Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

November 17, 2014

My Grandfather

Filed under: Family — Janice @ 11:59 pm

115 years ago today, my grandfather was born in Comanche County, Texas. I think he was born at his grandmother’s house and somewhere I even have a list of who was present at his birth. He was the first child of Ed and Het Hallford. They were farmers. He was a cute little baby.


He was an even cuter little boy.


He grew up in the Newburg community near all of his grandparents and near more than a dozen aunts, uncles, and probably hundreds of cousins. He was a handsome young man.


He’s second from the left in the front. He met my grandmother while growing up. She’s in this picture, too, third from the right.

Before they were married he almost had to go to war. But his 18th birthday came one week after Armistice Day. He had the uniform, but he never had to serve.


He was ordained as a preacher through the South Leon Baptist Church and although he never pastored a church, he did preach occasionally and always served in the church. I never witnessed him preaching (except in the kitchen!), but his prayers before a meal were something to behold. Keeping a dictionary handy was helpful.

Papa went to college in Brownwood and he and my grandmother married in 1922.


He became a schoolteacher and quickly was a principal and superintendent, too. He taught in Grosvenor, Jermyn, and Jacksboro.

In the 50s, he changed careers and began working for the “Welfare Department” as the Department of Health and Human Services was known then. He did a lot to help old widows and poor families get the benefits they needed. He was a proponent of Social Security and was happy when aid became available who had no family and no income.

I’m skipping over a lot of years since it is now past midnight and NOT his birthday anymore.

This is how I choose to remember the Hallfords—dressed up and ready for church. He has a hint of a smile in this picture. That was a rarity in a photo. He smiled and laughed some in real life, but rarely in a photo.

Arla and Willie Halford

Papa and Mamma had 4 daughters and then 4 sons-in-law and 12 grandchildren and then lots of great-grandchildren (22 I think?) and probably close to that many great-great-grandchildren by now. He lived every day of the 20th century and parts of 2 more centuries. He died in March of 2000.  Mamma had died in 1993. This is all of our family at his 100th birthday, 15 years ago.

A.E.H.'s 100th

There are many stories about Papa. He had lots of funny quirks. He wrote a poem a day for YEARS AND YEARS. A few were cute poems about cats or grandchildren or family. Mostly they were about religion and the Bible and “the great I Am” and his dislike of Brother Criswell at the First Baptist Church of Dallas. He gave my sister and me our first job. He paid us a great amount of money each month to index those poems for him. It taught us a lot, though I know my mother had to remind us a million times each month to get it done. Papa was a great correspondent with his children and his grandchildren. He and I wrote letters about space travel and aliens and ancient culture. Obviously his life as an educator didn’t stop when he was no longer a teacher.

So that’s my little salute to Papa Hallford.

October 14, 2014

My Sweet Flaco

Filed under: At home,Cats — Janice @ 10:17 pm

I am not going to put a picture here. I’d spend an hour looking through pictures to find the right one and I’d get all sad. And this will be short, too.

Our sweet kitten Flaco is gone and it breaks our hearts. Friday he was sick, Saturday we had to say goodbye to him and let sweet Dr. O at our vet’s office do what vets do. It was a cold rainy October day just like it was 5 years ago when Nathan Jr. had to be put to sleep. We were just about to get past our October depression and now it is back full force.

Flaco had an enlarged heart. Both of the vets we took him to said it was nothing we did, nothing we could have prevented, nothing we could have known about and fixed. It just “is.” His heart was too big and it created clots and a clot went to the arteries that feed his legs and this poor little feet were so cold. He couldn’t walk, he couldn’t clean himself, he couldn’t get up to go to the litter box. All of this happened within the span of maybe 12 hours.

Mark took him to the hospital and then he had to go to a gig so I met him there and waited for the doctor’s report. There was nothing good in the report at all. I chose to bring sweet Flaco home for one more night at home. One more night with me and Mark instead of at the cat hospital where they might have kept him more hydrated and had a cardiologist look at him in the morning. Mark and I cried with him and over him a lot. Saturday morning we took him to our own vet, the vet that took good care of Nathan Jr. right to the end (even to coming in on her day off to help us through that last painful moment). Dr. O agreed with the prognosis that there was nothing that could really be done. They MIGHT be able to get the clot to break up and move on, they MIGHT get the blood thin enough to bypass the clot, he MIGHT not have another clot for a while… But everything I read seemed to say that if you did all of these things, a kitty might live another 5 months. I sure didn’t want our lively little happy energetic boy to have to suffer or go through shots and hospital stays and all the fear involved with that just to get to keep him another 5 months.

So we said goodbye to him and let her literally put him to sleep and then figuratively. Lots and lots of tears since then. He was a sweet bright spot in this house and was ALWAYS wherever we were. Phil and Willie are angels, but they are much more blasé and independent. We come home from work, they stay on the bed without even a meow. They let us come to them.

There may be another kitten in our future. We will wait to see what develops. It is heartbreaking to invest the love and then lose a kitten when he was so young (just over 2). But, better to have loved and lost…  He brought us a LOT of joy each and every day and I know we made his world a lot better, too.

October 8, 2014


Filed under: At home,Childhood Memories — Janice @ 10:07 pm

Times change. Sometimes they change and we don’t even realize it. I visited my nephew and his wife at their home this past weekend. Mark was at a gig and we were going to go see him play. He called with a splinter so he asked that we bring a needle or a safety pin so he could try to get the splinter out. I asked my nephew’s wife for a needle and she didn’t have one. I didn’t know that needles were old-fashioned and something people don’t need now. I admit I don’t use one very often, but I do sew a button back on from time to time. My mother sewed all the time when I was growing up so we had plenty of needles. She sewed on her sewing machine and she did plenty of hemming with needles. Plus, my sister and mother and I all embroidered from time to time.

I was looking at something tonight in an old 1961 newspaper online and saw this at the end of the article:


There used to be all sorts of little household hints, pieces of trivia, and little jokes inserted in newspapers to fill out the column. Now we just don’t have newspapers and, if we do, their computers can stretch the copy to fill the columns without it looking stretched, I suppose.

But I read this little hint and thought about how I have never owned a bottle of bluing, but it was something I grew up with. I think I only grew up with one single bottle though. I don’t remember that we ever bought it or used it very much. Once in a great while Mother would need to really clean some white sheets or white towels and she would use some of Mrs. Stewart’s bluing. And it seems like the bottle always sat up on the window sill on the “back porch” which was really an enclosed laundry room. I’ll have to get verification from my sister or mother on whether or not it sat on the windowsill.

This is sort of close to what our bottle of bluing looked like:


Bluing usually is down the sides and on the label, from what I remember. This one is for sale on eBay. I am not sure if our bottle was blue either. But Mrs. Stewart looks just like she always did.

Of course, when I saw the ad, I realized that I don’t use bluing and I would expect that most people younger than me don’t even know what bluing is. The world hasn’t ended because they don’t know. I guess the world won’t end if they don’t own needles either.

September 24, 2014

Befuddled and bewildered

Filed under: At home,Music,Normal Life — Janice @ 10:16 pm


Mark and I saw a news story tonight about the transportation service “Uber” and how it is working in Austin. Mark said a friend he knew was participating and carrying passengers for Uber.

“Who’s doing that?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m having a senior moment and can’t think of his name. It’ll come to me. Piano player.”

“Mike Farrell?”


“Hmmmmm… T. Jarrod Bonta?”


“Earl Poole Ball? Nick Connally?”

“No, not them.”

“Uhhh… that old guy that looks like you?” (I was having my own senior moment.)

Mark just ignored that one.

“He lives just around the corner. Used to play with Jack Ingram.”

Oh, I think, I should know who was playing with Jack Ingram, but I can only think of Bukka Allen and I knew that wasn’t who he was talking about.

“He also played with Jimmy LaFave, but not Radoslav.” (Okay, he’s an accordion player to me, I don’t ever think of him on keyboards.)

I keep coming back to “played with Jack” but I can’t remember any keyboard players with Jack.

“Oh, it’ll come to me. Give it time.”

We watch Modern Family and another show. Then …

“Chip Dolan!”

“Okay. Sure. Chip Dolan!” I say. “Now what was it we were talking about?”

September 15, 2014

My Nose

Filed under: Childhood Memories — Janice @ 9:07 pm

This week I am having my nose fixed. I am not getting it fixed cosmetically (at least I hope my nose doesn’t appear changed); I am having the septum fixed so maybe I can breathe again.

I have a vivid memory of the day I broke my nose when I was about 8. Our neighbor boys, Danny and David, were at the house one evening. Mom and Dad were outside with me and my sister and all the kids were on bikes. Danny challenged me to a race and I jumped on my pedals and started around the back drive of the house. At that point I looked back to see how far in the lead I was. Danny hadn’t even started to race, obviously sending me off on a fool’s errand. At that point I hit something and it sent me flying over the handlebars and face first into the gravel drive.

I was wearing one of my favorite dresses at the time. This was back when girls still wore dresses on a regular basis and even played in them, especially after school. I remember Mother and Daddy on each side of me, holding an arm and helping me back to the house. Our playing for the day was over.

But the nosebleeds had just begun. It seems to me I was home from school a week and Mother and I were up ALL NIGHT LONG every night with my nose bleeding. I probably am remembering that part wrong, but I do remember a lot of blood. My nose was also swollen at the time. I remember thinking I was particularly funny when I said that Daddy and I looked more alike than we had before because now my nose was as big as his. I even wrote that clever observation in a letter to my grandparents where I told them about the bike wreck. I recently inherited that letter. I remember writing it very clearly and I know I was “grown up” and in my head I am exactly the same person I was then. But, now, re-reading that letter and seeing the scrawled writing, it is obvious it was written by a little bitty girl.

I think it was a full 10 days before we finally went to the doctor to have him look at my nose. This was the 60s, remember. We didn’t run off to emergency clinics for every scrape. We didn’t even HAVE emergency clinics for those things.

I remember the doctor examining my nose and saying that it was crooked and that if I wanted to, I could have it straightened out when I was 18. He said if we had come in as soon as it had happened he would have stuck a rod up my nose and straightened it out, but it was too late at this point. The way he described how he would have straightened it out, I was VERY glad we had not come in earlier.

For a good long time as a kid I was prone to having nosebleeds. My nose never looked crooked so I didn’t worry about what the inside might be like. When we moved to Austin, Mark’s doctor suggested he get his nose fixed and help him to breathe better. It did wonders. I officially had a doctor tell me that I had a deviated septum and I began thinking about having it fixed.

But, boy, making the decision to have a surgery that a doctor doesn’t tell you you have to have is not easy. But I have met my medical deductible this year so it makes this surgery a bargain for me and I decided I couldn’t pass that up.

In the 3 weeks since I saw the doctor for the initial visit, I have not been able to use Afrin. I was not an Afrin addict and didn’t use it ALL the time, but during some seasons I used it regularly (and way more than the 3 days you are supposed to use it) and quite often I do use it at night just so I can breathe and go to sleep. I have done without for almost 3 full weeks now and it has not been easy. I quite often am not breathing through one side of my nose. I am hoping that the surgery is fast and easy and any swelling goes away fast and I’m breathing deeply by this weekend.

Here’s a picture from about the time I broke my nose. There were no child labor laws yet either.


September 6, 2014


Filed under: Childhood Memories,Family,Genealogy — Janice @ 11:13 pm

I just saw this picture in my computer;

2005 Cunningham reunion 08

This was taken 9 years ago in 2005 at the Cunningham family reunion. It is my little cousin Annabeth (Susannah Elizabeth… named after ancestors on both sides of her family) with her great-grandmother Dorothy. They are standing beside the gravestone in the Newburg Cemetery of Dorothy’s great-grandmother Trissia Moore, who died in 1940.

Dorothy remembers Trissia, Annabeth will remember Dorothy. I love the connections from generation to generation.

My only memory of my great-grandmother from this side of the family is of Henrietta Hallford, who is also buried nearby in the Newburg Cemetery. I don’t think I ever met her when she was alive. If I did, I was a baby or an infant. I do remember her from her funeral. I remember my mother and Aunt Dorothy (the one in the photo) standing by her casket and commenting on how she looked like she had in life, and there was a mole or facial imperfection on her face that they commented on. This was the first dead body I had ever seen. I don’t remember being particularly scared or having emotion. But I remember the sadness of my mother and aunt for their grandmother.

I did know my great-grandmother from my father’s side well before her death in 1978. I wish I had been more mature and spent more time paying attention to her while I had the chance. But, as it was, I knew her from many visits she made to our house and my grandfather’s house and a visit or two that we made to her house in Cleburne. She died when I was in college. I wish I had been at her funeral. She died when I was on the road with my friend Sandy. I didn’t have “funeral clothes” with me and I wanted to go on home to Amarillo and then return to Winters for the funeral. My parents told me to stay put and not come back down. I obeyed them because it really was a long distance to try to come back across. I feel bad that I wasn’t there, though. But she and I did have SOME communication and a relationship, maybe more than any other of the great-grandkids. I have many letters she wrote to me before she died.

I never knew my great-grandfathers or my other great-grandmothers, but I know the grandparents were very special to my parents. As I do my genealogy I love to see the connections and figure out who knew who. When I visit a grave I am thinking not only of the person buried in the grave, but who was standing on this ground as that casket was lowered. There is always another generation. There is always life. It doesn’t make me sad, it makes me glad that life goes on.


This is my sister and me with my great-grandmother Williams when she was probably in her 80s.

September 3, 2014


Filed under: My Job,Normal Life — Janice @ 10:09 pm

I am trying not to be a complainer. I know I do complain and I know sometimes I make snarky remarks that come across as complaining. Or maybe I say the truth, knowing you will understand that I’m complaining even if I don’t say the actual words (like “I need to go to the grocery store” when I want to say “Augh, I hate this, I don’t want to go to the grocery store.”)

One motivator I have to control my complaining is by listening to others complaining. I won’t name any names, but I know people who can complain about the nicest things. If we are told we can leave at 3 p.m. before the holiday, she might say, “Oh, great, NOW you tell me after I ran all my errands at lunch.” Or the weather is going to be ideal on Saturday, “Well, that sucks, I just wanted to stay inside and watch movies.” Those may sound extreme, but I have heard worse.

I don’t want to sound all Pollyanna, but I am still so darn grateful to have a job each and every day that I don’t want to sound unappreciative of it. I know I complain about some things and, no, lots of days, while it is the ideal job, it isn’t as good as NOT working, but I am still happy to get paid to do what I do and have the flexibility I have and the coworkers and a nice cubicle of my own and a parking garage spot. It’s the little things that are the big things!

September 1, 2014

Habits Habits Habits

Filed under: At home,Normal Life — Janice @ 10:51 pm

I am bound and determined to get back into the habit of blogging. It irritates me so much to go to a person’s blog and see a blog dated 2010 with maybe 3 other entries before it and it says “I am going to start blogging more regularly!” I have decided in September I need to blog more frequently (though I am not making any declarations of how often) even if it is to say, “I had a nice day, how about you?”

One ambition I had for this weekend was to figure out my passwords and secret handshakes to get into my websites again. Blogs, websites, control panels, etc…. they confuse me so. This one I do have set up so it works a little more effortlessly than the website as a whole, but I need to get back and update lots of things on my website.

But instead, I slept a lot this weekend. A lot. An embarrassing amount of lot. But maybe that will make for a brighter week ahead. I have no pictures recording the fabulous weekend I had (since it is hard to take a selfie when you are asleep), so I will offer this instead. The opposite of me:

Party Girl Newspaper ad

August 16, 2014

Love Letters

Filed under: At home,Family,Genealogy,Writing — Janice @ 1:15 pm

I have returned to blogging. For the last 12 months I have been working on a book for my family. It was completed, printed, released, and is done. A great accomplishment. It took up so much of my time and energy that I haven’t blogged in forever. I want to return to it.

Now that I am THROUGH with that family (ha, that’s a joke, I’ll never be through) I want to dig in on some of my other family history and maybe put a book together on some of them just so all the info is together and simpler to read. That started me into a box of memorabilia to see what I had. Of course, the first things I come across are still the Cunningham family, but it is love letters and a diary from my great-grandmother.

The community of Newburg had a cotton gin, a grist mill, a blacksmith, and a post office in 1898. It was at that post office that – I assume – both my great-grandmother, Henrietta Cunningham, and her beau and my great-grandfather Ed Hallford each got their mail. I’m sure they only lived a few miles from each other, but they corresponded as if they were across the country.


This letter was written April 20, 1898. The couple married in October of 1898. She was 22 and he was 25.


I love the formality, even though they had probably known one another most of their lives. She says, “Mr. Ed Hallford, kind friend, As Edra is going to the city in the morning, I will write you a great long letter tonight as you did me.” Edra is Henrietta’s younger sister (she would have been only 16 at the time) and I assume the “city” is Newburg since that is where the letter is postmarked.




I don’t know how letters like this one were delivered, but perhaps someone was going to see the Cunningham family and Ed sent this along. It is a long single piece of paper, folded in half and then into thirds. On the outside is written:


On the inside:


I also have a few pages of what seemed to be a short letter from Ed to Het and from there it turned into a diary and also has a list of figures added up on it. Amazing that a scrap of paper like that can survive 116 years without being thrown away. The diary portion was written in August of 1898 and there are several mentions of Ed visiting, along with other people.


The piece de resistance, another item I didn’t even know I had, is a “family record” written by my great-grandmother with the dates of births and marriages and the HAIR from my little grandfather’s head, back when he had hair!


The little lock at the top is tied with string and ribbon and pinned with a straight pin to the paper. On the back of the paper it says “Arla’s hair clipped April 8th, 1901.” Looks like she would have been almost 9 months pregnant with my Aunt Det and maybe Arla was getting his hair cut for the first time. I assume the other lock of hair is his, too, but it may not be. Since she wrote in the details of Papa’s conversion to Christianity, she might have taken a lock of Aunt Det’s and just didn’t get it identified.

It is interesting to see that my great-grandmother used “Henry Etta” in writing her name on these documents. I have seen her do that in some other places, but it is generally accepted that her name was “Henrietta.” But since her brothers and sisters had middle names, maybe her name was Henry Etta after her father Henry.

These items were in an envelope my mother had written “SAVE” all over. It’s taken me most of the day to scan and ponder and scan and ponder and scan and transcribe and then to write the blog.” At this rate, I will never ever get the next book written. But maybe I’ll know a little bit more about what I possess.

May 26, 2014

The Sneed Plantation and Mansion

Filed under: Austin,Cemeteries — Janice @ 11:49 pm

I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the past. I’m fascinated by cemeteries and the stories they tell (or don’t) and I am thinking about my ancestry a LOT. You can’t begin to imagine how much of the time my head is full of a family that came to Texas in 1839.

Mark and I explored the Sneed Mansion from a distance on Saturday. It is a story that I’ve learned slowly over 10 years and I don’t know how I missed THIS giant puzzle piece until now. For 5 years I had a feature called “Let’s Learn About Austin” where I asked a trivia question about the city on the radio and gave away a prize. It was my favorite part of the show. Some questions were contemporary and simple, others were deep history that most people didn’t know, but it taught us all in the process. I loved researching those questions.  I don’t know how the history of the Sneeds escaped me.

About 10 years ago, Mark came home, excited because he had found me a cemetery. He has always been great about finding lost cemeteries for me and then taking me exploring. That day he took me over to I-35 and Little Texas Road and, sure enough, behind lots of brush, there was an old cemetery. We walked through it and took pictures. Where are those pictures tonight? Good question.

I came home and did research and found that this was Williamson Creek Cemetery and, as I had suspected while I was there, it is a slave and descendants-of-slaves cemetery. It had fallen into disrepair and was abandoned, but recently a group of Mormon youth had taken it on as a project and had cleared the brush and cleaned it up.

Fast forward to 3 or 4 years ago. I got a thank you email via Findagrave.com where a woman thanked me for having posted pictures of her g-g-g-grandfather’s grave. She and I exchanged some letters. She asked if this was also known as the “Sneed Cemetery.” I was unaware of the Sneed Cemetery, but I looked on the Austin Genealogy website and saw where it was a different cemetery. I did some basic Googling and read that there had been a Sneed plantation on the east side of I-35. I even found a fascinating interview with a former slave from the plantation telling about his days there and what happened when they were freed. Another interesting bit of the history was that the (now former) head of Hewlitt-Packard and (former) Republican candidate for Senate, Carly Fiorini, was a Sneed and was born in Austin.The woman I was emailing with was a descendant of slaves, but also a member of the Sneed family.  In my Googling I came to the conclusion that the Williamson Cemetery was, at one time, a part of the Sneed plantation. There’s now an interstate highway separating it from the area that appeared to have been the plantation, but obviously in those days they weren’t as separated as they are now.

Now, this week, Mark sends me a great article in the Austin Chronicle about the “Sneed mansion.” It had some pictures of the house as it had once been and the rubble that it is mostly reduced to now. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard about this “ruin” at some point in the 15 years we’ve lived just a few miles from it.  I did some more basic research and found a Facebook page about the place: Save the Sneeds.  Lots more pictures and info about how the place was lived in until 60s (sadly occupied by a hermit-hoarder) and then it burned in the 80s. No one appears to want to take responsibility for preserving it or restoring it in any way. Developers would love to take that corner and continue their paving of Austin (it is already surrounded by beautiful apartments).

So Mark and I went there Saturday to see it and take some pictures. Mark had been curious about another old rock home he had seen in the past so we went to it first. I was almost convinced that THIS must be the Sneed home because it seemed big and impressive to me, but Mark was certain it was not. Later I learned that it is called the “Horton-Duval Home” and it may have been slave quarters at one time for the Sneeds. More research to be done.

But then we moved on to the main attraction, the Sneed Mansion. There is  a chain link fence around the property and (for once) we didn’t scale the fence to explore.


It is hard to grasp the scale of this house. Thick walls with layer after layer of Texas limestone… all hauled to the site by slave labor and placed to last 150 years.  More of Mark’s pictures are on his Facebook page.

I’ve been emailing with Bobby Cervantes, who is working to save the Sneed place. He was there this morning and sent some pictures from INSIDE the fence.

bc sneed 1

bc sneed 2

After we went to the Sneed mansion, we went on to find the Sneed Cemetery. I appreciate Mark’s persistence. I knew where it was, but didn’t think we could get to it. Mark found a way. It, too, was surrounded by chain link fence, but it was easy to see how many stones had been destroyed on the graves. We got some pictures there, said our goodbyes to the spirits of the Sneeds and moved on.

I’m still doing some research and am fascinated by this place. My Cunninghams were in Travis County at the same time that this mansion was being built and they, too, may have had some slaves then (I know they did later). In Texas, while we are aware of our Confederate background and think of cottons and plantations in East Texas, it is hard to imagine the pre-Civil War, slave era that existed here in Austin. This home brought it a little more into my reality.

This was the place in 1937:

bc sneed 3

My computer is trying to crash because I have 18 browser windows open along with 8 programs. It is as overloaded with processes as my mind is when I sort through this Sneed family history. I wish Bobby and Save the Sneeds lots of luck and look forward to learning more.  Go to Save the Sneeds and look at more pictures.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress