Local artisans featured at Country Market Days

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This year’s fall season Country Market Days will be the largest in its five-year history as an outlet for local artisans to sell their works by the historical Thomas Mercantile property on Old Highway 35 in Livingston.

“Every year we grow and this year we’re expecting over 70 vendors.” said Thomas Mercantile owner and Country Market Days founder, Terri Smith. “We even have somebody coming from as far as Birch Tree, Missouri because they heard about our market.”

More local artisans come from all over East Texas to showcase and sell their small-batch foods and handcrafted works. These include vintage finds, handmade jewelry, soaps and lotions, yard art, unique gifts and home decor, clothing and more. According to Smith, Country Market Days includes the most eclectic mix of specialized vendors in the area.

“It’s all handmade and high-quality goods that our vendors sell.” said Smith. “We want people to be able to buy nice gifts for their loved ones or for themselves. We also want them to just enjoy the atmosphere because it’s not typical of a market. You’re shopping literally in the woods and in the backyard here.”

The event will take place Friday-Saturday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at 2464 Old Highway 35 North in Livingston.

Market Days initially started as a 20-vendor promotional event for the Thomas Mercantile gift shop, which was reopened by Smith in 2009 to help preserve the store’s history. However, the event has also become a favorite show among local crafters looking for a way to promote and sell their goods.

“I’m the fourth generation to own the shop. We’re off the beaten path here next to the railroad track, but I had to do something.” said Smith. “So I just reopened it as a gift shop on a whim and moved here full time from Deer Park. It turned into full time work and I had to start thinking of things to do that would bring people into the shop. I also noticed there was a lot of local people coming in asking about consignments and if I could sell [their goods.] So I thought there was need for local artisans to be able to show their stuff.”

Smith is continuing to expand the available space at the wooded property to host many more artisans in the years to come. Local vendors who are interested in reserving a spot for a future event or for more information on Country Market Days, call (936) 967-5333.

IMG 9751Locals vendors are set up throughout the wooded property by Thomas Mercantile each year to showcase their handcrafted works and foods at Country Market Days. The event will be Friday-Saturday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at 2464 Old Hwy 35 North in Livingston.

IMG 9766This collection of rustic and vintage décor is an example what local shoppers can find at this year’s Country Market Days, which takes place Friday-Saturday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at 2464 Old Hwy 35 North in Livingston.

Old Livingston buildings are made new


"REMEMBER WHEN" --- As I get up each morning and look into the mirror, I think, “Who is that old lady staring back at me?” After 20 minutes of hard work, reconstruction and applying a good coat of makeup, I am happier when I look in the mirror and so is everyone else!

Today’s story will be a lot like that. As many of you have passed the Quonset hut building (the Dick Alston building) at 210 North Houston Street where the ancient, rusty tractor is located, many were hoping that someone would soon buy these two old buildings and give them a new beginning.

Likewise, the old building on 109 East Abbey Street is now Petalz and the back of this building is The Plumber. Take a look, a good look. A new face on these two buildings have given us something new to look at. Be sure to stop in and take an inside look at both newer businesses. Amazing! That should be encouraging to other ambitious business owners who would like to take on a worthwhile adventure, plus add to the pleasure of driving by these restored, old structures and seeing a facelift in our community.

I’m thinking you would like to actually know about the term, “Quonset hut,” so here’s a short story of how this one ended up in our town. A Quonset hut is a lightweight, prefabricated structure of corrugated galvanized steel, having a semicircular cross-section. Developed in the Unites States, the design was based on the Nissen hut introduced by the British during World War I. They were first manufactured in 1941, when the United States Navy needed an all-purpose lightweight building that could be shipped anywhere and assembled without skilled labor.

Between 150,000 and 170,000 Quonset huts were manufactured during World War II. After the war, the United States military sold its surplus Quonset huts to the public and many remain standing throughout the United States. The John Alston building was such a building. It has now been refurbished for Southland Ag and Outdoors.

This is another one of those times we could say it was a coincidence. Dicki Lou Alston and sister, Libby Gibson, are daughters of a welder and machinist and I am the daughter of a welder and water well driller. Emanuel Miller (previous owner of the Abbey street business) and John Alston (previous owner of the North Houston Building) were both local boys who came home to Livingston with a dream and began their businesses. Now both these buildings have been purchased and put back to a purpose in the Livingston economy.

It was hard to get off the phone when I interviewed Dicki Lou, because we had attended school at the same time and grew up here as well. Besides that, we both still have the original swing sets that our daddies welded out of pipe and built for us (my 70-year-old swing set still sits behind the McCardell Cottage. It is too large to sit in my yard!) We both share the desire of seeing the Livingston downtown area restored.

We both have a story to tell and here is Dicki Lou’s story. She tells me that Robert Massingil of Lufkin had to vacate his feed store on the corner of FM 1988 and Highway 146 for a new truck stop coming in. They wanted to be moved in by Aug. 15. This plot of land had originally been John and Dick’s childhood home, with my Grandad’s blacksmith shop located behind the home.

John Alston designed and manufactured a ratchet pipe cutter. The mold for making the ratchet pipe cutter was stored upstairs in this building. Dicki Lou and Libby had never seen this mold before. They made the choice to keep the mold for the ratchet pipe cutter, but decided that Grandad’s old bed had to finally go, along with many objects from history that had accumulated over the years. The original safe was still in this building and they were able to preserve the original patent and seal for this invention (a ratchet pipe cutter).

Dicki Lou tells me that her dad, John, sent these pipe cutters throughout Europe and on to the Middle East. In our conversation, she said, “I know, we had lots of letters from all over the world, telling us that those original ratchet pipe cutters had never had to be worked on!”

My imagination was going wild. I asked her to tell me what else they found in the building.

Dicki Lou tells me, “We found auto parts that were just crumbling and pipe cutter templates, piles of metal shavings, a 100-year-old Burrough’s adding machine, thousands of nails, not hundreds, and steel work tables and lathes. We also came across branding irons that Daddy had made for ranchers in Polk County. We found tools and an excess of things that he had made in his shop.”

Someone asked Dicki Lou, “Did you sweep the floor?” She laughed and said, “Yes, after we swept it about 75 times.” Then she added, “There were plants growing through the electrical conduits. They were replaced according to the standards required to meet city code. We took out the old bathroom and replaced it.” But I love this, “We kept the old counter and I painted green around the edges but it still looks old — but it is old!”

I commented that it was a good location and Dicki Lou added, “Yes, Robert wanted to be on Highway 146. We had to treat the exterior surface of the building in order for the special designed paint to adhere to the exterior of the building. Robert and his brother own five feed stores all over East Texas. Robert is a truly a genuine Southern gentleman and a hard-working business owner.”

The Southern Ag and Outdoors will soon be announcing their grand opening. Remember to drop in and see another old building “made new” again. Did any of you see that old tractor? I did, and watched them move that old Allis Chalmer tractor. I had to know where it was now resting. Libby (Alston) Gibson took the tractor to the farm in Moscow. Dicki Lou said, “It has a good home.”

Andrea and Jeremy Buie purchased the Miller Pump and Supply building from Virginia Aubrey in 2013. The building had been King’s Gym, Damaged Cans Goods Sales, and then vacant for sometime. The building originally was the welding shop for Emanuel Miller.

Emanuel Miller had received his welding training while enlisted in the U.S. army in the 1940s, then worked in the Pasadena Ship Channel as a welder. He and his wife, Leta, moved to Livingston in 1944. Emanuel worked as a welder for McDonald’s Machine Shop, located on the Cemetery Hill across the street from Forest Hill Cemetery. Emanuel actually started his welding shop across the street from the Petalz shop in the old cotton gin in the 1950s. The Water Well Drilling building was built by Clifford Westcott.

Andrea describes the relationship that she and Jeremy had in pulling this restored building together to serve two businesses, Petalz and The Plumber: “Jeremy and I make a good team. I have the creative ideas and he builds it!” They had been renting and Papa Joe Pedigo, who was their good friend and mentor, told them about the 109 Abbey Street building at the Polk County Relay for Life in Pedigo Park on a Friday.

Jeremy looked at the vacant building on Saturday. Andrea said, “We saw the potential and what it could be. We went back to Papa Joe and discussed the price and negotiated. In a couple of weeks, July 2013, we began construction immediately.”

Andrea and Jeremy drew their plans, and soon they were in process of remodeling the existing building. Jeremy said, “The building has only one standing wall; it was all warehouse, totally open. We added everything you see now, keeping the original floors.” Most of the construction was done by Larry Fye, Andrea’s Dad.

Andrea and Jeremy have great creative ways of taking old objects and recreating them for very interesting ideas for both the florist and the plumbing office. Jeremy tells me about finding an old water meter cover from the parking lot on the property. He commented that it was old, because they had been making plastic water meter covers for 20 years. He should know, because he is “The Plumber!”

Many of the objects that they chose to use in the plumbing end of the business are complementary to the plumbing trade. Yet they found artistic, creative ways to display them. They have an old gate valve that came from the Carter home in Camden in the entrance on a barn wood shelf. Andrea made a wreath that I loved, using only old songbook pages!

It is a unique combination of rough and delicate objects like paper wreaths, old pipes, barn wood, brown paper pages, wire baskets and my favorite, a chandelier made from a wire basket with punch cups hanging from burlap straps. I told Andrea if I had another claw foot bathtub, I’d hang that chandelier over that tub!

I’ve noticed their tasteful floral arrangements as I was going out the door. They can make anything you could want for special occasions. This is one of the cutest and most original stores I seen in a very long time. I can say that because I owned and operated Beverly’s Interiors in the 1980s! Good taste is a quality I appreciate and recognize!

COL--BM--quonset-hutQUONSET HUT — The Alston Building at 210 N. Houston in Livingston was constructed using a World War II surplus Quonset hut.

COL--BM--pedalzOnce the home of Miller Pump and Supply, this building at 109 E. Abby in Livingston is now the home of the Petalz florist shop and The Plumber, which is located in the rear.

Livingston grad helps create movie magic


Livingston High School graduate Austin Goddard is part of something many only dream of. He goes to work each day in a place that creates magic for children of all ages.

Those that do not know that Emeryville, California, has been creating entertainment since 1986 may recognize the name Pixar Animation Studios.

Goddard was recently a part of the new hit Disney movie “Finding Dory.”

 “I work at Pixar, which is not the same as Disney, but my title is a production office assistant,” Goddard said. “I support the producers and directors directly and a big role for me was building and maintaining the morale of our crew. I support the artists and their needs on a day-to-day basis. I maintain schedules and handle the more logistical side of filmmaking.”

Before attending college, Goddard was an employee at the Polk County Enterprise, where he mainly focused on photography, but also found time for design and layout.

Soon after he would travel to College Station, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas A&M University.

 “I pretty much went into Pixar immediately after school,” Goddard said. “I had a job for a month or so out of school, but then went to Pixar. I studied visualization, which covers graphic design, video game design, and computer animation.”

After completing a sequel to a successful movie, Goddard is now working toward the completion of another film that has had thriving predecessors.

"Right now, we are working on ‘Cars 3,’” Goddard said. “The movie comes out next June, so we are less than a year out. We are working pretty much in the peak of production, as far as how busy we are.”

Goddard said it is not a quick turnaround on many of the company’s productions. There is a long line of objectives that must be met before they appear on the big screen.

“Most Pixar films are in production for about five years,” Goddard said. “The early stages of that is figuring out the story. Once that gets settled, we begin production on actually creating the characters and environments. Once we have those assets created, we can go in and start animating, lighting and rendering the movie. It is scheduled out to the day. I don’t necessarily do the scheduling at this point of my career, but I am the one that is helping execute that schedule. I have to react to changes as they come in.”

Though Goddard said he tries to make time to visit family that is still in the area, the former Lion does not get back to Polk County often these days. He now has a day-to-day schedule to keep and others to keep on schedule.

07-12-goddardPRODUCTION ASSISTANT — Livingston grad Austin Goddard now works for Pixar Animation Studios and was involved with the film “Finding Dory.”

Horse riding for special needs adults


Clients with the Nixon Adult Day Center in Shepherd enjoyed activities Friday at the Hondo Riding Stables in Livingston. The center gives adults who are 18 years old and over who have special needs an opportunity to get out of their homes during the week for a day of fun activities and socialization with others. The stables are operated by Jeri and Perry Tanner of Livingston.

Patients treated to Mustang GT ride service



Patients at Pine Ridge Healthcare of Livingston, including Edna Bair (above foreground,) were treated to a special ride service and their favorite drinks at the local Sonic drive-in on Friday. The 2016 Ford Mustang GT was provided by Gabriel/Jordan Ford of Livingston. Also pictured: Pine Ridge coordinator, Michelle McAdams and Gabriel/Jordan Ford sales rep, Tony Ayala.

Remember When: Childhood memories of Ace are precious


Oh, if just one more time I could relive this special time in the early years my childhood! Memories like running through papa’s field of corn, mama’s table with fried chicken and homemade biscuits, the persimmon tree across the red dirt road from their farm, gathering eggs with mama, dinner on the ground at the church and Blue Bell Ice Cream will never taste as good as the lemon ice cream from Jennie and Gordon Munson’s Country Store in Ace.

Ace is on Farm Road 2610 off Highway 146 South, about 15 miles south of Livingston in south central Polk County on the edge of the Big Thicket.

My generation will be the last to have these Norman Rockwell kind of memories: drawing water from a dug water well, going to the outhouse, bathing in a #3 wash tub on the porch, all the smells that come with sleeping with the windows open, walking through the chicken yard barefooted and smelling the mayhaw juice boiling on the stove! Now let’s get to the facts of the history of Ace as well as the stories the natives of Ace hold dear to their hearts.

One of the area’s first settlers was S.C. Hiroms of Kentucky, who arrived in 1830 and built his home on high ground above the Trinity River. Hiroms and A.B. Carr of Memphis, Tennessee, are credited with establishing the town of Smithfield. (Having been established prior to 1835, this settlement is the oldest in Polk County).

In 1840, S.C. Hiroms was appointed postmaster of Smithfield. A stagecoach stop on the Liberty-Nacogdoches Road and a Trinity River port was the town “Smith’s Field” (named after an earlier settler, Robert Smith, and later called Smithfield). It was a trading site for Coushatta Indians, trappers and settlers in this part of what became Polk County.

A.B. Carr’s son, John Fendell Carr, came to Smithfield in 1939 and established a cotton gin, gristmill and several sawmills. He also built steamboats, including the “John F. Carr,” which saw service in the Battle of Galveston during the Civil War. Smithfield served during the war as a staging area for Confederate troops.

By 187l, the post office in Smithfield was discontinued. With the coming of the Houston, East and West Texas Railway to Polk County in 1881, riverboat and stagecoach transportation declined. The population of Smithfield shifted to the north, where a new post office with the town name of Ace opened in 1915 with Asa C. Emanuel as the postmaster.

On Aug. 30, 1878, a petition was gathered by three people to establish a school in Smithfield. Judge J.O. Stevens signed the document appointing John F. Carr, W.H. Beasley and Henry Williams as trustees. By 1935, the Smithfield schools had a total of seven grades, 108 students and three teachers. All high school students attended Livingston High School. School was held for two and a half months, and teachers were paid a salary of $30 per month. This enabled the students to help on the family farm. Gradually, school was increased to four months starting in October. Salaries were then raised to $35 per month.

On Sept. 5, 1933, a contract was awarded to Garland Miller (my grandfather on my father’s side) for $100 per month to transport students in grades nine, 10 and 11 to the high school in Livingston. At one time, the school was located on the property south of Lemuel Williford’s pigpen and cornfield (my grandfather on my mother’s side).

The population, estimated to be 25 in 1969, grew to 40 by the early 1970s and remained at that level through the year 2000. Although little physical evidence exists to identify Smithfield, its history is an important part of Polk County’s heritage.

As of today, Ace has only a post office. The population of Ace today is roughly calculated at 450 permanent residents. On weekends, there are sometimes over 1,000 people in Ace. The four subdivisions located in Ace are weekend havens for people coming out of Houston to the serenity of country living. Many have retirement homes there and weekend retreats in the Ace area.

I spoke with Henry Gurley, who lives in Houston. I got his phone number from Betty Peebles, who was his teacher in junior high school. They have remained friends for years. Henry wrote the foreword for Arley Walter’s book “East Texas Memories.” In the dedication of the book, Arley wrote, “The young generations of our family need to know some of the joy as well as the hardship of growing up during the Depression in the Big Thicket of East Texas.” I went to my mailbox Saturday and found a package from Henry containing a list of the poetry and books that he has written, as well as the history of his family.

“History of Polk County” is a book written in 1968 by the Polk County Historical Survey Committee in Polk County as a historical survey of Polk County. Two ladies are listed as members of that committee: Ethel McCardell, retired teacher and owner of the 705 North Beatty home (I purchased that home from her estate in 1997) and Mrs. Edna Miller; my uncle Taft Miller’s wife. (Taft is a brother to Garland Miller, my grandfather, mentioned earlier in the article as the bus driver at Ace). Again, we owe much gratitude to our citizens of Polk County for the efforts they have made to pass down history and enable us to relive their stories.

In the small Ace community, there was only one phone and the one phone was at the house of Papa Williford (Lemuel Williford, my grandfather). When farm accidents or other emergencies happened, a community member would come to papa for him to make the emergency phone call.

This was the case when Mr. Lott (I have no first name for him) had the handle of his wooden plow plunged into his belly while plowing behind a plow horse named “Old Sam” on the Heron Walters farm. The plow had hit a stump and the horse lunged forward, forcing the plow into Mr. Lott’s belly. Mr. Lott passed away that night, but I remember him, as many do, as a simple, hard working man and this could be said about all the people in Ace. If you wanted your family to eat, you had to work and work hard.

Chapter 13 of “East Texas Memories,” begins by saying, “During the summer, while school was out, there was a time when things got kinda’ boring and a concerted effort were made by the teenagers to relieve that situation. This effort was called, ‘The Watermelon Caper.’ The teenagers involved in this event were George Gurley, Joe Tullos and Freddie Miller. They knew Mr. Williford (known as Mr. Lem) to be a fair, fun-loving fellow and would be the perfect one to help them with their scam. Mr. Williford agreed to hide near the melon patch with his shotgun ready to fire when we got the “girls in the right place.”

Arley Walter writes, “While Mr. Lem was waiting for church to be over, he decided to take the shot pellets out of the shells to negate any possibility of an accident. Suddenly Mr. Williford threw a spotlight on the ‘young thieves’ and pulled the trigger of his double-barrel gun, at the same time shouting something like, ‘Get out of my watermelon patch!’ Those girls hit the wire fence like a herd of buffalo, making the wire squeal as they climbed through and over into the briar patches.” There are more details about the aftermath of this scam, but this gives you an idea of the community people and the way they invented their fun.

In an earlier article, I wrote about the LaFollette family mystery. This article reported that the LaFollette family loaded a wagon and left Ace in a hurry. Hershel Mackey, a long time resident of Ace, shares this with me: “Old man LaFollette had cut his throat in that house but was not successful in killing himself, so he climbed to the top of Red-Man Bluff on the Trinity River, and jumped off, accomplishing his final attempt.”

I learned in talking to Henry Gurley that Mrs. Lelia Missouri Jones LaFollette was a sister to Mrs. Pearl Wiggins, mother to Edna Pearl Miller. In a homemade book by Paul DuCoin, called “Just Folks,” I read about Edna Pearl Miller. Edna Pearl was the great-granddaughter of John F. Carr. In 1841, Carr married Arabella Williams of Holly Grove.

After he married, Carr inherited a fortune. He became a planter and had a cotton gin, three sawmills, a trading post and a landing area on the Trinity River. Carr also had a stagecoach stop near the trading post, which was a two-story log house. One of Carr’s riverboats, the John F. Carr, was used in the battle of Galveston during the Civil War

Edna Pearl, (born in Smithfield, July 2, 1908) wrote: “My mother, Pearl Wiggins, said that Grandmother Carrie Carr Jones kept a pet bear chained in the yard. My grandfather, R.B. Jones, was a gentleman farmer. He wore a white shirt and tie even during the weekdays. I can still remember my grandpa out in the field, plowing in that white shirt and string tie. Pearl was married to Lon Tullos. When he died, she later remarried and became Pearl Wiggins.

Another story of Edna Pearl Miller was, “I had a pet goat and kept it inside the yard. One time the goat came inside the house and ate the family Bible. I guess after that I had a holy goat!” Edna Pearl writes, “I met Taft when I was two months old (her words recorded in the book Just Folks). Taff said he loved me all his life and we married in 1937.”

My last “great helpers” for history and contents of this article were Jean and John Taylor of Ace. Jean is the granddaughter of Jennie and Gordon Munson. As Jean and I discuss the painting of the Munson Store I asked her, “Who painted the Munson Store picture?” Jean said, “Well, Mary Caldwell of Liberty painted that for momma (Jennie) and I wanted one, so Mary painted one for me.” Jean’s family has been postmasters at the store for four generations including Gordon Munson, 1928-1944; Jennie Munson, 1944- 1973; Roy Munson, 1974-1985; and then Jean Munson Taylor 1986-1989.

Pastor and Coach John Amon Taylor has pastored for the past 15 years and is the current pastor of the Ace Baptist Church, located on an acre of land next to the old school land. John began teaching in 1971 and coached at the Livingston Junior High School since 1971. John says, “I want to teach for 50 years, I don’t think anyone has done that!” John has an enormous collection of Indian arrowheads, pottery and other artifacts from their land on FM 2610. He has literally “dragged his grandson Jacob” behind him for 14 years, exploring for artifacts. Jacob has recently told his granddad, “I think it’s time to start looking for arrowheads again!” I’m pleased to hear that, because Jean and John have been faithful to keep and carry on with the stories and history of their family as well as the Ace community.

On Sunday Sept. 7, 2014, I wrote about the Ace community. After checking the article to see if I had told this story, I had not!

Charles Tribe’s family lived next to the Assembly of God Church across the road from my Uncle R.E. Miller (Vernon Miller’s daddy). Charles is an active member of the “Ace Kids” and a Texas A&M graduate. The Ace Kids meet at the community center at Taylor Lakes Estates. Vernon Miller lives in Baytown and is a retired police officer.

Vernon is my cousin and the author of two books, “East of the San Jacinto River” (2001) and “Highlands-Lynchburg Area History” (1996).

I hope these two mischievous Ace boys read this article! They marked my life! I remember this clearly.

Charles’s sister Carolyn was celebrating her birthday party on the porch of the preacher’s home, next door to the Tribe home. Charles and Vernon appeared with a snake and dropped it down the back of my dress. My dress was tied at the waist so the snake flopped around until the preacher pulled the sash on the bow at the back of my dress and the snake fell on through! The preacher, bless his heart, took his broom and whipped those boys!

I mentioned that we were the last generation to experience the “outhouse.” Vernon seemed to find trouble or more likely trouble found him! As I was sitting on the “two holer” outhouse, Vernon appeared at the back and began to throw corncobs up under the back of the open space. Papa Lemuel caught him and thrashed him with a “switch and sent him home!” Papa never used any words, but I think that boy got the message.

There are more “Vernon stories” but the picture I’m including shows me and Vernon, (we were about five years old and both with September birthdays) and my baby brother, Larry Miller. The building and fence behind us is the smokehouse and papa’s shop, where he sharpened his tools and oiled and cleaned them before he put them away, and where he repaired his shoes. Many of you have had meat from a “smokehouse.” The last little room on the right was where mama raised her “bitties” (new baby chickens).

COL--BM--Ace-paintingSTORE AND POST OFFICE — Four generations of the Munson family served as post masters in Ace. The post office was located in the Munson grocery store.

COL--BM--cabinTHE OLD SMOKEHOUSE — Columnist Beverly Miller (center) is shown in front of her father’s smokehouse and workshop in Ace with her cousin Vernon Miller (left) and baby brother Larry Miller (right). Beverly and Vernon were about five years old at the time the photo was taken.