It was on the Slaton Town Square, in 1922, when the familiar sweet smell of confectionery delights floated through the air as children made their way across town over dirt roads or, if the rain had fallen within a few days’ span, muddy streets for sweet snacks and afternoon delicacies.
Having been on the square for six years, the “J.H. Teague & Son, Confections, Drug Sundries,” was a local favorite.
By the early 1920’s, the Teague family had already built a successful business and Joe Teague Sr. had already become a well-known citizen. Joe Teague Sr. became such a successful Slaton businessman that he became the first city marshall and later mayor (1939).
The Teague family began their business on June 15, 1911, the day thousands of people arrived in Slaton to start a new life in a new town developed by the Santa Fe Railroad. The Teague legend began when Joe Teague Sr. and Jr. began working for Hamlin Supply serving food to train crews. Five years later, in 1916, the two Joes opened their very own confectionery in the lobby of the Palace Theater. By 1921, they had developed a successful business on the town square and had built twin houses for their family on 430 and 450 West Lubbock St.
In the early 1920’s, Slaton was a thriving city with a population of more than 6,000 and various candy shops and confectioneries fought and competed over satisfying Slaton’s sweet tooth. The 1920s was a golden age for candy companies throughout the country and even some of the sweet treats enjoyed today were introduced to the public during this savory era including The Baby Ruth Bar (1920), Mounds Chocolate Bar (1923) and Milky Way Candy Bar (1923).
Bonnie Abel Deering, as a young girl, was no stranger to the Teague’s candy shop. “No one who ever lived in Slaton could possible forget the Teague’s Drug Store,” she wrote in Slaton Stories. “Founded by old, ‘Uncle Joe Teague,’ and later operated by his son, ‘Little Joe Teague.’ It was a sort of gathering place for the towns people at times, especially the young folk.”
As young children gathered at one of the 12 candy shops and confectioneries that sprinkled the square, young Deering, possibly wearing heavy tweed outfits, Mary Jane shoes and thin white stockings, with lollipop breath and chocolate stained dresses, wrote that there were various gatherings in the community during her childhood but her most memorable were the church revivals.
“My father was a Baptist and my mother a Methodist so we attended both churches and had no problems,” Deering wrote. “Most of the time we attended Sunday morning services at the Methodist and evening services at the Baptist.”
Of course, in 1922, the Baptist Church continued with their social struggles.
John Pedigrew Hardesty wrote in his autobiography, Preachers of the Plains, “I had been in Slaton exactly one year when I received the following letter,”
July 4, 1922
“You are in for it. We attended several of your sermons in Slaton and the one here. We don’t like your ideas. You are too much KKK and talk too much about other denominations. If you don’t get out of this county in 10 days you will go out feet first. Try us and see.
We do not go to church but we are too American.
Skull and Crossbones
Hardesty received the letter a few weeks after the revival at the Methodist Church. “In that meeting I had not hesitated to give sin a black eye,” Hardesty wrote. “I had called a spade, a spade.”
Hardesty wrote that immediately upon the receipt of the letter, he went to the editor of the Slatonite and asked for space to announce his reaction. “I stated in the announcement that I would reply to the ‘Skull and Crossbones’ note in my sermon the following Sunday night,” Hardesty wrote.
“How well I remember those revival meetings,” Deering wrote in Slaton Stories. “Usually held behind or at side of the buildings. Since there were no cooling systems in those days we had to sit outside or ‘burn up’ or fan ourselves to death. We sat on hard benches made from new lumber and many people brought pillows. Bright, bare electrical bulbs were strung all around, and at night bugs for miles around went into orbit and came right there to do their dive-bombing. If the bugs didn’t get you the mosquitoes did.”
Reverend Hardesty wrote that on that particular revival, the night when he was to address the Skull and Crossbones militia, the Associated Press carried an account of it. “On Sunday night there were more people on the outside of the church building than on the inside,” he wrote. “People came from a radius of fifty miles.”
As the citizens uncomfortably sat and waited, some out of concern, some out of respect, and some out of mere curiosity, Hardesty rose in front of the crowd and, “calmly and sweetly,” gave his sermon. “I had come to Slaton in response to a united call of the church,” he said before the anxious crowd. “I had not asked any one’s permission to come, and I would leave Slaton just when I was good and ready to go; my family was enjoying the best of health and I knew of no good reason for a change; I was prepared to die; I liked Slaton, and had as soon be buried in Slaton as any place I knew.”
Soon after the revival, Hardesty wrote that the city council held a meeting and made him a “Special Officer,” and told him when he went out, especially at night, to carry a gun.
However, to Deering who was a guileless child listening but not fully understanding the dangers that were thinly hidden to young minds, she remembered the picnics, band concerts from the little band stand near the City Hall, holiday parades, parties and dances in private homes. Through the sickly sweet scent that wafted through the Slaton streets from the various confectioneries, she also remembered the revivals and had no true understanding, during her childhood, of the various workings of the Skull and Crossbones, the KKK or any other organization that, for decades before and after, would blur the line between miscreants and saints.
“We heard some wonderful preaching,” she wrote, “and good singing, seems I can almost hear them now.” She wrote that one of her favorite hymns sung at those revivals was, Shall we Gather at the River, and Deering, as a young girl, wearing a short bob cut hairstyle, with small swinging feet beneath the pews, would join the chorus of people as they sang, “Soon we’ll reach the silver river, soon our pilgrimage will cease; soon our happy hearts will quiver with the melody of peace.”