I remembered her well, because she joined the Telling Our Stories (TOS) class with a mission and a goal that she worked hard to achieve. Born in 1912 on land her grandfather had homesteaded shortly after the Civil War, Lucille came from a large family, and her goal was to write at least one story about each of her parents and siblings in the Todd family and publish a book of her stories.
I have couple of shelves reserved for books published by TOS writers, and it didn’t take long for me to find hers, entitled “My Fantastic Journey.” The title was especially apt, because her monthly drive from Windom to attend the TOS class began immediately after she had attended church, and she nibbled a sandwich as she drove. The class began at 2 p.m., but she was usually waiting for us to unlock the door at 1:30.
Lucille was also memorable for her optimism and enthusiasm for this country and the era in which she lived. As we enter a new year in the 21st century, some of her experiences and words offer us hope for the future. The journey the Todd family made when she was a baby shows how essential close-knit families were in this country’s development in the early 20th century.
A few months after she was born, Lucille’s father chose to move the family from Culloka in Collin County to Bigbee in Fannin County. He had three brothers living nearby, so each of them brought a covered wagon. In his own wagon four-month-old Lucille rode in a special cradle inside a barrel that was balanced on a frame. Since travel by horse-drawn wagon was slow, the journey took several days, with campsites chosen near farmhouses to provide water for the animals and for cooking meals. Arriving in Bonham was a relief because it had a wagonyard that provided shelter and people to visit with. The caravan of four wagons continued on to Bigbee, arriving on Dec. 23, and Santa Claus found the Todd family at their new location.
Writing in the 1990s when she was in her eighties, Lucille believed fervently that she had lived in some of the most interesting times in our history. The eleven “toiling” Todds (nine children) survived through hard times only because their “togetherness” kept the family cemented together, always willing to work. When their own crop was in good shape, they worked for others and placed any earnings in a jar to buy extra things the family needed.
Although she had a burning desire to become a teacher, reaching that goal was not easy for Lucille. Having held several jobs already, she was taking college courses slowly while teaching when the Gilmer-Akin bill passed by the Texas legislature required teachers to have a bachelor’s degree by Sept. 1, 1949. At the age of 37, she finished her B.S. degree at Texas Wesleyan College on Aug. 20, just in time to meet the new requirement.
According to her former student I spoke with, Lucille was a hard working and inspirational teacher. In the final chapter of her book she wrote about dreaming of going through a tunnel at the end of her life and seeing all those who would be there waiting for her: Mother and Dad and six brothers, two sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins. It seemed like a fitting conclusion to Lucille Hawks’ “Fantastic Journey.”
Dr. Jerry Lincecum is a retired Austin College professor who now teaches senior citizens how to write their life stories. A new class begins at Grayson College on March 8. Email him at email@example.com