Kelton Kupper
Living in Rural Texas in the 40's
Navarro County, Texas


Biography Index || Purdon Community

Living in rural Texas in the 40s

By Kelton Kupper

The distance is still the same, two and a-half miles from the turn-off Highway 31. Many times have I traveled over that distance. In the earlier days of my teen years I traveled those long miles late at night.

The Texas deep blue skies was lit up by the million of stars overhead. This was all familiar to me after the countless trips I had made into the "Big City of Corsicana, Texas."

Corsicana was the largest city and the county seat of Navarro County, in the central portion of Texas. Navarro County was named for a Hispanic Hero, the only Native Mexican to sign the Constitution of Texas demanding the freedom of Texas from Mexico.

The origin and destination of my excursion was a little hamlet of Purdon, Texas. The population of Purdon in 1950 was 365. Most of the citizens of Purdon were farmers and a few who owned and operated little businesses there. During the ‘hey-days’, Purdon had a two banks and three general stores. A blacksmith shop, post office, a bank, two doctors and a cotton gin. At one time, Purdon had a saloon. Within the "city limits" Prudon had three churches and an out-door meeting structure called a tabernacle. The tabernacle was used for various civic functions.

During the elections, mostly held during the hot summers. many politicians made their speeches there during ice cream and watermelon socials. There were many revivals held there and some very well-known evangelist of the day preached there.

My grandparents' home was located next to the tabernacle, which had a large grassy area, that was used for recreational use on non-school days. It was my job to mow that large lot. This was well before power lawn mowers. I had the push mower and it took just about all day to mow that huge lot. On Saturdays and Sunday afternoons it was the scene of a lot of good ball games.

During cotton harvest hundreds of bales of cotton were ginned and shipped to the textile miles by way of the Cotton Belt Railroad which operated a very busy depot at Purdon.

The Cotton Belt Railroad operated a passenger line as well as a freight line between St. Louis, Mo. And Waco, Texas. Families like mine who did not own an automobile had to depend on the train for transportation to Corsicana. The train arrived from Waco, which was to the west or Purdon, in the morning and it went on to Big Sandy in East Texas for a turn-around. The return trip from Corsicana was in the afternoon and it went on to Waco where it would not make another run until the next day.

I lived with my grandparents and my grandfather worked for the Cotton Belt Railroad. Our family had "free-rides" and I made the morning trip to Corsicana many times however, I had to obtain my own transportation back to Purdon in the evening. I depended upon my hitchhiking ability. And majority of the time it was only to the Farm to Market Road leading into Purdon.

Like all rural communities, the citizens of Purdon knew their neighbors all so well. As stated we had three churches in Purdon. Baptist and Methodist were located on opposite corners. Once during 1943 the Baptist Church was destroyed by fire. The Baptist congregation worshipped at the Methodist Church until the Baptist Church was rebuilt. Then the Methodist Church was torn down and the Baptist Parsonage was built with the lumber. The members of the Methodist Church began worshipping with the Baptist congregation. The Baptist members sat on one side and the Methodist sat on the other, and the ones that "didn’t know what they were" sat in the middle and the kids sat on the back pews.

In September of 1949, I was only 9 at the time; I was at the right place at the right time! I was at a local grocery store running an errand for my grandmother. A route man for the Corsicana Daily Sun, the daily newspaper in Corsicana, came in and asked the owner Mr. A.E. Bitner if he knew of any young boy who would be interested in delivering the paper in Purdon. I saw this a chance to have a JOB.

My employment started with that meeting. I started with nine papers to deliver. In three years, when I left Purdon I had built my route up to 35 families. When I started I received a monthly sum of ten dollars and when I left I was making a total of thirty dollars. I wore out three American Rider bikes. But during that time I was able to buy a television set. I think we were the third family in Purdon to have a television set and I thought we were wealthy.

Since I had a job of paperboy I had money to buy my jeans and I did not have to pick cotton during the terrible hot Texas summers. Before this I had to pick cotton at a nickel a pound or wear the bib-overalls that my grandmother bought me. I sure was glad to get out of those overalls.

Kelton Kupper is a retired Texas history teacher who is still teaching and extoling the virtues of Texas.

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© Copyright March, 2009
Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox