& Memories of
Zona Norris Rich (Thompson)


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 route.

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 through school.

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 school.   

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 like that.

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!  (Laughs)      

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 apartments.  

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 area.   

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 good guy.  

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 afternoon.

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.

Emmett Hendrick was Zona's first cousin (his mother was Zona's Aunt Lou Ola Rich Hendrick).    Emmett's wife was Cathryn.   When 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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