Babies, bolls and booths honored at ’28 County Fair

Posted 10/15/19

The Madisonville Meteor’s Oct. 18, 1928, issue contained an article headlined “Winners of Exhibits are Named in the Madison County Fair.” A subtitle stated, “Cash Prize Awards are Many and the Winners Fully Earned the Honors Given Their Very Excellent Exhibits.”

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Babies, bolls and booths honored at ’28 County Fair

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The Madisonville Meteor’s Oct. 18, 1928, issue contained an article headlined “Winners of Exhibits are Named in the Madison County Fair.” A subtitle stated, “Cash Prize Awards are Many and the Winners Fully Earned the Honors Given Their Very Excellent Exhibits.”

The Better Babies Contest had four divisions. Margaret Howell won first prize as a girl between three months and one year, and Curtis Roy Bell won first prize as a boy of the same age. Rose Marie Sowell took first prize for a girl one to two years of age, and Billie Carl Bradford was the winning boy for that age.

I searched and found no more information for Margaret Howell. Regarding Curtis Roy Bell, the Fair results or the Meteor must have made a spelling mistake. Via Findagrave, I found a Curtis RAY Bell (1927-2016) that was of the right age for the Fair contest and was born in Madison County, so I assumed he was the right “better baby”. He lived to be nearly 90 before dying in Conroe, and he was buried in Forest Park the Woodlands Cemetery.

Billy Carl Bradford (1927-2013) grew up, married Juanita Johnson (1931-2012). They lived in Pasadena until 1989 when they returned to Madisonville to live here the rest of their lives. They had one son, William Dennis Bradford (1960-1992), and two daughters, Debbie (Mrs. Marcus) Mason, who lives here in Madisonville, and Robin Bradford, of Pasadena. two of Billy Carl and Juanita’s granddaughters, Valeria Mason Gantz and Stormie Mason, attended Madisonville Schools. Valeria and her family live here, Stormie and hers live in Oklahoma.

Rose Sowell (1927-2015) lived with her parents, Vaden and Leila Sowell, on their farm in Elwood when Rose was young, so in those years she attended school in Elwood, Midway, and finally Madisonville. When she was in high school, they sold out here and moved to Huntsville, where she graduated from high school. She married Billy Coley and they were married 70 years.

Miss Mary Lucy Cleere (1896-1984) had lots of entries for that county fair. She won seven first prizes, in the divisions of rug, novelty art, bedspread, luncheon set, dresser scarf, towel, and something called Best Collection. She took two second places also!

Miss Mary Lucy was generally called by those three words together. She was one of the seven children of J.L. and Florence (Randolph) Cleere. Her father was in the grocery and livestock feed business for years in a large portion of the building now occupied by Alan Tinsley on the southeast corner of The Square. Mary Lucy never married, hence the “Miss.” For a number of years, she taught home economics in the local high school. In 1934 she opened a gift shop and rental library in the southern end of her father’s building. Many local women still have china, silver and crystal that they received as wedding gifts purchased from Miss Mary Lucy! Some also still have treasured Nancy Drew books they purchased there!

Mrs. O.E. Parten earned first prizes with her pie and her cut flowers. I assume that must have been Mrs. Ottie E. Parten, the only O.E. Parten I found, so she was Beaulah Godwin Parten (1881-1933). I’m glad she won twice in 1928 because she only had five more years on earth. Old Meteors contain many ads for Ottie E. Parten’s Dry Goods. I have not found much more information about that Mr. or Mrs. Parten, but I did find that her mother’s name was interesting: Alcedonia.

The Fair featured community booths, for which Willowhole earned first prize - $25, and North Zulch took second prize - $15. In those days, Willowhole was a thriving community, proven by the fact that in 1935-1936, a new brick school was built there, complete with eight classrooms, a library, offices, and a gymnasium.

The part of the article that caused me the most grief stated “20 Bolls of Cotton – First prize went to D.C. Cannon.” That caught my attention. First, I thought maybe it was my grandmother managing my grandfather’s estate, because I knew he died in 1927, but the rest of the article had plainly put “Mrs.” for all the females. The other D.C. Cannon that it could have been was my uncle, D.C. Cannon, Jr., a schoolboy of 15 in 1928. So I wondered: Could it have been competition for young men?

Then I saw that Timothy Burr took second place for 10 heads of sorghum, getting 50 cents. I knew that he and my uncle had to have been somewhat close in age. I knew for a fact that D.C., Jr. was born January 13, 1913. Thanks to Clark Osborne and his treasure trove of cemetery information, I learned that Raleigh Timothy Burr, from whom I bought gasoline in my younger days, was born January 3, 1914.

With that, I surmise, (hopefully correctly) that those contests were for teenage boys. There were other first and second place names for such in that part, namely Billy Bob Taylor, Alton Baines, and Paul Robinson. I searched futilely for facts about those guys, and if you have any, I’d like to hear, to help me decide if I am right or wrong.

In those days, the $1 prize would purchase what $14.50 does now, so the 50 cents would now work as $7.25. I wish D. C. and Mr. Burr were here to tell me if I am right, and if so, what they spent their prize money on!

Madison County Museum, at 201 North Madison, Madisonville, TX 77864, is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. The Museum’s mailing address is P.O. Box 61, and the telephone number is 936.348.5230.

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