We had little then, but it felt like plenty

Anita Mazanec

My husband's grandfather owned the Tivoli Hall on Third and Franklin in the 1890s.

It was a room and board, cafe and pool hall. He later owned other businesses on the Square — a fish market and another cafe. He had a cafe on Austin Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets.

Mike's Cafe stayed in business until the early forties. Tivoli Hall was destroyed in the 1953 tornado.

When my husband was a young boy, his parents and older sisters went there after Mass on Sunday and grandpa always sent him to the back and told the cook to fix him a hamburger, which is one of his fondest memories.

When I was a little girl in the later '30s Waco offered "Free Park Movies" down beside the river where East Cameron Park is now. My dad took a "wagon sheet" (a wagon sheet is much lighter than a tarp) and placed it on the ground for us kids to sit on and usually he would buy us each an ice cream bar from the vendor.

I always preferred the "Dreamcicle" made with orange coating over vanilla ice cream. We kids would save toothpaste tubes, aluminum anything and use it for entrance to the Waco Theatre during the war. There were no candy bars, chewing gum or sodas to buy because of the sugar rationing. There were seven of us kids and we always had food because my parents had a garden, milk cow and yard chickens for eggs.

Mother usually made pinto beans and potato soup served with corn bread on Monday, which was laundry day. I remember Dad slaughtering a hog in the winter and mother rendered lard in a big wash pot.

She preserved the cooked sausage patties in lard in the cellar. We did not get much meat to eat until the forties. Ours was not much but it was healthy.

Some of neighbors were much poorer than we.

My brothers earned money with paper routes, by picking cotton and doing whatever chores they could earn an honest dollar. My dad did electrical and plumbing installation. Sometimes the customer couldn't pay, so he bartered for honey, food stamps and gas rationing stamps.

Before the war my father worked for MKT Railroad in the backshops which were shut down during the Depression. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, my three older brothers enlisted in the Navy.

When I got old enough I went to work for Trotter's Drug Store in Bellmead.

Bellmead had a movie house built in the mid-'40s called the LaVega Theatre. All my friends would go there on Friday night for the serials of "The Cisco Kid," "Zorro," Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. A group of friends from my neighborhood and I would walk there together every Friday evening. Later, Waco-born Hank Thompson, who had a country and western band started playing there on Fridays and had auditions for talent night. Some of us were good enough to get the most applause.

Then Goodson McKee and Miss Diamond had talent shows on Saturday at the Waco Theatre downtown.

There often was a photographer on Austin Avenue taking shots of people shopping or coming out of a theater. I have a photo of my husband and me on our first date at Waco Hall where we saw the Spike Jones Band live on stage.

When we started dating regularly in the early '50s, we went to eat at Charlie Lugo's dowtown and Steve's Cafe or the Elite at the Circle.

The old Knighrts of Columbus Hall was across the street from Charlie Lugo's on Columbus facing Fifth St. We danced there many times and at the Woodmen of the World Hall, and of course the beautiful Scenic Wonderland on the Marlin Highway and LaSalle.

Ed proposed to me at Steve's Cafe and gave me an engagement ring. We got married on May 9, 1953 two days before the tornado. We saw the tornado on the news in Dallas at Ed's sister's house. We had cut our honeymoon short due to the horrible weather warnings so we came on back to Waco where Ed and his father helped with the cleanup downtown. We had several friends to die and/or get seriously injured in that horrible storm.


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