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 was built in 1931 by the family of Jerry Bywaters, the famed depression-era muralist who was born in Paris in 1906.
Paris Boyhood
Mr. Baker died in March of 2012.
Questions or comments? E-mail me: robin@redriverhistorian.com