I Heard It at the Icehouse: Baseball, California, West Texas, and the Depression

(I never knew my father’s father and I didn’t hear many stories about him growing up. But in his later years, Daddy started telling a few stories about his father.)

by John M. MooreJohn M. Moore

My daddy’s ambition was to be a major league baseball player. He joined a minor league club in San Angelo, Texas, and was doing well. In those days the game was played during daylight hours. One day while he was playing in center field the sun got in his eyes and a hard ball hit him right between the eyes. It knocked him cold and he was out for hours. This was the end of his playing days but he still enjoyed watching the game.

Daddy drove us from San Angelo to California in a Model T Ford in l923 when I was five years old. There were no freeways, only graded dirt roads, and no motels. We slept in bedrolls.

When we got to California we rented a house which had fruit trees growing in the front yard. We went to the beach and splashed in the Pacific. It was like living in Paradise.


Then Daddy began having headaches. California did not have good doctors in the early days and the ones he went to merely gave him pain killers. Some of these shots were a little narcotic. I remember one night when Daddy was hallucinating and refused to go to bed because he said it was crawling with ants.

Mother was proud but she finally gave in and called Grandpa Sam Moore in Dallas. Grandpa Sam not only was rich, and owned downtown property in Dallas, but he also was on the board of Methodist Hospital. “Hell, Mega, bring him home to Texas. We have the best doctors in the United States here in Dallas,” he said.

We boarded the train and took Daddy to San Angelo where Grandpa Sam met us and carried him off to Dallas. The surgeons at Dallas removed a tumor from Daddy’s brain. It was benign. Within two weeks, Daddy was well again.

Grandpa Sam financed Daddy to start over. Daddy established a Ford agency west of San Angelo at Big Lake. This was at the beginning of the Permian Basin which at one time was the largest oil and gas development in the United States. The Permian reached from Big Lake across hundreds of miles to New Mexico and from the caprock at Big Spring to the Big Bend. The discovery well had been drilled two miles west of Big Lake.

Daddy sold Model A Fords and later V8 Fords from Big Lake for 300 miles, on to Ozona and Odessa and the towns in between, such as McCamey. He prospered. He carried a big roll of bills. He was successful.

I hated Big Lake. It was the opposite of California. There were not many trees and those were mesquites. It was a semi arid land, hot and dry.

Daddy was killed in a fatal crash with a truck in a duststorm west of Big Lake. He was driving a V8, probably at a high rate of speed. This was in 1930, during the Great Depression. We had been living in the largest house in town, with servants and two cars. I was in high school.

All of a sudden we moved into a small apartment with no servants and no cars. It took me a while to adjust. Meanwhile, Mother had taken job as a sales person in a clothing store. She was a strong woman and determined to survive. The only real blow had been when she had to sell her grand piano, which she really loved to play.

I was a difficult teen ager. However, I soon got a job working after school, but it did not pay a lot of money. There were stories about all the people who were out of work, many of then riding freight cars from town to town. Some of them were called hoboes. Also, crime increased, and the robbers were called hijackers. The bank had a sign: “$500 for a dead bank robber. Nothing for a live one.” The cashier had a pistol underneath his window.

You had to live during those days to understand what was going on. Armadilloes were called Hoover Hogs after the unpopular president. Actually the meat was good. Finally, Franklin Roosevelt was elected president, but it still was a long time before the country showed signs of recovery.

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Flashes of Illumination

Writing runs in the family, obviously. Flashes of Illumination, a collection of my short-short fiction, is now available here from Book View Cafe. This 52-story ebook collects the flash fiction I published weekly during the first year of Book View Cafe, and adds in a few later stories as well.

My novella Changeling remains available as an ebook through Book View Cafe. It’s a coming of age story.

Both books are $2.99 and available in three DRM-free formats: mobi, epub, and pdf.

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