For extra credit in a college history class, I interviewed all four of my grandparents. The next few posts will be from the information they gave me and the papers I wrote in 1975. I can't tell you how glad I am that I did this. When I presented these papers to my grandparents, their own children had never heard some of the following information. I want to pass this on to my children and grandchildren...and all of those Sanders out there.
Millard Murry Sanders was born October 16, 1899. He was born in Wilbarger County, Texas, a few miles north of Vernon. He was one of nine children in his family. His father was an average farmer who owned his home. The Sanders moved from Vernon, carrying all their possessions in a covered wagon to the panhandle in 1903. There Murry lived until he met and married Effie Jones. While living in Wheeler, Texas, Murry attended a one or two room school until he quit in the tenth grade. Murry had to help with the work on the farm which was one reason for his quitting school. He worked hard for his small size. At the age of fifteen, he was a real husky--he weighed 100 pounds. His family never wanted for anything although sometimes they didn't know where their next meal was coming from. They just worked that much harder.
Holidays were special for Murry's family. On the fourth of July, families got together and went to the river for an all day picnic. They hunted wild plums, sometimes with young couples straying off and getting lost in the plum thickets only to be found with empty buckets. Boys enjoyed themselves fishing and jumping the creek, occasionally falling in and then were reprimanded by mothers. When it got dark, fireworks were shot off and firecrackers popped under sisters' feet. Remaining fireworks were saved to be shot off at Christmas time. Christmas was a big celebration, too. A big tree was put up at the church or school house and the whole community helped in decorating it. Real candles were used to light the tree and the trees or buildings never caught on fire. But it was very rare for an individual family to have a Christmas tree. The trees were not always cedar, either. The parents of each family placed one gift under the tree for every family member to open on Christmas morning after the service. Then, in the homes, all the members put up stockings over the fireplace which children found filled with fruits, nuts, and candies by Santa Claus on Christmas morning. The rest of the day was filled with eating a big dinner and visiting with relatives who had come to visit. Later during the day and that night fireworks were sent into the air and firecrackers were popped by the younger boys. Family reunions were not common until the 1940's because of the responsibilities of farms and because of slow traveling.
Church was all-important for the Sanders family. George, Murry's uncle, was a Baptist preacher. Murry's family attended a Baptist church every time the door was opened. Worship was the prime reason for attending, of course, but it was also the main socializing function of the community. When Murry was baptized, it was in an earthen stock tank. Most people were either baptized in a stock tank or the river before churches started adding baptisteries to their sanctuaries. Most church members appeared for this ceremony and sang hymns before the baptizing began.
Ice cream suppers and box suppers were often held at the school house. Everyone in the community showed up for these socials. Murry also enjoyed play parties, singings, church and movies. The first movie theater in Wheeler was opened about 1922. Every kid who could convince his mother that it wasn't of the devil watched the silent movie that opening night.
Murry Sanders and Effie Jones met at a wedding in Grayson County, Texas, September 1924. Murry's parents had already selected a bride for him, but he wasn't happy with their choice. He began seeing Effie against the will of his parents and on June 7, 1925, they were married. When his parents found out, they were very displeased and never approved of Effie and were always hostile towards her. Murry had asked her dad for her hand in marriage and had gotten her parent's approval. So, on June 7, 1925, they were married in her home.
*My personal memories of my grandfather:
We grandchildren called our grandfather "Papa." Because both my paternal and maternal grandfathers were "Papa" to me, I called Murry, Papa Sanders. He was grandfather to 20 grandchildren. Four things stand out to me about Papa Sanders: worms, peanuts, rolled cigarettes, and a Bible! There was a sign on the Wheeler/Pampa highway which read, "Worms for Sale." That's how I knew where to turn to go to my grandparent's house as a child. Papa raised his own worms in a bed he'd made in his garden. And he sold them to the local fishermen. The ground in Wheeler is a sandy soil, so it was great for growing peanuts. Papa also grew grapes and the grape arbor was a favorite grandchild hangout. He had a huge garden and was a gifted farmer. Probably 1/4 of his garden was just for peanuts. He would shell them and always had a bowl of them beside "his chair" in the living room. Papa would sit in his chair with his Bible open in his lap, eat peanuts occasionally and eventually roll a cigarette to smoke. If you were lucky, after he'd tapped the tobacco into the paper, he'd let you lick the paper to close the cigarette.
As a child, I knew my grandfather to be a pretty serious man, but he also had a famous chuckle when he'd get tickled about something. I remember him loving to get into discussions with my mom about the Bible. He also helped found the Missionary Baptist Church in Wheeler, Texas. He definitely loved the Lord.
Papa loved his grandkids even though I didn't know him to be very demonstrative. He hung a rope swing from the tree beside the house for the grandkids to swing on. I watched him make cinder blocks by hand and was amazed at his carpentry skills. He also polished rocks and created rock clocks or other rock creations. He'd let us follow him to his rock shop behind the house, but we weren't allowed to play in there--he was afraid we'd get hurt. I thought he could do anything. Papa eventually suffered from Palsy and his hands shook which prevented him from doing so many of the things he loved.