11/21/2004 Remembering history: From Silver
Lake to the tornado of 1930, Ballew tells all
Velma Ballew has been city secretary at
Frost City Hall for the
last 24 years. When the subject of Frost history comes up, she is
the person to talk to. Daily Sun photo/ SCOTT HONEA
By STEPHEN FARRIS/Daily Sun Staff
If there is anything you would like to know about the history of
Frost such as, Silver Lake, or the
tornado of 1930,
or even old businesses downtown, then all you'll need to do is talk
to Velma Ballew.
Born in South Carolina, Velma moved to Frost with her family at the
age of 13. After graduating from
Frost High School,
she went on to attend
College before marrying Robert Lynn Ballew. The couple left
Frost and moved to Houston, but soon after the birth of two
children, the Ballews decided big city living wasn't the environment
they wanted to raise their children in.
"Back then, I couldn't wait to get out of town," Ballew said.
"Houston was nice, but we decided that Frost was where we wanted to
be. We wanted our children to be close to their grandparents."
The rest, you could say, is history.
Ballew has been the city secretary for Frost over the last 24 years,
and could also carry the title of historian as well. She, and
co-worker Mary Henderson, handle all of the city's collections from
water bills to collecting fines, to building permits and property
"It's busy on a lot of days," Ballew said. "There may be times when
one or two people come in to pay their bills, and then there are
days they come in one after another."
Besides her job, Ballew has a deep love for history ... especially
Ballew remembers the reception she and her family received after
moving to Frost as a girl.
"It was very exciting, and the people here accepted us and seemed
glad to have us here," Ballew said. "That's how folks were back
then. It was always a big deal when somebody new moved to town."
Ballew learned much of the history of the town, when several of the
ladies would ask her to memorize a lot of what they told her.
"Faye McCrary told me most of it," Ballew said. "She told me about
the tornado that hit town back in 1930. Her house was hit by the
tornado, but the only damage was to the front porch."
Ballew said McCrary was lucky, but most of the town was not,
especially the downtown area.
She can tell you the story about the time the railroad built a lake
(Silver Lake) just a couple of blocks from the downtown area, and
the pavilion that used to sit where the football and baseball field
"The pavilion used to have a variety of events and had three piers
for people to fish off of," Ballew said. "There was even a man that
ran a steamboat out on the lake, and would take people on
From the bank robbery of 1935 to the tallest man to ever live in
Frost, Ballew can bring you up to date on just about any event that
took place in the town.
"It seemed that life was simple back then," Ballew said. "I do miss
talking with those who were able to tell me the stories though. I
learned a lot from those ladies growing up."
Ballew said a lot has changed in the town. There are no more small
farmers here anymore, there's only a handful of large farms left
around the community. She said even the lake has disappeared due to
the expense of keeping it cleaned out because of the dust and sand
that would build up in it.
"We had places you could buy clothes, shoes and groceries," Ballew
said. "There was even a beauty shop and a barber shop, two
pharmacies, a couple of banks, a hardware store and a lumber yard."
Ballew said most of the folks would agree, they are thankful to
still have a bank, a gas station, a school, a couple of cafes and
churches in the town.
The next time you travel on Highway 22, stop in the little community
of Frost and make sure you visit city hall. Inside you'll find
yourself virtually surrounded by the history of this once great
town, and maybe -- if there's not too many customers -- Velma Ballew
can tell you one of the many stories pasted down to her from those
who once lived to tell the tale.