The same railroads that brought many to Slaton in 1911 brought a young Bruce Pember, along with his brother Royce and mother Lillian from Iowa on September 15, 1915.
In the book Slaton Stories, Pember wrote about a long concrete sidewalk leading him for several blocks into the young town. In the distance, buildings lined Texas Avenue.
“I remember walking from the depot down a street with no improvements other than concrete sidewalks for several blocks,” Bruce wrote. “Finally across the street there appeared a brick building of unusual shape.” Bruce later learned that it was the location of the newspaper office and publishing house.
The family continued walking until turner the corner onto Garza Street.
“I looked to my right,” Bruce wrote, “and saw a bucking horse and rider appear from behind a brick building on Garza Street going north.” The triangular structure that Bruce refers to is the current Chamber of Commerce building on the corner of Garza and Panhandle. “The rider appeared to me for only a short distance. I remember that I felt I had surely come to a wonderful town.”
The family made their way around the block, past confectionary stores such as Webb Confectionary, CH Fawcett Confectionary and Moore Confectionary which was located on the 100 Block of Texas Avenue. There was also a Café located on 102 Texas Avenue. The Cozy Moving Picture Theater, the first theater and a modern luxury for any town at the time, was on the corner of Garza and 9th Street. The theater building continues to stand today, anchoring the corner of Texas Avenue across the street from Citizens Bank. Before the family arrived at the hotel, they passed the Howerton’s Hardware and Undertaking on 160 East Lynn, Slaton’s first funeral home.
On the same night of their arrival, the family stayed at the Capps Hotel, a building that continues to stand on the corner of Texas Avenue and Lynn Street. The red brick building is now in need of renovations but maintains its reminiscent exterior of the old hotel front that once welcomed early visitors and the first residents of Slaton. In 1915, however, it was a modern hotel with fresh enmities but still had trouble keeping the masquitoes at bay because of the heavy rains that fell across the South Plains the first few years of Slaton’s existence.
“Our first night was spent in a room on the second floor of the Capps Hotel,” Bruce wrote. “It is most memorable as the night the mosquitoes nearly ate us up. So the next day, we moved to the Singleton Hotel.”
Located on the corner of 9th and Lubbock Street where Caprock Pharmacy is now located, the Singleton Hotel was the most luxurious hotel in Slaton in 1915. The hotel was later bought and became the Forrest Hotel in 1923. The hotel entertained and housed guests for decades before succumbing to a fire in 1953.
However, in 1915, Bruce, his mother and his brother went to eat in the dining room of this new hotel. “The waitress came to take our orders and mother ordered for all of us,” Bruce wrote. “When the ordering was completed the waitress asked mother, ‘do y’all want coffee?’”
“Oh, no the boys don’t drink coffee,” Lillian said.
“I mean you, yourself,” the waitress replied rather haughtly.
“This first day or so taught us that we were a little different and had some adjusting to do,” Bruce wrote.
The family eventually moved from the hotel and lived in a home at 905 South 12th Street.
Bruce would meet many other school-aged children who would become his friend’s, of course there were those few who didn’t trust a “northerner”.
Bruce wrote that Bill Sledge, brothers Melvin and Victor Cade were often starting fights with him. It wasn’t until years later when Bruce received a letter from Bill who was in the army and stationed in Hawaii that he was told about their hatred for him.
“I guess you have wondered why we picked a fight with you whenever our paths crossed?” Sledge wrote. “Victor did the fighting because Melvin and I were older and Vic was more your size but we thought of you as our enemy because you came from the North.”
Bruce wrote that the letter went on to explain that since Sledge had been in the army, getting around in the world, he eventually learned that issues involving the, “north vs. south,” were beginning to die prior to the 1920’s.