When I was growing up, Helen Croft was the Post Master of the little community of Proctor, Texas. Being allowed to walk “down” to the Post Office for the mail was a huge treat for a country girl whose own family mail was delivered into a big silver box at the end of the lane…no romance at all in that.
But that’s not how they did it at Proctor!
No, at Proctor was an actual Post Office, old, of course, which made it all the better, and inside were those beautiful gold boxes that held all kinds of treasures for a little girl with an imagination. So what if only the light bill, as my grandfather called it, was in the box. It had become sanctified simply by having been allowed into the box at all, you see.
Also at the Proctor Post Office was a beautiful woman who was never to busy to hand out a kind word to those who came for their mail….even if one of them was only a little girl with no news to share. That beautiful woman was named Helen Croft…Mrs. John Croft of Proctor, Texas. When I recently happened upon an interview Helen did years ago with Jewell Dukes Huddleston in the Comanche Chief, I knew that I wanted to share her memories and the memories of those long gone from Proctor with you.
Helen Croft was appointed the Post Master of Proctor in 1964, a time when so many of the “old timers,” as she called them, were still living. Of course, when they came for their mail, they also came with a story to tell the young woman. One of the men who told her about the early days in the Proctor area was Lonzo Kay who related tales of the drought of 1886.
After leaving the town of Dublin, the old stage road to San Angelo, if one could even call it a road, followed Walnut Creek to the Leon River crossing. As the drought of the 1880s worsened, Walnut Creek (like others across the state) completely dried. According to Mr. Kay, the only water then to be had came from a spring on the Kay place.
“Mr. Kay could remember the small Spanish stage ponies being brought to the water hole to drink. He could still see them in his mind’s eye – prancing in excitement and thirst, wading in and rolling the water to muddiness as they drank. This upset his mother who had to wait until it settled to be fit for use in household chores.”
It was a very different life, wasn’t it? Horses in the drinking water…
By the turn of the century, life was definitely easier than it had been for those original settlers to the area. Proctor’s Mae Reid, who would eventually become Helen Croft’s mother-in-law, remembered being allowed to take herself and two younger sisters all the way to Dublin on a shopping trip. What an outing for the day!
The girls, of course, traveled in a buggy, and as her father had directed, Mae drove straight to the livery stable/wagon yard. When the stable boy asked Mae what services she would like for the horse and buggy, she did what any girl of any generation (who had no idea what to say) would have done. She bluffed it!
“Oh, twenty-five cents worth,” Mae told the young man.
Of course, poor Mae was very embarrassed to later learn from her father that the normal charge should have been a nickel and certainly no more than a dime!
And we can thank the Comanche Chief, Jewel Dukes Huddleston, and Helen Croft for these bits of long ago lore as well as for the photos* found here.
I believe the names of the boys below are correct; however, I would love to know exactly which name goes with which boy. Please use the comment boxes below if you can help. Thanks!
Don’t you just love old stories and old photos?
*If any of you have these photographs or others like them in your collection, Texansunited.com in conjunction with the Comanche County Historical Museum would love a chance to copy them. 325-280-9083