This interview was conducted by Andrea Guzman Briseno on March 20, 2007 in Pleasanton, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Spring 2007 class.
Ruth Clark Mahula was born on November 17, 1919 in Pleasanton, Texas to Donald Forest Clark and Ollie Mae Moore. She was raised along with her younger sister Susie Hazel Clark in San Antonio, Texas. Ruth’s father died at the age of 23 from Double Pneumonia, she was two years old and her sister was nine months. Ruth attended Morrill Elementary school and Harlendale Junior High. She dropped out of high school her freshman year to work as a babysitter and housekeeper. A great tragedy struck in 1931 when Ruth and her little sister susie were involved in a train accident that occured in San Antonio. A school bus full of children was hit by an oncoming train, killing many. Ruth made it out alive but her sister unfortunately did not survive. On July 3, 1937, Ruth married the love of her life Curtis Mathis Mahula. They had four children together losing their first born three days later. Then in the late 50s Curtis fell ill with heart problems and died on October 31, 1995. Ruth not only lost her husband but her best friend, their love and passion for each other held strong for 58 wonderful years.
Can you describe your typical Saturday as a teenager?
Saturdays were a fun day after my chores were done i would go swimming play tennis and volleyball or read in the late summer afternoon and then on a saturday night we would go dancing. Those were some fun times.
What went through your mind when you first met your husband?
I thought he was the most handsomest man i ever saw. He was in the Civilian Conservation Corp that and three C’s. That was during the Depression years back in the 30s.
What did your husband do in the conservation civilion corp?
They did everything from breaking rocks to building buildings. They did everything the goverment wanted them to do.
How long was he in the CCC?
How old was he?
I imagine… we were just going together then, i guess seventeen, he was just a teenager. Him and my cousin started a cleaning shop pressing uniforms. It must have been in 1934, when we met.
Were you married then?
No, we were married in 1937.
What was life like during the Depression?
Everyone was dirt poor and i didnt know the difference back then i was young. It was bad and hard especially for a woman with two kids one in elementary school and the other in jr high school. They had soup kitchens for the children and it was the best soup i’ve ever eaten.
When someone got sick in the family what did you all do?
My mother was the best nurse in the world, but if it was serious we went to the doctor.
Why did you move to Pleasanton?
We moved to Pleasanton after living in Houston for 12 years. I was also born in Pleasanton and my husband was born and raised in Leming which is just 7 miles up the road. i was raised in San Antonio..(whispers that doesnt relate).
What was Pleasanton like back then compared to now?
Compared to now there was a vast difference in Pleasanton. This was the friendliest town in the United States i know it was. But since then it has grown in to a city, we hardly know our neighbors.
Can you describe the day the train incident occured?
It was on a Sunday morning and we were dressed for sunday school as usual waiting for the bus to pick us up. And about 3 blocks from our home we..we saw..wait a minute…we saw the train coming and we stopped, we were not on the tracks, but just close enough for the cow catcher on the train to catch the front bumper of the bus, the rest is history. It killed four and spared four, my sister being one of them.
What went through your mind the moment you found out that your sister did not survive?
I was in a state of shock i had no thoughts…I…I was almost a blank. so that should say it.
Did you go to the hospital after the accident?
Yeah, at the Robert B. Green, I went but didn’t stay. I was in shock and they just let me go home. That hospitals no more, its a university now.
How did your family deal with the tragedy?
What family? It was just my mom and me left. Everyone else grieved and we all pitched in to support each other. Everyone was going through hard times back then, we also grieved for the other family that was taken.
Where was your sisters funeral burial?
In San Jose burial park, on mission road I think.
Were you and your sister close?
Very, very close.
What kind of things did ya’ll do together?
We were always together regardless we were always together. We loved together, we fought together we played together after losing her i was a lone duck..uhh..alone..I was lonely and …and withdrawn.
what is your reaction when you hear about people visiting those train tracks and waiting for the ghost of the children to push them over?
I don’t have a reaction actually. And i don’t believe in ghost but I do believe in eternal life. A ghost is only a spirit and it could happen.
would you ever visit those tracks again?
I’ve crossed them a few times, they were no lights or signals there at the time and the PTA had the railroad to put signals up. And the train that hit us was carrying the Alamo Downs horses that was a big thing in San Antonio in the spring in April…and they were going I imagine about 75 miles an hour in the city of..in the city.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
We found out that my sister had
Diphtheria at the age of four in 1925. She would get so sick and nothing my mother did helped and we took her to the doctor and he told her that she had diptheria. Me and momma slept with her cause we didnt have a three bedroom back then and neither of us caught it. The doctor gave her some kind of shot I dont know what it was but he told my mother that it would either help her or she would die. But she got better.
After interviewing my grandmother I learned how things were so different back then and how we take everyday life for granted. Being that this is my foster grandmother I feel as if i have known her for my entire life and have created a close bond with her. I wasn’t able to meet foster grandfather Curtis Mahula because he died in 1995 and I entered that family in 2002. The way nanie talked about her husband it seems as if i have already met him. Things were difficult in those days for many people and many had to make due with what they had. As Mrs. Ruth Mahula states, “You had to make your life worth while back then, it didn’t come at you like it does now.” I believe the benefits of doing this interview is to learn about the past on a more personal level, being that our relatives have so much to tell about the world events they were involved with.
- Diphtheria Kids Health Nemours Foundation Copyright 1995-2006 The Nemours Center for Children’s Health Media, a division of The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.