A BENEFIT of membership in the Texas Folklore Society is that you receive a hardbound copy of the annual book it produces. The most recent one is titled First Timers and Old Timers: The Texas Folklore Society Fire Burns On.
Of special interest to me because of my friendship with the late Archie McDonald and his wife Judy was his contribution, an essay titled Back Then.
Holder of a Ph.D in history from LSU, Dr. McDonald taught history at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches for many years. SFA named him Regents and Distinguished Alumni Professor and awarded him every other honor it had available.
HE WAS executive director of the East Texas Historical Association, among many other academic connections.
Archie wrote a column that this newspaper was privileged to publish weekly through 2012. He was so efficient that he prepared his column and his Red River Radio commentaries well in advance— this despite suffering a long illness that brought about his death last August.
BACK THEN will be informative to younger generations, but it rings special bells for those of us old enough to remember World War II.
Archie recalled being an elementary school student in Beaumont on Dec. 7, 1941, the Sunday afternoon when his living room radio announced the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He wondered why his grandmother wept softy and his mother and aunt looked strained.
THE NEXT four years provided more vivid memories, and the author asked.
Do you remember?
When ration books issued by the Office of Price Administration provided stamps needed to buy such items as shoes and sugar, among others.
Windshield stickers on cars and trucks indicated the amount of gasoline that could be bought (at 15 cents a gallon).
Kids filled books with 10-cent stamps and when the book was full they got an $18.75 war bond that would be worth $25 in 10 years.
Scrap drives collected everything from rubber to all metals, newspapers, even animal fat saved from cooking.
When the siren sounded, houses had to be blacked out in case German bombers were on the way.
“What I don’t remember is much complaining about these inconveniences. America had a different vision, then,” Archie opined.
He remembers the world of Vacation Bible School he was introduced to at Burkeville, a sawmill community in Newton County.
HE TELLS OF his conversation with a physician friend when they pondered the changes they had seen in one lifetime — from parents who began with real horses for transportation to seeing Neil Armstrong televised walking on the moon. And there were other such advances.
A touching song from the 1938 musical, Knickerbocker Holiday, provided a valediction for Archie.
One line goes, “Oh it’s a long, long while, from May to December, but the days grow short, when you reach September.”
To which Archie responded:
“Those bright hopes of May, career dreams that led so inevitably but too often misleadingly to owning your own company or a big house on the hill . . . are, by September, actualized or forgotten amid daily struggles that make Friday a more attainable goal than any December.”