Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Fort Worth Sparks'

The Fort Worth Sparks'

      My father was born and grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. I don't remember any mention of my paternal grandmother; she must have been dead for many years because the oldest child, Aunt Rachel, raised my father and his three brothers and took care of granddad.   During the short time I knew Aunt Rachel and my grandfather, they ran a little grocery store out of what had been the living room of their house in Fort Worth. 

            We always went to Fort Worth by train; as a regular Sunday School attendant and Church-goer, I eagerly awaited the conductor's sonorous announcement as he walked through the car just before we arrived in Fort Worth, "Rome, Rome"; sometimes we stopped and I would stare out the windows on both sides, looking for the GLORIES THAT WERE ROME that the preacher kept talking about.  All I ever saw was a water tower and a lot of pin oaks. I knew for certain that Palestine was somewhere over in East Texas, so it made a lot of sense that the Rome where Peter said "On This Rock I Build The Church" couldn’t be too far away, given the slowness of transportation in those days.  I figured Rome must be in a clearing on the other side of the trees: I didn't ask anyone because I didn't want to "look dumb".  I was so embarrassed to discover that "Rhome" was a water stop eight miles north of Fort Worth, I didn't confess my naiveté for many years.

            After arriving in Fort Worth on the FW&DC Railroad, we took the "Poly" bus to what was then the outskirts of Fort Worth(years later I learned it was Polytechnic, not Polly, as in "Polly wants a cracker").  We would get off the bus and walk up along, unpaved street to Grandad's house and grocery store.  He and Aunt Rachel were always there.  It was always hot and sweaty after the train trip, bus ride and walk up the dusty hill; but when we arrived, there was FREE soda pop.  It never occurred to Bill, John Junior or me that Granddad and Aunt Rachel had to pay for that stuff in their grocery store; like manna from heaven it was there and it was FREE.

            My grandfather was of indeterminate age, but old.  He was not a big man, but he had a full head of snow-white hair and a magnificent white handlebar mustache, browned at the bottom by the chewing tobacco omnipresent in his buccal cavity.  Aunt Rachel was really fat and also had water retention problems; we called it "dropsy" back then.  However, she was a wonderful woman; she unselfishly, and apparently gladly, devoted her life to raising her younger siblings and looking after her father.  I didn't spend near enough time in Fort Worth, but my brother was not put off by being a "step-grandson" and took full advantage of it.  I ran into John Junior a few times there; without his boater and cane and, especially, Aunt Dolly pushing him, he was OK.  He introduced me to stamp collecting and, best of all, the Freebies you could get by writing for "Approvals".  I think he may have discovered they wouldn't really get the police after you if you didn't return the "Approvals." 

I don't remember when my grandfather died; occasionally over the years, I received cards at Christmas or on my birthday from Aunt Rachel, but I don't think I ever saw her after I was 10 or12 years old.  She eventually went to live with my father's youngest brother, the only one who remained in the Fort Worth area.  Many years later, after Pat's family had moved to Fort Worth, not far from Poly, I tried several times to find the location of the Sparks Grocery Store.  I could drive up the hill, now paved, from the bus stop, but that was it -- nothing recognizable after all those years.  

            Once, I traced my Fort Worth relatives; they were living between Fort Worth and Dallas.  When I called them, they were eager to renew acquaintances and drove to Pat's parent's house. They filled me in on what had happened to the Fort Worth segment of the family, including Aunt Rachel's demise, but it was obvious to me, and probably to them, that we had nothing in common except a name and a few shared genes.  That was the last contact I had with the Sparks Family and I never lost any sleep over it.  One of the best lessons I ever learned, and I think I figured it out all by myself when I was quite young, was to not waste time regretting "what might have been". 

            I sincerely hope that Uncle John and Aunt Dolly had a happy and comfortable retirement; that John Junior overcame his problems; and that the daughter, (Imogene?), married, inherited the farm and produced lots of new Sparks', but I don't care enough to check it out.

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