Leroy Baker is a retired upholsterer who lives in Red River County, Texas. He talked to me
about his childhood in Paris as the son of a sharecropper and a carpenter. Check out Leroy's
Oklahoma experiences
here!

This oral history has been edited to allow for better conversational flow.

We moved to Lamar county when I was close to school age, because Daddy found work
building Camp Maxey. We bought a house in Pleasant Hill, which was a small town between
Petty and Brookston, and I went to school there for a while. The town is now a farm field - only
the cemetery remains.

We didn't farm during the war, but we had some chickens and cows. After the war, Mother
sharecropped some land between Petty and Roxton to help feed us kids - there were six of
us. She grew cotton and corn, which we all picked ourselves, and Milo, which was harvested
with a thresher. Mother didn't sell anything - the guy who owned the land did that. Probably
cheated her, too.

We moved to Paris in the 50s, lived right by downtown. Paris had about 14,000 people then.
Bois d'Arc Street by the South Depot still had bois d'arc stumps - the road is now where the
jail is. I remember the railroad being busy. There were a lot of trains, lots of passenger
service. The Main Depot and the South Depot were connected by a trolley line. The Main
Depot was on Bonham Street - that's where the big trains went through.

Right where the police station and the Coca Cola plant are now, there stood a large
sanitarium, about three stories tall. A children's hospital was attached to it by a long, narrow
hall. Then there was Lamar County Hospital. The building is still there, across from the Health
Department, but it's not in use anymore. Dr. Robinson, its benefactor, died and the county
closed it because no one wanted to run a charity hospital. Now, Paris is swallowed up by St
Joseph, the only hospital in town. I remember when St. Joseph was all wooden, with a large,
white, covered porch.

I loved the old schools - today's schools look like jails. All morning long, you could smell the
cafeteria cooking, and we'd have real food, like cornbread and green beans, meatloaf or
roast or fried chicken, and a tall glass of cold milk. I went to First Ward in West Paris, then to
the big Paris High School downtown, where the bank now is. I loved the big, broad steps, the
windows you could open to listen to the birds and the sounds of the neighborhood.

In Paris, South Main, Pine Bluff, Bonham and Clarksville Streets and Lamar Avenue were
where the great houses were. They tore most of them down - it's really sad. The streets were
paved with brick, and trolleys and buses would run everywhere. There was a Wall Drug Store,
where we'd go after school to have a soda. I remember the department stores downtown, like
Belk's and J.C. Penney. The sales clerks didn't have cash registers; they'd place the bill and
the money into a brass box, then used pulleys to send to a woman sitting in the mezzanine,
who'd' count out the change. I thought it was fun to watch."
Bywaters Park, Paris
Paris Boyhood
This is a picture of the East German answer
to the Ford Motor Company, the Trabant. It
has nothing to do with this page, except that
Mr. Baker once told me he'd love to drive one.
Since he used to be the proud owner of two
Yugos (one for driving, the other one for
spare parts), I guess the Trabant's reliability
would be familiar to him. Gotcha!
Mr. Baker died in March of 2012.
Questions or comments?
E-mail me:
robin@redriverhistorian.com