More Round Top “Snapshots” from Gloria Hickey
Gloria Schwarz Hickey was born in September, 1945 in El Paso while her father, Hilmer Schwarz, was stationed at Biggs Field. The young serviceman took his wife and new baby to their home in Round Top as soon as the baby was old enough to travel. Once she got there, Hickey never lived anywhere else. Read on for some stories of life in a small town.
“My family kept the store open on Saturday nights, so they didn’t go dancing very often. I went along with other people. The bands played a mix of polkas, waltzes and country music.
At the Rifle Hall there was a potbellied stove near the bathroom. In the wintertime everybody would bring quilts, and we little ones would sleep back there by the fire when we got tired. In the summer we slept back there too because we weren’t underfoot.
There were usually two dances every Saturday. They were held on regular schedule,and I don’t remember the exact one now, but for instance first Saturday might be a dance in Round Top and a dance in Warrenton.
When you got old enough to drive, you’d take yourself. If your friends weren’t at one place, then you’d drive to the other.
Before you got old enough to drive, parents would take us even if they weren’t going. There was a group of three or four moms who used to take turns driving us back and forth because we just couldn’t stand the thought of missing something.
When we got ready to dance, the girls would all dance with each other. Then the boys would come out and tap us on the shoulder. That way they never had to ask us to dance, and we never had to ask them to dance. We all just knew.”
“We made our own fun. Grandpa Schwarz was a hunter. My boy cousins and I would ride on the hood of his car with our legs wrapped around the fog lights hanging on best as we could while we chased jack rabbits. We’d all go coon hunting. My girl cousins seemed to think I needed to stay in the house and play dolls, but that was boring when I could be shooting a bb gun.
I loved to ride horses. I had to work to get mine because my parents thought it was just ‘a phase.’ There were four of girls who rode together. Two in Round Top and two in Carmine. None of us had trailers. If we wanted to ride together, we had to ride from home to Carmine or vice versa. Then we’d ride all day—and then ride back home.
We could go wherever we wanted. Nobody cared as long as we took care of the gates. If a gate was open, leave it open. If it was shut, close it behind you. Nobody told us that, we just knew it was expected.
At the beer joint people came in after work to have a cold beer and play games. They played Skat (pronounced Scott), a German card game, poker and dominoes, both straight and Shoot the Moon.
Sometimes on Saturdays there would be a big turkey shoot. The men would compete for live turkeys. If somebody won one—or several—they’d come back to the beer joint around 5 or 6 in the evening after they’d been drinking beer all afternoon. Then they’d butcher it…scald it, burn off the pin feathers…the whole things…only after a day of beer some feathers generally escaped. By about 10 o’clock they’d have a big pot of turkey stew.
The rhythm of life was different. People took time to know and enjoy each other, including a lot of pranks.
There was a great big man in town. When I was a youngster, he was one of the biggest men I’d ever seen. Anyway, the guys in the beer joint used to tease him and tell him that he couldn’t get his horse to come inside the bar
In those days there were two doors separated by some wall space, not a double door like now.
One afternoon he showed up and led his horse in the door. Straight up to the bar. He stood there drinking his beer like nothing was going on, and the all the while my daddy was raising sand , ‘Get that horse out of here before it falls through the floor!’ When the man finished his beer, he grinned, waved and led his horse out the door.
You just never knew what might happen.”
Focus: Colorful Characters
“Growing up in a little town, you know people in a different way than you know people in a big city. You know their stories, and they know yours because life just overlaps.
Back in the days when I was working in the store, there was a retired fellow in town. He’d come in in the mornings to drink a little cold beer before lunch, which was pretty common then.
The Southern Select beer truck would come to town on the same day every week at the same time and run the route in the same order. Grandpa Schwarz and the store were in a Southern Select ad once. Anyway, in those days the distributors would give the drivers some money to buy customers a beer when they were delivering. In Round Top at that that time, there were 12 places that sold beer.
On delivery day that man would meet the driver at the first stop and get his free beer. He’d finish it, and by the time the driver got to the next stop, the man would be there waiting for his free beer. He met the driver at all of the stops until he’d had all of the beer he wanted.
Every once in a while, the driver would decide to have some fun, so he’d run the route backward. The retired man never figured out what was going on, and we all got a big laugh out of him waiting and wondering what was keeping the beer truck.
We had some colorful regulars in the beer joint. Willie Plumbeck was one. He wore a fancied up hard hat everywhere he went. He’d catch a ride into town, and when he was ready to go home, he’d climb in someone’s car, and it was their responsibility to take him home.
He had a tendency to get a little loud every once in a while. One time I had to ask him to tone it down, but it made him mad. He flung his hard hat across the beer joint. He felt bad immediately and began apologizing; his outburst was witnessed by two fellows who were in town working for Miss Bybee.
These two fellows had been coming in for lunch and an occasional after work beer. We’d chatted back and forth. They were nice, but nobody else really knew them.
Several nights later, Willie and those men were in the beer joint after work. Everybody else had gone home. They’d all finished their beers, but they all just kept sitting there.
Finally, it was late, and I said, ‘Guys, y’all quit drinking beer hours ago. I’ve got to go home.’
Willie went out the front. The strangers went out the back.
When I got in my car, all of them were sitting outside watching me leave. The strangers didn’t want to leave me alone with Willie, and Willie didn’t want to leave me alone with the strangers.
That’s the thing about a small town. It’s why my parents never worried about me being in the store by myself. People looked out for one another. It’s just what you did.”
Focus: Community Service
“Growing up here, we didn’t even think about community service. It was natural to us because it was the way we were raised. Our churches, the Rifle Association and the VFW were all big organizations.
The Do Your Duty Club, DYD for short, was founded in 1935 by six ladies who lived in town. They decided the men in town weren’t paying attention to the town square, and ‘it looked like a cow pasture.’ They undertook to give the center of town a woman’s touch, so they installed swept walks—bare dirt paths that they swept with brooms to keep clean—and flower beds. It was a matter of civic pride to them.
Back in the 60s, the DYD held a Bingo game every other Friday in the town hall to raise money for beautification. They were having trouble getting someone to call numbers, so they asked me.
I didn’t want to do it, but telling those women no wasn’t a possibility, so I started calling numbers.
Today, there are several teams of two who take care of the square. The teams each take a side of the square and keep that flower bed up. Somebody else mows the lawn these days.
As kids we were taught by example and by telling us that everybody has to do their part to make a town a good place to live. We learned to ask two things: How can I help? What’s good for Round Top?
Those things stuck with me and made me a person of compromise. I’ve always thought that, regardless of who is sitting at a decision-making table, the best answers come from people who are willing to help do what is best for the community.”
as told to Lorie A. Woodward
photos by Anna Spencer Morse, Grace Photography
family photos courtesy of Gloria Schwarz Hickey