by Candace Ord Manroe
Hood County News – April 7, 1985
Even strangers call her “Granny.”
Two minutes talking to Frances Gibson, a native Hood Countian who recently celebrated her 75th birthday, you understand why.
Her laugh flows purely and easily, the way some wish the water supply still did. Behind fashionable glasses, her blue eyes disarm with friendliness.
Even the most reserved of conversationalists are tempted to claim this “Granny” as their own.
Mrs. Gibson sums up her people-appeal casually: “I was just born happy. I love people. I always want to be mixing.”
“Mixing” is something she does well. For nearly 20 years, it made patrons of Rankin’s Restaurant feel at home.
But Mrs. Gibson’s opportunities to mix are slimmer, now.
On March 31, the restaurant where she worked since its opening by Bill and the late Ethyl Rankin, closed its doors. She worked first as a waitress and then as a cashier. Folks will have to look elsewhere for whopping portions of chicken-fried steak, three vegetables, dessert and drink–all for $4.25.
And they’ll have to look elsewhere for Frances “Granny” Gibson, whom many regulars grew to appreciate as much as Rankin’s food.
The restaurant’s closing marks the first time in Granny’s life that she has not been employed. A working woman long before that role was fashionable, she found strength in staying busy.
That strength sustained her through twice becoming widowed–by her first husband, Sam Newman, who died when their only child, Nelda, was age 6; Clifford Gibson, the man she married after her daughter was grown and married. Not even single parenting, those years in between, was enough to dampen her spirits.
“No, I never got depressed,” she says, her trademark laugh underscoring her words. “No, I didn’t let myself. I probably would have, if I hadn’t stayed going.”
For many years, one job just wasn’t enough for Granny. She drove a Granbury school bus for 20 years–and the latter of those years overlapped with her job at Rankin’s.
Hers was the kind of schedule that would prompt many contemporary mothers to seek time-management counseling–or, at least, to do some serious hair-pulling and lamenting.
Granny took it all in stride, laughing her way through the hectic days.
“I worked six days a week. I left the house at 7 to drive the bus and get the children to school by 8:30, then I’d go to the restaurant and work till 3:30, when it was time to pick up the children. I’d get home from driving the bus at 5, then go back to the restaurant and work till 10,” she explains.
Her thoughts on women entering the work field? “Why, I think it’s alright, don’t you?” she asks, a little bemused by the prospect of there being anything tainted about the work ethic.
“I loved both jobs. The kids didn’t get on my nerves much. I really had good luck with them. I enjoyed them, and I missed them, when I quit driving that bus.”
Driving the bus a 48-mile route, one way, compensated for the one thing lacking in Granny’s life: worldliness.
Frances Gibson has never lived outside of Hood County.
More to the point, she’s never set foot outside of Texas.
She was born in the Tolar area and attended Tolar High School. Her parents were farmers and she and her first husband maintained the farming tradition until his death.
“I worked all the time on the farm,” she reflects. “Women didn’t know what it was, going into town to work, then.”
Make-up of the work force isn’t the only thing distinguishing those times from today.
“Back then, there was a lot more visiting. Neighbors all visited one another, took care of one another when one was sick, or whatever. We don’t do that anymore,” she says, the laugh momentarily silent.
“I used to know everybody in Hood County. Now, there’s only a few left I knew then. Most of the rest have moved away. I just can’t believe all the growth. I never thought, when they put the lake in, that it would make (Granbury) grow like this.”
Granny is not one to complain but, when pressed, she admits to some changes in her home town that trouble her.
“There’s too much meanness–robbing and murder–with all the people here now. We didn’t have that before the lake came in. This used to be a wonderful little town.”
So wonderful, in fact, that she never once desired to live elsewhere. “Really, I’ve just never wanted to leave Granbury,” she insists.
She did not feel a need to move to bigger-and-better dream homes within town, either. Her spacious rock residence on FM Road 208 has been home for 50 years. When she sold the property on U.S. Highway 377 that is now occupied by Sonic and Farmer Brown’s, she simply moved the house to its current location.
The new neighborhood, where she has lived for eight years, is as comfortable as a pair of old shoes. Across the street is the yellow frame home of her first husband’s parents, where she and Mr. Newman spent the first 15 years of their marriage. That honeymoon house originally was located on the property now held by Jose’s Restaurant. Like her own, it was moved to its present site. “I tell people, that old house and I sure have stuck together.”