Growing Up Grapeland

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – During a recent rehearsal for the 2016 Peanut Queen’s Coronation, the 1978 Peanut Queen, Mrs. Marsha Ann (Skidmore) Cook was in attendance to practice a song she will be singing during the ceremony on Saturday night.

As part of The Messenger’s series, “Growing up Grapeland,” Mrs. Cook was asked to recall one of her favorite memories from her youth.

“One of my favorite memories was being able to play outside until it got dark and the street lights came on. That was when you went home. Riding a bicycle to your friend’s house and staying all day. Climbing trees, building treehouses and forts …” she trailed off.

“The Jordan’s lived up the street from us. Linda was a year older than I was and John is my age. Brenda Jordan Payne was their older sister and Jamie was their older brother. He was a football star and played here in Grapeland,” Cook added.

“Next to their house,” she continued, “was a patch of woods that was mostly just big bushes and we built a fort back in there. They lived on a dirt road back then because the pavement ended at Mrs. Jo Juan’s (Watson) house. We would go up there and play all day long. Jamie hung a bicycle in one of the trees and we would take turns riding that bicycle and pretending we were flying.”

Cook said, “It was a lot more simple back then. There were no electronics. It was fun to be a kid in Grapeland.”

The Peanut Festival was held on the railroad right-of-way, Cook said. “The carnival was there, as well.  During the parade, the carnival folks would sit and watch the parade go by and then they would turn on all the rides after the parade was over. The bandstand where Mr. Arland Brown and Mr. Cotton Jeffus played was on the corner across from the old Kennedy Brothers under the big trees that were there.”

She paused for a moment and added, “There were big trees over there when I was kid but they aren’t there anymore. I remember going there and I also remember I won a horse on one of the carnival games. It was a dragline and I won this little brass horse. I was thrilled to have that little dude!”

As she thought back, Cook recalled, “I mostly remember riding bicycles all over town. There always seemed to be a gang of us riding bicycles over to someone’s house. I also remember when it was time to come home, Mother (Linda Faye Skidmore) would step out on the front pitch and holler my name and I would hear her!”

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].

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