January weather ended with a mild few days after spine-gripping cold as our hometown enters the last full month of winter with February, which adds an extra leap day for folks like me who were born on the 29th.
In another journey to Del Rio with my friend Coach Mike Proffitt we went to visit his relative Jack Barrett, who is married to the former Edith Self, sister to the late Newport businessman Bob Self. Most of you already know of Bob’s auto parts business in Newport. I knew him in later years especially when he served as a director for Newport Federal Bank.
Mike had to draw it out for me because I am slow at understanding the family trees. Jack Barrett’s mother was the former Jessie Teague. She was a sister to Ben Teague, who is Mike’s grandfather. This makes Jack Mike’s great uncle.
We were snacking pretty tasty food at the Fox Den Restaurant and talking about Del Rio history, when we got a chance to say hello to Janice Sexton. She and husband Gordon own the business.
Mike pointed across Highway 107 to an empty field and said that is the area that Ben grew up in. Newport businessman John Abe Teague (Think, Teague Chevrolet) was a son to Ben Teague, whose wife was the former Eutha Reece.
One thing I quickly learned about Jack is his sense of humor. Mike illustrated this with an anecdote about a visit Charlene (Crowder) made many years ago when doing interviews of some of the county’s old timers.
Charlene asked Jack, “You’ve lived here all your life?” Jack replied, “Not yet.” He is 88 and still growing older. One of the most interesting things to me is how large the Barrett and Self families were. Both families had 13 children.
Edith, born August 12, 1935, is the last living child, number 13, of her parents: W. H. Self, who married Alice Brandon. There were six boys and six girls. As Jack says of the families, “A house full and a barn full.”
Jack was born on Ben Teague’s land November 26, 1931. His dad was Frank Barrett and mother the former Jessie Teague. If you all knew the contractor Ronnie Barrett, he is the son of Jack’s brother, John.
Jack is the oldest of the Barrett siblings and the last living of the 13. I will tell you about his brick laying career and that to me explains his ability at 88 to split and carry his firewood. He did get some help from Mike, who had a few white ash trees that had gotten killed by the ash borer that Mike cut and hauled to his great uncle.
“Uncle Ben owned all the land up and down the road at Slab Town,” said Jack. I will jump around in time and location telling the story of Jack and Edith. And by the way, Jack spends more time at Walmart than I do. Saw him vote getting last week.
A little math shows that he was 25 when he began his brick laying career in 1956 and continued doing this until 2002, with various side jobs along the 46 years.
He began work for money at American Enka where he told his bosses that he would like to learn brick laying. Mike qualified Jack as “One of the best.” He worked on various projects at Enka doing brick construction with Daniel’s Construction Company. He soon went on the road and traveled across Tennessee and into Georgia, and the Carolinas handling brickwork. On a “pretty good day” he would lay 1,200 bricks. He also did block laying.
And while he was in trades on the road, guess who tended the annual gardens? Edith loved to garden and also cook while raising their children. She got paid less than Jack, who made $2.50 to $3 per hour in his early years. “I was happy to see $5.”
Five bucks went a long way then. If you went out and bought a brick mason’s four-foot level today you might pay $80 to $100. In his early days such a level was $5 and extension rules $3. “You could by the best Rose Trowel for $5.” He wore out many a mason’s trowel.
Now, Edith’s family lived not far from the Barrett’s present home. She lived where Steven Stokely lives off Timber Ridge. Edith’s Father bought the land and built the house in 1948 in which Jack and Edith now live comfortably. She was 13 at the time.
Jack claims that Edith made a lot of trips to the Teague farm to see Jack. Edith laughed and replied that had she done this, “Daddy would have used the switch.”
To be continued...