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Growing up in Three Oaks
Leona Hosek picking cotton in 1951
Rainy Days and Starry NightsDecember 19, 2012 2,817 views Post a comment
Leona Hosek Moczygemba was born in Three Oaks, Texas, in 1931. Her father, August Hosek, was born in Moravia in 1885. Her mother, Agnes Lamza, was born in 1896 in Texas. Her family came from the Czech Republic. They married in 1916.
Leona has spoken Czech all her life. When she started school she learned to speak English. But when she came home from school and was speaking English, her daddy reprimanded her and told her to speak Czech. To this day Leona speaks both Czech and English.
There were 12 children in the Hosek family. They lived by the Three Oaks Hall. Her daddy farmed 130 acres. He always farmed with horses or mules, walking behind the horses with the plows, cultivators, etc. When her brothers got old enough, they helped their daddy with the plowing. He bought a tractor in the late ’40s.
Like almost all children during those years, when Leona was old enough she worked in the fields, chopping cotton, pulling corn, working in peanut fields, and then when they got home in the evening, they had more work to do -- chores around the farm. Then there was homework. It was a hard life.
Sometimes her mother said that Leona should stay home and cook the noon meal while her mama went to pick cotton. Leona had to kill two chickens, heat boiling water to scald the chicken so she could pick the feathers off, then she had to clean them, fry them up, and cook the rest of the meal. Then she said when they all went back in the fields, she had the job of washing all those dishes by herself!
She described to me how her parents made sauerkraut, one of their main dishes in this family. Her mother would shred the cabbage -- put the cabbage in a large crock with salt and dill. Then Leona said her mother would wash Leona’s feet real good and carry her over and put her in the jar, so she could stomp on the cabbage for a long time. Leona thought that was fun. Then her mother covered it up with a cup towel and a heavy dinner plate and a heavy rock, until the sauerkraut was cured. Sauerkraut was always one of the main dishes in the Hosek family.
I asked her if she was glad when school started and she said, “Well I was glad, but we had to walk 4-1/2 miles to school every day and back, and when we got home there was still lots of work to be done. I had to miss a lot of school, because there was too much work to do.”
Leona said, “We always wore straw hats to school except in the winter. We had no shoes and we had to walk to school barefoot. But there was this one time that my older brother outgrew his shoes and my mother told me I had to wear them to school. They were boys’ shoes with these pointed toes, and I didn’t like them. So I would put them on and walk about where the Three Oaks Store was and I would take them off and put them under a little bridge, and walk the rest of the way barefoot. Then in the afternoon I would come back, and put them on and walk home. My mama never found out.”
At Christmas, her daddy went out to the pasture and cut a limb off of a tree. They would decorate it with strings of popcorn and colored paper chains. Christmas presents were a box of apples, oranges, nuts, and sticks of peppermint candy canes. When I asked if they ever got toys like dolls or trucks, she said they never got anything like that. She said probably because there were too many children. But she said they were so happy with the fruit, candy, and nuts.
That was during the Depression, and times were really hard for the Hosek family with all those children.
But Leona said one Christmas, they were all sitting in the house and Santa Claus came down the stairs with a bag over his shoulder with presents of apples, oranges, nuts, and candy. She was about 8 years old. The children were so excited. There really was a Santa.
But later on she went upstairs and found the Santa suit and the mask. Then she knew it had been her sister, Martha! Leona looked sort of crestfallen as she told this story. She said all the kids’ dreams were shattered that day.
Leona went to school at Three Oaks until the 11th grade. Mary Ann Stavinoha, Emil Fisher, and Victor Hosek were in her graduating class. She continued to live on the farm and work in the fields for several years.
Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. After many years living in other parts of Texas, she now lives and writes in Floresville. Her two books are available from the Wilson County News office.
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