Bertie Lee Goode, my mother, grew up in the Roaring 20's, but she had a hard life in Texas where her father was a share copper, and she was the oldest of 10 children, always helping in the home and the fields. But when she was 18 she tried to have fun along with work. In 1931 it all came to an end.
Bertie Lee Goode and a cousin in 1929
Bertie Lee is the girl on the left in the picture.
The year was 1930. He had a fancy new car, a Model A coupe, with one of those “mother-in-law” seats in the back. My mother, Bertie Lee Goode, was 18 years old that year. She was on a double date with one of her good friends who was with her boy friend, and her friend’s brother who was recently divorced. Mother’s date was the young divorced man, and he was the one with the brand new car. Not many people had brand new cars in 1930.
Her father let her go, anyway, because he thought the man was a nice guy. They parked near the river bridge and her friend and her boy friend went walking down the road to go across the bridge. As my mother told me this story, she said as she laughed a little wickedly, “Well, he began to get rough with me, so I said, if you touch me, I’m gonna kick out the windshield of this car. Now he was proud of that car…it was a brand new car, you know. He jumped out of the car and yelled for his sister. He told her to get back up there cause he was ready to go home. And home we went!” She said she never had any more trouble with the boys in that town after that!
My mother, Bertie Lee Goode was a fun person to be with. She loved to dance and hang around with her friends. They all smoked, and probably even drank bootleg alcohol. She said, “The Jenkins and the Laramores, those were my good friends. We lived in Coleman County then. We had lots of fun. We ran around together for years. I had a boy friend later on that year. His name was Stroud Jenkins. I was crazy about him. We went out all the time. If there was a new movie in town, he took me to that. We were together all summer. At least it was when we were not working in the fields.”
But by the end of the summer Stroud got a job in Waxahaxie and moved away. He and Bertie Lee became engaged to be married. He was going to send for her later on. But then Earl Goode, her daddy, my grandpa, decided to go to South Texas to Wilson County, because there was good cotton picking there.
His brother was picking cotton near Floresville. He convinced Earl to come down for a couple of months. She said, “I didn’t want to leave. All my friends were in Coleman. My cousins were all there too. But we had to go. We went down to pick cotton and make some money. I was feeling like my life was all shot. Here I was 18 years old and I had to go down and pick cotton with a bunch of people I didn’t even know. My boyfriend had just moved away. I was leaving all my cousins and friends. I felt real bad!”
But Earl took his wife and family and headed to South Texas for Wilson County near Floresville.My mother was very unhappy.
She went on with her story, “When we got down to Floresville, we met these people, a nice old German family, and they had a couple of boys and me and William, my brother, met them and began to run around with them. They invited us to parties and dances. We picked cotton, but we started to have some fun too with the Mann boys. We would go over to Three Oaks Dance Hall to all the dances. It was a lot of fun. After a couple of months, Mr. Mann talked my daddy into staying there, so he got a truck and went with him back to Coleman to get all our stuff and he started looking for us a place to rent near his place.”
“Later on”, she continued, “he found us a place up there close to the Zook place and we moved in there.”
I asked her, “What happened to Stroud Jenkins?”
She said, gazing thoughtfully into the night, “I don’t know what happened. He was working in Waxahaxie, and I moved away from Coleman and we lost contact with each other. And then we quit writing to each other. I guess he started going out with other girls and I was having fun, too. I really did like him though".
"I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t moved away that summer", she murmured staring at the floor, "We were going to get married.”
That November, Bertie Lee was 19 years old. It was a cold hard winter. Her mother and daddy were struggling to survive and put food on the table for their large family. Earl was going to plant a crop in the spring on the Mann place. Bertie Lee worked hard, as she was the oldest and was a big help to her mother who was expecting a new baby again, her 11th child. She had eight children living. But Bertie Lee yearned for something better. She wanted some kind of freedom from the drudgery and life of a farmer’s wife and she loved to have fun and go to parties and dance.
Right after Christmas, her brother William told her that a neighbor, Lawrence Zook, whom he had gotten to be friends with, wanted him to go to a New Year’s Eve Dance over at Three Oaks, and wondered if his sister wanted to go. Even though she wasn’t interested in Lawrence (after all, he was 10 years older than her, and she called him that “pig farmer down the road”), she wanted to go to the dance and she jumped at the chance, because she loved to go dancing and he had a car. That night she fell in love again!
From that night on, her life changed. Lawrence started courting her and 6 months later, by the next May they were married. She moved down the road to the Zook farm. But she never left the life of drudgery and being a farmer’s wife.
For 26 years she and daddy lived on a farm raising eight children. Daddy loved farming, and they struggled to make a living at it. It was a very difficult, backbreaking, hard farm life. After struggling for so many years, fighting undependable weather conditions, they finally gave up farming and moved to San Antonio in 1957, where she had a good job with the San Antonio State Hospital and retired many years later. Life became easier, as Daddy went to work as a night watchman for a steel company and retired from there later on. They had regular paychecks!
After Daddy died in 1984, she moved into a retirement apartment. There she had many friends and when they would have dances down in the social and dining hall, Bertie Lee was the one who did most of the dancing. She was in her 70’s but she was the best dancer there. The men lined up to dance with her.
That summer of 1930 was the last carefree happy fun time my mother had. She was 18 years old and when she talked about it that night, at age 75, her eyes softened, as she remembered her friends and cousins and brother William and all the fun they had. As she talked about the parties, dances, picnics, going swimming in the river, the movies, and being in love, she said, “That was the best year of my life, I think!”