Friday, April 20, 2007

Frances Lily Scruggs Marries Jesse Edward Paulk

Originally written by Virginia Paulk Gardner, daughter of Frances Paulk Bredemeier, April 20, 2007.

My mother, Frances Lily Scruggs, and father, Jesse Edward Paulk, were married at Idelwilde Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee, on September 30, 1938. During World War II, my father served with the Army Corp of Civil Engineers in Germany and then in France. During that time, my mother was a supervisor on the War Price and Ration Board, and also worked as assistant to the General who managed a German Prisoner of War Camp near Sardis, Mississippi.

After the war, my mother and father built their home and lived in Batesville, Mississippi. My father set up his own plumbing and deep-water well drilling business there so that his two brothers, who were still being held captive in German POW camps, would have a business to work in with him when they were released. Both my brother, Michael (1951), and I (1948) were born in Oxford, Mississippi.

Even though Daddy specialized in drilling deep-water wells, in April 1953, he brought in the largest gas well ever brought in in the Southeastern United States. He accomplished this because he had the courage to meet the infamous and wealthy Texas wildcatter, J.T. Whitlock, who had been trying for over a decade to bring in this particular gas well using standard oil and gas drilling rigs. Daddy told him that he could bring in the well using his deep-water well drilling equipment.

Daddy succeeded in doing what he said he could do, but the wealthy J.T. Whitlock never paid my father or any of the other poor farmer in Fulton, Mississippi, from whom he had purchased the lifetime oil and gas rights under all their land for only $0.05 to $0.10 per acre. Daddy's well is still pumping gas that is piped all the way to Texas to this day.

In 1956, my mother and father, along with Michael and me, moved to Crystal Beach, Florida. Daddy continued his well-drilling business and drilled the first drinking-quality water wells here in Crystal Beach. He knew that water wells in this area had to be drilled deeper to get past the more shallow water wells, which produced only water that was full of sulfer, making the water smell and taste like rotten eggs. Many houses in Crystal Beach still get their water straight from the wells my father drilled.

My mother began working at Ellis National Bank as an assistant cashier and foreign exchange teller. After a few years, bank president and owner, A.L. Ellis (at that time, one of the richest men in America), made mother the first woman Vice President ever in all of his many banks. Later, Ellis National Bank became NCNB, then NationsBank, and now Bank of America. Altogether, Mother worked in the bank in Tarpon Springs for 40 years, until her retirement on her 80th birthday on July 18, 1996.

My mother and father loved God dearly and tried to live their lives to help others. They were founding members of Crystal Beach Community Church, took us to Church and Sunday School every Sunday, and taught us to love God with all our hearts and souls. They spent time helping both of us to memorize hundreds of Bible verses after our homework was done.

At bedtime, they read us Uncle Wiggley stories, followed by a Bible story and then they would kneel down with us while we each said our nighttime prayers. Finally, we would say the Lord's Prayer all together.

We moved from Mississippi to Florida the day after I finished 2nd grade and my brother was not yet in school. When Mama and Daddy took me to Palm Harbor Elementary and Junior High School to enroll me in 3rd grade, we all sat in small chair around on of the low round wooden tables, along with my new teacher, Mrs. Wiseman. As she talked to them, always calling them Mr. Paulk or Mrs. Paulk, I was busy evaluating this kindly old woman with gray hair and a warm, soft kind voice sitting to my right.

When it seemed everything was completed, I notieced her lean forward and looking quickly up at her, I saw her look my father straight in the eye as she said, "Now, Jesse, I have only one more thing to say to you and it is this: I am absolutely certain that I am going to enjoy having Virginia in my class and teaching her every bit as much as I enjoyed teaching you!"

It turned out that she had taught my father in the red brick, one-room school house (now School House Restaurant on Alt-19 on the way to Tarpon Springs), her first year out of teacher's college and still single. Now, more than 3 decades later and only 3 years away from her retirement, my Daddy's teacher was going to teach me.

My mother loved to sew, cook, and tend her plants and flowers, both in the house and in the yard. Daddy loved all nature - rocks, trees, animals, birds, and fish, and enjoyed working in the yard planting flowers for my mother and planting trees and hedges. Daddy also loved to hunt and fish and taught both me and Michael to fish and be out in the water with him.

My mother taught Sunday School at Crystal Beach Community Church. My father sang in the choir. Michael and I both sang in the Children's Choir and also played the bells. I also sang in the girls' trio. Long before CBCC had automatic chimes installed, until he went to college, my brother Michael spent one hour every evening at 6pm playing the church chimes, which could be heard throughout Crystal Beach. We would wait supper until he got home.

On my 13th birthday, September 12, 1961, Daddy died suddenly of a heart attack. Although it was certainly difficult to be a single mom in the 1960s, my mother continued to work and raise Michael and me. One of her proudest accomplishments was being able to see us both not only graduate from high school but also put us through college as well.

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