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PHILLIPS AND CALLAHAN FAMILY LINES IN ARKANSAS, TEXAS & OKLAHOMA

Phillips, Callahan & GoochFamily Lines

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Dalton Ray Phillips - August, 2009, with great nephews Jacob (age 4) and Westin (age 1).

I was born and raised in Rotan, Fisher County, Texas. It is located on the staked plains of west Texas, between Abilene and Lubbock.  I sometimes like to call it "the outback of Texas". I couldn't wait to get away from there when I was a boy. When I turned 18 in 1964, I joined the U.S. Navy. I stayed in the Navy for twenty three years and retired in 1987 as a Senior Chief Petty Officer. After I retired from the Navy, I worked for several Department of Defense contractors out of Jacksonville, Florida until October of 2004. I have been retired on disability since then.

My last employer was General Dynamics - Bath Iron Works, a major shipbuilder. I served as their On Site Logistics Representative at the Naval Station, Mayport, Florida from 1996 until I retired. I provided fleet liaison and logistics support services to the surface combatant ships homeported there.

My wife, Kathy, and I were both native Texans, and we moved from Florida back to Texas in December of 2004. Kathy died unexpectedly in March of 2015. I married again in March of 2016. My new wife, Linda, and I now live in New Haven, Indiana.

I became interested in genealogy in 1995, after my oldest brother died suddenly from a heart attack. I wanted to pass some family history information on to his children but I realized that I didn't know much about it myself. I started digging into it and became "hooked". I am now a confirmed "genealogy hound". It has been frustrating at times but I am proud of my accomplishments with the genealogical research.

It is funny how life goes full circle. When I was a boy, I wanted to get away from the Texas prairies. During my lifetime, I traveled all over the world. Now, as an old man, I am quite content when I go back to Texas and see the endless open spaces.

I hope the website will be of some use for you. Thanks for stopping by.

ROTAN, FISHER COUNTY, TEXAS

When I was a boy growing up in the 1950's, it seemed like everyone in Fisher County came to Rotan on Saturdays. It was hard to find a parking spot around the three block long oval shaped main drag of downtown Rotan. The local area men would stand around in small groups on the sidewalks talking, while the women did the shopping or sat in their cars - people watching - and the kids went to see a picture show. There were several cafe's along the main drag in those days and they all did a thriving business on Saturdays. 

Things were especially active in downtown Rotan on Saturdays during the fall months, when the farmers would bring in Mexican laborers by the truck loads to do the cotton harvesting. The Mexican Nationals - men, women and children - would be hauled up from Mexico, usually in two ton stake trucks equipped with tall side boards. The Mexican peasant men wore white linen attire, with sandals and big wide brimmed sombrero straw hats. 

There was a carnival like setting in downtown Rotan on Saturday afternoons in the fall months back in those days, with all of the cars and people milling around. There were always mixed aromas in the air - the smell of hamburgers, the smell of Mexican foods cooking, the smell of breads and pastries baking, the smell of the exhaust fumes from all of the motor vehicles and the ever present smell of the smoke from the burr burners at the cotton gins. 

Growing up in Rotan, Texas was quite an experience. It was in the Bible Belt. Most of the people were white Protestants with strong family values, high morals and conservative viewpoints. It was "dry" and beer, wine or liquor were not sold anywhere in the county.  The people were very patriotic. 

All in all - it was a good place to raise children. I have many fond memories about my days as a child growing up in Rotan. In many ways - it like Mayberry from the Andy Griffith TV show. The barber shop was a big gathering place for the men, just to sit around and tell stories. We had the corner drug store with the old fashioned soda fountain. There was one full stop light and two blinking caution lights in the whole town. School plays, little league baseball and Friday night high school football games were all big events in Rotan.

There were some negative aspects to it. I don't expect everyone to share my views or agree with me on this, but it is the way I remember it. Rotan was a typical small town in Texas in that day in time, and I believe most other small towns in Texas had these same flaws.

There was racial prejudice.

Those were the days of segregation. You didn't see many black folks in downtown Rotan. The Negroes stayed on their side of town, which was called "the flats" by the white folks. They had their own school, stores and eating places. Negro children did not go to the public schools in Rotan. When their school burned down around 1958 (I believe),  the Rotan School Board refused to let the Negro children attend the public schools on a temporary emergency basis - they were bussed to one of the neighboring towns where there was a school open for the Negro children.  If Negroes used the stores or the cafe's in downtown Rotan, they placed their order at the back door and waited for it to be handed out to them. We all shared the same movie theater - the blacks had to sit in the balcony seats. (I can remember thinking they got special treatment). If a Negro man was seen walking around in Rotan outside the flats, he was watched carefully by the white men because he was probably up to no good. It was not that unusual to see Negro women outside the flats, as many of them worked doing household work for the wealthy white folks.

There was "class" prejudice.

Like most small towns in Texas and the other Southern States during those times, your social status was very important in Rotan. It was a very class conscious environment and everyone was expected to "stay in their place". It started even before we started school. The "Good Old Boy Network" was going strong in Rotan back then. The color of your skin, your family name, where you lived, your Church affiliations, what you did for a living and  how much money you made were all important factors in determining your social status. There were basically six classes of people in Rotan - (1) the affluent whites, (2) the working class whites, (3) the poor whites ("poor white trash), (4) the residents of Mexican descent, (5) the transient Mexican Nationals and (6) then the Negroes. The higher up on the chain you were - the better it was for you. 

There was "ethnic origin" prejudice.

Hispanics were commonly labeled as "wet backs", "chili bellies", "chili chompers", "beaners", "greasers" -  among other derogatory labels. If your surname sounded Spanish - you were categorized as a Mexican.  If you had Hispanic features (black hair, brown eyes, dark complexion) and spoke with an accent, you were labeled as a Mexican. Mexicans were considered to be not quite as good as the white folks and they were generally treated as lower class people. It was not good to be labeled as a Mexican - many of the children I grew up with who were of Mexican descent were not allowed to speak Spanish at home. The transient Mexican Nationals were sometimes treated more like cattle than human beings. People with roots in any of the countries in the Middle East region of the world (Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arbia, the Persian Empire, Turkey, Greece,  Jordan, etc. - as well as Israel) were considered to be "Jews". Jews were a special sub-class of people. Since most of them were store owners and considered to be wealthy, they were generally accepted as first class citizens - with some reservations. The "Jew" label was pinned on them and that was not a good thing in those days. The worst label of all was the word "nigger", and it was a word that was commonly used by the white folks back in those days.

There was Church Affiliation prejudice.

Most of the people were Protestants - Baptists, Methodists, Church of Christ Christians, Church of the Nazarene Christians and Assembly of God (Pentecostal) Christians being the most popular Churches. Catholics were a minority - there was a small Catholic Church and most of the congregation were Hispanics. Most people in powerful positions were Baptists, and it was sometimes alleged that favoritism was shown by them to other Baptists. The Baptists called some of the others "Holy Rollers", the Church of Christ Christians called the Baptists "Holy Rollers", the Methodists just smiled a lot and the Catholics were openly ridiculed by all of them. Everyone was expected to go to Church on Sundays. Those people that did not attend Church were looked down upon by those that did. Atheists were simply not tolerated.

When I left Rotan in 1964, I was not very well prepared to face the big world. I had a lot to learn. I was naive and very narrow minded and rigid in my thinking. In Navy Boot Camp, there were several Negroes in our Recruit Training Company. There were even Negro Petty Officers and Company Commanders. I did not know how to relate to them. I did not dislike them - I was in awe of them. I was totally shocked by some of the things I saw in San Francisco. It took a long time for me to realize that people in other places didn't see things the way I did - and that is okay. I became more flexible and tolerant over the years but I am still influenced by my early raising in Rotan, Texas.

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In Closing.

A dollar went a long way back in those days. For us kids, no matter what our social class was, with fifty cents we could take in a movie and dine on a good hamburger with a soft drink on Saturdays - and maybe even have a little change left over. As we grew to be adolescents and started to drive, we could get a full tank of gasoline for even the most thirsty road hog car for $5.00 or less. It was always cheaper to buy gas at Jack Allen's station - just off the main drag, but there was a long standing rumor that he watered the gas down.

Times have changed.

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Downtown Rotan Texas as it looks in 2009

OLD WHITE FLAT

This Historical Marker is located in downtown Rotan. It is placed in a little plaza that was created after the Davis Department Store and some other businesses were destroyed by a major fire several years ago.

JOHN'S PLACE

In the the old days, "John's Place" (pictured near the center) was one of the main attractions of the town. It was a little cafe' ran by Mr. John Mercer and served up mostly hamburgers.  As a child, I can remember paying twenty five cents for a hamburger with a soft drink at John's Place. 

LANCE MOVIE THEATER

In the old days, on Saturdays most of us kids would go to see a picture show at the Lance Theater (pictured near the center). It was owned by Mr. Lance Davis. We paid fifteen cents for the ticket to get in, a fountain soft drink was a nickel and a small bag of popcorn was a nickel. The old theater has been closed for many years. The building on the corner (left side) was the First National Bank back then. 

 

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