I went to East Texas State University in Commerce Texas in 1976. I lived in the dorms only for as long as I had to. I moved out after my freshman year and moved into a house with a fellow art student named Joe. We had a wonderful landlady……Mrs. George. Mrs. George was in her 90’s and she was amazing.
My roommate and I would host legendary dance parties at our house. We would roll back the rugs, push back the furniture, make “trash can punch” and invite art and music students; spin our favorite vinyl and dance into the wee hours. Mrs. George always loved to come to our parties. She would sit there and drink some whiskey and say, “I love watching young people enjoy themselves.”
Mrs. George lived directly back behind us and she had a makeshift fence that separated her yard from ours. The fence was made from all sorts of wood she had picked up and dragged home from her daily walks. There in the fence was a board that had been a sign. It said, “Mrs. Duvall’s Dance Studio.” We borrowed that sign and put it out on our fence with a light on it the night of our April Fool’s Dance. Everyone loved the sign……well pretty much everyone.
That night Mrs. George came and enjoyed seeing the young people enjoying themselves. After having a whiskey, we walked her home. “Thank you for letting me come…now go back and enjoy yourselves,” she told us before closing the door.
Not long after Mrs. George went home, our house was surrounded by the Commerce Police Department. Because we had signs on the front and back door that said, “Welcome, come on in” the police walked right in the front and back door. No need for a warrant when there is an invitation posted on the door.
Standing in the middle of our living room the Commerce Police Chief yelled out, “Who lives here?” My room mate and I stepped forward.
We answered, “Yes sir, what can we help you with…….were we being too loud? We will be glad to turn the music down.”
The police chief said, “You don’t have a permit to post a sign or run a dance studio.”
We tried to explain that it was a joke……you know, April Fool’s Day.
But the Police chief was not amused and wasn’t having any part of it………”You don’t have a permit,” he bellowed again.
“Well sir, we’ll take it down right away,” I said. My room mate and I just turned around, walked out and to our dismay the police chief and his officers followed us right out the backdoor. Surrounded by the police, we took down the sign and they left.
As we went out the backdoor, everyone else fled out the front door.
Mrs. George was furious and preceded to call up the police chief and chewed him out for spoiling our party.
Coming to Texas in a covered wagon in the late 1800’s
Mrs. George lived a fascinating life and the change she experienced would have been enough to write many a book. My roommate and I use to go sit on her front porch with her. She would pour us a whiskey and tell us stories.
The one that has stuck with me is that she came to Texas in a covered wagon in the late 1800’s.
She said that her father brought his family to Texas…..Commerce, Texas in particular to work for the Railroad. There was a switching yard there in Commerce.
She said that one of her first memories of Texas was pulling into Amarillo on Christmas Eve. Her father sold the horses that had pulled their covered wagon. Her parents then bought shoes for the children because they didn’t have shoes and it was freezing cold.
Mrs. George said that she was very proud of those shoes. She said she then remembered her father putting them all back into the covered wagon and leaving Amarillo in the dead of night.
Mrs. George’s father had stolen his horses back to continue their journey to Commerce. In Texas at that time, stealing horses could have resulted in a death sentence. Mrs. George said, “My father did what he had to do to put shoes on our feet”.
The girl next door
It was in the house I rented from Mrs. George that I met my wife. Jill and her roommate moved into the house next door that Mrs. George also rented. If you didn’t think that made two college boys happy to have two cute college girls move in next door…..
Mrs. George later told us, “I was going to plant bushes between the houses for privacy but when those girls moved in I thought I’d wait to see what happens.” Paid off, I married that young girl I had fallen in love with.
Mrs. George passed a long time ago but I remember her tonight. For being the child who came to Texas in a covered wagon, to being the old woman who witnessed a man walking on the moon. Rest in Peace Mrs. George. One of your “Boys” (as she like to refer to us) will always remember you fondly.