Owen Burton and Derry Dunn grew up in the same town and went to the same school. Now they both serve Precinct 2 as commissioner and justice of the peace, respectively.
They played on the Mauriceville basketball team that went to state, the only one in the county to do so in 1961.
“We told everyone we went to ‘the final four’ because that sounded better than getting beat in the semi-finals,” Burton says.
They saw downtown barber Lee Willey occasionally and met Cummins Clark, who sold bags of peppers for 50 cents. And they knew the local swimming hole well.
“Our mothers would take us down and let us jump off the highway bridge,” Dunn says. “And if we could swim to the railroad trestle (about 60 feet) then we could go by ourselves.”
The main industries in town – the only ones – were sawmills. A cattle guard stood near the school entrance. The busiest section had what everyone called “The Big Store” plus a cafe, post office and hotel.
“That was downtown Mauriceville for many years,” Burton says.
“My eighth-grade class was about 30 kids.”
While in high school, Burton/Dunn had a school superintendent who owned cattle in another county. He’d move the buses out of the bus shed and store hay there – then get several students to transport it to the cattle field.
“We hated that. We had to get out of class for that,” Dunn smiles.
Folks rode horses to church Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings for fun and to trick-or-treat on Halloween.
“About the worst thing ever done on Halloween night was that old Mr. McGee had sugarcane, and we’d go in the field and cut a piece off,” Dunn says.
“He’d have given it away,” Burton says. “But then it wouldn’t have been as sweet.”
Another way to get a quick meal was to wait at the service station for a truck carrying watermelons, and when the driver went to use the rest room he’d return to find some missing – if he bothered to notice.
“That’s a Texas thing, not just a Mauriceville thing,” Burton says.
“My cousins in Three Rivers used to do that all the time.”
One infamous crime occurred after a man took revenge on some guys that “whupped” him.
“He’d been [beat up] in Orange and one of the guys who did it was a taxi driver,” Burton says. “So he called the driver out one night (as a fare) and when the taxi pulled up, the guy got in the back and put a gun to his head.”
After that, locals called the area “Murder Road.”
Teenagers hung out at Kids’ Cafe (where Tuffy’s is now). “The girlfriend supply was short,” Dunn says. “In my class there were seven girls, two were married and you didn’t dare date a Deweyville girl. That was our big rival – Deweyville.”
Another pastime was “fox hunting.”
“They’d take the dogs out at night and turn them loose,” Dunn says. “And when they’d pick up the trail we’d sit around the fire, tell stories and listen to the them bark.”
Burton adds, “That was a big sport in those days. My daddy would say, ‘Listen, that’s old Ike.’ They had them named after presidents then.”
Other “fox hunters” included Chester Holts, Max Boltman, Wayne Willey, Calvin Bland, Doyle Clements, Tom Dick Mann and R.M. Linscomb.
A good form of entertainment was to see how many 18-wheelers crashed at the traffic circle.
“People would go to watch the trucks wreck,” Dunn says. “The area was not well lit and the wide turns sometimes caused the driver’s loads to shift.”
Burton says an old tale, which he isn’t sure is really true, was that at one time Orange County had five precincts. The fifth one included some of Mauriceville.
“They had a little speed trap there,” he says. “And when people went through speeding they’d be taken right to court and have to pay. Well, [the justice and constable] kept getting re-elected, so the story goes that commissioners court just did away with Precinct 5.”
Dunn says that although he later lived in other areas, he always knew he would return to Mauriceville to raise his family; while Burton never left his hometown.
“It was a pretty good place to grow up,” Burton says.