go down home, we would go to that little church down
there. That little church is still there; nobody knows how
old that church is - there's no record anywhere. But they
know now that it is way over 100 years old. They have built
a new church right next door to it, and everyone was afraid they were
going to tear the old church down. But they didn't.
They left it and they use for youth programs. The old
church was built out of good lumber, and it is still a real strong
building - it has never looked like it was going to fall down or
anything, and I still like to go by that old church. It's
called Mews Church. It is a Missionary Baptist Church. From
that church, you can see where Zona was raised, it's just kind of
across the road. Right across the road is the
cemetery. Zona and I were raised in that
church. Sunday School was just in the one big
room. Each class would find a corner of the room to meet
in, and we didn't think anything about it that there was not a
partition or anything.
To get home, you would go through Slocum, and then go on
about 10 miles the other side of Slocum. Zona lived on one side
of the road and I lived on the other side. When we were
growing up, I had two brothers, one just older and one just younger,
and they were so good to us. We went everywhere on horses,
and they would saddle our horses up for us and let us go.
We would go to what we called "ring play parties", but they were really
square dances, and almost every Saturday night we would go to
somebody's house that had a square dance. And then down at the
river, there was a big place they called the Rock Hole, and that's
where we would go swimming. We would ride our horses down
there on Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and all the kids in the whole
neighborhood would go. We would swim for an hour or two,
and then we would ride our horses back home. But that was
our entertainment - we didn't have TV's and cars and computers and all
that sort of thing. We had to plan our own entertainment;
but it was good and we loved it. Of course this was during the
Depression, and there wasn't any money anywhere. Nobody had
money. Everybody grew up the same way. But it
was good times - it was not all bad. But kids nowadays couldn't
handle that - they wouldn't know what to do.
The president of the bank and his wife knew some square
dance callers, and sometimes they would have square dances at the YMCA
or at their house. But we never did go out to night clubs
or places like that where there was usually a lot of
drinking. We didn't participate in that.
Ben's father and Harold Deerman's father were close
friends, almost like brothers. They knew each other when they
were young boys, and they both later worked for the
railroad. They could tell some big tales about the things
they used to do. Ben and Harold were real good friends, and
their families were real close, all through the years. When
Harold came home from the service, he lived with his mother and daddy
right next door to the Thompsons out in the country, in the Gallatin
I met Harold on a blind date with Ben and
Zona. I don't remember how Zona and Ben met. But
anyway, they started out that they wanted me to date
Harold. I refused for a while, and then I thought "Well,
I'll go ahead and get this over with." (Laughs) And I ended
up marrying him! It was a good deal. He was a
We did a lot of double dating. The bridge
you see in those pictures is the Neches River Bridge on the other side
of Slocum. I remember that real well. Until that
bridge was built, they just had one that was much lower, and every time
it would rain a lot, the water would get over the bridge and that would
block the traffic, maybe for 3 or 4 days before it would go down.
Then they built the new bridge and that took care of it. But
that's been a long time ago now.
We would go to the movies, usually in Rusk because it
was closer. Rusk is about 10 or 12 miles southeast of
Jacksonville. But sometimes we would make a circle by going
into Jacksonville, then to Rusk, and then over to Palestine, just to
get out and fool around. Harold used to say that he
was "going to swing in on a grapevine" to see me (Laughs), because we
did live way down in the country.
About those pictures of us girls dressed up in old-timey
clothes: that was during the war. Back then they had the
county fair once a year, and that was a big deal for everybody - oh
my! Before the fair opened every year, they had a
parade. The bank's entry in the parade was a covered wagon, and
on the side of it the sign said "We Saved Our Money At Royall National
Bank So We Could Go To The Anderson County Fair." We all
rode on that and we dressed up in all those old clothes, you know.
Two or three times, Zona and I decided we wanted to go
to the State Fair in Dallas. So we checked the bus schedules from
Palestine to Dallas, and found that we could ride the bus to Dallas,
and it would let us off right by the fairgrounds. Then we would
spend the day at the fair and then ride the bus back to Palestine that
After Ben and Zona got married, they moved to College
Station so he could go back to school. I was already
married to Harold, and I just kept on working and we stayed here.
After Ben and Zona moved to Houston, we went down to
Houston to visit from time to time when you kids were real little.
I remember what Zona told me about Uncle Jim one time:
there was a hurricane came in that sounded real bad (Hurricane
Carla). She said, "Well, I never did worry about it too
much. Everybody was real worried, but I just knew that we would
be safe, and that Jim would take care of all of us." (Laughs)
Zona was a very good person, and a lot of fun to be
around. She loved to go places and we just stayed busy doing
things all the time.
Hendrick was Zona's first cousin (his mother was Zona's Aunt Lou
Ola Rich Hendrick). Emmett's wife was Cathryn.
Emmett retired, they moved back to Palestine. I
believe he worked for the railroad. They were members of
our church. And every Sunday night, we used to all go out
to Whataburger after church, and they were in that group. I
just enjoyed both of them a whole lot.
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