The rocks were red and gray. The Walker
County highway department would spread these rocks on the roads.
The primary purpose of doing this was to preclude the roads from
becoming muddy and slippery during inclement weather periods. Naturally,
the rocks served that purpose, but the rocks were hard on automobiles
and the tires. A motorist that followed another car too closely,
would likely have a cracked, or smashed, windshield from smaller
rocks kicked up by the lead motorist.
The young lads, and lassies, were not concerned
with any of the problems, except for one. The rocks were “murder”
on the young and tender feet. Damage was done by stepping barefooted
on a sharp-edged rock.
Equally, or maybe more dangerous, the rocks presented a wonderful
opportunity for you to stump your toes while running at a fast pace.
And believe me, that stumping process was a very painful one; however,
you would never admit “defeat” and put your shoes back
on. You were tough and you were not about to let anyone know that
it had hurt, except on a very limited basis.
My sister, Lucy, and myself attended Phillips
School in Coon Creek during my third and fourth grade years. To
this day, I do not know why we switched schools for those two years.
After completing the fourth grade at Phillips in 1936, we went back
to Empire School, beginning in September 1936. Lucy was three years
older than me. I have absolutely no recall of her attempting to
be my boss during our school travels, always by foot. Nor do I recall
that Lucy turned me in to my parents for misbehavior.
In late April 1936, the weather had moderated
and I started my efforts to procure parental approval for me to
shed my shoes and socks. In the opinion of my mother, it was too
early to do so. I was raring to go barefooted but at the age of
9, you usually accept parental guidelines.
It was school policy that if you arrived
at school barefooted, everything was OK. However, you simply were
not permitted to arrive at school with your shoes on and take them
off for the school day.
En route to school on one April day in 1936,
I developed a grand idea. And no one would ever know the deceit
that I was thinking about.
There was a culvert underneath the road
en route to Phillips School. My grand idea was to take my shoes
and socks off and place them in the culvert so that no one would
see them. By arriving at school barefooted, I would be in the clear
for that day. Then my plan was to leave school in the afternoon,
walk back to the culvert, put my socks and shoes back on, and proceed
back to my home. By arriving home with them on, my mother would
never know my grand strategy of the day.
My property was placed in the culvert. Upon
arrival at school, I was “flying high.” And there were
not any rocks on the school ground that would be a problem to my
tender feet. Lehman Robbins was in my class and he was one of my
best friends. Lehman immediately congratulated me on getting my
parent’s permission to be barefooted, and wanted to know how
I had been able to do it.
During the day, I confided in Lehman and a couple of other boys,
and let them know what I had done. In their eyes, I was the “smartest”
At some point during the day, Lehman asked
me what would happen to my shoes and socks if it rained that day?
Or even worse, what about someone finding them in the culvert and
taking off with them?
Lehman’s questions and comments really
put me in a high anxiety state. I could not take my eyes off the
outside of the school, looking for a storm to arrive, or rain to
begin. I would get momentary relief from my anxiety feelings. Then
my fears would go to the possibility of someone taking my property
from the culvert during the day.
In 1936, the depression was in full bloom.
No one had much money, and all of us really appreciated a good pair
of shoes. How would my parents be able to afford a new pair of shoes
for me? I was fully aware that if something happened to my shoes,
and they were lost, I would get a good whipping when I arrived home.
During the day I “died a thousand
deaths.” I saw Lucy during one of our recess periods and told
her that as soon as school was out, I was going immediately to recover
When the bell rang that afternoon denoting
that school was out, I took off at the highest speed I could generate.
past Oscar Owens’ grocery store, and picking up additional
speed, I passed Sally Stacks’ home. The culvert was about
half way between the Stacks’ house and the Corley’s
home. The red rocks were playing havoc with my tender feet but that
was the “smallest” of my problems at that particular
Upon arrival at the culvert, I was greatly
relieved to find that my shoes and socks were still there as I had
left them that morning. I put them on and waited for Lucy to arrive
so that we could proceed on to our home in Creeltown.
My deceit of that day was never discovered
by my teacher, nor by my parents.
The anxiety endured was sufficient punishment to me. It taught me
a valuable lesson and I never repeated such a strategy. I waited
until my parents gave me permission to go barefooted.
Unfortunately, in April 1940, we lost Lucy
(age 16) to strep throat and rheumatic fever.