Hood County News – October 2, 2001

by Christopher C. Evans


The Guiles boys from Baker were not unlike other brothers who went off to fight for their country in the 1940s and ‘50s except that there were four of them, Maurice, Derrell, Thurman and Fenton.

When World War II came on, Ralph Henry Guiles and his wife, Madge Kelley Guiles, offered up their eldest three sons. When the so-called “Korean Conflict” arose, the least three sons went to war. The way things worked out, the middle two sons, Derrell and Thurman, fought in both wars. Thankfully, all four outlived their military pursuits.

Asked about the recent assault on America by Moslem terrorists, Thurman Guiles, 75, ponders but for a second and mutters, “Well, somebody hasn’t been lookin’ around, I think.” What he means is that he fears the national defense has grown soft and penetrable.

“I think we’d better start lookin’ around,” Guiles added in a recent interview. “If we don’t we’re all in trouble.”

A veteran of both World War II and Korea before spending 24 years with the U.S. Postal Service, Guiles today holds forth from a wheelchair on what once was part of the farm where he was raised. The location is some two miles east of Baker about five miles north of Cresson, the terrain undulating with low spots covered with oaks and hackberries. The actual house in which Guiles and his four siblings were born is maybe a mile away from his present home via a rutted caliche road.

According to the 1980 Parker County Historical Commission book History of Parker County, Guiles’ great-grandfather, Ben, came to Dallas County in 1855 and settled near Cedar Hill before migrating with a wife and seven offspring to a place a mile east of the Baker School. Thurman Guiles’ grandfather, John Guiles, helped build the Weatherford-to-Cleburne railroad in the middle to late 1880s and was paid in “gold pieces,” the Parker County tome says.

Thurman’s father, Ralph Henry Guiles, was born in 1884 on the same farm his sons and daughter would be, a place Thurman today describes as isolated but active. And though the Sept. 11 events in New York and Washington were much on his mind the day we talked, some of Thurman Guiles` most vivid recollections were of life on the farm when he was growing up.

That life, he said, was built around work to keep the farm running, things the family did together and play with his siblings. “My father was what you call a stock farmer; he raised cows and oats and wheat and, for a while in the ‘30s, sheep,” Thurman said. “What I remember about those sheep is that every year for years my brothers and I would have to pull cuckleburrs so the sheep wouldn’t get ‘em in their wool.

“Now that was some fun,” he said with a wry smile.

“Baker was two miles away so we didn’t have playmates except ourselves,” he recalled. “My brother Fenton was the one I did a lot of stuff with.”

The time was pre-Toys R Us. “We pitched horseshoes but we had horseshoes that came off horses and they were sometimes different sizes,” Giles, who turns 76 Nov. 11, said. “We were always pitching washers, too.

“We used corn cobs for cows,” he said. “Grandpa taught us how to bend sticks and make gates. Oh, we got stuff for Christmas but it wasn’t too much. Most of our toys we made up ourselves.

The time was pre-junk food. “We used to pack a pig in salt and we’d have salt ham available a lot of the time,” he said. “Then, my cousins had guineas and we’d always have guinea eggs. And we had a garden plus things like wild plums, so Mama put up canned jams and jellies.

“Mama also made sugar pies, you know, where you roll the dough out and put sugar in it and roll it up and fry it. We’d carry those to school.”

Guiles said that perhaps the lowest time he remembers from his childhood was a period in the mid-1930s when his father, Ralph Guiles, had a spate of bad luck. “One year he broke his wrist, the next year he cut his foot with an ax and the next year he had pneumonia, could have died,” the younger Guiles said. “One year, about 1936, neighbors from Baker came and did his farming for him the whole year. People did that back then, you know.”

Thurman remembers Cresson, where some of his neices and nephews attended school for a time, as “being pretty far away (five miles)…I remember the (Dick and Ora) York family and the filling station there, but I wasn’t around a lot of the people Cresson was known for.” He is related to Nina Ross Gibson of Cresson and Dub Abbott of Godley. “And I remember very well (the late) Cotton Hooker of Godley, who was one of my favorite people,” he said.

Interestingly and in spite of the military service of four of them, four of the five children of Ralph and Madge Guiles — daughter Mildred as well as sons Derrell, Thurman and Fenton — are still living.

Thurman Guiles said those young men and women who defend our country today must operate in a world that is vastly different, with different rules. The commitment to serve, though, is much the same.

“I was in the Marines, World War II from 1944 to ‘46 then the Korean War for four years,” he said rather matter of factly. “Back then, it was just something you did.”

Even if you were a Baker farmboy.

SIDETRACKS: Kudos to Claudie Fae Bone Teich and daughter Carolyn Richbourg for answering an appeal for names of folk who taught at or superintended the Cresson School way back when. With Carolyn’s help, Claudie Fae came up with these names by year, followed by teacher/superintendent, where available: 1921 (Gracie Mae Kirkendall/B.F. West, 1922 (Laura Davis/??? Cox), 1923 (Laura Davis/???), 1924 (Lois Freeman/???), 1925 (Ilene Whitlock/??? Oliver), 1926 (Ruth Williamson/???), 1927 (Frances Neville/Victor B. Penuel Sr.), 1928 (Neville/Penuel), 1929 (Penuel/Penuel) and 1930 (Penuel/Penuel). Other teachers who served at the school, from the Teich-Richbourg research and elsewhere, include Dixie Penuel, Elma Fidler, Shady Oliver, Cecil Butler, Scott Milligan and Katherine Hardesty. If you know of others please feel free to send them to Cresson Crossties, Box 8, Cresson, TX 76035…Carolyn Richbourg also notes that the physician of record in 1914 was “Dr. McCallam…as he delivered Mother”…Thurman Guiles said his late father, Ralph, had a peculiar habit when purchasing gasoline: “He bought gas every time he stopped but he never bought more than $5 at a time.”