Hazel Lenora Spradling

As Interviewed by Emerson S., March 16, 2012

Hazel Lenora Spradling: In Her Own Words

My name is Hazel Lenora Spradling. I was a McGee before. I was born April 18, 1924. I grew up in different places; it was during the Depression and we had to move around to work. We worked in fields and places. It was hard, but we had a large family and we were generally happy, but it was depressed during that time. It was hard to get a job. I had four sisters and eight brothers. We all lived together and I was considered in the oldest bunch because I was the sixth child. Then, some of my brothers had to go to a working place where the president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, sent them to get jobs because it was hard Ė it was a government program and they paid them so much a month to work and they built dams and take care of the trees and all that kind of stuff. We usually had some kind of vehicle, car. We had Fords mostly, I think, or Chevrolets. When we were on the farm we would use a wagon and mules to go around to move stuff. My daddy worked with an old plow that a mule pulled, and he would plow up the land and plant stuff. He didnít have a tractor or anything like that. It would take hours and hours to do that. I would chop cotton and weed it out. You would go for rows and rows. Iíd work from like sun up, take off an hour for lunch, and work till sun down. I was just very young when I did that. It was simple [laugh], but it was tiring. And, we worked in the hot sun and would have somebody bring water out in the field. We worked with everybody; we worked with Hispanics and blacks. We all worked together in the fields. A lot of people shared their crops they grow, but we mainly worked for somebody else because it was much more, I donít know, simpler I suppose. We lived in Cameron most of my life, Cameron, Texas. We lived in Marble Falls for a while, but that was just from moving around, and Menard. I was born in Gonzales County but moved away when I was nine. Cameron was the place we mostly went to. So, there was a man who was real rich and he would hire us. He was a real nice man to work for.

What type of meals did you normally have and was there much variety in the type of food your family ate?
Not much variety, but we had enough I suppose. Except one year when the Depression had gotten so bad. We lived in the country and we had to cut down trees and saw them and sell them. We would get about $2.50 a week and then Daddy would buy bread and we would just have milk and that would be one meal [stopped for a moment to compose herself]. Then we moved back into Cameron and we had never asked for anything, in fact we didnít know you could get anything, but my mother went and for three months they called it relief and they would give you like canned beef and cheese and stuff. My daddy got a job with the WPA, a government planned thing, so he worked on that and we didnít take it anymore because we didnít want to take it. My sister she went to a thing called National Youth Association and she worked and helped. R.D. and Red [real name was Guy] and Cecil, when they went in, they got $25 dollars to send back home each one, but they werenít in it at the same time, so that helped. We went to school; I was a little younger, so I was going to school. [We ate] like beans and potatoes. If we were stationary, like we would stay some place awhile, we would have a cow, a couple cows and chickens, may be a hog or something. Momma would make butter out of the milk. You would churn it like this. You would have a stick and the butter would come to the top and she would take it out. We would eat that and you would have buttermilk from that. Then, she would make biscuits; she made homemade bread, light bread; stuff like cookies out of what she had. Because mostly we had flour, beans, and potatoes and she had to keep them in a big can because usually we lived in an old house where things could come in and that would be to protect our stuff. We didnít have an icebox, we didnít have a radio, we didnít have a telephone; we didnít have anything. We might be way out in the country. Daddy would go to town like on a Saturday to buy the groceries after he worked. Thatís what we would have to use those cans to put all that stuff in to keep. You couldnít keep milk long, but we usually drank it - so many of us anyway. She [momma] had a cabinet that had a screen wire on it and she would set it where it could get air and she would take wet clothes and try to keep it cool enough so it would last a day at least.

What kind of home did you live in?
We had floors. At one time we went to pick cotton and so they would have to give you a place to live so we lived in a long building like a barn almost, but just a long barn that had dirt floors. We picked cotton there. All of us were home then; cause we were very young. I donít know how old I was probably ten or twelve something like that.

Do you remember how rich/poor you were?
I guess we were considered poor from the money we made. We didnít feel so poor. I never thought of me being different. Of course, there were middle class people that might have some more, not much more, than I have right now. They called them middle class and there would be the rich, rich ones. Of course, the rich people had the jobs usually who you would have to work for. How they acquired their richness I donít know. Once I went to West Texas to pick cotton. My uncle had a place. The sandstorms would come in. He had a house and it wasnít tight maybe it was cracked. We would get into bed and the sand would sift down into the bed. It would be sandy.

How did people judge you because you were poor?
They may have judged me, not in front of me so much but they had their class and went to certain things. I didnít usually have the clothes to go to all those things. I never put myself in a position to worry about it; I just didnít worry about it. We went to school. They were all nice in school. They may have had more. Back then there were so many that didnít have anything. We lived in our neighborhood where the poor peopled lived. It was kind of mixed Ė there wasnít any class or anything. I remember there was an elderly black lady that lived just a little way up from me and she sat out on her porch and I would talk to her. She was telling me about being born, when she was a little girl during slave days, but then she got out of that. I donít know if she ever knew who I was. I donít think she could see very well, but I would sit out and talk to her all the time. She was sitting out there by herself. I just donít remember so much people being so being bad then as some other places might have been. Where we lived might have been a better thing. As far as rich people, some of them thought they were, you know, special maybe. A lot of times when we started school they would want to pick on you because we went to a different school until you took up for yourself and then they were always friendly after that. They [the wealthier] had their own friends you know. Sometimes the boys would like to fight Ė they like pickiní and fightiní and such. After that they would become friends. It was my first year going to school and Cecil and I were in the same room but they had different grades. Like I was in first and he was in second. We met some boys there and when we were living in Cameron they werenít wealthy, but had more than we did. They were going to A&M College and they came by and we all recognized each other and were really nice to us. They remembered us. Some of them were not that nice or anything. Some had better clothes. I think one reason we had it tough because there were so many of us [in our family]. We all worked; we might have had it better than them. When the depression came they were in just in that [wealthier] position.

Were the migrant workers you worked with mostly white? If not, what other races where there? Were the other races treated differently than the white workers? Can you think of anyone in your life that thought differently about other races than what most white people thought of them at the time?
Mostly the poor white, Hispanics and the blacks would work in the fields together. We worked for this man; he didnít make a difference really [in who you were]. His maid was black and she passed away. She had a son. They lived with him. He took her son and sent him to college. He [the son] was kind of over us in a way. He was real educated. Some people were real good and some were mean. It was in their nature for some people to be mean. I never thought nothing about it really. We are just really together but it doesnít seem like in that town. They didnít go to school because they were segregated then. Hispanics did go to school with us in a little town of Leesville. We were around blacks more than we were Hispanics at that time except when we lived in the country down here below Gonzales. Blacks had a separate school. Blacks lived in a separate part of town, but we lived in that part of town at one time. We came back and there was a house to rent. We were by a railroad. We all just spoke and went on. If they wanted anything or borrow anything or if we need anything they would help us and we would help them. I donít think they were as discriminated so much against with poor people. There was a group of people who belonged to a secret organization that would do most of the stuff like that. I remember we lived by a [black] church and they had beautiful music. I donít think they would have cared if we had come into their church. We would sit out late in the afternoon and they would have church and have singing. It would be beautiful spiritual music.

We would go buy gas and I never I noticed it before until I was seven or eight and I had never seen it before. There was a water fountain and water fountain there. One said 'white' and the other said 'colored.' Thatís when I noticed it, but I didnít understand it. When I came to Austin the lady I lived with I never heard of it, which my parents never said anything about it or know anything about it. She was angry because a black man came to her front door and she said he was to have come to the back door. I never heard of that. I was eighteen, and thatís when daddy and I got married and we lived on East 8th close to town. Thatís when I noticed it. It may have been in small towns, but I didnít notice it. The blacks walk around the streets and stuff. I speak to them when I knew them. We would go to work all on one truck or something and we would come back together. There might've been other people that did [discriminated], but it [race] didnít mean anything to me. I thought of all of us the same. I didnít like that; I didnít think that was right.

What about clothing?
Mainly in the summer we didnít buy shoes. We would buy a pair of shoes to go to school [in the Fall] and they would last through the summer to work in. Then we would buy another pair. There was a Jewish man in Cameron and he would buy out a lot of stores so he had fairly cheap prices. My daddy would go there and deal with him and we could get clothes. He was really nice to us. I guess they did give us [government assistance] some clothes. I wouldnít wear them because everybody had the same type of clothes. They knew you were on welfare. I didnít want anyone to know that I was on welfare. We were only on it for 3 months. They gave my mother some dresses and shoes. They were good clothes; they were pretty. I just wore what I had.

The black people usually would stay in an area by themselves. They would have houses and plant gardens. They would have milk from cows. They would pick fresh vegetables from their gardens. Sometimes they would give us some if they had extra. We would plant gardens when we would stay at one place for a long time.