Emma Perkins

Mama knew best – Joe, siblings continue Perkins legacy
(Friday, February 13, 2004
Pete Kendall

Joe Prekins learned right from wrong
from their mother Emma Perkins

Raise a toast to Emma Perkins for the entirety of February’s Black History Month. She was a fine woman. She taught her son Joe Perkins right from wrong … usually with the tongue but occasionally with the strap.
“When I was 16, I decided one Monday morning to take a trip,” Joe, 48, recalled. “I didn’t tell anybody. I rode the bus to Jacksonville, Florida, to see a friend.
“I was gone six days. When I got back on the bus, the first person I saw was my mom walking on the square.
“I hollered at her out the bus window. She shook her fist at me. When I got home, I got a whipping.”
It may have been his last. It wasn’t his first. Mama Emma was loving but stern.

“I hardly got away with anything,” Joe said with a chuckle. “When it was time for a whipping and she didn’t want to use a belt, she’d say, ‘Go get a switch out of that tree.’
“And you’d better bring back the right switch. One day, she whipped me for half a block. I don’t remember if she used a switch or a belt.”
“Both,” reminded Joe’s sister, also named Emma.

Parents Emma and Willie Perkins have passed on. Their legacy has been preserved and treasured by Joe and his brothers and sisters … Herman, Willie, Allen, Johnny, Jimmy, Mary, Florene and Emma.
“My mom and dad moved to Granbury in 1955 when I was six months old,” Joe said. “They worked at Hood General Hospital, which is now the Opera House inn.
“Mom was a cook at the hospital, and dad was a dietician and janitor. We came from Franklin in East Texas. We moved here with one of the doctors, I believe Dr. Jenkins.”
The Perkins brood resided at 527 N. Crockett near the Santa Fe tracks in those years.
“A black family lived where the post office is now,” Joe said. “The parents’ were Pearl and Earl Anglin. He shined shoes on the square. After he passed on, his son shined shoes.
“A black woman lived almost directly in front of the present post office. I don’t remember her name.”
Joe now resides on Horton, a stone’s throw from the old North Crockett address across the Santa Fe tracks.
“Quite a few blacks lived in Granbury in the ’60s,” he said. “Miss Martha (Anglin, Earl’s sister) lived on this side of the tracks in the bend. She was kin to another black family, the Leonards, who were our neighbors on Crockett.
“Keith Street was a historic street. Dip Keith lived there. He had two boys named Pete and Sol.”
Joe is a cheerful adult. He watches John Wayne cowboy movies. Joe was an equally cheerful child.
“I had a lot of fun,” he said. “When we lived on Crockett, we would come to this side of the tracks to go to the Baptist church (Mt. Ebo) and the school beside the church.
“All my brothers and sisters went to school there. They would take me with them and baby-sit me while they were in school.
“I remember my brothers wouldn’t let me do this or do that with them. When they finally started letting me go along, we’d walk down the railroad tracks and go to the river, when it was a river.
“We’d fish and hunt and swim. That’s where I learned to swim.”
Good thing. “When we lived on Crockett, a friend and I built a boat and put up a big stick in it with a flag that said ‘’River Rats.’
“We took the boat to the river to a place we called pump hole. I fished that hole a long time. We put the boat in the water and got in, and the boat went straight to the bottom.
“I got out of the water. I don’t know how. All I know is I looked up and saw my mom, and I got whipped all the way to the house.”
Such tales, tall or short, are popular at Perkins family reunions.
“We have reunions on my mom’s side and dad’s side,” Joe said. “Sometimes, we’re able to go, and sometimes we can’t. This year, the reunion on mom’s side is in New Orleans. I’m going to love New Orleans.”
He learned about life from mom, dad, brothers and sisters. He was smart enough to learn a lot on his own.
“You can’t pick a color,” he said. “There’s always going to be somebody prejudiced against somebody else. I don’t like to judge, and I don’t like for anybody to judge me.
“One of these days, we’re all going to have to answer for what we do. When the Lord asks me, I’m going to say I did what I could to try to help out a little bit.”
He owns a concrete business. He pours, and he touches up that which has been poured by others.
“I fix markers in cemeteries, and I pour curbs and put gravel in plots. My wife (Becky) says, ‘I’m beginning to worry about you. You hang out in cemeteries a lot.’
“I tell her, ‘I’m going to end up in a cemetery one of these days. I’m getting ready.’”
He is also one of Hood County’s more renowned volunteers. He barbecues for such festivals as the Cresson Homecoming.
“I like helping people when I can,” Joe said. “I try to be active in the community. There’s no pay, but down the line it comes back to you in some kind of way.”
He’s celebrating Black History Month quietly … reflectively.
“I think about the past and how far blacks have come. And blacks have come a long way.”
He’s celebrating it where he intends to celebrate many more.
“I don’t like big cities. I’m gonna be here till I’m outta here.”
Outta here does not mean a bus to Florida.
“If I disappear again,” Joe said, “they’ll know I’m camping. I love to go camping.”