By Christopher C. Evans
Hood County News – April 10, 2001
Familiar names from the Cresson century past are spattered throughout a recent letter from Victor B. Penuel Jr., of San Antonio, to Cresson’s Helen Long.
Long, curator of the historic Cresson School, had written to Penuel, whose late father was Cresson School principal-schoolmaster from 1927-44, mainly to answer questions about the faux Alamo school building, designed by the elder Penuel in the early 1930s.
Penuel Jr. has been battling prostate cancer. If the brief but pithy note is any indication, he recalls as much or more about folk in these parts as he does about the school building per se.
“In WWII Frank Fidler (sgt. in 36th Div.) and I met just south of the Cathedral of Monte Casino in Italy,” the younger Penuel writes. “(We) found a little gully where the Germans couldn’t see us and had a long pleasant talk about Cresson.
“Winston Randle was a good friend and his family owned the only house in town with a flush toilet. Calvin Fidler was my employer at his grocery store for a time. There were many others…”
One who stands out in Penuel’s memory — “one I have heard nothing about” — was Willena Anderson. “She and I went to Godley High for the 11th grade and graduation,” he notes. “We boarded at (the home of) a lady teacher and her parents near the campus of the high school. We went (to Godley) on Monday and (came) home on Friday.
“The lady (teacher) was a stern disciplinarian. We ate dinner at a table with the family then spent at least one hour studying.
“That made me valedictorian at Godley and Willena a close second,” Penuel pens. “Amazing! Two Cresson transfers coming in one and two in the graduating class!!!”
According to Shirley Robert Smith’s Cresson: Community Crossroads, Willena Anderson, daughter of William “Bill” Anderson and Hulda Crook Anderson, married a Daryl Tucker and had boys named David and Jeff. Penuel Jr. would like to know more.
He recalls that the Anderson family owned “a farm/ranch a mile or so north of the road to Granbury next to the Slocum Ranch.” “Willena was a girl with the highest moral standards; she could have been a saint,” he writes. “I have never before or since seen a girl with morals so high.”
Penuel Jr. adds that he does not know the origin of a crest that appears in concrete on the front of the school, one that no doubt was selected by his father. “The crest is not our family’s,” he writes.
Long is not only interested in finding out where the crest derived. In a related matter, she would like to find someone who can recreate the concrete chalices on the old building’s corners. Several of the 12 chalices, which have or had lightning rods in them, are damaged by weather or gone entirely.
Not so, however, the middle and most significant arch in the old school’s front facade, which as of presstime was only a few bricks away from being entired restored and should be finished by the time this is published.
Drive by and check it out! Credit goes to the Hood County Adult Probation Department, which supplied skilled labor, and the probationers themselves, who for reasons that seem obvious aren’t anxious to be named in print but nonetheless have made a lasting contribution to our community.
But how could any of this have anything to do with the origins of the now-huge cutting horse industry?
On at least three occasions since I began probing Cresson-area history in earnest someone has come up to me and said words to the effect that if I’d check into it I’d find out that the first-ever real cutting contest, the precursor to what today is a billion-dollar enterprise, was held right here on the late George Glascock’s ranch in the late 1940s. Well…
While perusing the section on Glascock in Cresson: Community Crossroads the other night, I ran across an interesting passage.
It said that for several years the “preliminaries of the cutting horse competition” were held in Glascock’s pens here and that Glascock allowed the ladies of the Cresson School PTA to peddle sandwiches and soft drinks at the competition to raise money.
Some or all of the money, the book notes, went to install indoor privies in the Cresson School, which to that point was served by outdoor facilities.
Though the exact year the indoor toilets were added onto the back wall of the school has been lost, it is estimated that it was sometime before 1950, but not long before 1950.
“Cresson: the Cradle of Cutting” has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
SIDETRACKS: Subcommittees of those favoring incorporation of Cresson, Bluebonnet Hills, Clearview Hills and Scenic Ridge met Tuesday at the school without incident and are expected to have all work done — the incorporation petition validated as to registered voters, survey of and strategies for canvasing all affected neighborhoods completed — by the 7:30 p.m. April 24 meeting. Next step: presenting the petition to the Hood County Commission in order to get an incorporation election date set…According to a notice in Cresson Water Works bill April 1, the company is now owned by Randy A. Gibson.
BACKTRACKS: Some weeks ago this space included a few 1890s Cresson items from the Granbury News, what the Hood County News was called before going to the broader nomenclature. Here, from April 5, 1894, are a few more: “G.W. White has purchased Mrs. Kellenberg’s residence and improvements, moving same on his on lots where he is arranging for a nice home…Miss Quinn from Georgia, neice of E.K. Wilson, is here to take charge of a music class…Prof. Crank is now teaching a subscription school, and the children all seem to like him…Uncle Jim Elam wants to buy yearlings, but says they are a scarce article…Abijah Long, from Alvin, was in our midst last week and gives a glowing account of that country…The young folks had quite a nice hop last night at the residence of Mr. J.S. Adams…Mr. C.P. Perkinson and wife have departed for the territory where he will take charge of a station on the Rock Island…John Tandy paid us a brief visit last Sunday…Lum Green has a fresh stock of groceries and says his trade is improving all the time…Baker & Doyle seem to be doing a nice dry goods business…Young Dr. R.H. Ryburn had a patient yesterday — a little boy with a tooth ache.” From April 10, 1894: “I.A. Stewart left on yesterday for Alvin, Texas, accompanying W.O. Cameron from Weatherford, and others from Cleburne…R.P. Barker will probably have electric lights in his gin house this fall, thus enabling him to keep up with his work…Little Robert Wright was run over by a team while the little fellow was crossing the street, bruising him badly, but not seriously…Mr. R. J. Sikes, an aged Texan, is yet very low and his recovery doubtful. The citizens of Cresson are attending his bedside faithfully…Messrs. Shirley, Fidler, Barker, Freeland and others made a general delivery of yearlings here last week to a northern man, whose named we failed to learn.” From May 3, 1984: “I.A. and Jim Stewart left Saturday for Alvin…Hood Sikes has purchased the livery stable from A.G. Bob and seems to be doing a good business…Our Sunday School is to enjoy a picnic today on Fall Creek near F.M. Ryburn’s farm…Miss Fannie Berry returned home this week after quite a long visit among friends here…E.K. Wilson is happy over his fine Jersey calf.” And, finally, from July 19, 1894: “Mr. George Simpson is looking after his cattle interests in the Territory…Miss Lula Bobo has been on the sick list for some time, but we are glad to know that she is improving…Mr. & Mrs. E.K. Wilson are visiting at Mineral Wells for their health…George White is off to Fort Worth on business.”
DERAILED: Contrary to an implication left in this space earlier in an earlier article about the Cresson School, the elder Victor B. Penuel was apparently not a particularly exciting or riveting lecturer. In fact, says one former pupil, who shall remain nameless, although Penuel Sr. was a colorful and driven administrator determined that all his students know all they needed to succeed, he was so dreadfully boring as an algebra, geometry and history lecturer that pupils were commonly wont to doze or invent mischief. “Now Mrs. (Dixie) Penuel and Miss Elma Fidler,” the erstwhile pupil added, “now they were great teachers.”