Gladys Fletcher Spencer Gregg
If you have lived in Tyler County for any length of time you have most likely heard someone talk about a place simply known as the “Jug”. It is a landmark that goes back to 1927 when Delbert Fletcher first built the business. I wonder if when he built it, could he have known it would be part of his family’s history for the next 93 years. Delbert managed the business until the early 60’s when his daughter Gladys Fletcher took over the operations. Since that time, she has dedicated a good portion of her life to that business. That was until last week when at the age of 94, Gladys Fletcher Spencer Gregg passed away.
Several years ago after retiring, I decided each season of the year I would take a trip out to the Jug and take pictures. I have visited the creek below the Jug in the spring time when the water was high and running cold, swift and full of ice. I have also visited when Middle Island waters were passing lazily in the summer heat. Much like they were last week.
On one of these trips to visit the creek below the Jug, Gladys was waiting for me. She saw my camera and asked about the pictures I had taken. I showed her the small screen on the back of my camera so that she could view the pictures. As I moved from picture to picture she would tell me a story that she associated with a particular picture. She told me of the time when a couple night fishermen caught a big catfish below the spillway. In another picture that showed trees on the far shore line, she pointed to where flood debris had been left from the last high water mark. She seemed to always have a smile and story to tell me when it came to the area around the Jug. She was an easy lady to get to know.
Last summer when I parked in front of the store, she promptly came out and explained the water in the creek was as low as she had ever seen it. Now, given her long history and knowledge, I knew this was truly a moment in the creek’s history. Upon inspecting the creek, I realized Gladys was correct in her assessment. I am guessing there was no more than a few gallons of water flowing over the small riffle below the pool of water. I took several pictures of the trickling creek’s flowing water. Upon my return up the hill, Gladys once again came out and asked about the water and was there any flowing. I showed her the pictures on my camera trying to give her an idea of how little water was moving down the creek. The images were small and hard for her to see the lack of water.
I decided I would print a couple enlargements and give them to her. A couple days later with pictures in hand I returned to the Jug. This time I went inside to visit Gladys and give her the pictures. She studied each of the pictures. As she did she began telling me stories of past summer droughts and great floods. She also began to share the story of her life and the Jug’s history. I soon realized the story of Gladys is also the story of the Jug. She was articulate and had a special way of telling a story. Before long, I felt I had known this lady for her lifetime. During the couple hours we talked, she told me about life at the Jug during the Great War. She remembered when someone came in and said Pearl Harbor had been bombed. A couple of the men left immediately saying they were going to go sign up for the service. One of those men never came home. She asked if I would believe she had once been a deputy sheriff in the county. Before I could answer, she told me about an experience when another deputy stopped her for speeding not long ago. She chuckled as he told me that she informed the officer that she had once been a deputy and therefore she knew she was not speeding. After explaining her history and the fact there was no way she could have been going as fast as the officer said, the deputy let her off with a warning. She again chuckled. I wondered just how fast she was going.
At one point, she stood up and walked around the room pointing out things put in place by her father. She motioned towards a darken room in the back and told me about the pool room and long winter afternoon games. She also talked about the way it once was when people came to the Jug for a sandwich or bottle of pop and conversation. I could tell from the menu on the wall and the cold cooking area, it had been some time since the stools along the food counter had been filled with customers.
I told her about a time very long ago when I was a small child, I came to the Jug with my dad. We crossed the swinging bridge and made our way to the back side of the Jug in hunt of a Christmas tree. She pointed to a faded picture or drawing of the bridge. By what I saw in the image, it must have been many years before my crossing. I asked what happen to the bridge. She explained that a friend of hers that was judge suggested she should take down the bridge for safety reasons. Gladys is one of the people I have met along the way in my life that I will long remember. She was kind and had a willingness to share her life with me, if only for a few hours. She gave of herself and all she asked in return was some of your time and a little conversation
Last week Mary and I rode out to the Jug to walk down to the creek as I have many times. When we came back up from the creek I thought about the fact I would never see Gladys outside the Jug again. Never again would we share looking at my pictures or tell our stories. I feel that a chapter in Tyler County’s history books has come to an end. I believe Gladys and the Jug are an important part in the history of the county. Sitting beside the old wooden building, I saw Gladys’ car. I thought back to the story of the officer that stopped her for speeding and the story she told him of her career in law enforcement. And in the front window the sign was turned to closed. I wonder if it will ever again say open. And if it is, it will never again be by Gladys’ hand.
Obituaries tell about when a person was born and when they died. It also tells of family members still alive and those that have gone before the departed. In a few hundred words an obituary tries to tell who a person was in life. My story is meant to tell you who Gladys was to me. She was a nice lady who made the world a little better by sharing some of life with me. I will always remember her for kindness and stories of a place called the Jug, as we looked Through the Lens.