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Mayor Birdwell recalls Ferris’ brickyard work

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DIANA BUCKLEY
Ellis County Press
FERRIS - In honor of Black History Month, Ferris Mayor Jimmie Birdwell took a few minutes to reminisce during the Feb. 5 council meeting.

'I just want to mention this is Black History Month,' Birdwell began. 'Blacks have a lot of history in Ferris.'

Birdwell talked of outstanding members of the community. 'A number that have passed on,' he said. 'Andrew Holley, and people of that nature. One lady here in town, Mrs. Harvey Pinkard, knows a lot.'

According to Birdwell, the old brickyards employed primarily African American citizens.

'I worked there a couple of summers myself,' he said.

'A friend's daddy got us a job. We done anything they wanted us to do.'

Birdwell recounted how the bricks were made.

'It was dry dirt, no water added,' he said. 'A team of mules picked up a scoop from under the dirt shed, dry clay.'

One of Birdwell's jobs was loading the bricks on a cart and transporting them to another area where they were loaded into the kiln for firing.

'The bricks weighted four and a half pounds apiece,' he said. 'You picked up two at a time and pitched them up to the man.'

Birdwell shook his head as he recalled the work. 'He wanted them right here,' he said, holding out his hand. 'Not up here, not down there. He wasn't even looking.'

Good physical conditioning was the result of the assignment, though. 'You take a boy 14, 15 years old, throwing bricks nine or ten feet over your head for say half a day - we sure didn't have to work out for muscles,' he said.

Also in honor of Black History Month, Birdwell recited the origins of two familiar hymns - Precious Lord, Take My Hand and Amazing Grace.

According to Birdwell, the former was written by a Black evangelist named Tommy Dorsey after his wife died.

'Amazing Grace, that was a slave trader,' Birdwell said. 'He had a change, became a Christian, and sat down and wrote the song.'

Birdwell said black history has a lot to do with the City of Ferris. 'Race relations are never going to change unless it comes from the heart,' he said.

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