This is the latest installment of a series about family history interviews.
In my last blog post, An Interview With My Grandma Stafford, I shared the notes of an interview I did with my maternal grandmother before she passed away. This was a follow-up to the original post, Something You Won’t Regret, in which I discuss family history interviews.
This post is to share a similar interview that I did with my paternal grandfather a few months before he died. It’s been edited a little to make an oral interview make sense in written form. This interview focused more on stories because we already had most of the pertinent dates of birth, full names of parents, etc. Just to give you some context, he was born in 1916 and grew up around Willow, Oklahoma before moving around during the Depression and ending up living most of his adult life in Monahans, Texas. His father was a moonshiner, hence the references to how to make whiskey. Enjoy the stories!
Memories by Roy Lee Moss Sr.
As recorded by Regina Moss in April 1991.
I turned 14 in December of 1930 near Willow, Ok. There were 8 brothers and sisters at home. Daddy was a farmer and made corn liquor and also was a horse trader. Times was real hard. We moved to Delhi in 1932. You couldn’t get a job, and if you did it didn’t pay anything.
At 17 years old I decided to go to the West Texas Oil Fields. I nearly starved. At 18 years old, in 1935, I got a job washing dishes for $5/week. I got a job milking cows by hand, getting up at 4:00 am for $5/week. I also worked on a ranch for $15/month. I got a job on a pipeline, but I can’t remember how much that paid. At about 20-21 years old, I got a job with the state highway department for 28¢/hour. I stayed with this job for 2 or 3 years. I got a job in a machine shop and learned how to run machines until 1942 for 65¢/hour. In 1942 I went into the air force for 42 months. Some other things I did was I worked on a tank farm tearing down 85,000 barrel oil tanks in Wink and Pyote. I worked on drilling rigs all over West Texas. I killed hogs for meat as well as cows and chickens. I pulled bolls (cotton) for 35¢/100 pounds.
I lived in rented rooms in Monahans, Pecos, Orla, Pyote, Sanderson, Wink, and Hobbes. Sometimes I ate; sometime I didn’t.
I got married on Oct 15, 1941.
I got my first car in 1938. It was Model A Ford. It wasn’t worth 35¢. I loaned this car to Ed Cox for his first date with his wife. He’s now a multimillionaire, and I have $100 too.
A loaf of bread was 5¢. A 1/2 gallon of milk was 10¢. The price of a Bull Durham sack was 6 for 25¢. Gasoline was 8¢/gallon.
The government bought cows and came and butchered them to can the meat and give to the poor. It was very good.
I had a job most of the time after age 19 (which was Dec of 1935). Everyone was in bad shape. During the dust bowl, my mom would wet washcloths for over our mouths. That was in Delhi. Sometimes we couldn’t see (from the dust). I had one pair of good overalls. At home I would take them off. For lunch I took a biscuit, sorghum, and sausage.
Moonshining – You put mash in a barrel. When it’s through working, you put the mash in a copper still. You wrap the top of the still in cloth sacks and flour paste. A copper tube coming out of the top of the still coils through a wood keg filled with water. The vapor goes through the tube and condenses into liquid (whiskey) caught in a jar. We were doing this in barn with me sitting in a window at the top of the barn watching for T-men (a special law-enforcement agency of the US Treasury). The top blew off the still and blew me out the window. It was about a 15’ drop. I was age 15. Daddy bootlegging sold the whiskey in pint bottles. He cut a trap door to hide the whiskey between the floors. The T-Men caught on and searched the house one Sunday and found it. Daddy knew they would find it so he took off. He was gone several days that time. I knew where he was so I took him some food. In all the years, the T-Men never caught him.
Daddy was nicknamed “Fox” because of a game “Fox and Goose” & no one could beat him at it.
Daddy used to buy wild horses and mules and we would break them. I used to be ticklish and Dumas, my brother 4 years older than me, would get me down and tickle me. Papa wanted a well dug in the middle of the horse lot. Dumas had tickled me unmercifully that morning in the barn where papa couldn’t see it. When Dumas was down in the well, about 12’ deep, I pulled up the ladder and got a bunch of rock to throw at him. I nearly beat him to death that day. I was probably 12 and he was 16.
I killed 26 rattlesnakes 1 summer on Haystack Mountain (in Greer County, Oklahoma).
Every Saturday, a bunch of us went to Willow and some boys from Granite would come over to whip us. We had a fight every Saturday night. Sometimes we won. Sometimes they did. This was our entertainment instead of going to a picture show. Willow was a big place then, probably 1,000 people. On every 180 acres there was a family, and they would all come to town.
To read another blog about my Grandpa Moss, go read A Tribute To (My) Grandparents.