HALLEY L. “RED” COOPER INTERVIEW, 11-29-1991 (Tape 4A)
This is a resumption of an oral history taken from Red Cooper and Lois Cooper on November 29, 1991. My name is Jim Cooper and I’m talking with my father and mother. My questions are in regular type like this. Dad’s words are in bold, and Mom’s are preceded by her initials, LBC—and are in bold italic. My editing notes are in italics. I had done several interviews with Dad the previous year both in his living room and on the road to Ballinger for a family reunion with his Greenwell family. This tape was done on another trip to Ballinger just about a year later.
|Odessa Street Scene|
No, I went from Austin back to Jasper, and from Jasper to Odessa.
OK, and when did you come back to Austin?
I don’t remember how long I stayed in Odessa. I remember staying through a very hot and dusty time, and viciously cold weather, so undoubtedly I stayed out there eight or nine months. I don’t remember what year that was. The only way I could probably figure that out is to go to Odessa and get some newspapers from back in that time and see some of the accounts and things that happened.
Well, can you remember any world events that happened during that time?
That’s what I was going on. Things that happened in Odessa. At that time, world events didn’t impress me.
It would have been in the mid-thirties, though?
Right, it would have been in the mid-thirties. Maybe 1936. Because from 1937 on, I basically had a permanent address in Austin.
Do you remember the Spanish Civil War?
Just what I learned about in history..
Well, it was in 1936, and I was wondering if you recalled that being a big news event. What about the Berlin Olympics? Jesse Owens?.
Yeah, Jesse Owens. I remember that.
Do you remember where you were when that was going on?
No, I don’t. But, Joe Louis-- remember listening on the radio in Pineland. The bout where he knocked out Braddock. (Note: That fight occurred in June, 1937.)
I don’t recall that one, but he beat Max Schmeling back then.
Yeah, maybe it was Schmeling. That must have been 1933 or '34. (Louis lost to Schmeling in June, 1936, but then beat him in June, 1938.)
So, when did you come back to Austin, then?
I don’t think I was gone more than a year.
And who’d you live with when you came back?
With Helene. (His older sister) And I worked for Billy Huddleston on an ice route.
Did he own an ice company? Or did he own a route and you were his assistant?
Yes. I was his assistant. I was his ‘hopper’ for the route.
You did the hopping around for the work for the driver?
Yeah, and you had to drive, too.
And is that where Carney Huddleston..…?
That’s right. He was Carney’s daddy. (Carney Huddleston was an all-state lineman for Austin High around 1950. I had met him through Daddy and Billy)
What did Billy Huddleston do after that?
He went to work for the City of Austin in the tire department.
How’d you happen to meet him?
Helene was friends with Annie B. Smith and she and Billy Huddleston was half-brothers and sisters. (Note: Annie B Smith was living in El Paso when Sherry and I, and our two oldest boys were living there in the summer of 1965. I was there to serve my final few months in the army. Annie B. would baby sit for us at times.)
Where were you livng with Helene at that time?
1700 Holly Street.
And Roy? I guess Roy was working at one of the barber shops?
He was at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel.
Alright, so the first job you had in Austin was as an ice hopper.
Yeah, hopping and delivering ice.
No, I believe that I worked out in the country—I worked on a farm for old man Glenn down in the rural bottom in the country.
Where was that?
It was somewhere in the area of Garfield, I believe..
How did you get out there?
I lived out there. It was in Del Valle.
So, it’s still in the country?
Who were you working for when you met Billy Hill?
I’m not sure whether I met Billy Hill on the East Austin playgrounds or on the ice route. Seems to me he was on an ice route with another company. I may have met him at the ice plant. I’m not sure.
I thought you mentioned before that you used to run ice with Billy Hill.
Later on, I got a nice route of my own. We worked together on that. That was for American Ice Company.
What was Billy Huddleston’s company?
Texas Public Service.
So you bought ice from them and went out as an independent driver.
And that was the days when people didn’t lock their doors, and you went in at night and put a new block of ice in their ice box.
That would really be unheard of today, wouldn’t it?.
Most of the women didn’t work then. And, you’d just fall off the truck and they’d have a sign in the door. This sign would have 25, 50, 75 or a hundred. Which ever one was pointing up, that’s what you carried in. They’d put that in their window. See, we’d run a wholesale route up until six or seven o’clock, and then you’d start on the retail route.
The people would be up, then.
Sometimes they wouldn’t be, and you’d have some customers that you’d actually go in and you’d put the ice in. There’d be a quarter on the table or whatever they had asked for. Sometimes they’d buy a book and you would just tear a sheet out for payment.
How much was ice?..
Well, let’s see. I think 12 and a half pounds was a nickel, and 25 lbs was a dime. I don’t remember what those 100 lb pieces cost, but it was very cheap. And, during the time I worked for Billy Huddleston, one of our big customers was The Hoffbrau. You would drain the water from their boxes from the previous day, and put hot beer in it and fill it up. That was part of the service you’d give to them. Then you’d crush this ice.
What time would you go to work in the mornings?
Oh, 3:30 or 4:00.
And what time would you be through?
Oh, 6:00, 7:00 or 8:00. For a dollar a day and your food, clothes. He would buy you a jacket and uniform.
What did you do when you left working for the ice route? Who did you go to work for then?
Well, the ice route doesn’t make money in the winter time. People don’t use much ice. There was an ad in the paper, or I found out about it somehow that there was an opening at Bell Ice Cream, and I went and applied for it and got the job. It paid $15 a week and I thought I was in the big money then.
What did you do for them?
I done everthing. When I went to work for them, they called it a hotshot driver, and what that entailed was—a café would call in and say, “We’re completely out of milk, and our route man don’t get here until the afternoon.” You would grab a case of half-pints of milk, or whatever they needed, and run that out to them.
Yes, and if there was a route man that failed to leave milk with somebody, just overlooked someone, or somebody would steal milk off the porch, which didn’t happen very often, you’d run that. And then, later I had a milk route that came all the way up to –--had a wholesale and a retail, and that’s where I was working when I met your mother. I stayed there several years.
So how did that happen, where you met mother?
Well, she was working in the office of Taylor Glass, for Polar Ice Cream. They made certain ice cream novelties that nobody else made, and we’d have an order for them and I’d go down and pick it up.
And you saw this secretary there that was…
Well, she was a …What were you doing there, baby?
LBC—I was an office clerk. (Note; she worked part time there while going to business college at Durhams’s)
She was an office clerk. Had carbon all over her face, smudged up. A real cute little ol’ thing.
Well, the interesting thing is, that when she described meeting you, she said you were the neatest person she’d ever seen, wearing your white suit, but she had carbon on her face.
Who were you living with then?
I had a room, somewhere, I don’t recall where. No, I was living with Hollye on 15th street in a garage apartment.
What year was this that you met mother?
1939, 1940, baby?
LBC—1940. (Note: When the 1940 census was released in 2012, I found Dad sharing a room with George W. Willis at the residence of Troy Williford and family at 824 West 10th Street. Mother was one of several lodgers with Frances Poffenberger, living at 603 West 9th Street, both in Austin. The census was taken as of April 1, 1940, which was probably within two weeks of when they met. They married on July 18, 1940. Mother was also enumerated at her parents’ home in Burleson County near Caldwell, so she’s on the 1940 census twice.)
1940.-Do you remember what month?
So, did you immediately go out with her?
Well, we were married within 3 months and, what’d I say, 28 days?
LBC—Something like that.
I used to have, after World War II, a young lady from Manor that rode my bus. Her boy friend and I was in the navy together. They had been going together for five or six years. I used to tell her, “Now, for a small fee, I’ll let you talk to my wife, and she will explain how to do it in three months and 28 days.
It was a running joke on the bus. “Judy, when are you gonna talk to the bus driver’s wife?”
Then, from Bell Ice Cream, …Baby, was we married when I worked for Superior Daries?
They sold out was the reason I lost my job there. They sold out and they kept me. I was the only one they kept. And I tore that equipment out and shipped it out to Corpus Christi. The war was on then, and I went from there to a milk route with Superior Dairies and worked there. From there I went to work for a dairy near where Tammy lives now, past the (Coxville) zoo out there. I worked for a guy named Gibberson. I had a lot of problems with my pay with him. When I quit him, I went to work for Kerrville Bus Company. I worked for A&P, right across from where the old post office used to be, the old, old, post office on West Sixth Street. Right directly across from that was an A&P Grocery store.
I didn’t know that.
Well, I’d dealt without a job right after Lois and I married, and I went to work there for a while, and ….Where was I working when Jimmy was born, honey?
LBC---Big Bear or Safeway…I don’t know.
Didn’t you work over there on Exposition?
Yeah, And I was working for Burl Grocery Store in Clarksville. Cutting meat, delivering groceries. He still delivered groceries.
I went there to Big Bear, from there to B&B because they paid more money. I had gotten up to $22.50 a week or something with Safeway. They only had two Safeway stores in town.
Where was this one?
It was at Ruiz and Sixth Street. North Lamar and Sixth Street, they call it now. At the river, they was working on that Lamar Street bridge. But, from that point there, to Eleventh or Twelfth Street, where the Tavern is, was Ruiz Street. Then from Twelfth Street on, it was Shoal Creek Blvd.
At Big Bear, I worked twelve hours a night, from six p.m. to six a.m.
Did they always pay you weekly?
You didn’t have an hourly wage.
So how many days a week did you work?
At Big Bear I worked 7 days a week.
There’s a picture of you and Mother holding me when I was a baby. You have on an apron and it’s in front of a grocery store.
That was out on Exposition.
It was where Tarrytown Shopping Center was later located.
It was B and B Grocery.
Did you meet her parents before you married?
I remember Lois having to leave because she had two grandmothers die about the same time. (Note: Her Grandmother Albina Wotipka Slama died in May, 1940, and her Grandmother Elizabeth Haddox Bird died in June, 1940)
LBC—You have to remember, we didn’t have a car, we didn’t have a way to go anywhere. We didn’t have a way to do anything. And no money to do it with. We got married by ourselves and then I took him home to Momma and Daddy afterwards.
Did they know you were going to get married?
Then what’d they say?
LBC—It was too late to say much.
Where were they living then?
They were living at the old home place, outside of Caldwell, right where Wilbur lives now. It was an old box house. (It was on the John Bird League at Harmony.)
LBC--About that time we moved in with Jack and Irene Kouravallos, at 510 Joan of Arc.
How did you meet them?
An ad in the paper. Also, during that time, for several months, I worked for Brown and Root at the airport.
LBC—That’s when Jimmy was a baby, wasn’t it?
Yes. That was after those jobs at the stores, and it paid quite a bit more money. A lot more. Now, our pit was right where the terminal is now, and I worked at night,. I worked 12 hours but I got paid overtime. Lois could take that little dab of money I made and really stretch it.
Jimmy, sometimes I would hit a trot, and trot home from the airport to Joan of Arc after the 12 hours, to show you what kind of shape I was in back then. I could ride a bus to Red River for a nickel, and when I got a little more flush, I would hire a taxi sometimes to get home.
You must have thought you were pretty flush to do that.
Yeah, that was 35 or 40 cents.
Were you making an hourly wage there?
Yes. Herman Brown would fly in to check the runways we were pouring.
That all happened in a pretty short period of time where you had all those jobs.
When did you go to work for Kerrville Bus Company?
That was August 6, 1942. I was working for Gibberson then.
How’d you get to work at Gibberson’s place? That was a pretty far piece from Joan of Arc.
I’d run. I would ride the bus out to 45th Street and run the rest of the way.
LBC--It wasn’t an easy ride.
I was born at Brackenridge Hospital.
LBC--Yes, and we were living at Joan of Arc.
(End of tape. Continued on next tape)