This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Louis Mazé.
Some of the clearest memories from our youth usually include times we got in trouble.
Victor Newman of Waco grew up amidst cowboys in West Texas. In 1923, at the age of ten, he came to live at the recently opened Waco State Home. Newman explains how the home reacted to his cowboy ways:
"Well, every time I turned around, well, somebody would grab me up and give me a spanking because of something that I said. And so finally, well, one man there, he spanked me one day. He said, ‘Do you know why I spanked you?' I says, ‘Yeah, because you're bigger than I am.' He said no. He—but they realized the language I was using was what I had heard all my life out there on the ranch. I didn't know I was saying anything wrong."
Benny Martinez of Goliad recalls getting caught in his brief life of crime in the 1940s:
"I remember once, my brother and I were stealing watermelons—and that's something we country boys did. We used to go in the river here by the rail—where the train crossed, and we were naked as a jaybird. We'd go across the river, up the hill, and we'd go down and crawl in the grass, and go in and grab a couple of watermelons. And this man had hundreds of them. And we'd crawl back and get in the river and let them cool off, and then we'd break them open, you know, and we'd eat them. And the old man told my daddy, ‘Your boys are coming over and stealing my watermelons. They think I don't see them, but I see them.' ‘I'll take care of them.'
"'I don't want you boys going over there and stealing any—' ‘No, sir.' That put an end to that. My father put that strap on me once. One time he whipped me, and that was it. He made a believer out of me. I didn't want no more of that."
Waco native Helen Geltemeyer describes a scrape she, her youngest brother, and two of his friends got themselves into in the 1930s:
"One day my brother, oldest brother, had a brand new car—Ford. And I don't know why he left it at home, but Mama had gone to town shopping. And there that car sat, so my brother decided he wanted to go out to the lake, go swimming. That's before the big lake was built."
Interviewer: "Right, right."
"I said, ‘If you go, I'll tell on you. You'll have to let me go.' He called Bubby, and he called Allah B. And we picked them up on Twentieth and then right here on Seventeenth. He got his daddy's watch. Away we went out Twenty-fifth. And at Twenty-fifth and Maple, he was turning there, and he—wasn't very smart—we turned over. (laughter) Here I was barefooted with shorts, and I was screaming. I had Bubby's watch. And they said, Helen! Helen! You're stomping me! They let me out first. Bubby said, ‘Where's my daddy's watch?' I had it just aholding on to it. Anyway, we wrecked my brother's car. We finally got somebody to get us home, and my brother left town, and I had to face the consequences. He joined the circus. It had just been here. But he came home. He saw how easy it was. And these boys were good boys. We were just going to go swimming for a little while and come back. That's why we took the watch."
Stories of getting in trouble when we were little can make good icebreakers, for we all have them in common.
Living Stories is heard every Tuesday on 103 point 3 FM Waco, NPR. For program transcripts or more information about the Institute for Oral History, visit baylor.edu/livingstories.
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