Oct. 29, 1929, was a memorable day. Not only did the stock market crash spiraling America into the Great Depression, but on a much happier note, Emma Gene Jackson was born. She was the only child of Eugene and Nancy Koerner arriving after 10 yrs. of marriage. They had both accepted the fact they may not be blessed with a child. Emma Gene was much cherished by her parents and remembers a happy childhood growing up in Streeter, Texas.
She remembers following her Daddy around their 86 acres of land where he was a watermelon farmer. Her mother tended a garden and was industrious around the home. Emma Gene still recalls the good smells of her Momma’s cooking like pies, cobblers and homemade biscuits and gravy. She even remembers a few squirrels her Mom cooked after Emma Gene shot them with her single shot .22. She was about nine when her Daddy let her start hunting up and down the creek bed with her faithful dog, Snooks, at her side.
When she wasn’t out for game, she was hunting doodle bugs with her cousin, Pat Nixon. She doesn’t recall many toys. She said, “We used our imagination and explored outside.” She does remember getting a special doll one time for Christmas.
Another holiday memory is the smell from a tin trunk filled with citrus fruit and apples for the occasion. It was the only time she recalls having fresh fruit during the year. “I would lift the lid on that trunk just to get a whiff,” she said, “but we had to wait for the big day to take a bite.” Another good smell she remembers were the hams her Daddy did in the smoke house.
Times were different then. Rural electrification did not come to Streeter until Emma Gene was around 13. They also did not have indoor plumbing, so trips to the outhouse were required in all types of weather. “We were poor, but I didn’t know that as a kid,” she said. “I had a good time. We were rich in love. I never went hungry, and I had a roof over my head.”
Her Daddy, Eugene, fought in Germany in WWI. He was wounded in battle, but he didn’t get his purple heart until sometime in the 1940’s. Along with the honor, came a small monthly compensation of $24. Emma Gene remembers, “Momma thought we were really set then as that was the steadiest income we had ever known.”
They didn’t come into town very often except about once a month for essentials. Emma Gene remembers trips to the feed store in Mason. Her Momma made clothes out of the cotton feed sacks. “Momma even made the boy at the feed store move several bags to get one out of bottom of the pile with the right pattern on it,” she said. “She was making a dress for me.”
One special trip into Mason when Emma Gene was about 10 was to see Gene Autry. The singing cowboy and his horse, Champion, were leading the parade. She wanted to see him so much, so her Daddy brought her in their old Ford. Gene Autry saw her and patted her on the head calling her Blondie. “I felt like I was floating on a cloud all the way home,” she said, “instead of bouncing around in that old car.”
Emma Gene walked to a one room school house in Streeter. There were about 12 kids of all ages going there. At 14 yrs. old, she went to Mason for her high school education. There were no buses until her junior year. The first year she stayed with Della Moneyhon and her baby while Della’s husband was away in the military. The next year she shared a room with Helen Casper Willis at Essie Foree’s home. Staying in town had its perks. “Us kids would walk to Rex All drugstore for chicken salad sandwiches and lemon ice cream sodas,” Emma Gene recalls. “It was a delicious treat!”
After graduation, she went to San Antonio to secretarial school. The choices for women in that day were limited. The main choices for a career were teaching, nursing or being a secretary. She didn’t get far along in her program, because a flooding rain came to San Antonio. When her Momma heard about it, she got to worrying. Her parents went there packed her up and brought her home.
Emma Gene followed in the steps of most young women at that time getting married at 18 to Eddie Ray Dockal and soon becoming a mother to three young kids by the time she was 22. She laughingly says, “I don’t recall much of the 50’s, because I was so busy taking care of kids.” She wouldn’t trade one moment of it though and treasures each of them; Joyce Masters, living in Joplin, MO; Margie Wilson and Tim Dockal, both of Mason.
She thought raising young kids was pretty much behind her, but she had another one at 37 and started all over again. Rebekah Maaz, from Austin, is the daughter of Emma Gene’s current husband, Dennie Jackson. Both Dennie and Emma Gene are long time residents of Mason. They delight in their family which now consists of the 4 kids mentioned, 9 grandkids, and 13 great grandkids.
Faith in God plays a large role in their life. Dennie and Emma Gene pastor the Mason Gospel Church. They have devoted many years to helping others and spreading God’s love. They consider the church members as extended family. Emma Gene enjoys living in Mason and loves getting to know the people in her community. She has written many articles on local residents for the paper. As she celebrates turning 80 this month, she counts herself blessed by the many experiences she has shared with family and friends through the years.