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Local man's memories run deep into past of Irion, Tom Green counties

The San Angelo Standard-Times logo The San Angelo Standard-Times 2/18/2020 Matthew McDaniel, San Angelo
a black and white photo of a large crowd of people: Willie Loyd Pringle and Maud Morgan tie the knot at the San Angelo Fair in 1903. The couple received many gifts from local merchants to help them begin their married life, including a laying hen and a lot on 6th Street near the high school. © Matthew McDaniel / Standard-Times Willie Loyd Pringle and Maud Morgan tie the knot at the San Angelo Fair in 1903. The couple received many gifts from local merchants to help them begin their married life, including a laying hen and a lot on 6th Street near the high school.

A recent Throwback Thursday article about the earliest San Angelo Fairs brought an interesting telephone call to the Standard-Times.

Burl Pringle, 87, called to say that he knew the groom from the wedding that took place at the 1903 fair — it was his father — W.L. Pringle, who had a pretty interesting life story.

“My father was born in March of 1881, in Kosse, over in Limestone County,” Pringle explained.

“They came through San Angelo for the first time in 1890, when he was a 9-year-old boy, and they bedded down right there on the south bank of where the Oakes Street Bridge is now. Grandpa had 12 head of longhorn cattle, and all of their worldly goods in a two-wheel cart hitched behind a team of oxen.

“They were headed for Crockett County.”

a vintage photo of a group of people posing for the camera: From left: Burl Pringle's grandfather, W.A. Pringle is seen here with his second wife, Victoria; Pringle's maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Underwood who settled in Arden; Willie Loyd and Ora Vivian (Underwood) Pringle. © Matthew McDaniel / Standard-Times From left: Burl Pringle's grandfather, W.A. Pringle is seen here with his second wife, Victoria; Pringle's maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Underwood who settled in Arden; Willie Loyd and Ora Vivian (Underwood) Pringle.

“My father was W.L. Pringle — Willy Loyd — though the Standard-Times for years had him as “Walter,” and his daddy was William A. Pringle, the 28th settler in Crockett County.”

Pringle said the life was hard on his father, who worked all the time since he was old enough to carry a bucket, and his dad told him that during his life in Crockett County, he almost never slept indoors.

a close up of a newspaper: W.A. Pringle was looking for work in town when he placed this advertisement in the San Angelo Press in December of 1903. His grandson is Burl Pringle of San Angelo. © Matthew McDaniel / Standard-Times W.A. Pringle was looking for work in town when he placed this advertisement in the San Angelo Press in December of 1903. His grandson is Burl Pringle of San Angelo.

“When my dad was 16, he decided he’d had enough of the ranch, and he ran away,” Pringle said. That was in 1897.

“He teamed up with a doctor who sold medicine in bottles, and they went all the way to California, and it took them three months, minus three days.”

Pringle said after this father returned to Texas, the family moved back to San Angelo sometime around the turn of the century, and lived somewhere on Fifth Street.

His father met Maud Morgan around that time, who became his bride that day at the fair — the pair being the beneficiaries of a major promotional package from local businesses.

a person standing in front of a bus: For many years, Burl Pringle's father, Willie Loyd Pringle, drove the McGill School bus, which went all the way to Tankersley to pick up students. He retired in March of 1945. © Contributed / Burl Pringle For many years, Burl Pringle's father, Willie Loyd Pringle, drove the McGill School bus, which went all the way to Tankersley to pick up students. He retired in March of 1945.

“Dad got a book about a half-inch thick that listed all of the different gifts that all of the merchants in San Angelo gave them,” Pringle said.

“They got everything they could need, from an old setting hen with a clutch of eggs, to a city lot that was located somewhere over by the old high school on Sixth Street.

“Then he and Maud had a daughter in 1904, and she died in childbirth in 1908, and about that time, all of the Pringles from here moved to Florida, and Dad was the only one who came back out here.”

Pringle said his father returned to West Texas in 1912, and had no intentions of marrying, but his plans changed.

“It’s funny because he’d known my mother nearly all of her life,” he explained. “She was 14 years younger than he was, born in 1895.

Pringle said his mother, Ora Vivian Underwood, was the child of Irion County pioneers, and much of his early years were spent in Arden.

“I was raised in Irion County over at Arden, and I went to school there,” Pringle said.

“Most people alive today have no concept of what life was like back then. It was all work.

“It’s difficult to explain to a kid today with a cell phone that I was 15 before we had phone or electricity … and that was after the Second World War."

Burl recalled some of his favorite memories.

“Used to, when Sherwood was the county seat, you had to go over there to pick up your car tags every year,” he said. “They gave you new tags every time.

“My sister, who was three years older than me, wanted to get away from the farm, so we’d always ride over there with dad.

“And as soon as you come up out of the river bed there, on the Middle Concho, you could see the old road to the east of it there. …

“My dad would always stop, and park the old Model-A headed downhill going home, and he’d always carry a couple of 5-gallon buckets with him, and he’d say ‘Alright, you kids stay here and behave yourselves. I’m going to go see if the wild plums are ripe,’ and every one of those little old headers out there was full of wild plums, and sometimes he come back with 10 gallons of plums, and other times he’d say, ‘The ‘coons beat me to ‘em!’”

Burl said he had a great aunt who was only married six weeks when her husband died.

“He worked down at the West Texas Utilities Ice House, and he came down with pneumonia and died," he said, recalling that must have been around 1907, when the family bought 10 plots at Fairmount Cemetery at the time for $10.

Pringle also remembered going past Oscar Ruffini’s shed on Chadbourne Street and trying to catch a peek at the man who designed many of San Angelo's downtown buildings as he went about his business.

Religion

a white and black truck parked in front of a building: The congregation of Harris and Irving Street Church of Christ moved to College Hills in 1963. © Standard-Times file The congregation of Harris and Irving Street Church of Christ moved to College Hills in 1963.

Pringle’s grandmother was a devoted Church of Christ attendee, and was responsible for establishing Harris and Irving Street Church of Christ, which is now the Johnson Street congregation.

“I can remember when I was about 11 or 12 years old, one Wednesday night after church they had a big, long table strung-out there, and it had candles on it, and all of the Elders and Deacons stood up there and they gave each one a piece of paper, and they were burning the evidence of the indebtedness on that building. They finally paid it off.

“That church started when 13 members met in my grandmother’s home. She contacted the “Firm Foundation,” which was a religious publication, and she asked them for names of Church of Christ people in town, and there ended up being 13 of them."

Pringle said they left San Angelo, somewhere between 1908 and 1912, and moved to Miami, Florida, where she started another congregation there which is still in existence — Central Avenue Church of Christ.

"My daddy said, that as far back as he could remember, he recalled sitting in her lap while she read the Bible to him.

"When we lived at Arden, we didn’t have a church building,” he said. “But we had three little groups who all met at the school house at different times on Sunday. The Church of Christ meeting was at 3 o’clock, and I can remember sometimes there were just three people there. … There was this one old fellow, we called him Brother Bill, and my dad and I, and we just read a little scripture and took communion. Of course, at that time I wasn’t but about 5 or 6 years old."

Work life

"I’ve pretty well stood on these two feet since I was 12 years old,” Pringle said. “My daddy never once bought me a bicycle, or co-signed a note for a vehicle, and I never asked.

“My mother told me, ‘Son, your daddy is an old man,' and times were hard. He raised a big family through a depression, and he always worked hard and made sure we had food to eat.

“One time, he had about 40 acres of irrigated land on the farm, and he supported five families with the produce.

“It was 40 acres of vegetables, and sometimes he’d bring the extra to town to sell some and couldn’t find any buyers; they had no money.

"When things got bad, they really got bad,” he explained. “One day my daddy’s cows were worth $125, and the next day they were only worth $6. He’d bring a butchering hog to town to sell, and maybe he could get 50 cents for it, and maybe not."

So, we raised most of what we ate back then."

Pringle said he first went to work for the Borden Milk Co. when he was 19 years old and worked steady for them until he left to serve a two-year hitch in the US Army in Korea.

Afterward, he became a distributor for Borden in Alpine, Texas for several years, but said he worked the longest for West Texas Utilities, where he retired from.

Matthew McDaniel is a journalist covering community news and faith-related items in West Texas. Send him a news tip at mmcdaniel2@gannett.com. Consider supporting West Texas journalism with a subscription to GoSanAngelo.com.

This article originally appeared on San Angelo: Local man's memories run deep into past of Irion, Tom Green counties

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