Maurice Leslie (Jack) McClain was born at Lampasas, Texas on January 11, 1915. His dad was born at Pleasant Valley and his mother came to Texas at the age of nine. Jack was still an infant when his mother returned to Pleasant Valley. Jack is the son of Major Leslie and Amy Lou Pierson McClain. Major Leslie was born at Pleasant Valley about 1885. Major Leslie was the son of Thomas Jackson and Sarah Compton McClain. Thomas was born on January 21, 1835 in Pennsylvania and Sarah was born on May 7, 1845 in Kentucky. She came to Pleasant Valley with her parents as members of the 1854 wagon train from Monroe County, Kentucky. Jack’s mother was the daughter of Samuel and Martha Leverett Pierson. She was born October 15, 1889 at Brundage, Alabama.
Jack’s dad, Leslie was killed when a car came over the hill and hit him during an ice storm in 1947. Jack lived on Pleasant Valley Road, just a few hundred feet from where the accident occurred.
Jack says that his grandfather Samuel Pierson took sick with typhoid fever while in Alabama. His fever was so high that all his hair fell out. Then his mind got bad. About that time a peddler came thru selling fruit trees. When Martha told the peddler how Samuel’s mind had gone bad, the peddler said, “Let him go with me for a few days and we’ll see what happens.” When they returned, he was just fine.
Jack was seven years of age when he began attending the two room school located at Pleasant Valley. He says that he already knew how to read by that time. Jack began complaining about the strange method used for teaching reading after the second day of class. His mother ask if he had told the teacher that he already knew how to read. When Jack returned to class on the following day and told the teacher that he already knew how to read, he was placed in the second grade.
The school was for grades one thru eleven. Schools didn’t have a twelfth grade back then. Jack says he went to Garland for high school. “About the only way to school was on horse back or in a Model T Ford. J. C. Compton was older, so my dad let him drive us to school. We’d make it just fine except when the roads were muddy. When it got real cold, we’d crank on that ole Model T till me, J. C. and my whole family wore out.”
Jack’s first Sunday school teacher was Sally Newman McCallum. She taught the “card class” at Pleasant Valley Methodist Church. The teacher would hold up a card and you were asked to memorize the golden text. Sunday school superintendent back then was Earnie McCallum. Then it was Pard Pelton for the next 32 years.
Jack says that his dad used to tell him about the time back in 1897 when Gus Garrison was leading singing at the PV Methodist Church. There had been hard feelings between Gus and Frank Jones. Frank, along with his brother Tom, walked into the church. Gus shot Frank and wounded Tom in the leg. The wounded Tom then shot Gus. Both Gus and Frank died. Tom recovered, but walked with a limp. Jack said that his dad nearly rode that horse to death trying to get home that day.
Jack’s grandfather, Samuel Pierson, was operating the Pleasant Valley store when Jack was just a teenager working for Roach Feed in Garland. Jack says that he was making nine dollars a week. “I got tired of loading those hundred pound feed bags into the turtle shell of them Model A Fords.” His grandfather’s health was failing and Jack figured he could make just as much by running the store. And that’s what he did for the next thirty years.
Jack says, “Times was hard in those days. This was during the depression. People didn’t have jobs. The backs were taking everybody’s property—and their house. Crops were poor. Ginned cotton wasn’t but a nickel a pound. You could have all the cotton you wanted and it still wouldn’t be any money.”
“Then they opened up the WPA and several from around the area got work. They made three dollars a day. Three days a week is all they were allowed to work though. Part of their pay was in coupons which was good for vegetables, fruit and the like. Some of ‘em wouldn’t have made it without the WPA.”
“The only way we made it was because Garland Creamery opened up. We had several milk cows and collected the cream. My job was to run the hand-operated milk separator. Then twice a week we were off to the creamery selling
cream. That’s the only reason we were able to provide for ourselves.”
“I grew up in Pleasant Valley, went to school in Pleasant Valley, and worked in Pleasant Valley just about all my life. I ran the store there for thirty years and now I’m selling used farm equipment on that same corner. Yes Sir, I”ve made a living on that same corner for sixty-six years. Pleasant Valley sure has been good to me.”
Article and Photo by Jim Foster.
Note: Photo was made in old store while playing dominoes in 1998. The interview with Jack was also in 1998. He quit selling farm equipment shortly after that, but the locals continued playing dominoes in that old store until the walls were falling down sometime around 2010.
Courtesy Dallas County Pioneer Association’s Proud Heritage,Volume III.