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W. H. Dodson

Source: Dodson File, Herman Brown Free Library

Oral History Transcript

My parents moved here because the land had gotten where it wouldn't produce where they were. My father had a brother who lived in Coleman County. I remember a story I'd bet a lot of people out there don't know about. There was a train robbery west of Coleman junction. For men held up the train at Wildcat tank (along the railroad tracks they had to have water tanks for the engine). They took the mail car and baggage car off the train and went about one-half mile away where they have some horses hidden. They took what they wanted and rode off. Well, the sheriff caught them and put the men the in jail in Coleman. Someone furnished them a saw and they cut the bars and got out. Three of them got out, but the other was too fat. The took off toward Brady but were caught again, and I suppose wound up in the penitentiary. On the east side of the Coleman jail there's a patch of steel over that hole, and I bet you $500 there's not 25 people in Coleman who knew if it's there. It's on the backside, and so few of them would have seen it. The jail break was about 1900. I think I can remember, but I may have just been told so many times, but I can just see those sheets that they tore up and hung down to get out of the second story. There was a flood in 1900 that drowned nine people early one morning out by Coleman.
We moved to Burnet in 1902 to and I started school in the old building, the one before the one the tornado took. There was one building for the whole school and it was that way when I graduated in 1910. There were eight and my graduating class. Professor had a private school over in the next block. He was quite a teacher. Tom Cheatham, Ruth Lamon, (she married Louis Chamberlain), Helen Knox, and I are the ones still living from my class. I Think we've learned some good moral lessons then in addition to the regular studies, things that are missing from today's schools. Prof. Brown was the superintendent. He later went to Austin and worked for the school administration. Miss Florence Sly, who married a man in Colorado, was a fine teacher. My brother Ed taught the seventh grade.
During the last year in high school we had a case of diphtheria. Helen Knox's brother died, after he had exposed everybody in school. When it was realized that everyone was exposed, they suspended school for two weeks. I lived right across the railroad from Mr. Foster who was the section foreman. He asked me if I'd like to work and I said I'll try. So he told me to come over the next morning and we'd go out on the hand car. I took my lunch with me and we pumped that handcar out about 3 miles. There were three white man and want Mexican and the crew. We worked 10 or 12 hours. I was give out before we even pumped the car back. I worked for $1.25 a day for two weeks. Ordinary shoes cost $2 or $2.50 then; 48 lb sack of flour I think was $1.50. You could hit 20 lbs. of sugar for dollar. Most of a flower came from Fort Worth or Wichita, Kan.
My wife was born and raised at Naruna. She came here to go to high school. I was working at the drugstore and I guess I met her then. But I was on the wrong side of the soda fountain. I was dispensing it instead of sitting with her. I worked for Roy Fry drug at the time. Later I became partners with Mr. Albrittain, for 11 years.
When I finish high school I was on my own from then on. I had my first store-bought white dress shirt when I graduated. We didn't have such a big program for graduation: a man gave us a speech and the superintendent who gave us our diplomas. It wasn't a social affair because none of us could afford that and didn't really have clothes to wear to something like that. There were about 1000 people in the town of Burnet then. It was mainly agriculture and there were lots of cedar posts sold. There were lots of small farms at that time, but when labor got too high and people bought machinery, the little farms couldn't take it.
When I got out of high school I was working for Mr. Michel over in Marble Falls at his drugstore, for a few years. A Mr. Phillips had a store in Marble Falls and one in Kingsland. He asked a takeover the place in Kingsland and Dr. Moore got me a permit to fill his prescriptions. I went back looking through some old papers not long ago and ran across that permit. Then they called us in to Austin and gave us an examination consisting of 12 questions. Lots of those men had been practicing pharmacy all their lives and had never had a certificate or anything, because nothing was required. The permit was stamped in purple ink across the front of the regular certificate. Later on they sent us a strip to paste over it (so we had a standard certificate). That stated 9-12-1912. Some where I have a copy of those examination questions.
I stayed at a school four years and decided I wasn't doing any good that way, so went to the University two years. Later on I married and worked the drugstore in Santa Ana. My wife's father got sick and we had to take over the place out there so we stayed about 15 years.
My first car was in 1919 Model T, with the crank, but it had a starter too. Michel and Metzger made a contract to Ford Motor Co. to sell 53 automobiles in a year and Burnet County territory. That's about the time country people began to buy automobiles, and they were practically all Model T's.


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