GROWING UP IN FARMERS BRANCH
By Betty Lou (Stanley) Dennis
I was born April 4, 1932, in
the St. Paul Hospital on San Jacinto Street in Dallas. My parents (A. L. “Son” & Goldie Belle Stanley) lived in
a very small house on top of a hill just west of my grandparents John & Emma
Stanley. The house belonged to my great grandparents W. H. & C. Stanley. This
house was located just west of Farmers Branch & the Trinity River on Keenan
Bridge Rd. which is now Valley View Lane.
Grandma Stanley had 200
acres which went to the Trinity River. Grandpa was a farmer & he raised cotton,
corn & feed for his cattle. Grandma raised chickens & turkeys. She also had
guinea’s & ducks. At Thanksgiving Grandma would kill & dress turkeys for her
customers, which most lived in Highland Park. She also sold eggs & butter to
Both my parents worked & I
lived with my grandparents during the week. My parents bought a 2 room house in
the city of Farmers Branch after I was born. I’m not sure what year maybe 1932
or 1933. Daddy would come to get me on Friday afternoon so I could spend time
with them & go to church on Sunday. Both my parents would take me back to
Grandma’s on Sunday after church. Usually all my aunts & uncles would be there
for dinner. I really loved living with my Grandmother. Aunt Grace, Uncle Dick
& Aunt “Bill” were still at home at that time.
Aunt Ressie was married to Ray
Thompson at that time &Uncle Harris was off working, he didn’t marry until
later. He later married Myrtle Hodge.
At night after we ate supper & all the
chores were done, we would sit on the porch & Uncle Dick would tell me
stories. We would watch the flying red horse go round & round on top of
the Magnolia Bldg. in downtown Dallas. We had a perfect view from the front
porch. Grandpa raised cotton & when it was time to pick the cotton, Grandma
would make me a cotton sack out of a 10 pound flour sack so I could pick
cotton. I think she did that just to keep me busy. There was no water in the
house so we would carry buckets of water from the windmill to drink, cook & for
bathes. I carried water in a syrup bucket because the big buckets were too
heavy for me. In the summer there were lots of bees around the windmill & I
would be barefooted & got stung so much I had no feeling on the bottom of my
feet. Grandpa bought & sold cattle & when he would have calves I would get in
the pen with them & play. It sure did hurt when they stepped on my feet & I
would get mad at them. Dick would go out to milk the cows & “Old Betsy” would
slap him in the face with her tail or try to kick him. He would tie her tail to
the feeding trough so she couldn’t hit him with it. Monday was wash day, if it
wasn’t raining or too cold. Grandma washed in an iron pot & used lye soap that
she made. She built a fire under the pot so the water was real hot. She used a
rub board & a big stick to stir the clothes, after washing them she would rinse
the clothes in two #3 wash tubs. Then would hang them on the clothesline to
dry. She would use a flat iron that she heated on the stove to iron her
clothes. There was only one room in the house that was heated & that was the
dining room. It had a wood burning stove that we would all sit around in the
winter time. Grandma had a very large round dining table that the whole family
could sit around it to eat. There was an old leather couch that made a bed for
company to sleep on. There was a living room & one bedroom on the front which
faced south, another bedroom on the west side, a small room by the kitchen to
take bathes & had a slop jar, this was on the north side. There was a small
screened in porch in back of the kitchen & that is where the ice box was kept.
Out back (north) was a smoke house where all the meat from the hogs was kept.
That is where Grandpa took his bath in the summer. I would carry water from the
windmill in my little bucket & put it in a #3 wash tub outside the smokehouse
for the sun to heat it so he could take his one summer bath. (I’m not kidding,
he only took one bath in the summer that I can remember). There was an outhouse
north of the smokehouse.
There was a water tank just
west of the house & there was an old car that I would go out & play in, I was
pretending to drive & there is no telling where I thought I might go. I’m
really surprised that I didn’t get snake bit doing that. I always had dogs,
cats, & pigs to play with. One time Uncle Dick & I had gone to Farmers Branch
for something & on our way home we found a dog & litter of pups on the side of
the road by the old iron bridge. Someone had thrown them out so we stopped &
picked them up & took them home with us. I don’t remember how many pups she had
but I got to keep one. He was black with a white under his neck. I named him “Whitie”.
He became very protective of me, Grandma never had to worry about me because he
was always right beside me. I could wonder all over the farm & Grandma never
worried about something happening to me. He also would protect her. If a
traveling salesman came by he would stand between them. One time I got in
trouble for something & my Daddy was going to whip me & I told “Whitie” to get
him & he tore the shirt off Daddy’s back. I never did that again because I
really got a whipping then.
In the fall of 1938 I started to school in
Farmers Branch. Aunt Bill Stanley would come & stay with us. I stayed with the
Tracy’s after my Aunt Bill got married to James “Art” Daniel. When I got a
little older Mother & Daddy would let me stay by myself or with my Uncle Ray
Thompson, when it rained & he couldn’t work. He was always cleaning out his
garage & would tell me to bring my little red wagon over & I could have the junk
he cleaned out. My Daddy hated that, because then he had to get rid of the junk
that I would bring home.
My Aunt Ressie Stanley
Thompson was my first grade teacher. Miss Angie Butler 2nd, Miss
Margaret Houston 3rd, I skipped the 4th grade, Mrs.
Barksdale 5th, Margaret Johnston 6th, Mrs. Hartline 7th
& Mrs. Lois Rush 8th. We had a coal stove that heated the school.
The school was a red brick bldg. & was 2 stories. There were 8 classrooms.
There were 4 class rooms downstairs & 4 upstairs. The auditorium was upstairs.
We had a coat closet downstairs where we kept our coats & our lunches that we
brought from home. The lunch room was out in back
of the school. Mrs. Rowe & Mrs. Cox ran the lunch room, They served sandwiches,
chips & milk, chocolate milk & orange juice. Drinks cost 3 cents each. We had
to go back to our classrooms to eat our lunch. Most of the kids brought a sack
lunch. Aunt Ressie bought my lunch most of the time. Marshalleen’s mother made
the best vienna sausage sandwiches & I would try to trade her for them. We had
slides, a merry-go-round & swings to play on out back.
We didn’t have a library at
school so the county would send a special truck out with books & we could check
out books. They would come back & get them. We called it our library on wheels.
My second grade teacher, Miss Butler would check out a lot of books & we would
walk to her house down on Old Denton Road & check them out from her. She had a
pet squirrel & we could feed him pecans.
We had two county supervisors
that would come out & check the progress that our school was making. We wrote
letters to these two ladies, Ms, Mosley & Ms. Watkins. At the end of school we
would get writing certificates if we did a real good job writing. We learned
cursive writing in the 1st grade. We had reading groups & each group
would have a name. In health we would always talk about what we had for
At Christmas we would have a
special party in the auditorium & Santa would always come. He would give us
fruit & nuts & Miss Butler would give us a candy cane. Everyone was always
happy, that is all some children would get for Christmas. We always had a play
at the end of the school year. In the second grade we were Mother Goose
characters. Sometimes for a field trip we
would go to Carrollton to see a special movie at the
Plaza Theatre, which was on
the west side of the square at that time.
We had to go outback to the
outdoor toilets. There was no running water in the school, we had a water
fountain in the front parking lot at school & that is where we would go to get
water. In the winter when it would freeze we brought water from home in a fruit
jar. No air conditioners so the windows had to be raised in the spring &
summer. Marshalleen Shafer, Sammie Jo Davis and I spent many hours together all
during our school years. I must have walked at least 2
miles up hill in the snow to get to school. I would ride my sled or scooter
down hill to go home. (just kidding). (I might have walked 3 blocks).
I learned how to ride a bike when I was 9.
A neighbor, J.B. Smith was older than me but he would let me ride his boy’s
bike. I think I mostly rode in the ditch in front of our house. I would run
into the fence too. When I finally could stay out of the ditch, Daddy bought me
a brand new boys bike for my 10th birthday. That is what I
wanted because I had learned to ride a boys bike. Charline “Tiny” Cox & I rode
a many a mile on my bike. She didn’t have one so she road on the handle bars of
my bike. My cousin Ravanna May lived just east of us on the south east corner
of Vintage & Goodland. I would go by her house in the mornings to walk with her
to school. She had a play house in the shed next to the garage. We played many
hours together. Some times she wouldn’t let me be boss & I would get mad & go
home. We were both only children at that time. (We were both spoiled). I was 11
years old when my sister Dana Sue was born in 1943 and 13 when my sister Linda
Donnell was born in 1945.
I started learning to drive
when I was 11 years old. I would back the old 32 Chevy out of the shed out to
the street & then back in again. I did that until Daddy would let me drive on
the street. I was probably 13 by then.
I learned to cook when I was 10 because
Mother worked. I would go to Mrs. Corbitt’s grocery store & buy a can of corn,
can of peas, & some kind of meat & have supper ready when Daddy & Mother got home. I would
usually make cornbread. The first time I cooked for them it scared them to
death because our cook stove was kerosene & I had to light it with a match. I
guess I must have done ok because I never blew the house up. Back in those days
we had a charge account at Mrs. Corbitt’s store & the
My parents bought a house on
Vintage Street which backed up to our 2 room house, & it had 3 rooms & a back
porch. The back porch was screened in & we could sleep out there. In the winter
Daddy would put canvas around & if it wasn’t too cold we could still sleep out
there. We had a living room bedroom, kitchen & a back porch. Most of the time I
slept in the living room. I never missed taking a daily bath but I had to heat
water on the stove & take a bath in a #3 wash tub until we got an oblong tub.
Lots of times I would go to Aunt Ressie’s because they had indoor plumbing & I
could take a bath in a big tub. We had no indoor plumbing. We did have
running water in the house. We got indoor plumbing in the summer of 1948. We
got natural gas , water heater & bathroom built on the house after my Daddy
died in 1948. Mother used the insurance money to build on. She had the back
porch made into a kitchen. Then we had a living room, 2 bedrooms, kitchen &
bathroom. I really thought we were up town then.
Farmers Branch had four grocery stores, a
post office, depot, water tower, ice house & Fred Marsh’s Garage (called Good
Garage then). The men would hang out at
Fred Marsh’s . There was Corbitt
Grocery, Putnam’s Grocery (later Templins), Brown’s Grocery & McClary’s
Grocery. In the back of McClarys was the Post Office.
Mrs. Butts was the
Farmers Branch has the oldest
Cemetery in Dallas County [Keenan
Cemetery]. Most all my kinfolks are buried there. Also there
was a creek that ran behind the school & cemetery. That was where the boys swam
in the swimming hole. I never got to go swimming there because I couldn’t swim,
besides I was a girl & only the boys went swimming there. There were grapevines
to swing on over the swimming hole.
In fall of 1945 I went to
Carrollton High School in Carrollton. We would catch the bus at Templin’s
Grocery Store. In high school I got to know lots of new people that lived in
Addison, Coppell, Field City, Blue Bank, Letot & many other small towns around.
I even met kin folks that I didn’t know until then. I found out you better be
careful who you talked about because most people were kin. I graduated from
Carrollton High School in 1949.
I really don’t remember the depression
because I always had plenty. I guess we were all poor and really didn’t know we
were. I have many fond memories of my childhood in Farmers Branch. Those were
the good old days.