STEPHENVILLE (August 14, 2016)- In 104 years, Lois Pack has seen a lot.
The building of First Baptist, the head of “Old Man” Snow’s stepson, the Great Depression, World War II, life and love have all been a part of the past 104 years. While she and her family celebrated Sunday, her historic birthday is later this week on Aug. 18.
Pack’s parents met while in singing school and settled down as farmers on the family’s 300-acre farm. They had twins, a girl and a boy, about two years before Pack was born. But, the familial happiness was not to last, and Pack would never know her father. In February 1912 (six months before she was born), Pack’s father and their “hired man” went out to sow grain before the rain came.
“They didn’t have weather forecasts then,” Pack said. “It was a pretty strong storm. The hired man said, ‘We’re liable to get struck by lightning.’ [My father] said, ‘Well, I’m as ready to go now as I ever will be.” The next string of lightning struck and killed him.”
Pack said her father had sung at a funeral the day before and “people said the singing was always better when he sang.”
“So, I never did know my father,” Pack said. “I wish I had asked more questions. I wish I had asked her [my mother] questions about him.”
Pack’s mother and twin siblings moved to Kennedale to live with Pack’s maternal grandmother, Pack’s uncle and his family. Pack was born that August in a log room.
“The little twin boy that was alive while I was a baby, he had some kind of respiratory sickness, and he died the same year I was born,” she recalled.
When Pack was four years old, her mother remarried to Sam Fields of Stephenville. They moved back to the 300-acre farm, where Pack and her sister grew up.
“We would milk the cows, put the milk in a tin gallon milk can and a fellow would come by and pick it up and take it into town,” Pack said. “We’d sell it [to the cheese plant] that way.”
Pack recalled walking to school and to church. She enjoyed watching the progress of First Baptist in Stephenville being built. It was completed in 1926 when Pack was 14.
“We were faithful to church,” she said. “We’d go in the wagon. They had what they called a wagon yard where you could go into town and leave your team and wagon while you were there. That was close to where Scott’s Flowers is now.”
Pack attended the local school, playing games such as jump rope, marbles and “Pop the Whip,” which is where children form a line holding wrists and run to try and “whip” the person off of the end.
“We didn’t have toys like you do now,” Pack said.
Pack remembers when the infamous legend of “Old Man Snow” began. When she was an early teenager, F.M. Snow was the first man in Texas to be sentenced to death in the electric chair.
“Snow had a stepson, and he and this stepson were coming home in their wagon, and he [Snow] killed him [the stepson] and cut his head off, put it in a tow sack and put it in a cellar out in the country somewhere,” Pack remembered. “He killed his wife and mother-in-law and burned them in the fireplace. He kept them under the floor of the house.”
Snow was not arrested until after someone found the boy’s head and traced the murder back to him.
“They carried it [the head] to Mr. Truett’s funeral home and put it on display to see if anyone knew who he was,” Pack said. “Somebody identified the head and traced it back to Old Man Snow.”
The rest of Pack’s childhood was not so traumatic.
She graduated from high school and began teaching in the 1930’s at a one-teacher school in Russell’s Chapel, in northeastern Erath County. Because she did not have a car, Pack was dropped off and would live with a couple during the school week.
“I went to Tarleton in the summertime and I would teach during the winter,” Pack said.
Pack married her husband, Raymond Pack, who also worked in the education system, in 1939. Pack then transferred to a joint community school, where she taught until the early ’40s.
“We went to North Texas State University in the summertime,” Pack said. ‘There was a vacancy with a two-teacher school at Matador, and we got the job.”
While the Packs taught in Matador, World War II broke out. Pack said the trustees kept Raymond from going to war for a time, but he eventually was sent in 1942.
“Since he was educated, he was in telecommunications,” Pack said. “I taught school while he was over in France. He was close to Paris during the war.”
Once the war ended, the Packs moved to Littlefield and then to Morse, where they adopted their children, George and Alene.
“We came home at Thanksgiving in 1947, and my brother-in-law said, ‘I know where you can get a baby,'” Pack said. “It was a woman who was working for a blind lady and her husband, who lived next door to my sister and her husband. She said she had five children and the marriage she was in wasn’t worth much. So, we went over there and visited with her and she said, ‘You can have any of them that you want.'”
Pack’s brother-in-law suggested adopting “the little brown-eyed boy” named George. So, Raymond visited his cousin, who taught George in class.
“He went to her and asked how he [George] was doing in school,” Pack said. “She said, ‘Oh I wouldn’t think of taking George without taking Alene.’ So we went home that Thanksgiving with two kids.”
After teaching in Morse for five years, the Packs and their two children moved to Lubbock.
“We got in the Lubbock school and stayed there until we retired in ’72,” Pack said. “I was a second grade teacher, and he was a principal of junior high.”
Pack taught for 34 years in total. She and Raymond moved back to Stephenville and built a house next to her sister. They lived there until Raymond died from Alzheimer’s in 1995.
“I kept him at home as long as I could, but the last 18 months he was in the nursing home,” Pack recalled.
Pack now lives in a retirement home where she spends time with her nephew, Stephenville resident Don Jones, and other members of her family. She said her daughter Alene, who lives in Oklahoma, calls every day.
“She’s sweet to me,” Pack said with a contented smile.