Euless, Texas was first settled in about 1867 as a small farming community in North Central Texas. The City is located midway between Dallas and Fort Worth Texas, just west of DFW International Airport. It was incorporated in 1953 and at the time of the 2000 U.S. Census had a population of 46,005. The City of Euless encompasses approximately 16.3 square miles. (42.1 KM2)
Willie Mae McCormick moved to Euless in 1948 with her husband Walter McCormick. She was a graduate of Hardin-Simmons University with a Master’s Degree in Chemistry and worked as an Engineer for Ling-Temco-Vought Company. In 1973 she was the first woman ever elected to the Euless City Council. She remained active in Euless government and civic projects until her death in January of 2007.
Betty Fuller is a long-time resident of Euless, Texas. At the time of this interview she was the member of the Euless Historical Preservation Committee responsible for collecting narrative interviews
Betty Fuller: We are at the home of Willie Mae McCormick who lives in Euless. Tell us Willie Mae where you live?
Willie Mae McCormick: I live at 2300 North Main, Euless.
Betty Fuller: Tell us your name and when you were born?
Willie Mae McCormick: Willie Mae McCormick. I was born in 1908.
Betty Fuller: What was your maiden name Willie Mae?
Willie Mae McCormick: Ward.
Betty Fuller: Were you born at home or in a hospital?
Willie Mae McCormick: I was born at home, no doctor and as a matter of fact, I was the first one of my mother’s kids, where my mother had a doctor. It was always neighbors that came in to help with the births.
Betty Fuller: Willie Mae, we’ve talked about when you were born, in what city were you born?
Willie Mae McCormick: I was born in Leon County about six miles from Centerville. It was a small community. It was called Pleasant Ridge.
Betty Fuller: It was out in the country?
Willie Mae McCormick: Right.
Betty Fuller: Tell us about the house and did you have a lot of acreage?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, for that day in time my daddy had quite a bit of land. I imagine he had around three to four hundred acres. So, he had good farming. It was fair farming then and everybody had farms.
Betty Fuller: What kinds of crops did you have Willie Mae?
Willie Mae McCormick: My daddy raised everything. He was an excellent farmer. The two main crops were corn and cotton. Cotton was grown only for the fact that you had to have something you could make money to buy supplies. So, we had cotton every year. Corn, my daddy always said if you don’t grow your own food and your stock’s food you could never do any good. So, he had corn for his team and then, of course, they had roughage and stuff like that, but corn and cotton were the two main things.
Betty Fuller: Did your family members pick their own cotton or did they have people come in and help?
Willie Mae McCormick: We picked our own cotton. My daddy never planted more than he could take care of. So, we always picked our own. Occasionally we might have somebody, but usually we got through before other people did and we might pick for somebody else.
Betty Fuller: Where was the nearest cotton gin? Where did you have to take it?
Willie Mae McCormick: Leon. It was about six miles away.
Betty Fuller: Six miles, pulled by mules, horses?
Willie Mae McCormick: It was pulled by mules.
Betty Fuller: I want to talk about your mother and your father. Tell me first, what was your father’s name, his whole name?
Willie Mae McCormick: His whole name was William Sylvester Ward.
Betty Fuller: And tell us your mother’s name, including her maiden name?
Willie Mae McCormick: Lucy Adelaine Marshall Ward.
Betty Fuller: Let’s talk about your mom. Where was your mom born?
Willie Mae McCormick: My mother was born in Leon County. My folks, my mother’s folks, I think they came from Mississippi, we don’t know. They lived in a community that was called Middleton. My mother lived about three miles from a little place that had a post office and they called it Middleton. There were quite a bit of her family that came around and settled in that area. My mother was born as I said in Middleton and she didn’t have any doctors of course.
Betty Fuller: Did you have brothers and sisters? How many were in your family?
Willie Mae McCormick: Oh yeah, my mother and dad had nine children. Two died in infancy with dysentery. The rest of us, seven of us, lived. Most of them were born in the same house and most of them lived in the same community.
Betty Fuller: Are any members of your family, your immediate brothers or sisters still alive?
Willie Mae McCormick: No. I am 97, soon to be 98. The eye doctor told me, he said I just live too long.
Betty Fuller: Willie Mae, the next thing I really wanted to ask was about your mother. You said she was born in Texas, do you remember when she was born?
Willie Mae McCormick: She was born in 1876 in Leon County. She was born at home. Papa was born in 1870 and my mother was born 1876. Papa came to Texas in 1886, ten years after my mother was born.
Betty Fuller: Where was your dad born?
Willie Mae McCormick: Abbeyville, Alabama.
Betty Fuller: I’m going to ask you some more things about your mother’s family and then we’ll get to your dad’s. Tell us stories you remember that your mother told you about her childhood.
Willie Mae McCormick: My mother’s mother died when she (Lucy Marshall Ward) was about four years old. She was raised by my granddaddy and his brother and so she was pretty well spoiled I imagine. In that day and time most women, especially girls, had to work in the field. I don’t guess my mother ever worked in the field.
Betty Fuller: Was your mom a good cook?
Willie Mae McCormick: My mother was an excellent chef.
Betty Fuller: What kinds of things do you remember eating when you were a child? What did she cook that were your favorite?
Willie Mae McCormick: I guess my favorite, was wilted lettuce. She used loose leaf lettuce. She always cut it up, poured hot bacon or ham fry grease over it with vinegar. I guess that was my favorite food cause that was the first real food we had in the spring time. We all loved chicken and dumplings, I guess everybody did.
Betty Fuller: There are two kinds of chicken dumplings. My mother-in-law made one kind and the first time I made some, I made the wrong kind, not her kind. Did your mom roll them out like pie crust or did she make them like biscuits?
Willie Mae McCormick: She rolled them out like pie crust. We always rolled them like pie crust. Now, sometimes she baked about the same thing, but we called it chicken pie. The chicken was in there and the dough was on top. It was brown and it looked like an apple pie, so we called it a pie. Now during WWI, they couldn’t get flour, and I can remember my dad never liked the pie anyway. Mama had a cousin, that didn’t make chicken and dumplings, because of the lack of flour, but she did take cornmeal and made kind of a real hard, corn with hot water and put them into balls and cooked them with chicken.
Betty Fuller: Before we move on to your father, do you remember any stories about your mother’s family? How far back can you trace her family history? Were there any famous or not so famous ancestors on your mother’s side? Anything else you want to tell?
Willie Mae McCormick: My mother’s parents farmed. Everyone farmed. They had several blacks that lived on the place. Of course it was a while after the war was over, but they still had some people that lived on the place. Actually, most of the farming work was done by blacks. My granddaddy Marshal was in the civil war and his brother John Marshall lived with him and he (John Marshall) hauled freight for the Confederacy. He used oxen and he has told us times about going across to Houston, having to go through the streets when he was nearly sick pulling with oxen. They carried the freight to the port, usually at Galveston, for the war. My mother’s mother died, of course, when she was real young and she was raised by her dad. My grandmother died from childbirth. Four years after mama was born there was another child born and then in about two or three weeks, my grandmother died. So my mother had a sister that was older. Grandpa didn’t think that they could raise a child so my grandmother’s sister raised her. My mother was always as close as the others were because they lived in Madison County and we lived in Leon County. That day in time you didn’t do much going because it took so long to go any where.
Betty Fuller: You said your dad was born in Abbeyville, Alabama?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes.
Betty Fuller: Do you remember any stories your dad told about his childhood or his family history.
Willie Mae McCormick: I think one most interesting thing was when papa and them came to Texas. Of course his dad had already been down and made arrangements, bought a place and had a small house. But when they came from Abbeyville they carried everything. Everything was put on a train, livestock and all. It was brought to either Jewett or Robbins, I don’t remember which but I think it was Robbins. They unloaded and camped out for the night. The next day they went down to the little house where the land was.
Betty Fuller: Your father’s parents, those grandparents from Alabama, where did they initially come from?
Willie Mae McCormick: The Wards came from England. Some say they were English. My mother, my grandmother and her folks were Murphy’s. They came from Ireland. Before the war, my grandmother and granddaddy were pretty well fixed. They had a few servants; they had quite a bit of land, farming land. It was good land. So when the war came, they lost everything. They had nothing left. After daddy had been in Texas fifty years, I carried my daddy and one of his brothers and sisters back to Alabama where they came from. Papa hadn’t been back. They had nannies when they were little and so we went to one place where papa’s nanny lived. She was real old, and we went to see her. We carried her to the cemetery and she was so proud. She said “Aaah’m happy”. But of course after the war, they had absolutely nothing left, and that’s the reason they moved to Texas.
Betty Fuller: You told me earlier, about a trip to the Capital. Tell us that story.
Willie Mae McCormick: Both my granddaddies were in the Civil War. They were all very patriotic and my dad liked to go places even though he was a farmer. Before I was born, I think my sister was about three, about 1903, Mama had about three children. My uncle, Papa’s brother, lived in Redland. Redland is another farming community that was close to Centerville. They had two covered wagons and so they went to another brother’s house. Their other brother’s house was in Elgin, Texas, and they all stayed all night. They stayed two to three nights, and these three covered wagons went to Austin. They went through the Capital and camped in Austin. So far as I know, nobody in their county or anywhere around had ever been, at that time, to the Capital. Papa was so proud to have gone to the State Capital.
Betty Fuller: Now we will talk about you. Tell us some memories about your childhood, your home, your early life. What you did for recreation, the community where you grew up, where you went to school, any memories, you want to add.
Willie Mae McCormick: I was born in 1908 and my mother had a doctor with her at that time. That was a first. Before she died, Mama always said that people would say they always did natural birth and Mama would say, “Well if they had as many children as I did natural birth they wouldn’t hold anything,” because the doctor always gave her medicine to ease the pain. As I said, my mother and daddy married in 1897. They married in my granddaddy’s house. It was only a family affair but it was nice, I’m sure it was. We lived right across the road all my life, right across from my granddaddy and grandmother. My granddaddy was a very lovable, wonderful person. My grandmother was so particular. We kids were afraid almost to go see her. But anyways, I had a good childhood as I said. My family was a very congenial family. There were seven of us growing up together as kids, but we were very congenial. It was one of the happiest times of our lives. We all worked in the field, except my mother, and we all ate at the same time. We had good food. My mother was a good cook. We raised everything we ate. I always liked to look at books. You didn’t see any books in that day and time. If you saw a book or paper you were pretty lucky. At an early age, I liked it every time I’d see any kind of book or paper or anything. Mother and one of my older sisters taught me how to read before I was schooled. One of my sisters would take me with her to school every now and then and the teacher would let me read out loud and I thought that was great. At that time it was a one teacher school but there were quite a lot of students.
Betty Fuller: Those were students in grades what through what one through twelve?
Willie Mae McCormick: No. Probably first through eighth, however far they’d go. Now before I started school, my mother and my sister helped me to read. My daddy, by the time I could talk, had me telling him numbers. Climbing up the steps, he’d always make me say the number of every step. So long before I went to school I could count.
Betty Fuller: You were learning math at an early age.
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, at an early age. My dad would take the time and where ever we went he’d have me count the steps. So I grew up with the idea of liking math I guess and so that’s what I majored in. When I started school they put me in second grade. I can tell you at that time we had two teachers at the school and they taught through the tenth grade. They had five grades in each room. There weren’t very many students in each grade, so quite often the second and third grade would have lessons together, spelling together or something like that. Now I was a good student of course, I just loved it and for me to miss school was just calamity.
Betty Fuller: How far was school from your house? How did you get there?
Willie Mae McCormick: We walked, but we were about a mile from the school. It wasn’t too bad; sometimes we had to face the north wind. As I said, I was the one that liked to go to school and I can tell you one incident that for me was real bad. Papa never kept us out of school to work in the field but one year it rained so much and the corn and the grass were terrible. So when it was dried up enough, Papa kept us out of school two and a half days, I cried two and a half days.
Betty Fuller: What were you doing those two and a half days?
Willie Mae McCormick: I cried.
Betty Fuller: No, in addition…what were you doing in the field?
Willie Mae McCormick: Well, we hoed.
Betty Fuller: You chopped the weeds out of the corn?
Willie Mae McCormick: Because it was still too wet to plow, we chopped the weeds out and thinned the corn. The corn was always too thick and for it to get a good stand we had to thin it out later. After that, Papa never kept me out of school anymore. My mother and dad believed in an education…
Betty Fuller: That’s wonderful, for that day and time. Now tell us what did you do about lunch at school?
Willie Mae McCormick: We carried our lunch.
Betty Fuller: In a sack or in a bucket?
Willie Mae McCormick: We usually carried it in a syrup bucket. Our lunch wasn’t anything like people would think of today. You usually had a biscuit and maybe a piece of cake or something and sweet potato.
Betty Fuller: Did you ever have any sandwiches?
Willie Mae McCormick: We carried a biscuit and if we didn’t put the meat between it we carried the meat separate…
Betty Fuller: What kind of meat did you take?
Willie Mae McCormick: We always had our own hogs and everything, so we carried ham and sometimes we carried ham and bacon.
Betty Fuller: Tell us about how you got the bacon and ham. Did you kill your pigs? When did you kill them? Was it after the first frost?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, usually my daddy and granddaddy divided up the killing. First time we had a cool spell in the fall, one of them would kill what we would call a shoat, which was a very small, almost a pig, because it was always very small it wouldn’t keep. It wasn’t cold enough to keep, but it brought in fresh meat at an early time in the year.
Betty Fuller: Did you ever smoke meat?
Willie Mae McCormick: Oh yes. So then later in the year. My daddy never bought lard. We never bought meat during the year. It lasted from one year to the next.
Betty Fuller: How did you preserve it? What did you do?
Willie Mae McCormick: They’d kill the hogs when it was cold and cut them up and put salt on them or sometimes they used some kind of seasoning they’d put on them that made the meat taste a little better as it got older. It was usually a whole day’s job. They’d kill the hogs and my mother, my daddy and granddaddy worked together. They killed them, cleaned them and cut them up. They did everything that a packing house would do today.
Betty Fuller: Did they smoke them?
Willie Mae McCormick: Then, a few days or later, they’d smoke them, but they’d let them stay in the salt so it would cure and wouldn’t ruin. And then we had a smoke house that we hung meat on rafters, with some type of weed, I’ve forgotten what type, and they split a hole through there and hung them up on the rafter and used hickory to smoke them and later they’d take them down.
Betty Fuller: Did you ever use the intestines for anything?
Willie Mae McCormick: No. My mother always took the fat off the intestines…and they used that when making lard. But, now then, my mother, (chuckle) that was almost one thing my mother never would do, would be to clean intestines. Someone else had to do that.
Betty Fuller: Did you ever make soap?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes.
Betty Fuller: Tell us about soap.
Willie Mae McCormick: Well, first I want to tell you about the intestines… well some people, they’d clean them and then stuff sausage, well; my mother used some type of cloth. I don’t know what, cheese cloth I guess and rolled them up. We never could take the edges off (laughter)…
Betty Fuller: Soap…
Willie Mae McCormick: Okay, they always had two or three pots, big pots…
Betty Fuller: Were they black pots?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes. They’d cut off all the fat from the insides, then they’d cut off a lot of the fat from other places on the hog that they didn’t think was so good to be keeping. That’s where they cooked the lard, and it had to be cooked real slow or it would spoil the whole thing. But we never lacked for meat; we always had plenty of meat.
Betty Fuller: Soap.
Willie Mae McCormick: Oh yes soap. My mother made all the soap. We bought soap to wash hands and to wash our face with and that’s about it. She made all our soap for washing clothes.
Betty Fuller: Did she buy lye or how did she get lye?
Willie Mae McCormick: Most of the time, in later years, certainly my mother bought the lye, in early years we had a dripper of some kind, we dripped water through the ashes. You’d put the ashes in and the lye water dripped down…
Betty Fuller: The water dripped down…the water was so acidic it would eat the meat off your fingers. Do you remember how they mixed the lye with the lard, the rendered lard, the fat?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yeah, well they’d put a whole bunch in the pot and had the fire real low and just cooked it maybe all day.
Betty Fuller: And when they were making soap, when did they add in the lye or the lye water?
Willie Mae McCormick: …with lye, we’d draw water and she’d go by how much water she wanted, she’d put in the lye, and then the grease, and the lye was supposed to eat the grease up and then it would congeal and we had soap.
Betty Fuller: How did you wash clothes?
Willie Mae McCormick: The first thing my mother did to make soap was build a fire around a pot full of powder and heated it. She’d use that first part of warm water and it was drawn out of the well. Our well was about twenty feet deep. It was a good well but it wasn’t very deep. She’d put the water in the kettle, add the lye in and then put this grease in, and then she stirred a lot, and finally it got to the part where she’d know it was going to set, and so she’d turn the pulley over the fire away, let it sit over night and then she’d slice it up in slices.
Betty Fuller: My mother did that when she washed clothes. Did your mother wash clothes inside the house or outside?
Willie Mae McCormick: We washed them outside. We had to use a rub board. Mama usually heated some water in the pot, and then poured it over the clothes. We’d wash them with our hands on a rub board and then mama put them in hot water over the fire and boiled them for a while. Then she took them out and rinsed them.
Betty Fuller: Did you have an inside bathroom?
Willie Mae McCormick: Oh no, we didn’t have an inside bathroom, we had an outhouse. It was quite a little ways from the house. Oh, it wasn’t terribly far from the house but it was not right at the door.
Betty Fuller: You weren’t able to go to the store and buy toilet tissue, what did you use?
Willie Mae McCormick: We used catalogues mostly…
Betty Fuller: Sears catalogues?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes…we also had Montgomery Wards catalogues. We used cobs some too, I don’t ever remember using cobs, but I think daddy did some.
Betty Fuller: Did you get an indoor bathroom before you went to college?
Willie Mae McCormick: No, we didn’t, it was after I’d gone to college.
Betty Fuller: What about a telephone?
Willie Mae McCormick: We had phones. The people kept up the line. There was a line from Sunnyville down in that area and then from Leona to that area. It wasn’t always in order because the people had to keep it up, and it was owned by the people and sometimes they’d run across people’s property. They weren’t very efficient in that if something fell on the wire they weren’t very good about putting it right back.
Betty Fuller: Did the phones hang on the wall, and did they have the long and the short rings?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, ours was a long and two shorts.
Betty Fuller: A long and two shorts. How many people were on your party line?
Willie Mae McCormick: Probably fifteen. My mother, my daddy and granddaddy shared a phone. I mean they didn’t each own a phone, they built a little room outside on our porch and the phone was kept in there. If they wanted to use the phone, they didn’t have to come in the house if they didn’t want to. So my mother, my daddy and granddaddy shared the phone. We just lived right across the road from them.
Betty Fuller: So it was probably used for emergencies and things, you didn’t talk on it all the time?
Willie Mae McCormick: Some neighbors talked and you knew if some neighbor got sick or if somebody’s horse was sick, but you didn’t just talk all the time.
Betty Fuller: Willie Mae, did you have a commencement ceremony when you got out of high school?
Willie Mae McCormick: Right
Betty Fuller: Was it at the school or at the church?
Willie Mae McCormick: It was at the school. It was at the school and, of course, we had graduation exercises. I was going to tell you that I went to two different schools till I finished the tenth grade, and the eleventh grade. In that day in time there were only eleven grades. In the eleventh grade, I went to Jewett High School and so they gave me credit for everything that they had and what I had at my old school as if I had come from that school. This way I could go to college without taking an exam. The first time I saw a chemistry book I thought it was the greatest thing. I was good in chemistry and math. At the smaller school I was good, but at college I don’t think I would have passed an English test right off. There were eighteen I believe, in my class…
Betty Fuller: At Jewett?
Willie Mae McCormick: That was in 1926…We had math, trigonometry, and algebra. We had a good school, Jewett was a good school and I didn’t have any trouble getting in college.
Betty Fuller: I failed to ask you about where you went to church when you were little? Where did you go to church?
Willie Mae McCormick: We were about a mile from church.
Betty Fuller: What church was that?
Willie Mae McCormick: It was a Baptist Church. It was Missionary. They called it Missionary Baptist Church. It was a Baptist community. If you didn’t go to a Baptist church, you didn’t have another choice.
Betty Fuller: Did they have dances at Jewett High School?
Willie Mae McCormick: No.
Betty Fuller: We didn’t have dances at Euless High School either.
Willie Mae McCormick: They still had no movie theaters and so sometimes on the weekends, on Friday nights, a drive in picture thing would go through and use the auditorium at the school. Now on the Ridge where we lived, we didn’t have any places like that, but when I was in my teens I guess, we got to where, sometimes the little thing (picture show) would go through and have some little old shows, so we, sometimes, at Papa’s had a great big tent out front. They’d usually have it on Papa’s place, and so then they’d give us tickets to go to the shows.
Betty Fuller: Of the eighteen students in your class how many do you think went to college?
Willie Mae McCormick: I imagine about half of them went to college.
Betty Fuller: What made you decide to go to college?
Willie Mae McCormick: I wanted to go to school ever since I could remember. I had excellent school teachers. My school teachers were my heroes and they were my windows to the outside world. I can tell you every school, every teacher I ever had from the first grade on up to the eleventh grade, I can tell you about what they looked like. Well, as I say, teachers were my heroes. I loved school, I loved it.
Betty Fuller: How did you pick out the college you wanted to attend?
Willie Mae McCormick: I finished High School in 1926 at Jewett. All these years we didn’t have money, but we had a lot of good things. All those years I knew I was going to school, I didn’t know how, but I knew I was going. The teachers tried to help me with some schools that I might be able to go to. Of course, I knew I had to work to go. There’s no telling how many letters I wrote.
Betty Fuller: Were the schools in Texas?
Willie Mae McCormick: They were all in Texas. I was pretty blue, I guess. I had a letter from everywhere. I told them I wanted to work, I needed to work and so this letter came, and it was signed by the President of the college. I’m sure it was signed by somebody else, but with his name.
Betty Fuller: What college was that?
Willie Mae McCormick: It was Mary Hardin Baylor
Betty Fuller: Mary Hardin Baylor.
Willie Mae McCormick: At that time it was called Baylor Female College for Women. The letter said if you wanted to go to school you be here and you’ll have a job.
Betty Fuller: I failed to ask you what kinds of clothes and things you wore in those days, but I want to hear about your college life.
Willie Mae McCormick: Well, I had a good college life, I didn’t have many clothes, but they told us the type of clothes to wear. It was a push to do it. I mean, most of the students didn’t have much money and especially in the dormitory where I stayed, so we wore just regular gingham. We called them dresses. Well anyway when I got to college I washed dishes.
Betty Fuller: In the dormitory?
Willie Mae McCormick: In the dormitory and each girl washed dishes at a table. There were twelve girls at a table. We washed dishes three times a day. There were dishwashers. We did have a running stream that you kept getting clean water out of, but there was no dishwasher.
Betty Fuller: Did you use well water?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes. I think, it probably came from wells, but anyway I didn’t have objections to washing dishes. I had to wash dishes at home. That didn’t bother me a bit. I think about two weeks after I had registered and gone to school and got set in my classes, I hadn’t gone to school maybe a week or ten days, I got sick. Oh I was sick. There were four of us in a room, I had three room mates. They had a clinic on the campus, but I didn’t want to go. I knew I had to, so I went over to the clinic. My fever was pretty high and he looked at me and said you got the mumps. He said you are quarantined for two weeks. I just started squalling. I said, “I can’t be sick. I’m from a small school and I’m taking classes against students that have gone to regular schools.” I said, “I wash dishes and I work.” He said, “Well, I’ll see that you get your lessons and assignments everyday.” He said, “Somebody else will wash those dishes.”
Betty Fuller: Tell me what courses you were taking Willie Mae.
Willie Mae McCormick: I was taking trigonometry and chemistry, cooking and…
Betty Fuller: English probably?
Willie Mae McCormick: English, yes, and that was, of course, always my hardest subject, grammar. We had a trimester, so we went everyday. We went five days a week. I knew pretty well what I was going to take, but I had to choose one extra class. I took psychology and I just loved it. I found I liked that so well (laughter)…
Betty Fuller: If you didn’t like math better, would you have majored in psychology.
Willie Mae McCormick: I got my assignments everyday. My teacher let me make up my lab work and I didn’t fail a thing.
Betty Fuller: Tell me Willie Mae, did you spend four years at Mary Hardin Baylor?
Willie Mae McCormick: No three, I went summers.
Betty Fuller: You went summers so you spent three years. What was your major?
Willie Mae McCormick: My major was Chemistry
Betty Fuller: You said you loved Chemistry from the first time you saw a Chemistry book at Jewett.
Willie Mae McCormick: I thought it was magic and it still is. Of course I was always good at math because Papa taught me a lot of things. I was better in math than nearly anyone in Jewett but I didn’t have any trouble. I had talent, I guess that was it.
Betty Fuller: I know you did. Now I want to talk about Mac, or Mr. McCormick, Walter. Did you meet Mr. McCormick before you graduated from college or after?
Willie Mae McCormick: No, it was before.
Betty Fuller: Tell us about that.
Willie Mae McCormick: I finished the first year of college. I knew it was hard for my parents because they had to help a little. It was hard because I didn’t have any money. My sister worked in Big Springs and so I thought I might go there and work, but it wasn’t the type of work I could do or wanted to do. Anyway, the first summer after I started college, I went to Big Springs and was visiting my sister and that’s where I met Mac. My mother and family were very busy working. They didn’t write very often. There weren’t very many letters that came. I used to get so sad. When the post office would open and kids were reading letters that would make me home sick. So anyway, Mittie and I decided to go. Mittie was going to help me, lest I went back home. She was going to help me with my tuition.
Betty Fuller: That’s your sister?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes. She didn’t want me to quit because she knew I always loved and wanted to go to college. So I went out there, and I worked for a year or so but she didn’t approve and I didn’t either really. She introduced me to Mac. He was a friend of hers.
Betty Fuller: Was he working?
Willie Mae McCormick: He was a brake man on the Texas and Pacific Railway from Big Springs to Baird. I told her before I left to go back to school. I said I wish you’d take time to write me down there, I get so lonesome to get a letter.
Betty Fuller: Was that after you were back at Mary Hardin?
Willie Mae McCormick: I had finished my first year. Mac was with us and he said, “Well I’ll tell you what, I’ll write you a letter everyday as long as you’re in school.”
Betty Fuller: How many years did you get a letter everyday?
Willie Mae McCormick: I went everyday for three years because I had gone two years in the summer. And so, sometimes I didn’t have very much money and if he failed to get one or send one, he would send me a telegram or something. I thought I was something.
Betty Fuller: Well I bet you did. Tell me about your courtship with Mac and when you got married.
Willie Mae McCormick: I hadn’t even gone with Mac or anything. He was just a friend to me. I met him at Mittie's when I went to Big Spring to live with her and work. But sure enough the letters came and in two or three months, I guess at least two months, he wrote one day, and said if I gotta write two or three more years, I think I ought to see how you look like by now. So he came to see me and he came several times, sometimes on the weekend when I could get off. We went to Galveston. We went to Dallas to the Dallas Fair. We went to several places. So then, of course, he was always wanting to give me something, but I didn’t want anything. I didn’t want to be under obligation to anybody and so it was a long time before I ever got a ring. One time he said, he went to Haltom, in to Fort Worth. I got a ring…
Betty Fuller: What year were you two married?
Willie Mae McCormick: I married in 1929. Yes, we married in Temple; I took my last exam for my B.A. We saw our first talking movie that day. I got married and got my degree and saw my first talking picture on the same day.
Betty Fuller: Were you married in a church?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes we were married at a church, but it wasn’t a church we knew. I wanted to marry in church. I think we got the license in Big Springs. He picked me up after I got out of school and we went through to Temple. Temple was a pretty good size town, so the first really nice church we saw (laughter).
Betty Fuller: That’s were you got married?
Willie Mae McCormick: It was a Methodist Church (laughter). They had somebody for a secretary. It was a nice church. We had nice ceremony. We went from there to…Mac already had a hotel, so we went from there to the hotel.
Betty Fuller: Where was Mac born and raised?
Willie Mae McCormick: Mac was born in Santa Anna. His people came from Missouri and they came to this area (the area where HEB is) in about 1845. There’s quite a few in Bedford and in Hurst I think. I think maybe Colleyville too. His granddaddy Witten was a surveyor and he raised cattle.
Betty Fuller: What was his name?
Willie Mae McCormick: His name was Witten. They had eleven children…
Betty Fuller: That was Mac’s mother’s family?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes. Mac’s grandfather, his mother’s father and his sons. If you look at the map, there are seven Witten surveys and you can see them at the courthouse too.
Betty Fuller: Now that was in the 1850’s or 40’s?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yeah, It was around 1845 I think. They were very much for education. He helped start or did start the first school in Colleyville.
Betty Fuller: Spring Garden! Was it the Spring Garden School?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes
Betty Fuller: There is a Spring Garden Elementary School in the HEB school district today. It is named for the old Spring Garden School and Spring Garden Missouri.
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes. Neal Adams was on the HEB Board of Education at the time. He asked Mac and I to come. I still have a little folder about what it was. But anyway, they came to Texas and why they came I don’t know. They just came.
Betty Fuller: The Spring Garden area was settled by settlers from Missouri. The settlement was called Spring Garden.
Willie Mae McCormick: Mac’s dad bought cattle. He drove them North to Kansas City I guess, somewhere in that area. They had cattle and they drove them all the time and they sold them and then they came back. The cattle shows the brands and all the marks on the cattle showed the brands. I have a story I want to tell you about. Mac had an uncle that was in the Civil War, and he was in his 20’s when he got back. After he got back they were going on a drive and when they were crossing a creek in Oklahoma, called Byrd Creek, I think, he was on a horse and he drowned.
Betty Fuller: This was Mac’s?
Willie Mae McCormick: Uncle; he was young and he drowned. Grandpa Witten and his folks had to drive the cattle on, but they dug a hole in the ground and put his body in the ground until they came back. When they came back, he is buried over there in the Witten Cemetery.
Betty Fuller: Oh, I wanted to ask you, didn’t the Witten’s start a church also in that area?
Willie Mae McCormick: Oh yes, I think Mac’s granddaddy was a real solemn Campbellite.
Betty Fuller: Campbellites were members of the Disciples of Christ Church.
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, and he did a lot of lay preaching.
Betty Fuller: I don’t know if it was the Pleasant Glade Church of Christ…It was a Church of Christ because I have records from it. The Witten’s are listed as charter members there. The records indicated that the Witten’s were associate pastors or something.
Willie Mae McCormick: There were only Mac and his brother, the children and his mother and daddy. I guess his daddy must’ve lived in Santa Anna. They married and so they lived in Santa Anna at one time, but they moved here.
Betty Fuller: Now that means the McCormick’s lived in Santa Anna but the Witten’s lived here…
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, they lived here. The Witten’s always lived here since they left Missouri. When they married they came here. When they married, Mac’s grandmother and granddaddy gave them a hundred and thirty acres in this place.
Betty Fuller: Was that where you’re living, where we’re sitting right now?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes.
Betty Fuller: When would that have been, do you know? Before World War I?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes…
Betty Fuller: In the 1800’s
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, in the 1800’s. They married in the 1800’s, I don’t remember. That was before Mac was born. They lived in Santa Anna for maybe a few months. Then they moved here. This place, I don’t know when his granddaddy had moved to Santa Anna.
Betty Fuller: Willie Mae you were telling me some things about the Witten Family when they first came here. Would you want to finish that story?
Willie Mae McCormick: They first came here as I said in the 1840’s, I think. They were real interested in education and Mac’s great-granddaddy did surveys and bought cattle and drove them to market. He was kind of a lay preacher and they came from Missouri. They had a big family. I hardly knew any of Mac’s people, but they evidently at one time or another were more than average financially.
Betty Fuller: You were telling me about this piece of property right here where you live and how Mac’s family acquired it.
Willie Mae McCormick: After Mac’s daddy married, Mac’s granddaddy told his father (Mac’s mother’s father) told him if they would pay half of it he’d give them the other half. So they moved here when Mac was a little tiny baby. It was a covered wagon in about 1900’s I think. So then, there was an old house here at that time.
Betty Fuller: The Witten’s actually lived in Pleasant Glade, (now Colleyville), but this was the only part the Witten’s owned in Euless?
Willie Mae McCormick: Right.
Betty Fuller: How did that happen?
Willie Mae McCormick: Mac and I thought perhaps since he surveyed and some of his surveys you can see in the map that he took in trade, or something. That was the reason he had land here because there’s no one else in Euless that we were related to.
Betty Fuller: You said his grandpa Witten told Mac’s dad what about the property?
Willie Mae McCormick: If Mac’s father paid half of it, Grandpa Witten would give them the other half and so they moved up here. They were in Santa Anna and so Mac was about a year old when they moved up here. He wasn’t quite a year old, he was smaller than that. The place had an old house on it. They farmed just like everyone else did. They grew truck crops like tomatoes, particularly cantaloupes and they did that for quite a number of years and them Mac’s dad decided he wanted to do something else and he studied and passed an exam for working with the trains for the Western Union. They moved from different places because he was transferred. Mac lived in Granbury one time. He lived in Louisiana and Arkansas. They went to a lot of different places.
Betty Fuller: So they moved wherever Western Union Telegraph would send them.
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, but this house was always rented out. They never sold it.
Betty Fuller: So the McCormick’s got this house from Grandpa Witten. Mrs. McCormick was a Witten, your mother-in-law. It had been in McCormick family since before the 1900’s?
Willie Mae McCormick: Right.
Betty Fuller: Where did Mac go to school? What are some of the places he went to school?
Willie Mae McCormick: Of course he lived in Arkansas and then Louisiana. His dad was working there, but he and his brother and mother were here. They hadn’t moved. Grandpa McCormick wanted them to come but Louisiana was under quarantine and Mac’s Mother had to get a certificate of health from the doctor in Grapevine to be able to get into Louisiana. They moved around as I said to several different places. Mac only had one brother, W.R. (Welton) McCormick. He was younger. They farmed here and lived here for quite a long time. This property belonged to him and his brother. They divided it up. Mac’s brother, Welton had an offer to sell when we were in Big Springs. It sounded like good money then. But we’ve always felt we’d live here when we retired so Mac did not sell his. You asked me about Mac going to school?
Betty Fuller: Yes.
Willie Mae McCormick: When he’d been in Louisiana and came back he went to the Glade School for the rest of the year. They walked from here to the Glade School.
Betty Fuller: Now you were talking about one of them who married Bill Deacon or into the Deacon family.
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, he had a whole lot of girls.
Betty Fuller: Who was this?
Willie Mae McCormick: Mac’s Granddaddy.
Betty Fuller: The Witten?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, the Witten’s. One of his daughters married a Deacon and she’s buried in his cemetery, the Witten Cemetery. He had another daughter that married several different times, but one time she was married to the State Librarian. They lived in Austin. She had promised the family, I’d never heard of it before, but Mac has the papers, the deed just like the title to your land or something, that she, the daughter, would take care of them when they got old and she would get the property. It was all signed and everything. In that day and time people wanted to be buried by their own folks. Well she moved down to the south, I don’t know what the city was. Her daddy died while she was gone, so she buried him in Corpus Christi. We have a picture of the grave where he’s buried now. We know he was buried there because they sent me a picture.
Betty Fuller: That’s Samuel Cecil Holleday Witten, Mac’s granddaddy?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, and then I think she married three times and later she married someone that lived in Austin. The last time she married, she lived in Amarillo and while she was living in Amarillo her mother died.
Betty Fuller: So she buried her daddy in Corpus Christi and her mother in Amarillo?
Willie Mae McCormick: Mac said the family; some of them, were pretty upset.
Betty Fuller: I image. How did she not get the property when she had not followed instructions?
Willie Mae McCormick: Then Mac went to school. After that, he and his brother went to school in Grapevine. Mac said they went in the buggy but sometimes they rode a horse.
Betty Fuller: He was in High School in Grapevine?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, but he didn’t finish. He quit and went to work in Fort Worth on the railway. Before he finished high school they did go to school there and he gave Chris, our great grandson, a belt that he had. It shows the date on it but we don’t think the date’s quite right because we thought it was going to be the year he was going to graduate.
Betty Fuller: Which would have been?
Willie Mae McCormick: He was born 1900.
Betty Fuller: 1900. So Mac, Walter McCormick was born 1900.
Willie Mae McCormick: He had got that belt and the belt had a buckle on it. It seems like 19…20 on it but we don’t think that’s the right date. Anyway, he went to school in Grapevine. He knew quite a few people that lived in Grapevine.
Betty Fuller: So then he went to work in Fort Worth?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes.
Betty Fuller: When did he go into Military Service? You know what. We skipped right over that barn! That red barn.
Willie Mae McCormick: Well, Mac said they had a shed when he was a little boy and you know a lot of times people just built a shed. After World War I, the government would give the lumber off of Camp Bowie to mostly residential housing if they’d come get it. So his daddy hauled it from Camp Bowie with a wagon and team of horses or mules, and he built that barn.
Betty Fuller: At the end of World War I in 1918…when the camp was disbanded, your father-in-law was told that he could have the lumber. He took a team over there and he got the wood to build the barn?
Willie Mae McCormick: Right.
Betty Fuller: One time you told me why it was red.
Willie Mae McCormick: Mac did that. He said it should be a red barn (laughter).
Betty Fuller: Why did Mac leave Big Springs?
Willie Mae McCormick: Well in that day in time, after he went to work on the railroad, railroading was the king of booming, at different places. They had to take all the passengers, the traveling people; they said that they had all kinds of materials to be shipped. They would move this every day and they were real busy. For instance, after we got married, papers would come in or they’d bring fruit to you. Mac was a boomer (laughter) he went to a lot of different places.
Betty Fuller: Can you name a couple of those places? Big Springs…
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, and Sanderson, I think that’s in Nebraska…
Betty Fuller: Nebraska.
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes.
Betty Fuller: He was far away!
Willie Mae McCormick: He went to quite a number of places far away. In Big Springs, they called them the Boomers and they’d go and work the season. Then business would be bad and they’d get so slow that they’d have to lay them off (fire them). Then they’d have to go somewhere else to get a job and so somebody else would have something else going for two months.
Betty Fuller: When did you say you graduated from Mary Hardin Baylor?
Willie Mae McCormick: 19….29
Betty Fuller: 1929, okay and you got married in 1929.
Willie Mae McCormick: Right.
Betty Fuller: Give me the exact date of your marriage.
Willie Mae McCormick: May the 29th.
Betty Fuller: 1929. In December of 1929 the Stock Market fell into the depression. I want you to tell me about some things that you remember, about the depression. You were telling me at one point in time that you were a PTA mom. Tell me about the depression.
Willie Mae McCormick: The depression of course wasn’t long after Mac and I married and when the depression started, people didn’t think much about it then. Then things just got worse and worse and worse. We were fortunate, Mac never failed to have this good job during the depression. The men themselves, on the railroad in Big Springs and I think several other communities cut down about thirty percent on their miles that they would drive so that more people would have jobs. But anyway, we didn’t suffer from that so much.
Betty Fuller: Now what year was Elizabeth born? This story you’re going to tell about being a PTA mother.
Willie Mae McCormick: She was born in 1932.
Betty Fuller: You became a room mother out in Big Springs. Tell us some of those stories about the depression.
Willie Mae McCormick: I didn’t work outside of the house and there weren’t any Chemistry jobs, especially for women. I’ve got to tell you this… first year Mac and I were married there wasn’t any chemists out there and schools almost never hired chemistry teachers or lab teachers to work the labs. So anyway, I couldn’t get a job. The summer before school started, Mac said “why don’t you go back to school?” Mac always did like education and I did too. I said, “Well I will,” so I went back and took one year of high school typing and shorthand.
Betty Fuller: And that’s after you had a B.A. from Mary Hardin Baylor? You went back to high school?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, there was a business lab. Mac said, “Well if you want to be in this lab why don’t you take that?” Gosh, that was a joke, but anyway, I just wanted to tell you that. The next year business was slow but Mac still had a job at Baird, Texas, so that was the reason I went Hardin Simmons.
Betty Fuller: You went to Hardin Simmons? Tell us about that.
Willie Mae McCormick: That’s where I got my Masters.
Betty Fuller: You got your Master’s in what?
Willie Mae McCormick: I got it in Chemistry and Math.
Betty Fuller: And it’s located in Abilene?
Willie Mae McCormick: Right.
Betty Fuller: When did you get that degree?
Willie Mae McCormick: In…1931.
Betty Fuller: 1931…just before Elizabeth was born?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, Elizabeth was born in 1932.
Betty Fuller: You were living in Baird, Texas? I know where that is, I’ve been to a funeral there at the Presbyterian Church.
Willie Mae McCormick: I went to Hardin Simmons and I drove…
Betty Fuller: Did you get a job teaching school at any point in time then?
Willie Mae McCormick: No, not until later. By the way, when Mac got cut back we had to move back to Big Springs, it was right after Elizabeth was born. Anyways, I was real busy with my home and of course jobs were nearly impossible to get. It was almost a sin to get out and get a job if your husband was working.
Betty Fuller: That was because too many men needed jobs.
Willie Mae McCormick: The railroad…there were quite a few men and women. Women would be working in offices, I think, and the men were out on the road. They’d cut off one of them in the family. Anyway, I stayed home and when Elizabeth started school. I worked with the PTA and we were fortunate that we had a job and we had a car.
Betty Fuller: What kind of car did you have?
Willie Mae McCormick: If I’m not mistaken, I think we had a Chrysler. Mac was for good cars and I was at school quite a bit. The school that Elizabeth went to, I guess was one of the poorest in the city. There were three to four grade schools but this one was the poorest in our district. I was out quite a bit and believe it or not, I saw kids sifting through all the barrels to try to find a piece of corn bread or something to eat.
Betty Fuller: I was born in 1933. I know the depression was terrible. My mother and father married the same year you did in 1929 but the depression didn’t hit hard until the 1930.
Willie Mae McCormick: It was bad. Back then there were hundreds of people on railroad flatcars leaving to try and find a job. Anyway, Elizabeth started school and it was really sickening. I guess I had gone to the best church in the most expensive place. Anyway we bought our own groceries and did everything like that, but I really didn’t know how bad it was until Elizabeth started school and then there were these kids with no food and no clothes.
Betty Fuller: You said something about no shoes?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, no shoes, but I went one morning and a little girl came in and she was…
Betty Fuller: What time of the year was it?
Willie Mae McCormick: It was winter and there was snow on the ground and I carried her home and she said, “No wait a minute.” She wanted to get her feet warm because at home she didn’t have any fire. That was bad. Two or three women and I got her some shoes. It was terrible. The shoes were (begins to cry)…
Betty Fuller: You’re very emotional because the depression was that bad for these people who lived through it.
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, and see, I want to say the Methodist women furnished breakfast every morning for school kids in the north side where the Mexicans and others…were in desperate situations. The Methodist women picked up bread every morning of school from anyone that would give as much as a half a piece…
Betty Fuller: A half a slice of bread?
Willie Mae McCormick: The Methodist women were excellent. The Red Cross and the women in the Lions Club furnished milk everyday to the school kids.
Betty Fuller: That’s wonderful. We’re almost up to World War II and I know Mac served in World War II. Did he join or was he drafted?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, he volunteered. The reason why is, he tried to get into World War I but he was too skinny. He was in the National Guard, but that’s a whole different story. When World War II came up, of course he was in World War II…
Betty Fuller: He was about 41 years old then?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes. The Texas and Pacific Group had a group of railroad men. They were foremost a group, a platoon, that they were all in. They were going to be sent overseas. All the officers that worked with Texas and Pacific railroad…Mac wanted to go and join and he did. He joined and was in for quite a while. He was overseas one year.
Betty Fuller: Where was he overseas?
Willie Mae McCormick: In India.
Betty Fuller: India!! What did he do in India?
Willie Mae McCormick: They couldn’t eat any food that was cooked over there…
Betty Fuller: What was his job?
Willie Mae McCormick: Oh, they ran the railroad.
Betty Fuller: He worked for the railroad.
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, these officers were running the platoon.
Betty Fuller: T & P was the Texas and Pacific Railroad for those who don’t know.
Willie Mae McCormick: I can’t remember that guy’s name that was the head of the group. That was in Fort Worth. It was a little old guy. Anyway, they form this platoon. Of course some of the enlisted men where brought in and they were on the railroad working, but all the officers were mechanics…well all the officers, almost all of them worked on the railroad.
Betty Fuller: So Mac was a First Lieutenant?
Willie Mae McCormick: He was Second Lieutenant. Then they went to New York.
Betty Fuller: Where did you stay during the time he was in the service?
Willie Mae McCormick: I stayed home.
Betty Fuller: Home at Big Springs?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes. Until he got to where he was going to be for quite awhile and I was teaching.
Betty Fuller: Were you ever with him?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yeah. But I was teaching then and, of course, Elizabeth was in school.
Betty Fuller: What were you teaching?
Willie Mae McCormick: I was teaching kindergarten. I was working at the weather bureau at night and teaching Chemistry in the afternoon. Then we were in New York for about five or six months. I didn’t know I was going to be gone that long. Many of the soldiers had southern accents. Some of them came from Marshall in east Texas. They really had accents. Mac says one day some of them asked what language they spoke. He said this guy, the postmaster from Marshall said, “Well I thought I talked English until I came here.”
Betty Fuller: Then you went out of the state of Texas with him sometime when he was in the service?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes.
Betty Fuller: Where?
Willie Mae McCormick: Arkansas.
Betty Fuller: Arkansas?
Willie Mae McCormick: We were in a little old camp they called, oh, what’s the name of the camp in…
Betty Fuller: Fort Smith, Arkansas?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes. We lived in Van Buren. Elizabeth was with my mother, her Grandmother Ward, in Centerville. So the railroad men, there were not that many of them were in Van Buren, Arkansas. When school was out in May, I went there and we lived there for quit a while. We were there a month or so before he got sent out west, out to California.
Betty Fuller: When did he get out of the Service, Willie Mae?
Willie Mae McCormick: In about three or four years, I can’t remember.
Betty Fuller: But it was in the 1940’s of course. How many years in all do you think you’ve taught school?
Willie Mae McCormick: I taught about six years.
Betty Fuller: Six years, mostly Chemistry and Math?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes.
Betty Fuller: Anything else? Other than Chemistry and Math?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes. I taught Biology.
Betty Fuller: When the war was over why did you and Mac come back to this place in Euless that the Witten family that Mac’s father had owned? What was Mac’s fathers’ name?
Willie Mae McCormick: Lee.
Betty Fuller: Lee McCormick. When did you come to Euless?
Willie Mae McCormick: Well, I want to tell you when Mac was over seas I worked as a Chemist at Dow Chemical Company, down in Freeport. I was there for a little over a year.
Betty Fuller: Dow Chemical in Freeport, Texas where Mac was stationed in the service?
Willie Mae McCormick: Sometimes when I hear people talking about the fact that they can’t make these materials for these guys anymore…it just takes time to change, that’s a lot of hooey!! I saw the Dow Company and they had very few places in Texas. They were up northeast. What they were wanting was more Magnesium. They had to have huge amounts of water to get the Magnesium out and so in six months they had the plant built and they had houses and houses for people to live in, hundreds of people.
Betty Fuller: Yes, they were brought to Freeport and they did it all in six months!
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, and you talk about providing all these supports for the project, about protecting these people who were working with some of these machines and how long it takes to change.
Betty Fuller: It didn’t take long in World War II.
Willie Mae McCormick: No it sure didn’t!
Betty Fuller: Now, when and where did you first come back to the home property here in Euless?
Willie Mae McCormick: Mac was over seas for a little more than a year, so when he came back they knew where he was coming in, so I met him up in El Paso.
Betty Fuller: Fort Bliss, I guess?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, he was still in the service but wasn’t working on the railroad. We came back, in 19…I forgot.
Betty Fuller: 48?
Willie Mae McCormick: No, I came back before then because I had to teach school then.
Betty Fuller: Yes, but I meant to Euless.
Willie Mae McCormick: Oh! We came to Euless in 1948, but we went back to Big Springs first and I taught. Right after Mac got back. I taught chemistry and math two or three years. Mac always wanted to come back here and one year he said, “Why don’t you go down for the summer?” I said “Okay.” Well I had school and I was teaching in Big Springs. We were in Euless all summer, but in August Mac asked me what I was going to do. Are you going to stay or are you going to go back? I said “We’re going to stay in Euless.”
Betty Fuller: You stayed here?
Willie Mae McCormick: He said, “You’ve got to tell the school,” and I said, “Yes, I’m supposed to tell them in August,” so I sent in my resignation form.
Betty Fuller: So you and Mac and Elizabeth were here in 1948?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes. See, we had an old house. It was a camp house and we just wanted to camp out in it in the summer because we thought we were going to go back. Mac had a railroad job from Fort Worth to Big Spring.
Betty Fuller: I remember that first house. Now we want to talk about your professional career after you cam to Euless. Then we’ll talk about being Mayor Pro Tem, but let’s talk about your professional career.
Willie Mae McCormick: The first year we moved, I built a fence as good as anybody’s but I wanted to work at a job. Elizabeth was finished with school and we needed money and so I went to work. It was hard to find work for anybody in Chemistry and just plain Math, but I went to work at LTV. At that time it was North American Aviation Company.
Betty Fuller: North American? My mother was a “Rosey the Riverter” at North American.
Willie Mae McCormick: I went to work at LTV in at Grand Prairie at the time. I went in as a calculator. I couldn’t go in as an engineer, so I went in as a calculator. I wasn’t too well paid. Mac griped about it but I said, “Well I have got to get my foot in the door.” They didn’t like to hire women. I went to work and the first few years I didn’t do anything but calculations. Then I got to work with engineers, so I was an engineer’s assistant. The men were young and I was old, but I never had time, well once or twice I did, but other than that, I never had anyone discriminate against me. The company did because we (women) didn’t get paid the same amount as men. The people I worked with were always, except one or two, were very, very good.
Betty Fuller: How many years did you work there Willie Mae?
Willie Mae McCormick: About ten years.
Betty Fuller: Do you still get retirement checks from the company?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes.
Betty Fuller: Now who really sends it now, it’s not LTV?
Willie Mae McCormick: No, it’s an insurance company. That pension was always sent by a company, but now it is not the same one as before.
Betty Fuller: Tell us about your community service career.
Willie Mae McCormick: I have got to tell how I got on.
Betty Fuller: Very good!
Willie Mae McCormick: Before I retired, I was lying on the couch. Mac looked at me and he said, “What are you going to do after you retire,” and I said, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll go into Politics,” but Mac was on the Board at the Bank.
Betty Fuller: That’s the first National Bank of Euless?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, Mac thought I could do anything.
Betty Fuller: That’s good. It’s nice to have a husband who thinks that.
Willie Mae McCormick: He thought I could do anything, so I’m sure what I said was passed around. One day I got a call from Buddy Ragley saying they wanted to come up and see me.
Betty Fuller: Buddy Ragley was President of the Bank.
Willie Mae McCormick: He said he wanted to come up to see me and Mac. We told him okay, so he says, it’s me, Jimmy Payton, and Bill Byers.
Betty Fuller: Bill Byers, Jimmy Payton, and Buddy Ragley.
Willie Mae McCormick: They came. We wondered and wondered all day what they were coming for, but I had already made up my mind I was going to run for City Council the next year. Of course when I worked, or whatever I did that was what I put my effort into. I said, no this year is the year for me to run. So Mac and I decided I would run. They were the main reason why I ran for the City Council.
Betty Fuller: Who was Mayor when you first got on the City Council? Not Samuels?
Willie Mae McCormick: He was a Catholic…he was running for Mayor, He was a Pilot…
Betty Fuller: Oh! I know who you’re talking about…
Willie Mae McCormick: Pete Krause. He was Mayor. He and some of the others were pretty good friends I think. The one I was running against was Dwayne Wilcox.
Betty Fuller: Dwayne Wilcox?
Willie Mae McCormick: He was real nice, I liked Dwayne real well but they told me it was time to run and I said, “What do I do? I don’t even know what to do. I have no Committee or anything.” They said, “We’ll take care of it. Don’t worry about it.” Well it went on a while and nothing else was said and I said Mac you all haven’t forgotten about me? But I was not forgotten. I was on the Council for twelve years.
Betty Fuller: Twelve years. When did you become Mayor Pro Tem?
Willie Mae McCormick: The second year I was there.
Betty Fuller: So eleven of those twelve years you where Mayor Pro Tem?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes.
Betty Fuller: So, Pete Krause was Mayor first and under what other Mayors did you serve? Who came after Krause?
Willie Mae McCormick: After Krause was Harold Samuels.
Betty Fuller: Harold Samuels. What was the highlight of your years as Euless’ first female councilwomen?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, that is true.
Betty Fuller: Tell me how you got that trip to China.
Willie Mae McCormick: Well, it was kind of political in a way. I got to go do a lot of things and go to a lot of places if I hadn’t belonged to the Council. There were very few women involved in anything in this particular time especially in Euless, so being on the Council helped a lot. China was a good place to go. I knew that they were making some trips to China, Mac and I had packets and a magazine that we got from China and Russia. I knew they were going to send some people to China. They were going to take about thirty women, no men, for about three weeks. What they were trying to do was…that’s the time Mao Zedong was still in charge.
Betty Fuller: Yes, when I taught the children at school, I told them to just think of a mouse and he had a tongue, mousey tongue.
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes that was a hotspot, but the most interesting thing I got to be on while I was on the Council. I’m sure it had to do with me being on Council. It was the Federation of American Science. I got to go to Washington two or three times. One of the things they were working on at the time was trying to reduce the number of arms, particularly at that time fuel was pretty scarce. They sent me to several different places. That was very interesting. Then I went to the Scientist group that was chosen and I remember that’s Sander’s wife was head of it. Anyways, there were about eight to ten different groups maybe more, in the state of Texas. We met to try to come up with something we thought would keep girls interested in Science and Math. We first met in Dallas for about a week and thereafter it was taken all over the state, all over the country, for that matter. After that, they took ten of us and sent us to Washington, so we got to be in Washington for a couple of weeks. That was the most interesting thing that I did. This was the only organization that paid me for the days that I worked.
Betty Fuller: They did?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, but I liked the energy and organization too, they didn’t pay my way.
Betty Fuller: Did you get to see some things in Washington, White House, and the Congress and..?
Willie Mae McCormick: We saw a lot of things. They carried us up to see the State Department.
Betty Fuller: What would you say was the highlight of your years as Mayor Pro Tem?
Willie Mae McCormick: Now as far as the City is concerned, I guess was when Mr. Greaves resigned.
Betty Fuller: There was a hubbub?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, I couldn’t see why not. He drank too much and he had a problem so when Blackie took over as City Manager, as far as I’m concerned it was a highlight for the City.
Betty Fuller: For the City of Euless?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, the library was wonderfully renewed.
Betty Fuller: You were always so dedicated. We will get back to the library, but can you tell us some of the things that Mac (Walter) was involved in, in the City of Euless.
Willie Mae McCormick: He was with the Bank, I believe seventeen years.
Betty Fuller: Seventeen years on the Board of Directors for the First National Bank before it became Bank One.
Willie Mae McCormick: He was on the Library Board. As a matter of fact, he resigned from the Board when I went on the City Council.
Betty Fuller: Why because there might have been a conflict of interest?
Willie Mae McCormick: He was afraid that someone would say that it was a conflict of interest.
Betty Fuller: You severed how many years on the City Council?
Willie Mae McCormick: Twelve. Then I was on different Committees after that for a long time.
Betty Fuller: What were some of the Committees that you remember being on?
Willie Mae McCormick: I was on the Library Board one time.
Betty Fuller: Right, you and Mac were supporters of the Library for a very long time.
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, we were really interested in the Library. We both loved to read and so we were always interested in the Library.
Betty Fuller: Also you are a member of the Euless Historical Preservations Committee.
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes.
Betty Fuller: And you’ve given sizable donations that we appreciate. You also gave your barn!
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes.
Betty Fuller: Which was moved by the City?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes. Betty, I’ve been on the City Council. There was also the United Way, Salvation Army, and other things that I was on their board.
Betty Fuller: You’ve been on a lot of Boards other than the Salvation Army and United Way…
Willie Mae McCormick: I wasn’t on the Salvation Army for very long because I got on something else, something happened, maybe Mac got sick. Anyway, I was on United Way. I learned so much about where things were going and what people were doing and it’s nothing like the City.
Betty Fuller: We are very appreciative to you and to your husband Walter or Mac as you call him for all the Community Service you did. Now, I want to say that everybody who has been in Euless a long time knows what a successful career you have had and what you’ve contributed to the City of Euless and all the years of dedication. What you would like to say about your life, your career and how Euless grew, anything we have not discussed?
Willie Mae McCormick: I was the eldest, we had three brothers, and three sisters and we all grew up together and we didn’t have fusses much and certainly not in front of our parents. We had no money but we had all kinds of food, and my daddy was a real good father. We had a good house, and we had good beds.
Betty Fuller: You only had one daughter but I know you have grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Tell me about how many? You had one daughter, her name is?
Willie Mae McCormick: Elizabeth Wilcox.
Betty Fuller: Elizabeth McCormick Wilcox.
Willie Mae McCormick: I have three grandchildren.
Betty Fuller: Their names are?
Willie Mae McCormick: My granddaughter Wanda Whitley has three children; they are Angie Warren, Andy Whitley, and Adam Whitley. Andy and Adam are both policemen. They both work for the Haltom Police Department. Angie Warren just moved back. She and her husband have been living in Amarillo.
Betty Fuller: How many grandchildren do you have?
Willie Mae McCormick: Three total, two girls and one boy.
Betty Fuller: How many great-grandchildren do you have?
Willie Mae McCormick: I have five. I have four great-great-grandchildren. Chris Olsen, my great-grandchild, attends Texas A&M University. David Horton is another great-grandson.
Betty Fuller: You have four great-great-grandchildren. What about the Jackie Wilcox that I taught, Elizabeth’s daughter. She lives where now?
Willie Mae McCormick: She lives in Centerville in Leon County. She is Chris Olsen's mother.
Betty Fuller: So that’s the other granddaughter that we didn’t mention.
Willie Mae McCormick: Let’s see, I have three grandchildren Billy Mac Wilcox, Wanda Whitley, and Jackie Olsen.
Betty Fuller: And Wanda works at Elizabeth’s Cake Shop?
Willie Mae McCormick: Right, and Jackie works in Madisonville, Texas.
Betty Fuller: Works in the Pharmacy?
Willie Mae McCormick: Yes, in the Pharmacy. And Billy Mac is the CFO of Kindred Hospital in Houston.. He is in Mansfield. There is one in Fort Worth and Houston. They’ve got them all over the country.
Betty Fuller: Now, we have just a tiny bit of time left, is there anything else you want to say before we stop?
Willie Mae McCormick: Well, I just want to say that I had the best family members, the best friends and I’ll say that if you want to do it bad enough you’ll find a way to do it. I can never say this enough to teachers and students.
Betty Fuller: We appreciate everything you’ve done for Euless Willie Mae. Thank You!
This narrative history was produced through the efforts of The Euless Historical Preservation Committee with assistance from the staff of the City of Euless Parks and Community Services Department. - August 2006