Walton Remembers Childhood in 1920s - 30s Alameda & Cheaney Communities
By Jeff Clark

Walton Homeplace - Log cabin with two plank wings and large plank house added later (Minnie Walton)

I had the pleasure of meeting Minnie Walton in Mineral Wells yesterday. Walton grew up in the Cheaney and Alameda communities, graduating Alameda High School April 28, 1933.

Like most, she apologized for her not-always-perfect memory, then proceeded to put my memory to shame. Walton attended first grade at Alameda, then grades two - seven at the Cheaney School. Walton remembers the Cheaney school as a one room building, with a movable partition wall separating the room into two spaces. Mr. Stephens or Stephenson was the teacher. Myrta Love (Mrs. Johnny Love) was a teacher for two years. Apparently the Alameda Trustees successfully talked her momma into her attending Alameda again in the eighth grade with the promise of a bus ride.

Alameda's school was convenient from the Walton place. She could hear first bell from their house. The homeplace was across Highway 571 from the last Alameda School site, west of the Tucker place and north across CR 488 from the Ollie Pilgrim Store.

Walton remembered with a smile when Alameda and Cheaney schools consolidated. Both school buildings were moved across the road from the Walton place. The Cheaney building was placed on the north, or 'Cheaney' side. The Alameda building was moved to the 'Alameda', or south side of the same campus. Community feelings were raw with some about the consolidation.

Times were hard. Students could buy six photos of themselves for twenty-five cents. She and her siblings passed on that, because that money could be used for food. The large photo of the entire school class cost one dollar, but in 1933 it too was out of the question for a family pulling together. Later in life, she came back and borrowed a friend's all-school photo, which she had copied. She generously donated a copy to the project.

Walton grew up in a log house, later expanded with plank rooms on two sides. Later a plank room that appears in the photo as a second building was added. The house survived into the 1940s. The house had a loft above the log room where the boys slept. Water originally came from a cistern. Later a well with clear water was dug northwest of their house. Her uncle Joe Tucker helped dig the well. A trough that held the drawn water was built to pass under the fence facing the Alameda Road (now Hwy 571) so both the family and the community could draw water.

Her grandfather George Washington Love (1852-1927), moved to the Cheaney Community from East Texas, following some of his children who had moved to Eastland County earlier. Three Love boys ended up marrying three Tucker girls (the Tucker place was next door). Joe Tucker was her grandpa's favorite son in law, as he seemed to help with everything. Miss Walton's parents were William "Willie" Everett Walton and Martha Margaret Love Walton, though everyone called her Mattie. William and Mattie married at the Love home in Cheaney in 1915. Minnie Walton was ten months old when her father died of pneumonia in 1918. Mattie was left with two babies and one on the way.

About this same time Miss Walton's grandmother started having health problems - falling and getting hurt. She had been taking strychnine pills hoping to get better. Her grandmother burned herself on coffee badly when she fell one time. Her granddad said to her mom Mattie that they were both in a fix, so if she'd help him, he'd help her. And they did. That went on until the time around World War II. Typhoid fever was sometimes called "the slow fever" back then.

The Waltons farmed peanuts like most of the community. Although times were tough and they had no money, she said they never went hungry because of the vegetable garden, having eggs, milk, and hogs.

She remembers the Alameda Cemetery workings as one of the big community events of her childhood. Those gatherings still go on each May, the last gathering of these communities drawing descendents from around the nation.

Miss Walton recalls with fondness playing with the Melton children. Their place was across the road. The\ Meltons moved just to the south when the schools consolidated, as their first home was where the schools were moved to. The kids were Curtis, Velma, L.C. "Ziti", J. P. and Otis. Their dad was Lonzo.

Walton went to school with a little girl named Minnie Bell Browning, who she thought was an only child. It was about Minnie Bell's sixth birthday and all she wanted was a gold fish. She did get a gold fish in a round bowl. She took care of it carefully and it grew and grew. Well, it got so big, that they decided to put it outside in the water trough.

Apparently, there were already some fish in the horse trough and they began having babies. It got to where there were more and more fish. So her dad built a great big fish tank on the back side of their house. He enclosed it for safety reasons, of course.

Years went by and the fish stayed. But the girl grew up, got married and went away. She married David Joseph "Oby" Elrod. One Mothers Day she returned to her childhood home, with all the family, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. Minnie Bell had one small child, a boy - he was maybe four years old. There were lots of older children there and they were back checking out all the fish and the tank during this Mothers Day afternoon. But as the big kids moved on to other things, they left the gate enclosing the tank open. Minnie Bell's young son managed to get in and climb up to the top of the tank. He fell in and drowned.

Even now it is a hard story to hear. A young loving mother, on Mothers Day, her only child, dead, with the fish she loved and raised from when she was a small child.

Miss Walton remembers the community fondly, and the good times and friends that she enjoyed as a girl there. jdclark3312@aol.com


1933 Alameda School Photo (Minnie Walton)