Melvin Wade Holdridge (1895-1969) and
Grace Alice Wilson (1898-1975)
MELVIN WADE HOLDRIDGE, son of Horace Benton8 and Mary Ophelia (Morgan) Holdridge, was born 19 April 1895 in Langston, Jackson County, Alabama, and died 21 January 1969 in De Leon, Comanche County, Texas. He married in Sumner, Lamar County, Texas, 3 June 1919, GRACE WILSON, who was born 15 February 1898 in Sumner, Lamar County, Texas, and died 27 February 1975, in De Leon, Comanche County, Texas, daughter of Charles and Mollie Wilson.
Melvin was the first born of Horace and Mary Holdridge --- born April 19, 1895, in Langston, Alabama (at 9:30 on a Monday morning) --- one year and 11 days after their marriage. Horace farmed and was a part time Methodist preacher.
When Melvin was five years old (about 1900 --- the exact date cannot be definitely established) he travelled by covered wagon with his parents and little brother Caver (perhaps six months old) along with several other Holdridge and Morgan families --- their destination being Comanche County. Horace and Mary settled, instead, at Mt. Pleasant for about 4 years. Eva was born there, August 30, 1902, and it was not until 1904 that the family moved on, finally, to Comanche County. By now the family consisted of Melvin, age 9, Caver, age 5, and 2 year old Eva. Melvin had probably begun his "schooling" in Mt. Pleasant, and he continued it at Downing where the family first settled. Other schools attended were at Suez and Savannah School (New Hope). The family moved frequently during those years --- 1904-1917. Melvin, the oldest, was kept busy helping with the farm chores. He seems to have also been deeply involved in helping with the multitude of household chores demanded by the growing family. Melvin learned to cook, to wash, and remembered that there always seemed to be a baby to take care of. He had lots of responsibilities.
By the time he was 16, he and Caver were farming some land which Horace had rented east of De Leon while the family lived in town and Horace was employed by W.C. Streety.
It was during the time that he attended school at New Hope (when the family lived on the Strickland place) and the family attended church there that Melvin met Grace Wilson. But war clouds were heavy, the future uncertain. Melvin and Grace were to be married. Young men were being drafted to serve in the armed services. Melvin decided to enlist. At the age of 22 (July 27, 1917) he left for Dallas where he was formally inducted into the U.S. Navy. It was a sad day for the family --- and for Grace. He was sent immediately to training camp at Great Lakes, Ill., and then to Charleston, South Carolina where he was stationed on the USS Barry, a submarine chaser. He was assigned as a cook.
In November of 1917, Grace and the Wilson family left Comanche County and returned to a farm near Paris, Texas in Lamar County, to a community called Sumner (Grace had been born there). Grace "clerked" in the general store owned by her brother-in-law, Esker Dodson, and awaited Melvin’s return.
Melvin was discharged from the Navy on June 2, 1919. He came directly to Sumner to marry Grace. She had her wedding dress ready, not knowing the day or hour when Melvin would return. He arrived, and Charlene (her sister) was dispatched to the neighboring farm where the preacher lived to summon him to come and perform the ceremony. That night, they were married by Rev. L.F. Tannery and witnessed by her parents, Charles and Mollie Wilson, her sister, Charlene, and half-brother and sister-in-law, Edgar and Ila Wilson. The date: June 3, 1919. They left immediately for Paris, spent the night with Edgar and Ila Wilson, and went by train the next day to De Leon to be reunited with the Holdridge family.
The family now lived on the Malonee place. Fred had been born while Melvin was in the Navy, so Melvin and Grace came home to the entire Holdridge family. They stayed with them for several weeks.
The "oil boom" was on. There was much activity --- oil play --- around Sipe Springs, Rising Star, and particularly Desdemona (called "Hog Town"). Melvin got a job with a contractor who furnished oil field equipment, trucks and wagons for transportation, and employed hundreds of workers in the oil fields. A "mess hall" was a part of that operation, and Melvin, trained as a cook in the Navy, was employed to manage the food service. He and Grace moved there, into quarters furnished them, which was a two-room "shot-gun" house. They lived there for several months. W.C. remembers that he and the family drove to Desdemona to visit them in the big Overland touring car. They ate in the "mess hall", and he was very impressed with the wide variety of food that was available. But this was a hard life in a very rough and rowdy environment. Grace was very unhappy there, and a baby was on the way. They moved back to De Leon and rented an apartment with Mr. Edgar Morton. Melvin worked as a carpenter with Mr. Brown (Horace was working with him also). There was a great deal of building going on in "Humphrey Town" (also called "Archie Town"). Melvin built a 3 room house on the Sipe Springs Road and painted it green and white --- their first real home. (Present location would be 1200 Sipe Springs Road. It is a vacant lot now , the house having burned about 1926). They ordered an oil cook stove, a Singer sewing machine, some dishes, and a set of blue and white enamel-ware from Sears and Roebuck. Melvin made a wooden baby bed and a storage box for the baby clothes. Grace padded the box and covered it with bright-colored "cretonne". An iron bed, dresser, cane-bottomed chairs and table completed their furnishings.
Delta Ree, the first grandchild, was born on March 11, 1920. Dr. Self was in attendance, along with Mary Alice Holdridge (paternal grandmother) [note: this should be Mary Ophelia Morgan Holdridge, no other source calls her Alice. CS]. But babies were no unusual circumstance in the Holdridge family, so the arrival of a grandchild undoubtedly did not arouse any great excitement. Fred was only two, so he became Delta’s beloved playmate.
Melvin sold the little house, then, and moved to a farm east of De Leon, also owned by Mr. Malonee. Caver and Mattie, (who had married on the day that Delta Ree was born) farmed the adjacent farm. They lived there for two years. Crops were very poor --- peanuts brought 30¢ a bushel, and times were hard!
"Humphrey Town" was growing, and needed a store. Horace moved a little "shot-gun" type house from the back of the property (presently 1202 Sipe Springs Road --- it had been Mattie and Caver’s first home) and along with Sam Short, opened a blacksmith shop and store. A small grist-mill and a wind-up gas pump were added later. Melvin came to help with the grist mill and store, and moved his family into a house on the Sipe Springs Road (1102). This house had "running water" ---- piped in over a shelf in the kitchen and a garage for the model T touring car that the family now owned. There were oil lamps for lighting and a wood stove for heating during the winter. Ambrose Morgan, Melvin’s "double cousin" lived with them for several months while he attended De Leon High School. Delta Ree remembers that she had the mumps that winter, and Ambrose tried unsuccessfully to "catch them from her".
In 1924 Melvin moved his family to another house in Archie Town (present location would be about the 500 block of Weatherford.) At that time there were three houses almost exactly alike --- three rooms and a front porch --- and Melvin’s family occupied the middle one. There was a path to the back, a cow lot and garage, and a chicken house. Vollie Nabors and his wife Eilee, Oleta, and Bonnie V. lived in the house on the south. Grace got a new oil stove for the kitchen and new linoleum for the kitchen floor. Delta remembers that she still slept in the baby bed in Grace and Melvin’s bedroom, and that there was a bath tub with only the drain connected so that the water (which had to be poured in) drained into the side yard. The next year, electricity was wired into the house, and gas piped in for heating. Melvin bought an open gas heater (with asbestos behind the burners), and the old wood heater was junked. The "luxuries" of city living had arrived --- even in Archie Town!
It was during this year also that a new brick building was built on the same corner of Sipe Springs Rd. and Cato to replace the little wooden one.
Honor Roll First Grade, South Ward, December 10, 1926:
Gene BLITCH, Edmund HAPPNER, Dale SINGLETON, Sam WEAVER, Delta Ree HOLDRIDGE, Virginia HORN, Flora JONES, Madge LIGHTFOOT, Raynell LIGHTFOOT, Margaret SHARP, Lucile WALTRIP, and Martha Faye BARKER.
Honor Roll Second Grade, South Ward, December 9, 1927: Martha Fay BARKER, Delta R. HOLDRIDGE, Flora JONES, Ola May KEMP, Madge LIGHTFOOT, Margaret SAHARP, Rex CARNES, Eugene WEAVER.
In the fall of 1926 Delta Ree started to school at South Ward Elementary School. Soon thereafter (in the spring of 1927), Melvin and Grace moved to the Edward’s house just 2 blocks north of the school (presently the Schumann house, 501 South Houston) to be nearer school. They lived there only one year.
In 1928 they moved to the "Heath house" (presently 406 Ayers). A piano was purchased from the short family --- a large upright "Crown" with a pedal which made the sound of a harpsichord when locked down. Delta Ree started taking piano lessons from Ruby Mohon. Melvin worked a ½ acre garden in the vacant lot across the street, and Delta Ree and Dora Laura Peevy spent long hours in a play house that they constructed out of tow sacks and boards in the north-east corner of the garden which adjoined the Peevy garden.
It was during this first summer that Delta Ree climbed a tree covered with poison ivy on a Sunday afternoon while visiting Doris and Houston Grissom (Doris was Grace’s sister) who lived just ½ mile east of New Hope church. She was hospitalized for several days, and spent weeks with open blisters on her face, legs, hands and arms. This was a condition which recurred at the same time each summer for several years.
In 1927 the Holdridge store was prospering. A second location was opened uptown. Times were good, and Horace was looking toward expanding the business so that "all the boys would have a place to work and make a good living". The first store was on the southeast corner of Texas and Reynosa (present location of Bells). A year later they moved one block north, northwest corner of Gonzales and Texas (present location of auto-parts store).
Melvin bought a new 1928 Chevrolet for the family. But then, the "great depression" hit! The banks closed, business tapered off, nobody could pay their bills, and by 1932 the up-town store was closed and all the stock moved back to the first store at the original location.
Melvin had purchased a home at 706 Austin in 1931 with the money that he received from his "soldier’s bonus" --- $500.00! It was a five room house with a bath, a large front porch across the front with a "portico-chere" and a separate garage. Melvin added a large screened-in back porch across the back and piped gas to Grace’s wash pot in the back yard! There was space for a cow, chickens, and a big garden and orchard on the south. Melvin set out fruit trees and grapevines.
In 1932 Melvin and Caver opened a Magnolia filling station downtown at the southeast corner of Reynosa and Texas. They operated this business for one year. Caver moved to Cross Plains to be in business with his father-in-law Mr. McClellan, and Melvin bought a truck and began buying and hauling fresh produce, watermelons and cantaloupes to the western part of the state. Delta Ree began taking piano lessons from Mrs. A.P. Schmidt, and Grace sewed for Mrs. Schmidt’s daughter, Susan, to pay for her lessons.
Delta Ree graduated from high school in 1937 and entered John Tarleton in the fall of that year. Melvin began buying peanuts that fall and did quite well in that business venture. After her graduation from Tarleton in 1939, she married Derroll Hafford on October 15, 1939.
The war was on, and in January of 1941, Melvin and Grace moved to Abilene where Melvin went to work as a carpenter at Camp Barkley. They lived first on Butternut Street, and then moved to a little house at the edge of town where Melvin could have a garden and chickens. (2301 Over Blvd.)
By 1944 the carpentry and maintenance at Camp Barkley was no longer needed, so Melvin went to work as a butcher in a grocery store. But Melvin and Grace had always wanted a "business of their own", so in 1946 they bought a Red and White Food Store in Winters, Texas, and operated it for two years. They weren’t happy there, and the business was slow, so they sold the store and moved back to Abilene. Melvin went to work as a butcher for Gosden Food Market. They lived at 433 Palm until in 1951 they bought a duplex at 1318 Poplar, renting the north side apartment for extra income. There was no room there for a garden, but Melvin found a long narrow space on the north side of the house beside the driveway for a few cultivated rows. The next year he went to work for Thornton’s Food Store as a butcher, and worked there until 1961 when he retired and he and Grace returned to De Leon.
Melvin had always been in good health, was a big 6 ft. robust man. In 1958 he had a heart attack, and was hospitalized for about a week. The doctor advised "lose weight and quit smoking"! Melvin never smoked another cigarette after that, (he had smoked since he was a young man) and did lose about 30 pounds.
They sold the house in Abilene and bought a home at 504 Irvin in De Leon. Here, again, Melvin could have a big garden. He set out 2 apricot trees, an apple tree, 2 peach trees, and 2 purple plum trees. Melvin worked part time for Marvin and W.C. at Holdridge Store, and supplied the store with some fresh vegetables from the surplus from his big garden. Melvin was a "farmer at heart" and never tired of working in his garden and keeping the yard looking manicured and beautiful.
While Melvin’s specialty was gardening, Grace’s talents lay in the area of homemaking. She was expert at canning the vegetables which Melvin’s gardens abundantly produced, and she made pickles and jellies for the family table. Delta Ree also remembers her making lye soap in her big wash pot which stood in the back yard during those early years. Grace was expert at many kinds of needlework. She sewed for herself and Delta Ree from the very beginning. Always, there was a new dress for Delta Ree on her birthday and at Christmas. She continued this tradition even for Diane, her beloved granddaughter, as long as she lived.
She made many beautiful quilts during her lifetime, and they have become family treasures. One of them, in 1936, won a blue ribbon at a fair in De Leon. Delta Ree remembers that during the winter there was always a quilt which Melvin had helped her "put in". It was stretched in wooden frames, suspended from the ceiling with heavy cord, and rolled down in the daytime for "quilting". She took great pride in the quality of her workmanship. Whenever a neighbor came to visit and help her quilt, she inspected the work very critically, once she had departed, and proceeded to take it out and do it over if the work were below Grace’s standards.
She could "tat" --- making yards and yards of edgings for the embroidery pieces that decorated their home. An intricately designed and tatted baby cap and dress which she made for Delta Ree is still preserved and has become the baptismal dress even for her great grandchildren. Crocheting was a pleasant diversion also. She made edgings, tablecloths, bedspreads, and afghans. Her hands were always busy.
Grace and Melvin were "working class people". Their beginnings in their respective families taught them to be frugal, never to be wasteful, to take care of what they had, and to "save for a rainy day". The lessons of the "depression years" were never forgotten. The difference between "needs" and "wants" was always carefully weighed. Any extravagance was sinful. They never ran a charge account anywhere or carried a credit card. If they did not have the cash to pay for something, they did not buy it. Melvin paid cash for every car, every house, and every piece of furniture they ever purchased.
Melvin and Grace enjoyed their retirement years. They loved the little house at 504 Irvin. De Leon was "home" for them, and they liked being back home with the family and old friends. They played "42", went fishing often, and to church every Sunday. They visited Delta Ree’s family in Waco, Grace’s family in Sweetwater and New Mexico, and had their grandchildren, Tom and Diane, come for a visit every summer.
Melvin and Grace went to New Hope to church during the early years of their marriage, but transferred their membership to First Methodist in town in 1927. They remained loyal and active members there all their lives, except for the 20 years that they lived in Abilene.
Melvin died on January 21, 1969, age 73, of emphysema and a heart condition. In only 4 months, he and Grace would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Grace was extremely lonely after Melvin’s death. They had never been apart. Two years later, she was hospitalized for breast surgery. The lump was found to be malignant. There were chemo-therapy treatments, and she recovered. In the summer of 1974 she underwent surgery again, this time for a malignancy of the colon. She died on February 27, 1975 ---age 77.
Grace and Melvin are buried in De Leon cemetery on a plot they selected and purchased shortly after they returned from Abilene. They also selected and installed the marker for their graves.
Children of Melvin Wade Holdridge and Grace Alice Wilson:
- Delta Ree Holdridge
Story by Delta Ree Holdridge Hafford, from the Holdridge Family History/Directory, August 1985, used with permission from Delta's son, Thomas Hafford.