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Stephen F. Austin State University

Peek into Panola (February 2012)

Peek into Panola
By Vina Lee


Coila Crawford remembers Panola County over 95 years ago. She was born in 1909 to Leo and Checkie Bird on cotton land that now extends from Adams Street to Panola Street. The home she was born in was on the property now Panola College. It was a grand house with fourteen steps leading up to the front door just off the clay roads and the location of the railroad tracks running to the cattle auction barn near Bird Drive, named for her family.

Coila's dad became sheriff in 1924 and they moved into the jail house near the courthouse which was right in the middle of the square. Her mother cooked for the prisoners and helped take care of things while her dad was out tearing down whiskey stills in the woods.

She remembers that a movie didn't cost much and a drink and bag of pop corn was just 9 cents and the theater was on the square just off St. Mary Street.

When Coila graduated from high school in 1928, Panola County had just won an award for the best bail of cotton in the world, so her mother thought the children should all wear cotton clothing. The girls wore blue gingham dresses with white collars and the boys wore blue shirts with blue striped over-alls all made of cotton.

One of the highlights of her high school years was when Tex Ritter, singer and movie star from Carthage came to the homecoming banquet and Mr. Q. M. Martin, their English teacher and artist gave each of them one of his paintings.

Coila and Raphael Crawford met in Carthage and were married in 1931 at the Bird home. She says her husband was, "Better than good." Her advise to young people today is to always be truthful and "don't go telling little lies." She said their son, Raphael Junior was, "raised right." He would come home when he was supposed to and come kiss them good night.

She says of her long life of 103 years that, "she was a good girl, didn't drink or smoke and went to Sunday school." And, she still does!