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 Texas : Feature : Columns : "They shoe horses, don't they?"

RECOLLECTIONS OF
TALCO DURING THE OIL BOOM

by Robert Cowser
Some of my earliest memories are of times when I heard the grown-ups talk of boom towns in East Texas. They spoke of the wealth that came to landowners after oil was discovered on their property.

In 1936 oil was discovered in northwestern Titus County. According to Jone Clemmons, who was City Secretary of Talco in 1999, the first well was drilled there on the C. M. Carr Lease # 1. The lease was held by Magnolia Oil and Tidewater Oil.

Talco experienced a boom somewhat comparable to those experienced earlier by Kilgore and Gladewater and other towns to the south. Entrepreneurs built flop houses, charging roughnecks and others 50 cents a night to sleep on beds with mattresses covered only with cotton ticking. Xanthus Carson of Hopkins County, husband of my oldest sister, leased a small frame building that served as a flophouse. He bought iron bedsteads as well as mattresses and feather pillows so that he could furnish the establishment.

Carson began to work for Magnolia Oil, and my sister worked as a waitress in a café owned by Mud Williams of Mt. Vernon. There was a housing shortage, so the Carsons lived in a furnished room at the back of Williams' café. Later they rented a house on Hwy. 271 south of Talco. It was one of six or eight identical houses built in a row on the west side of Meadows Curve, a section of the highway. Each house was a boxed house with three small rooms, one of which was a lean-to attached to the back.

During the spring of 1937 there were heavy rains. When White Oak Creek flooded, the water flowed into the Carsons' backyard and lapped against the steps at the backdoor. There was also serious flooding on the Sulphur River.

Citizens in the precinct where the oil field was located voted to allow the sale of beer. One business that flourished after the sale of beer was made legal was called the Country Hotel. It was located near Winfield on Highway 67. Several Saltillo residents, as well as residents of communities surrounding Winfield, frequented the honky tonks that sprang up.

One Sunday afternoon when I was five or six years old, Lonnie McCoy, a neighbor, came to visit my family. As my parents, my younger brother and I sat on our front porch, the neighbor told us that on the previous Saturday night, the customers at the Country Hotel were startled by the appearance of the Devil himself. Walking on his cloven hooves, the Devil allegedly entered the front door of the establishment and walked the length of the bar room, exiting at the back door. Lonnie was not present, but he said that he received the information on good authority.

During mild weather tents covered platforms where dancing was allowed, even on Sunday afternoons. Beer and soft drinks were cooled in galvanized tubs filled with ice. In 100 -degree heat the ice melted quickly, of course, and the beer and sodas were served lukewarm.

At the height of the boom in Talco the population reached 2,000, but by 1940 the official census gave 912 as the number of people residing there.
"They shoe horses, don't they?" >
8-18-06 Guest Column © Robert Cowser

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This page last modified: August 18, 2006