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Bootlegger's Other Daughter

By Mary Cimarolli

Publication Year: 2004

The generation that toiled through the Great Depression and won the Second World War has become known as “the greatest generation.” But not all of them qualified for that exaggerated epithet in the eyes of their own children. In this tender but unsparing memoir, Mary Cimarolli remembers a world in which the family home was lost to foreclosure, her father made his way by bootlegging, and school was a haven to hide from her brother’s teasing. Her stories are about struggle and survival, making do and overcoming, and, ultimately, reconciliation. From her perspective as a child, she describes the cotton stamps and other programs of the New Deal, the yellow-dog Democrat politics and racism of East Texas, and the religious revivals and Old Settlers reunions that gave a break from working in the cotton patch. The colorful colloquialisms of rural East Texas that dot the manuscript help express both the traditionalism of the region and its changes under the impact of modernization, electrification, and the coming of war. Along with these regional and national trends, Cimarolli skillfully interweaves the personal: conflict between her parents, the death of her brother a few days before his sixteenth birthday, and her own inner tensions.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Commerce

Front Matter

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pp. ix-x

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Series Editor's Foreword

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pp. xi-xii

Established in 1997under the umbrella of the Texas A&M University Press book publishing program, the Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life focuses on facets of rural life in East Texas in particular and in Texas and the surrounding region in general. Subjects that may be addressed include, but are not limited to, banking, public education, ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

I am most grateful to Dr. James Grimshaw and the Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life for their belief in this project; to my sister, Lola Andree, who helped me recall incidents I had forgotten; to the late Sandy Brackeen, who cheered me on all the way to the end; and to my husband, Jack Robottom, for his advice, support, and love.

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pp. 3-4

The period 1900–90 was witness to a transformation of humanity and human society without parallel in history. My parents’ lives and, derivatively, mine commence with the turn of the century. Edward VIIby the grace of God, King of Great Britain and Dominions beyond the Seas, Emperor of India, and so forth, had been crowned sovereign of that one quarter of the earth’s land colored red. ...

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Making Sense of My Senses

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pp. 5-18

I was born on the crest of a wave. “Prosperity is just around the corner,” Hoover had assured my parents. The year was 1931, just two years before both Roosevelt and Hitler came to power. Born to parents held together by their differences, I would eventually come to understand why mine is, like so many others, a story of the human ...

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End of the Beginning

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pp. 18-20

It is now the winter of 1937, and my family is about to turn a corner, still without much expectation of the prosperity Hoover had promised was on its way some six years earlier. Daddy has always hoped he could have his own place some day. He has been paying a few dollars a month for a couple of years on some ...

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On Our Own

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pp. 21-34

It is a snowy February day ;the first snow I have ever seen. J. T., Lola Pearl, and Mama herd the cows ahead of the wagon that holds all of our belongings, Daddy, and me. We are on our way to a new community and life on our own. An ice storm during the previous night has left bony fingers hanging from branches of the bois d’arc ...

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Through the Eyes of a Bootlegger’s Daughter

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pp. 35-39

My most disorienting memory suddenly forced me to look through adult eyes when I was about nine. I had gone with Mama and Daddy to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Arbala for an hour or so. When we came back home and walked in the front door, we saw at once that someone had been in our house. Our meager possessions ...

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Witnesses to the End of the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 40-52

My story actually begins long before my first memories. It begins with my grandparents. I clearly remember my paternal grandparents, Molly and Tom Gammill. After all, my family lived in the same small house with them until I was almost six years old. However, I do not remember their talking about their life in Tennessee, their home before they ...

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Witnesses to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century

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pp. 53-63

Mama told few stories about growing up as an only child in her grandmother’s house, but over the years I learned that she had had close girlfriends within the community and that she had considered her grandmother her real parent, always calling her “Mama.” As I was growing up, we occasionally attended homecoming gatherings ...

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Living in a Wagon Shed

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pp. 64-68

For a year or so after we had moved from Arbala, we lived on the land at Seymore in the old “dog run house,” called this because it had a long, narrow open hallway through its center with two rooms on either side. It had a tin roof and uneven board floors. It was old and freezing cold in the winter, and it looked as if it were about to fall ...

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Guilt by Association

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pp. 69-71

I must have been about ten when my brother’s teasing started to become something I dreaded above all else. He would get my attention, and then he would stroke the top of his left forefinger with his right forefinger and say in a taunting voice, “Shame, shame on Poosie Lou!” He became a spider to me, an insect, spinning his web around ...

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A Safe Haven

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pp. 72-76

School gave me a place of my own if not quite a room of my own. I loved the “little room”; I always felt I belonged there. I soon acquired a best friend with blond Shirley Temple curls, a skinny frame, a pale round face, and large gray eyes. The opposite of me in appearance, Dorothy brought sandwiches made with bologna, mayonnaise, ...

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Cotton Stamps, Socks, and Self-Respect

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pp. 92-97

"When will school take up again?” everybody begins to ask in August. Whatever date is mentioned is never too early for me. I am ready for school when it finally begins in September. Some of the kids will have to drop out for awhile to help with harvest before frost, but since I am “not much of a field hand,” as my family can tell you, I ...

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Yellow Dogs, Politics, and Racism

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pp. 98-103

Texas politics had—and still has—a baroque flavor, despite its longtime domination by a single party. The expression, “yellow-dog Democrat,” which originated in East Texas, correctly suggests that the dedicated voter would favor a yellow dog (or a crushed armadillo by the roadside) over a competent, committed, and blameless ...

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“Risins” and “Rheumatiz”

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pp. 104-108

With the sad exception of our family’s bout with typhoid fever, we managed to live without doctor or dentist. Home remedies had to suffice unless we were really sick—sick enough to be taken to town for treatment or sick enough to have the doctor drive out from Sulphur Springs to our house, as in the case of the typhoid fever. ...

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Daddy Leaves Home to Pick Cotton Out West

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pp. 109-113

In 1940, before world war II began, Daddy was having a hard time making even a dollar a day. He heard that there was work and good money in Arizona, so he headed there to pick cotton while we stayed on the farm. Mama did not know how we would survive until Daddy could send us some money, but she stubbornly refused to sign ...

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The Smell of Modernization

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pp. 114-116

Although I had no way of knowing what dramatic changes the establishment of the Rural Electric Administration (REA) would bring to our lives, I was excited when, during the summer of 1940 while Daddy was still away, workers started to dig holes beside the dirt road that wound around our farm. They then brought in creosoted ...

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Murder or Accident?

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pp. 117-119

While daddy was still in Arizona and after the excitement of our acquisition of electricity, events returned to normal. Day melted into day; nothing different and exciting ever happened. Then suddenly, Roy Branson, who ran the general store, shot and killed his new wife, Faye, while she stood at her ironing board pressing clothes. Someone ...

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Sounds of War

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pp. 120-127

Great events swept over Hopkins county, Texas, before, during, and after World War II with a gradualism that Europe would have envied: no revolutions, no scourge of war, no mass starvation. How long did it take the sounds of war to reach an isolated East Texas farm community in 1941? Not so long if you owned a radio. We ...

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Of Sugar, Shoes, and Other Wartime Shortages

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pp. 128-133

Geographically and metaphorically, Seymore and its inhabitants were far away from World War II, but the shortages caused by our country’s involvement in that war were close to home. Meat rationing did not bother my family as much as it did those financially better off, because we were not accustomed to having fresh ...

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Puberty and War

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pp. 134-138

Breaking with tradition in our community, Lola Pearl went away to college in the summer of 1942, right after high school graduation. Farm girls in our vicinity were generally expected to marry soon after high school or to become secretaries or clerks in the retail stores in town. In light of our family’s poor economic status, how could our ...

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Death Comes to Our House

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pp. 139-143

In November of my first year in high school, near Thanksgiving, 1944, something far worse than teenage angst came down on my family. I suppose we should have seen it coming. Afterward, we never talked about whether we did or not. We never talked about those things that were painful and hidden. We just kept existing in ...

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An Alien in My Own Country

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pp. 144-149

I had already started high school in September of 1944 before my brother died in November. Entering Sulphur Springs High School from my little country school was like going from nurturing parents to a foster home that already had its favored children or like going from a third world country to a more prosperous one. This experience...

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Conflicts of the Heart

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pp. 150-157

I must have been about sixteen when I began to identify closely with Daddy again. One part of me felt a loyalty to Mama and gratitude to her for all her sacrifices. Another part of me was ashamed of her on the rare occasions we were in town together. I thought Mama could have had new clothes once in awhile if she had insisted on it, especially ...

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Leaving East Texas

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pp. 158-162

During the war, many of our neighbors had moved their families from farms to cities where there was work to support the war effort. Having already established themselves in more populated areas during the war, they stayed on afterward and found other work there. Those who had not moved away, like my family, found themselves in ...

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pp. 163-169

As I come to the end of this story, I see that the fullness of a life journey—the influences which shape it, its own shaping influences, and the impact of time and place on it—can scarcely be imagined in the beginning. The old house at Arbala is gone now, as are most of the people ...


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pp. 169-170

E-ISBN-13: 9781603445733
E-ISBN-10: 1603445730
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585444472
Print-ISBN-10: 1585444472

Page Count: 184
Illustrations: 15 b&w photos.
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Commerce