Childhood

I was born at Dallas Methodist Hospital on April 17, 1937, the second child of Howard Kelly Crutcher and Mozelle Wells Crutcher.  Dad was 36 when I was born.  One of the things I remember is always having a father older than the rest of my friends.  My dad's work as a general practice physician was keeping him very busy at this time.

The country was recovering from a severe depression and life was good.  My parents built and moved into a new house about the time I was born.  We lived in a section of Dallas called Oak Cliff on Junior Drive.  It was not part of the city of Dallas and was listed as a community in Dallas County.  I remember being teased by a fellow boy scout about the Oak Cliff, Texas shoulder patch on my uniform.  We lived on three acres and had few neighbors.  We were a very short distance from Methodist Hospital where my dad spent a lot of his time.  We had a cow, chickens, a pet goat, a dog and at times horses on our property.

My dad loved horses and kept and rode them well into his 70's.  He owned a quarter horse named Jigs Bailey.  He was handled by a man named Hughie Long who lived in Granberry, Texas.  I remember going to the Minnesota state fair to see him in competition.  I don't remember if he won or lost.  That did not seem to matter much to dad.  One icy winter day, my dad had to milk the cow.  Coming back from the barn, he slipped on some ice while carrying a full bucket of milk.  He fell and broke his leg.  He was out of work for a while.  He sold the milk cow soon after.

I had a brother, Howard, who was five years older than I.  I am told by friends that he mistreated me when I was a child.  I have no memory of it.  That is probably good.  Our relationship grew through the years, even though he lived in California and we saw each other infrequently.  He never traveled and came to Dallas on rare occasions, usually for a family funeral.  Howard died in 2006.

Family

My early childhood memories are related to time spent with relatives.  When my mother and dad went out of town to a medical meeting or such, they often left me with either dad's aunt (Emily Jane Crutcher Taylor) who lived in Dallas or with my mother's sister (Flora Wells Moon) who lived in Temple.  I especially liked the time spent in Temple with my aunt Sissie.  She always had something interesting happening and was fun to be around.  My aunt Emma was all business.  Emma was a substitute school teacher who supported herself.  She had a husband who was a wanderer and I don't remember much about him.  She was older than my dad by several years.  She lived in the house on Bishop Street my grandmother bought when she moved to Dallas from Mount Vernon, Texas after my grandfather's death.  This was about 1921. My dad used to tell stories about the move to Dallas.  They brought their milk cow with them, and dad rode in the box car with the cow to keep it company.  After my grandmother's death in 1935 it was converted into a duplex.  Aunt Emma lived in one side and Aunt Willie lived in the other.  At some point in time, Aunt Willie moved to my dad's farm in Hutchins.  He built her a small house and she served as the gatekeeper.

I spent a lot of time with Aunt Willie.  She was a Dallas school teacher who never married.  She lived on a large farm my dad owned and operated near Hutchins south of Dallas.  She taught in an elementary school in east Dallas and she commuted back and forth.  As happened often, she called my mother one day after school and wanted to come by and take me home with her.  My mother had something else in mind for me and I did not go.  Aunt Willie was struck by a car at an intersection on her way home.  She had severe brain damage and lived another 10 years in a vegetative state.  She lived in the other side of the duplex where Aunt Emma lived.  A wonderful woman named Hazel Noe looked after her like a baby until she died.  Hazel was part of our family.  She would kill a hen that was kept in the back yard and make wonderful dinners on Sunday after church.

Church

Church was a big part of my life as a child.  My dad was a deacon at Cliff Temple Baptist Church.  We were there every Sunday and a lot of Wednesday evenings.  Dad's grandfather had been a wandering Baptist evangelist. 

Dad had a wonderful baritone voice.  During his school days, he sang with a traveling evangelist B.B. Crim during the summers to make money to continue his education.  Aunt Willie helped dad finance his education and he was very grateful.  He paid for the majority of her care until her death. 

My dad's father was a pioneer surgeon in Mount Vernon in east Texas.  When he died, he left the family without much in worldly belongings.  He owned a large house, another old house downtown that he turned into a hospital, and a small farm at the edge of town.  These properties were sold and my grandmother used the funds to buy the house on Bishop Street in Oak Cliff and support herself until she died.  My grandmother was ill and my dad thought she suffered from encephalitis that occurred several years earlier.

When I stayed with Aunt Emma, we rode the street car downtown to attend services at the 1st Baptist Church where we heard fire and brimstone sermons by a then young W. A. Criswell.  Hazel went with us and was also a very strong believer.  I still have a Bible she gave me as a child.  I was blessed to be among good people and Christian believers and did not appreciate it at the time.

Being financially successful was important to my dad.  One of his bad memories from his childhood was being with his father downtown in the buggy and having the grocery store owner chase them down and ask his father when he was going to pay his bill.  People in east Texas at that time were poor farmers.  This was before the oil boom that came a few years later.  My grandfather installed a light plant system with storage batteries in the hospital to be able to keep lights going all the time.  He would frequently have the electricity cut off because he did not have the money to pay the bill.  Country physicians were highly respected, but were not financially successful as today.  There was no third party payment system at that time. 

Silvertop Farms 

My dad worked hard, lived conservatively and put every nickel he had extra into land.  He eventually owned 1000 acres between Hutchins and Wilmer which he sold in 1950 to the Gifford-Hill company.  They wanted the gravel under the land.  I was recently in this area, and it looks like a war zone.  When my dad owned the property, it looked like a well kept park.  Now it is pock marked by abandoned gravel pits, as is the rest of the area for miles around.

My dad showed his cattle in the several state fairs in Texas.  I remember one when I was about 6 years old.  Dad bought a little tractor that was powered by an oversize lawn mower motor.  I remember you had to crank it with a rope, and I was not big enough to do it.  The tractor had a standard automobile transmission and that is how I learned to shift gears.  He had a small trailer made with Silvertop Farms signs on both sides of the trailer.  I hauled a calf in the trailer in the Dallas State Fair parade.  My dad walked along beside me from where the parade started downtown to Fair Park.  He had quite a walk.

We also went to the Fort Worth stock show and the show in Houston.  He had several of his Hereford cattle in each show, usually yearlings that were sold at the associated auction.  I got my fill of state fairs when I was a kid.  I don't think I have been to more than one or two the remainder of my life.

I spent a lot of time with my dad on the farm.  It was about the only time I was able to be with him.  He used every spare minute to oversee the operation.  He raised registered Hereford cattle and had an active dairy farm, raised hay and grain to feed the animals.  I worked there in the summers of my teenage years helping with hay bailing, hay hauling and plowing.

The other times I spent with my dad were when he made house calls.  He would take me with him after dinner when he made calls.  I would wait in the car.  I remember he had a spot light installed in his cars to help him find house numbers.

Neighbors

The man who lived across the street had a great influence on my life.  His name was Owen Henry George.  I called him Georgie.  He was a lawyer who was also a county judge.  He had one daughter who was a teenager when I was a kid.  He took me fishing and hunting for the first times.  He took me to ball games.  I am told I would find out what they were having for dinner and then what we were having at home and decide where I wanted to eat.  I ate at the George's house a lot.

We would often lie in the back yard at night on blankets and look at the stars and moon.  He helped me to identify the major constellations.  We studied the surface of the moon and used our imaginations to create mind images.  He had the first TV in our neighborhood.  It was a very small screen and a huge wooden cabinet.  It was a Stromberg-Carlson brand.  The only station was Channel 5 out of Fort Worth.

Mrs. George's parents lived with her during WWII when Georgie went into the Marines.  Grampy Hill took over my supervision.  He taught me right from wrong, especially about politics and politicians.  He spoke of the need of some to have their "necks cracked."  He taught me how to cut wood with a cross cut saw.  He showed me a prize shotgun made out of Damascus steel that was in a fitted case.  It was not shootable, as it would only handle black powder shells.  Grampy had owned a general store in Missouri before he retired and came to Dallas to live.  Mrs. Hill had Alzheimer's disease and was disabled early in her life.

As I look back on my relationship with Georgie, I wonder often how my dad felt about this, and am very proud of him for letting me have this relationship.  Georgie had time and the desire to do things with me that dad would have done but was unable.  My dad had no hobbies.  He only knew work.  The farming and ranching operation were his outlet and "hobbies."

Georgie included my dad in some of the things we did.  We went deer hunting.  I must have been nine or ten years old at the time.  Dad had never hunted in his life, but went along as a good sport.  I was allowed to use a 22 rifle that had been given to me by Aunt Willie.  I went hunting with Georgie and learned to sit still and be quiet.  We never saw a deer other than one that was trapped between two fences.  The property we hunted was near Utopia, Texas and had a deer fence around the whole property.  We think all the deer had been killed off; as I don't think anyone ever killed a deer in several years of hunting.  I learned later in life that the ranch were we hunted had once belonged to my long time friend Mike Glasscock's grandfather.  Mike and his parents lived on the ranch when he was a kid.

Friends

There was an interesting group of men who went on these hunting trips.  I remember Roy Eastus, an Oak Cliff realtor.  Georgie called him "good news" as he always was promoting some kind of deal.  Bill and his brother Bob Steger were also part of the hunting group.  Bob had been terribly wounded in WWII and could not walk very far.  Bill ran a farm and ranch store on Maple Avenue for many years.  Their father Ed Steger was a lawyer/judge friend of Georgie's.  I remember waiting in the cold outside the cabin where some were sleeping waiting for Roy to get into bed.  They had short sheeted him.  Roy got in and never said a thing.  It ruined their joke.

Scouting

I was involved in scouting.  I was first a Cub Scout, later a Boy Scout.  The Cub Scout pack was run by Mrs. Avery Mayes.  Her son Jerry was part of the group.  The Boy Scout leader was Mr. Hendricks and the troop was sponsored by Cliff Temple Baptist Church.  I learned camping skills and mostly learned how to get along with other kids.  I went to a national jamboree that was held at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in 1950.  I achieved the rank of Life Scout.  I never was able to pass the swimming test required for my Eagle Scout badge.  I was not allowed to go to public swimming pools as a child, as my mother was of the opinion that was where you got polio.  She probably was right, as polio is spread from one person to another.  At the time, it was suspected it was through the water in the pool.

Relatives

Part of my childhood was influenced by my mother's brother Bill Wells.  Bill was an alcoholic when he returned home after World War II.  He served in the merchant marines.  My mother took him in and was determined to cure him of his drinking problem.  She put him in a place where they used a drug called Antibuse.  It would make you vomit if you drank alcohol.  They gave him the drug and then made alcohol available in whatever quantity he wanted.  I think it worked. 

Bill taught me what little I know about how to build stuff.  He was a wood worker.  My mother outfitted a woodworking shop in our barn where Uncle Bill built things.  I have a piece he made that you hang your pants and coat on.  No one uses this kind of thing anymore.  He had a lathe, table saw and a lot of hand tools. 

My mother was also handy in fixing things.  I never remember my dad ever fixing anything.  I learned from her how to replace light switches, put new plugs on lamps, re-wire lamps and other things that have proven useful all my life. 

Bill was married to a lady named Grace and had twin daughters.  That marriage ended before the war.  Bill later married again to a nice lady named Mae and they lived in Commerce.  Bill made and sold Venetian blinds.  He had a machine in his shop that bent and cut the aluminum strips.  He called his business "Bill the Blind Man." 

Noble

Another person who influenced my life as a child was a black man named Noble Nixon.  Noble worked for our family for many years until he became a hopeless alcoholic.  His employment ended when mother caught him drinking the "toilet water" perfume she kept in each bathroom to freshen the air. 

Noble lived on the premises in quarters built for him on our property.  He kept the yard, milked the cow, cooked and washed dishes and anything else my mother wanted him to do.  This included baby sitting with me on many occasions.  He taught me the necessities of life, like playing poker.  When my mother found out we were playing poker using match sticks as money she put a stop to that quickly. 

Noble was very respectful of my mother and was a little afraid of her.  He used to say she was the "killing kind."  She would get mad at him when she had to bail him out of the city jail for being drunk.  She accused the Dallas police of picking him up so that he could cook for them at the jail.  Noble was a very good cook.  He made the best cornbread I have ever eaten.  He was a very easy going, happy go lucky man.  I remember he was paid $3 a day, plus he had his room and board.

Friends

There were not many kids in our neighborhood.  The houses were far apart.  We did gather everyone in the neighborhood on occasion and have ball games on the corner vacant lot that was owned by one of my dad's partners in his medical practice, Dr. Joe V. Moody.  They had a son named Joe K., AKA “Hooker”, who was a few years younger than I.  There was another kid named Bobby Durrett.  His dad, Bill Durrett, was a school principal and in the summers he sold tickets at the professional baseball stadium that was not far from our house.  Bobby and I would ride our bikes to the games and his dad would get us in free.

We rode our bikes everywhere without any worries.  I seldom see kids riding bikes anymore.  I have talked to mothers and they are afraid to let their children ride bikes even in their own neighborhoods.  I rode my bike to school when I was older.  I went to Rosemont Elementary School, and it was about two miles.  I rode to my Aunt Emma's house, to the grocery store and just about anywhere I wanted to go.  It was a very different time.  I had a Schwinn bike that was a hand-me-down from my older brother.  It had a spring that acted as a shock absorber on the front wheel fork and had a key you could use to lock the fork in an angle.  I wish I still had it.

My parents built a new house about three blocks away from our home on Junior Drive.  We moved into it in 1949.  We no longer had space for animals.  I wanted a dog, but the only dog my mother would allow was the picture of a pointer bird dog built into the tile floor in my room.  She was determined to not have animals in her new house. 

My first dog, Oscar, was a rat terrier given to me by my grandfather Willie Wells.  He was a great friend, but a pest to my mother and to others in the neighborhood.  He was an outside dog.  He loved to ride in the car with his nose sticking out through the open small window that every car had at the time.  This was in the days before air conditioning, and the small window was a way to bring air into the car.  Oscar disappeared one day, and Noble found him lying dead beside the curb.  Someone had shot him. 

My uncle Bill brought a dog with him named Lady.  She was a fox terrier, almost all white.  She had puppies, but Lady and the puppies died.  I suspect it was from what we know now as parvovirus. 

We had a servant’s quarters and a single garage that was detached from the house on Greenbrier Lane where Noble lived.

Mother's illnesses

Shortly after moving into the new house, mother began having a long drawn out illness related to breast cancer.  She had a radical mastectomy followed by radiation therapy.  It altered her life severely, as it did mine.  I learned to cook, wash clothes, iron and other things that she could no longer do.  After she fired Noble, I can't remember ever having any kind of regular domestic help, even with her illness.  I remember the problems she had with her arm swelling from lymphedema.  It did not reduce her spirit and outlook on life.  She continued with things as she was able.

My mother was a big advocate of crochet.  She never sat down without some kind of work to do with her hands.  Her specialty was making layettes for newborn babies.  I don't have any of her work.  She made innumerable doilies and other items that she gave away.  She made hats, did wood carving, decorated china and was an expert seamstress.  I remember hat making as a big activity, as she had all kinds of hat making tools in her utility room. 

We had a yard man named Mr. Beasley.  He had a full time job as a janitor for the Dallas Transit System.  He kept our yard in his spare time.  I remember him as an old man but a very hard worker.  Mother bought some top soil that needed to be spread over the yard in an attempt to get grass to grow.  We had a rather large front yard.  It became our football and basketball playing field.  I helped Beasley spread the dirt.  It was in the summer and very hot.  Mr. Beasley worked slowly but never needed to stop and rest.  I had to rest often. 

My mother thought I had some musical talent somewhere.  She enlisted the help of my aunt Lucy Lee Henderson to teach me the piano.  She was an expert piano teacher, but I failed miserably as a student.  I was more interested in playing outside with my friends. I made a big mistake in not taking advantage of the opportunity to learn to play the piano.  I learned or tried to learn to play a clarinet.  My dad had an old one in the attic.  The teacher switched me to the cornet.  I suspect he got tired of the squeaks and other strange noises.  I played in the school "band."  Mother hired a private cornet teacher who played in the Dallas Symphony.  It did not take him long to figure out it was a waste of time for both of us.  As I got a little older, mother thought I might be able to sing.  She had me to "audition" with the minister of music at Cliff Temple Baptist Church.  I had sung in my school choir.  He did not think I had a solo quality of voice.  He was correct.

Last edited: 4/27/2017

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