Swinging a Delaware Punch at social distancing

Posted 4/8/20

Despite enduring social distancing, Madison County has interesting history. The Museum is closed for now but will open as soon as possible. I hope to entertain you with local history in the interim.

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Swinging a Delaware Punch at social distancing

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Despite enduring social distancing, Madison County has interesting history. The Museum is closed for now but will open as soon as possible. I hope to entertain you with local history in the interim.

We offer various items for sale. One of my favorites, Madison County Memories Vol. 1, sells for $10. It is a collection of memories folks wrote down on paper, and I’ve used bits of it before. A few years ago, I shared with you one of my favorites, “Varmint Hunting from the Fender”, by Jerry Reed.

Today I’m using a couple of short pieces from that book. I chose them carefully, hoping that one will make you laugh and the other may make you appreciate the blessings that we now have, despite Coronavirus.

For the first, I feel you need introductory facts. J.O. and Letha Ash lived on Woodrow Street. Nearby, Mr. Ash operated Madison Bottling Company, at least from the 40s into the 60s. The business bottled Nesbitt Orange, Delaware Punch, Strawberry (which I think was labeled “Madison Red”), and probably more at times. A while back Teresa Keefer donated the Museum a bottle with the word “Madison” on it in white paint. I’ve tried writing about the bottling plant before but not been satisfied with my work.

Mr. and Mrs. Ash were maternal grandparents of Buddy Chambless and his sister, Alice Ann Fannin (1938-1977). Alice Ann taught school here, as did her good friend, Charles Strawther (1938-2012). Charles wrote the following piece, “Handcuffed”, for what I refer to as our blue book, and I am using verbatim below.

“When I was a young boy, my family lived on Woodrow Street in Madisonville. It was a dirt road, and there was a group of us who would ride our bicycles around the neighborhood. All the windows of the homes would be open in the summer, and we could smell food cooking as we rode down the street. Therefore, we knew what everyone was having for supper.

It was in the mid-1940’s and Rodney Chambless, Sr., was the Sheriff of Madison County. His daughter, Alice Ann, was my age and a good friend of mine. One afternoon, Mr. Chambless had gone to Bryan, and he had left his county sheriff’s car parked in Mr. Ash’s driveway. He also left his handcuffs hanging on the gearshift of the car. Alice Ann and I were playing “sheriff” in the car, and she was the prisoner. So, I handcuffed her to the steering wheel of the car. We then realized we had no key to open the handcuffs and to release her from the steering wheel. In an effort to keep Alice Ann from crying, I would go next door to Mr. Ash’s bottling company, and Mr. Charlie Jett would give me a Delaware Punch for her to drink. The more upset she got, the more Delaware Punches I delivered to her. And, of course, the obvious results soon occurred, and she became quite uncomfortable. Mr. Chambless returned home just in time and unlocked the cuffs. Everyone laughed at our ordeal, but it as pretty serious to Alice Ann and me. We attended 12 years of school together, and graduated from Madisonville High School together. We remained good friends until her death.”

The above did not give me my fill of writing, since lately there isn’t enough to entertain me while quarantining. I found another short story from the same little blue book, and it reminded me that the hardships we endure now don’t compare to those of war. Ione Bullard White (1912-2004) wrote the following about her brother, Joe Allen Bullard (1920-1966). Like I did above, I’m sharing it verbatim.

“My brother, Joe Allen Bullard, was born in the Bullard community and was the youngest of my six brothers. Our parents were Kirk and Mattie Tuck Bullard. Joe went to work at the Farmer’s State Bank before he completed Madisonville High School. He graduated in 1937 or 1938 and became a full-time employee of the bank. He married Faylyce Viser Petit. She had two children, Billy Bert and Yvonne.

World War II began in December, 1941, and Joe volunteered for service in the U.S. Army Air Corps early in the war. He became a sergeant and served as a gunner. He was sent overseas and flew several missions. On one mission, Joe exchanged places with another gunner, and that man was killed by enemy gunfire that day. Joe was wounded and hospitalized for several weeks. Then he returned to duty and was shot down over the English Channel, and captured by the Germans. He was a prisoner of war for several years, and was imprisoned at a camp called Stalag 17. It was in the same vicinity as one of Adolph Hitler’s retreats.

All of the American and Allied soldiers were greatly mistreated during their imprisonment. When the war was over in Germany, they released the American prisoners deep in the Black Forest. The men were starving, and many were very ill. The wife of a German farmer found them and gave them homemade bread and jelly. Joe ate too much and became seriously ill. He ended up in a hospital in Paris France and was hospitalized for over a month.

Joe returned to his home and family in Madisonville. He resumed his duties at Farmers State Bank and worked there until his death in 1965.”

I’m nosy. Often when writing, I am left wanting to know more. I checked in A History of Madison County, Texas, and learned that Joe Allen Bullard was a prisoner of war for 22 months. That impressed me more than just the fact that he was one. Also, he was not the only member of his family that served in World War II. Brother Kirk was also in the Army, and sister Glenn Iris served in the Marines. Brother Sherman helped form the Military Post Office in New York and then established the 21st base post office in Okinawa where he was on VJ Day.

If the above inspires you to write a memory or more, please share it afterwards. Email it to me, lacannon1952@hotmail.com, or get a hard copy to the Museum after the quarantine ends. I’ll be delighted if or when we can publish more memories!

Madison County Museum is located at 201 N. Madison St., and the mailing address is P.O. Box 61, Madisonville, TX 77864. Currently, it is closed due to the Coronavirus Quarantine. Normally it is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call ahead when things open back up, 936.348.5230.

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