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Memories of a first vehicle:1937 Ford
Mike Caddell PHS60 remembers:
- I think the Great Depression was probably the main defining factor
in our parents' lives. They all suffered and worked long hard hours
just to stay alive and to have enough food to eat. They also worked
hard to provide better lives for us, their children. Their hard work
and frugality managed to rub off on most of us to a certain extent. We
probably passed a little of that on to our own children too, but it
seems that each successive generation feels less impact from those great
defining movements such as the depression and the two world wars that
our parents and grandparents suffered through.
My mom worked in a laundromat while my dad was in college, making 50
cents a day for long hard hours doing strenuous physical labor. She
mainly washed clothes on an old-fashioned scrub board all day long.
Dad ran an ice wagon when he wasn't in classes at North Texas State.
The ice wagon was an old wooden wagon pulled by a horse, which hauled
300-pound cakes of ice to merchants around Denton. He told me that part
of Denton is very hilly and his greatest struggles were in keeping those
huge cakes of ice from sliding off the ice wagon when going up some of
those steep hills in town.
Mom would get flour sacks from my grandparents and various relatives
and would make her dresses and Dad's shirts from those sacks. Nearly
all of their clothes were home-made and all of their food was raised by
them or by relatives on farms in the Panhandle. Everyone knew how to
can food and preserve food for future meals in those days.
When Mom and Dad moved to Borger in early 1941, they lived in a
one-room shack in Borger near 10th and Main, where I was born. Dad had
just started to work for Phillips as a chemist but there weren't any
houses available in Phillips camp yet so they had to rent a shack in
Borger until they could get a camp house.
Around 1951 or '52 Dad went to Mr. Ostrom and asked him if he had
any jobs that his 10-year old son could do and Mr. Ostrom told Dad that he
could always use another circular delivery boy. So, I delivered
Ostrom's Grocery circulars and eventually worked my way up to the "Long
Street Route". This was every street off of Phillips Avenue from about
Bryan Hampton's house all the way to Bobby Roland's house. I got $1.50
for doing the Long Street route.
When I was 12 I started sacking groceries in Ostrom's but there was
a child labor law then that said employees had to be at least 14 years
old. I was big for my size and told Mr. Ostrom that I was 14. I made a
HUGE $5.00 for working the 10 hours on Saturdays, until Mrs. Pierce
(Dixie's mom, the head clerk) got mad at me one Saturday and made Mr.
Ostrom fire me. When I started at Ostrom's was when I signed up for
Not content to have me not working on Saturdays, Dad went to Whites'
Auto Store down on North Main in Borger, and bought one of the first
gasoline powered mowers in our neighborhood. He then had me go to all the
neighbors and offer to mow their yards for a dollar a week. Mr.
Boninger and Mr. Lewis, the two houses at the end of North Lemp street,
were my main customers (everyone else had kids of their own who mowed).
I also got to do Mr. McKenna's yard a couple of times each summer, but
he spread that around to a lot of kids in the neighborhood. Mr. McKenna
(the Phillips plant supervisor) paid a huge $5 per mowing.
When I got my drivers license at the tender age of 14 (hard to
believe we could do that then), Dad bought a 1937 Ford flatbed pickup
from Clayton Conklin, paying $45 for it. It was a rusted out piece of
junk but it did run. It didn't have a title or license plates and I had
to be careful when driving it anywhere but around Phillips and on back
roads. I painted the fenders black and the body red with paint from
our garage and an old brush Mom provided me. The truck was rusted pretty
badly, and the braces that held the fenders against movement had rusted
The fenders were pretty floppy and when you drove down a bumpy road they
bounced all over the place. Dad said that my old truck moved like Elvis,
ended up naming it "Elvis".
Dad took me out in that pickup and showed me some old piles
cable on various oil leases around Phillips. Apparently when they were
cable-drilling in the 30's if a spool of cable got tangled it was just
push the whole spool off the truck and start over with a new unsnarled
That cable was just allowed to sit out in that dry climate and slowly rust
Dad gave me a hacksaw and put me to cutting the cable into 6' lengths
hauled up to the scrap yard in Borger, carefully avoiding heavily traveled
streets, where I sold it as scrap iron. I made about $2/day for really
hard labor and it was dirty too.
It was those hard times that instilled in our parents a sense of
pride in hard work and independence. Maybe we have failed to pass
enough of that on to our own children. I know I just wanted my son to
have an easier life than we had growing up in the shadow of the
depression and during the four years of the second world war.
Mike's truck, 'Elvis', looked like
this before he painted it.
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updated: 22 June 2013